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Six generations. 35 years of development. Which is right for you? We drive them to help you make decisions.
The first BMW M3 made its debut under the bright lights of the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985. When Bavaria’s latest certified car was shining in the showroom, did BMW’s own executives expect that this boxy car would inspire people’s enthusiasm?
Oh no. But after more than 30 years of continuous production, the M3 feels as important to BMW as a round shape. Now, the launch of the sixth generation of M3 provides an opportunity for reflection. Therefore, R&T collected every generation's ultimate low-mile examples from dealers, private owners, and BMW's own museums, and lined them up from beginning to end along the pit lane of the Central Ohio sports car course.
The curvilinear parade of the track provides something for each M3. In a circuit that is not conducive to raw power or n-level adhesion, the complexity of each generation appears. After spending two days at Mid-O and running a few laps along the nearby trails, our love for BMW's purely driving machines was rejuvenated, and the nuances that had been overlooked for a long time became obvious.
This road and track generation guide is not so much a meaningless comparison test, as it is a hazy celebration of the best cars in Bavaria. It saw the light at the Frankfurt Motor Show a long time ago, and then it will be in our hearts forever.
Along this murderer street, the blocky first-generation M3 looks very friendly. It seems that SpongeBob has broken into the prison lineup. According to modern standards, the first BMW M3 was awkward. An upright cab is located above the hip of the pill box. However, in hindsight, this M3 is known as the chassis code "E30". Because in 2021, when you see this car, you will only think of one word: legend.
It takes time to earn this respect. This high-intensity, high-revving, four-cylinder certified coupe did not catch fire among the Yuppies or enthusiasts in the 1980s. BMW has sold more than 19,000 E30 M3s worldwide. But only 5115 entered North America during the 1988-1991 model year. Although these production quantities exceeded the Group A certification requirements, M3 did not completely flood the streets. After all, that is not the point. It is designed for competition, not as a status symbol for system analysts. Then there is the price.
In 1988, R&T's E30 M3 test car was listed at a price of US$34,810, and in 2021 it was about US$80. The discerning buyer chose the M3, which offers fewer improvements and two cylinders than its brother 325i. Rivals such as the Porsche 944 S and Mercedes' übersedans also provided fierce competition and more prestigious badges.
In the game, M3 won. The FIA's Group A regulations were enacted in 1983 to stimulate the participation of global manufacturers and stipulate that contestants must inherit the basic body and engine of the road car on which they are based.
Therefore, BMW opened the fenders of its 3 Series Coupe to accommodate wider tires. They modified the rear of the car with a swept C-pillar to more effectively move air over the wide rear spoiler. The adjustment reduces the drag coefficient, but allows more downforce. Every body panel on the car, except the hood, is under the knife.
A weapon-level unit lurks under that hood. BMW's racing department developed the S14, a 2.3-liter, 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine that produced 192 horses for the American market. Intensified and motivated by Bosch's unparalleled Motronic engine management system, the rolling mill hummed with a speed of up to 7250 rpm. Essentially, the S14 is a streamlined version of the M1 supercar's large straight six car. Serious business. BMW threw the S14 into the engine compartment of its only such stylish car and competed with Mercedes and Ford.
Back here in 2021, we borrowed this bright red gem from Enthusiast Auto Group (the supplier of the best-preserved M cars on the planet). This is an American-spec car from 1989, with only 14,391 miles on the clock. An original example. Snowflakes that started an avalanche.
At first glance, M3 looks simple. Even humble. The interior is not much different from the standard E30. BMW retains the same upright seat position from the 80s, with your eyes down and the hood in the panoramic view. The internal switchgear, materials, door panels and gauges are basically the same as the standard 3 series, except that the indicator pointers on the speedometer and tachometer are painted red. The oil pressure gauge replaces the fuel economy gauge, but most of the cabin is a swamp standard Bimmer.
The seats are great: the cushions on this low-mile car grip the flesh under your shoulders like an overzealous lineman’s brother hugs, allowing your torso to wedge in as the car bends to the apex. More lumbar support would be great, but we spent four hours mentioning Columbus from Cincinnati for a round trip and didn't long for a better throne at the end of the trip. This comfort runs counter to the reputation of this car.
