The BMW M3 celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Currently in its fourth generation its been one of the most well-known sports cars for the last two decades. Enough reason for us to take a BMW Frozen Gray M3 Coupe out and catch up with Indy Light driver Junior Strous and his white BMW E92 M3 for a special M3 25th anniversary road test and photoshoot.
The latest generation M3, which was introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, is available as Coupe (E92), Convertible (E93) and Sedan (E90). All models in the current generation M3 feature a natural-aspirated V8 replacing the six-in-line engine found in the previous generation. The 4.0 liter V8 forms the pounding heart of the current M3 line-up and guarentees sports car-worthy performance paired with a typical V8 soundtrack.
The particular BMW M3 Coupe E92 we drove came in a stunning Frozen Gray finish with M-Power DCT gearbox and Competition Package. The competition pack comprises a 10mm lower ride height, 19 inch alloys, new sport modus adjusting the electronic dampers and re-programmed stability control. From the 2010 model year onwards all M3’s also come equipped with several EfficientDynamics measures including start-stop system, but more on that later.
The moment you get into the BMW M3 you immediately feel at home. Everything feels solid and the ergonomics are great even for tall people like me, something you might expect from a premium manufacturer like BMW but certainly not something we have found on every sports car we have driven for GTspirit. Slide the key into the slot or keep it in your pocket with Keyless Go, a quick push on the start button and alive comes the sleeping and cold V8 mounted in front of you. One of the things I particularly liked about the M3 over the standard BMW 3-Series is the bump (or powerdome as BMW calls it) in the bonnet that referring to the eight-cylinder engine. It gives the M3 a very masculine look.
On the way to our first photoshoot location the M3 once again reminds us how much fun it is to drive. A few tunnels along the route did the sound of the Frozen Gray M3 the most justice. Although in my perception the ‘old’ BMW M3 CSL sounded even better, but BMW’s new M performance exhaust for the M3 might set that right.
Our first stop was at the Louwman Museum in The Hague, where we met up with Junior Strous in his white BMW M3. Parked side to side you can clearly see that the Frozen Gray M3 with competition pack is slightly lower than the standard white M3. Apart from optional carbon fiber front skirts on the white M3 both cars share the same exterior including the carbon fiber roof and a small rear spoiler. As with most premium European sportscars there’s a range of optional extras to add to your M3, but they don’t come cheap.
Back on the road its time to put the seven speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) through its gears in both automatic and manual mode with the flappy paddles attached to the steering wheel. In both cases the gearbox responds swift and quicker than most people could in a manual. The automatic mode is not perfect but it will probably never be until some manufacturer develops a gearbox that can read my mind.
Putting the standard E92 M3 next to the Frozen Gray M3 with Competition pack resulted in some interesting neck and neck drag races with no clear winner, but one clear loser in a sprint from standstill where the start/stop system killed all the fun right before the flag dropped. The EfficientDynamics and start-stop system in the new M3’s should warrant reduced fuel consumption and lower emission levels. Junior’s M3, being from before MY 2010, has no EfficientDynamics or start-stop system. Despite that we registered no significant difference in fuel consumption between both M3’s after a full day on the road and in similar conditions.
As you can expect from a 4.0 liter V8 coupe that weighs 1,655kg and has 420hp and 400Nm of torque, it is rather quick, 4.6 seconds to 100km/h quick! The M3 is electronically limited at 250km/h, but with the limiter removed its easily capable of reaching 280km/h. However the top speed is something we haven’t been able to verify within this road test. The German Autobahn was just a bit to far away, so we’ll have to take BMW’s word for it.
One of the key elements of the M3 Competition Pack is the improved driving dynamics and damper setting. The Competition Pack also lowers the M3 by 10mm making it a bit stiffer as standard. However you will only notice a bigger difference if you set the damper setting to Sport. Ideal on track or on perfectly smooth forest roads, but less useful in urban areas or countries where road workers don’t tend to treat every road they build as a piece of art. Luckily the M3 is nearly as fast and as much fun with the standard damper setting and in the end you can change it back and forth with just the push of a button.
Overall the M3, with or without Competition package, is one of those sports cars that earns his respect over and over again. Its handling and nimble ride make it the benchmark in his segment when it comes to sportiness, handling and agility. Whether or not you should spec one with the Competition Pack entirely depends on what purpose you are buying it for, but I would consider it more as an optional extra than a necessity.
The BMW M3 has been around for 25 years now and has seen over four different generations so far. Following in the footsteps of the Porsche 911, the BMW M3 is not just a sports car anymore but has grown to become an icon. We are already looking forward to welcome the next generation in a few years time!