Another German monster up for review. Whether you are a BMW nut or not, there is no denying the iconic status of the M3. We got our hands on the E90 (saloon) version of the M3. This one belongs to the fourth generation, this generation also has the E92 (coupe) and the E93 (convertible). Meanwhile, the E90 M3 has been replaced by the new F80 M3 (only available as saloon), the coupe and convertible are re-branded to M4 F82 & F83. This new batch is powered by a 3.0 liter Bi-Turbo Six in line cylinder engine. The prices for the previous E90/92/93 M3’s have dropped to the level of a brand new (premium) family car.
These E90/92/93 models are the only M3’s to have a big 4.0 liter V8 (not taking into account some limited models built for racing purposes). This V8 has 420 hp, and manages to deliver 400 N·m of torque at 3900 rpm, from there on you can still push the engine all the way up to 8400 rpm. When you are revving the M3 up that high it seems like you are about to rip a hole in the fabric of space and time and warp to another dimension, sensational! Be aware that when you make the engine work this hard it might consume some oil, nothing to worry about, just make sure to check the oil level from time to time.
The E90 is has some visual tells that give away its M-DNA. It has the obvious “Bump” on the bonnet, the M3 logo on the air intakes on the side front arches and hard to miss the 4 exhaust on the backside. The interior has some sporty elements but it’s rather subtle. (Unless you opted for the orange interior). Apart from the number of doors there is one other significant difference between the saloon and the coupe, the roof on the coupe is made out of carbon fiber. The Saloon’s is not, however our test car had a sun roof to make up for it. I enjoyed the sunroof at cruising speeds. If you consider pushing the car to its 250 km/hour speed limit, you might want to consider closing the sunroof first.
Our test car had the standard manual gearbox (like most E90/92/93 cars), the semi-automatic gearbox is an option mostly left unchecked on the option list in Europe. Most BMW M-series fanatics find a (semi) automatic gearbox blasphemous. After taking some time with the M3 I know why. Driving this car at legal speeds in normal circumstances should cause little problems for any driver. However, pushing the car beyond normal driving circumstances and speeds (safely), demands more practice and experience. The clutch is unforgiving, minor mistakes will cause the car to shake violently; major mistakes might even cause the tail to break out. After a couple of days you get most of the high speed shifts right but if you want to drive the car 100 % perfectly it might take months.
The car was tested by us on dry and wet roads, when you drive casually these conditions hardly make a difference. On dry roads the M3 is very manageable whilst driving sporty thanks to the high quality suspension and tires. Accelerating hard out of a corner might cause the car to wiggle its tail a bit, but that’s about it, the perks of a rear wheel drive car. Driving sporty on wet roads is a different story. I would not recommend flooring it out of a corner or on a cobblestone road. Obviously It is possible to control the car while driving sporty on wet roads but it takes some sensibility and experience.
Driving the M3 on Belgian roads can be challenging. You have to be watchful for potholes in the road at all times, because they have a disastrous effect on the ride quality when driving slow and even worse on the stability when driving fast. Other things to consider: speed cameras: they are everywhere. A coyote detection system might be a good investment. Luckily the M3 does not have to break the speed limits to be fun. The car feels very eager and alive even at slower speeds. However, you will need to keep an eye on your speedometer because it has a nack for always going a bit faster than you think you’re going. You would not really consider the M3 to be a car to have fun with on small country roads because of its size and weight; still it manages quite well on these roads. It is not a rally car yet this won’t stop the M3 from getting dirty like a rally car. It seems to attract ever speck of dirt you come across. If you like to have your car spick-and-span at all times you are up for a challenge with this one.
The multimedia system runs smoothly, the twist and push button takes some time to get used to but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy. One button I loved in the M3 is the MDrive function. This button lets you set up a profile tailored for your needs; you can tinker with the throttle response, ride stability, suspension, traction, weight of the steering wheel and so on. You can activate this profile at any time by pressing the M-button on the steering wheel. Another great function that I’d like to see on all sports cars: A variable red zone on the rev-meter. As soon as the car’s fluids get on temperature the red zone scales back all the way to the limit of 8400 RPM. This sort of details distinguishes a good sports car from an excellent one.
- Sensational even at low speeds
- Functional gadgets
- Dangerous cars for drivers who overestimate their driving skills
- Likes to get itself dirty
Conclusion: the M3 is not an easy sports car by any stretch of the imagination. It is a pure bred stallion that might take anyone for a trot and is enjoyable while doing so, if you want to flat out gallop with it you will need to put in the work and time to tame this beast. This is a plus nor minus point, it is a fact and a warning. This might make some people more eager to get one and make other people shy away from buying one. This car is all about realism, no software that does all the heavy lifting for you and makes you feel like you are the best driver in the world. That also means that this car will remain exciting and thrilling for a long time. You can improve on shifting, taking a corner on the perfect line; work on drifting in the wet… The perfect antidote for people who grow tired of fast but sterile cars. This car will leave you with a sense of accomplishment, if you put in the time.
Pictures and Review: Jonas