People call the E30 M3 "buzz"; a torture device for competitions that does not need to be taken home to the mother. Yes, this car is very lively. But this is part of the car's characteristics. The engine flipped over instantly, making an urgent hum. Even when idling, the four-cylinder engine will rumble from the seat back. Gently place your foot on any pedal, the engine resonance will bite your toe. The same goes for the gear shifter, it buzzes like a tuning fork and resonates well from your fingertips through your elbow. The whole person feels alive.
That gear lever has been on American cars for a long time. European-spec cars (such as the later Sport Evo model recommended to us by EAG) are equipped with a Close Ratio 265 gearbox, which is a Getrag device with a tighter overall transmission. The action of that box feels more compact than the speeding device we received in North America, and the overall action is more crisp. The CR265 dogleg shifter doesn't make much sense on the road, because the clutch action and the engine during upshifts are like breathing between gears. But on winding trails or track hairpins, easy access to second gear can bring benefits.
M3 uses any transmission method to sing in central Ohio. Of course, any modern hot hatch (or Toyota Sienna) will drive the original M3 on the long straight of Mid-O, but these cars will not burst into joyous, stupid laughter from your helmet. The M3 revels in a trace of traction brakes, swaying into a polite little drift, improving your pulse, but not your creeps. In the middle corners, the neutrality of the chassis shines, allowing precise braking, throttle and steering adjustments. When everything goes well for you, this is one of the cutest cars ever. What's even more amazing is: you think you can't go wrong on the E30 M3. This is the confidence it inspires.
The straight road feels longer than ever, but it provides more opportunities to swallow the S14's inductive whistle (it’s better if you stand on the wall of the pit and listen to the sound of the car on the straight road) .
This joy is completely transformed into the road. Every input in the car is easy to manipulate and has perfect weights. There is an economical way to operate the E30 M3, which can make those perfect slides or ten-hour interstate road trips.
I confidently quoted the last point. Because for me, E30 M3 has always brought me joy. With my first salary after graduating from college, I bought a 88-year-old M3 and drove 228,000 miles. The rear quarter panel was crumpled and there was no interior. They were so cheap in 2011.
The glorious time of owning the E30 M3 coincides with the years when I felt young, energetic and invincible on earth. M3 leaves a mark on your soul. Although I have experienced everything in the R&T cyclone tour, if you take out the keys of any other car and a worn E30 M3, the seat is torn and the transparent coating peels off, you will listen before I fly to the horizon The barking sound to S14. For me it has always been E30 M3.
Of course, each generation of M3 runs faster, becomes more livable and practical-from every objective measure, this is a better car. But for me, this is a question of heart. Intangible. None of the subsequent M3s provided the driving feedback and personality that made the M3 so special. In addition, the successor lacks the source of identification and the narrative that follows.
If BMW stops here and leaves the M3 badge, the car will still be carved on Mount Rushmore. In hindsight, the E30 M3 felt like a perfect 80s Shen Yun time capsule, mixed with the last breath of the honor of honesty certification. Not only that, the E30 is the perfect benchmark for the legendary BMW series carried on its nameplate.
(Author's note: Thank you very much EAG for lending this car. And seriously, if you are looking for a collectible M car, please start and end your search with them).
The easily overlooked second-generation M3-identified by its chassis code E36-now has it all. When the E36 M3 bowed in 1995, some enthusiasts made a fuss about it because BMW transitioned the M3 from a niche thoroughbred to a high-capacity station wagon. Other enthusiasts, such as our friends at Car and Driver, rated the M3 as the best handling car of any price in 1997.
E36 still has differences. Good at manipulating, but cursed for lack of power. In the US market, a 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine replaced the buzzing four-cylinder engine of the E30. By 1996, the 3.0-liter engine was boring, and the stroke was increased to 3.2 liters, but both engines borrowed from the (but essentially excellent) 2.5-liter engine of the 325i pedestrian. Shouldn't the compact flagship product become more clumsy when "Motor" is your company's middle name?
European cars did it. They got a completely different engine, a peculiar German voodoo strain, equipped with a sophisticated head, an independent throttle body, and a more advanced variable valve timing system (BMW uses the term VANOS). Later versions of the engine reduced 321 horsepower.
So for decades, E36 has been underestimated in the United States. Sometimes, even ridiculed. Enthusiasts cannot forgive the weak US-spec engine. Then picked other nits.
People complain about the interior of the E36. Plastic covers a large area of the console, and it feels like a toy next to the E30. cheaper. Even the 1,000-mile example we borrowed from BMW's own museum has sagging door panel fabric. Then there is the glove box fastened to the dashboard with rope cheese, turning your door panels into fragile plastic clips for Mariachi shakers, thin leather seat cushions, and fifty other frustrations.
The expanded four-spoke steering of the E36 did not maintain the refinement of the E30's three-spoke design. There are many more buttons in the E36s cabin, and in general, this M3 is not very elegant. but it does not matter. Remember, E36 is not as refined as E30, this is the core of its charm.
Almost every input on the E36 has more weight; reassuring operating quality. In most configurations, this E36 M3 weighs more than 3,200 pounds when it leaves the factory, which is nearly 400 pounds heavier than the compact E30. You will feel most of your weight, whether it's pushing from a pothole or worse body control, when the E36 passes through a deceleration turn.
The steering wheel requires a wider elbow to cut the E36 into the corner, and the shift lever feels worse than the E30's "box", but it is much more precise. This generation of seats is also great, and its adjustment and control devices can easily fall under your left hand, and you can manipulate your seat position without higher brain functions. When you are trying to find the right setting in the warm-up lap of Mid-O, fast seat adjustability is a godsend.
Some of these internal labeling sounded like a curse on faint praise. It's not like this. There is a lot to love. Because at some point, you turned the damn key.
The S50 enters the iconic idle state of the glass-smooth Bimmer-6. The stimulation on the accelerator pedal shows a free-spinning engine with a speed of up to 6800 rpm. You sit in the swept cabin, wrapped in a bunker like a bunker, staring at the long hood. Compared with the upright E30, this is a more sporty driving posture, bringing your hips closer to the center of gravity of the car.
When I pushed E36 onto a bend in central Ohio, rain fell from the low-hanging clouds. The fresh precipitation caused the oil to seep out of the asphalt, turning the curve of the track into banana peels. To make the chaos unbearable, our E36 uses the correct *cough* "period" tires, this is the museum work you want. This is especially true on rail cars.
The rough tires and greasy surface did not weaken the spark of M3, but highlighted the basic advantages of E36. The longer wheelbase of this generation-paired with low-grip tracks-emphasizes this chassis' preference for slow, predictable rotation. The S50 engine whines at the exit of each corner, and then the 5-speed allows for quick and precise gear changes. It feels effortless to break the car into a perfect rhythm.
Like E30, E36 never feels picky or sharp. If your car is deformed, there is always room to trim and adjust the turning posture, and there is enough slack in the route. Some of them are lack of power; when entering a curve, it is 20 mph slower than its successor model, making it more difficult for the car to bend and deform. But it is mainly E36's compatible and competent chassis that shine. It is worthy of those who deal with the best laurels.
Our test model is a special "lightweight" variant that is sold in limited quantities in the North American market (BMW has sold more than 71,000 E36 M3s worldwide, but only 125 lightweight models). Lightweight reduces weight by replacing simple, mechanically operated fabric seats with heavy-duty leather units. It also uses aluminum doors instead of raw steel, eliminating the sound insulation effect in the cabin, and there is no air conditioning and radio.
The bright and shiny cherry on the top is a dazzling tricolor flag covered in alpine white paint.
In short, LTW is like any other E36 M3, but more. It maintains the perfect 50:50 weight distribution front and rear of the E36s, and in slower corners in central Ohio, you will swear the car will spin around the cup holder under the elbow.
However, LTW is not the only E36 M3 worth savoring. Any version of the car will do-even the M3 sedan and convertible for the first time ever. Because unlike any other M3, E36 is locked in the aftermarket. Approximately 10,000 M3s were shipped to North America, almost twice the number of E30s. This makes the E36 M3 depreciate significantly when it enters the secondary market, with little wear and tear.
As a college student and young man, I own several E36s. My friends and I fiddle with them endlessly. We race against them, abuse them, and usually push our luck to every blind gravel corner through the wheat district of eastern Washington. These are the cars you can really experience. They are sturdy things that don't know tiredness.
To me, this is the enduring legacy of E36-it is an entry medicine for many Americans, otherwise they would miss BMW and import fewer imported products.
This accessibility created a demand for fast parts, and a cottage industry that specifically catered to this M3 chassis immediately appeared. Fans use the ubiquitous E36 and quite a few talents for road racing, rally racing and canyon carving. Even the new low rider scene is locked on this chassis.
Some small adjustments can sharpen the E36 M3. Lighter exhaust, hotter camshafts and less restrictive intake manifolds are necessary. Plus some light engine adjustments (usually in the form of simple ECU chips), correct brake pads and a set of springs. Now you are dancing.
Whether you adjust your car or not, the E36 is a model of design virtues, even if it is not a leap in overall quality. E30 looks clumsy and cute in 2021. The newer M3 is threatening, close to trying. We may be at the peak of nostalgia in the 90s, but for me, the proportion of E36 wearing Goldilocks-sharp but smooth, compact and wide. Pure handsome. For reliability, availability, and carefree happiness, E36 is hard to match-even among the historical greats in this field.
This is the highest point for many people, the tip of the M3 mountain. Because the third-generation M3 (codename: E46) is one of the last BMWs that feels old-school Bimmer in important places. There is a naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine under the hood. There is a hydraulic bogie, and the right proportions are the missing link between the square charm of the E36s and the bubble butt of the next M3.
It is very beautiful.
E46 marks a turning point when the M3 (and BMW as a whole) transitions from a "chassis" car (those who like to handle balance above all else) to an "engine" car with enough grunts, it can be ignited from the corner exit to the next The export of tire smog counties.
This is thanks to the S54 engine, dual overhead camshafts, 24-valve inline six-cylinder masterpiece, which can reduce 333 horses from 3.2 liters. This rolling mill is the ultimate incarnation of BMW's six-cylinder in-line engine-one of the greatest naturally aspirated engines of all time. You want to call the engine happiness, because it brings dizzying happiness, but this is a metal block that is menacing and angry. The silky idle sound caused hoarse complaints at the mid-range. When fully tilted, the S54 will become a complete chain saw sonata until it hits the 7900 rpm red line.
There is no huge torque here-only 262 lb-ft. At 4900 rpm-so you slam the throttle and chase the top half inch of rev. If you are after the classic BMW soundtrack, there is nothing better than the M3. Hell, there may not be a better BMW.
At launch, we accelerated the M3 from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. It sprinted a quarter mile in 13.5 seconds. The curb weight is 3450 pounds. You can't call it lightweight, but it has enough power to push the pounds. The chassis never feels overwhelmed. In addition, the entire car seems to resonate with the angry, roaring energy brought by the S54.
In hindsight, S54 was primarily responsible for S52's pedestrian reputation in the United States-until E46 brought heat, we didn't know how many horses our E36 lost. Although the S54 brought more ferocity to this generation, the E46 chassis did not reduce usability. Compared to the E30 or E36, it does feel woodier and less obedient on the road, so it spends more time on the track.
The interior of the E46 is mostly restored in terms of material quality (just don’t ask the owner of the E46 about the clips that hold the doors together). This M3 has been replaced with a more elegant three-spoke steering wheel. Brushed aluminum trim surrounds the gear lever and door handle, and there are large pieces on the dashboard, like wire on a tree. It feels comfortable to the touch, but it feels outdated.
The cabin maintains the low driving position of the E36, but the exposed nose of the E46 is much less. This car is equipped with another pair of great seats. They are flexible and spacious enough to hold your hindquarters, but again are equipped with protruding lumbar pads to ensure that your shoulders are not restrained. The position of the pedal feels perfect here, even if the available foot space provided by the wheel well is smaller than that of the E30 or E36 (for those of us with a foot size of 11 or larger, this is a consideration).
This interior has a tailor-made quality, and the contrast between the material tones is enough to keep your interest, but it is reconciled with a pragmatic layout. It is tight, but not suffocating. "Focus," maybe. Because E46 retains the economics of form and movement brought by each M3 interior.
This is useful here, in central Ohio, especially through the undulating middle part of the track, when you meander through it, it tilts the nose of the car like a sine wave. The E46 danced on tiptoe in Turn 5—just as neutral as Switzerland—even when it peaked around the corner and pushed the car toward a tight downhill exit. The E46 is just stuck anywhere. The 255/40ZR18 rubber back grips the Mid-O apron more tightly than the previous M3. Compared with the previous M3, the increased grip allows for fewer games, but the red line chasing the S54 is its own brand of intoxication. Listening to straight six-note Doppler in the country is pure happiness.
The entry price of these Bavarian gems is rising. You need to pay extra for a well-maintained car with six speeds and three pedals. Bulky sequential manual transmission (SMG) cars will take up your time or burn all your money. Look out for torn or cracked rear subframes, or budget for welding reinforcement kits to solve the problem. As we all know, S54 will eat a lot of used rod bearings. Oil analysis and/or preventive repair can solve this problem. After completing these key fixes, you may only be left with a Platonic M3; that angry Bimmer 6 is hidden behind a set of carefully tailored armor.
Is this the pinnacle of M3? Well, it's hard to argue with E46.
In the fourth iteration of M3, I scribbled a note after a dozen laps. "Fucking awesome." Then I emphasized it with six doodles. Maybe we stacked up the decks; this Lime Rock Park Edition M3 (one of the 200 models) added lightweight titanium exhaust pipes, some carbon fiber trim and a layer of fire orange paint to the original formula. But this shows that BMW did not touch the engine on its E92, which is most focused on the track.
We will get to the point: This is the M3 with the best sound quality ever, and a wave of induction roars on the Mt. Exhaust Burble. Throughout the day, when the howl of V-8 echoed from the far end of Mid-O, 1/4 mile away, everyone in the pit attracted attention. Although the 4.0-liter V-8 engine can only produce 414 horsepower to stimulate 3650 pounds of power, the sound of the engine is as subtle as an air raid alarm.
This is a special engine, S65. Under today's laws and regulations, BMW cannot copy one, and stifle good noise for efficiency. The 4.0-liter engine reaches the red line and peak power at a dizzying 8,300 rpm. So you go back to the slower Mid-O corner at the top of second gear instead of dragging from the top to third gear. On the track, this engine definitely tears frequently. This is a less subtle quality that emphasizes the fun of the E92 chassis.
When braking and turning, whether it is fast or slow, the chassis of this M3 will not be sold. On the contrary, when you learn more about the talents of the car, it will put your arms around your shoulders. So many express trains have the same quality until the moment they decide to let Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal Lecter) face you. We found that true friendliness is one of the intangible factors that define the M3 nameplate. Although each generation goes faster than the previous generation, they never give up their desire to turn white-collar workers into heroes of resistance.
The E92's dual clutch transmission (DCT) is another surprise. I thought there would be a heavy, bumpy experience, but the DCT didn't feel its age when it was upshifting and broke them at 8000 rpm without drama. But when downshifting, especially when loading the front end at the critical intersection between braking and cornering, DCT hesitated and stammered when downshifting to third gear, especially second gear. This is not necessarily frustrating, because you know that the equipment is on the way and will arrive when you need to turn off the power. But the gearbox shows its age on this track, especially next to the highly calibrated 8-speed ZF box in modern DCTs and most modern Bimmers.
Nevertheless, the E92 feels equally energetic on remote roads, unaffected by DCT (don't forget that you can find these with six speeds and three pedals). The seat is comfortable enough for long-distance travel, but the seat of your ears and pants will never escape the dynamic V-8 buzz through the titanium exhaust pipe. This is the most comprehensive M3, a bottled rocket from the boarding school. The entire experience is wrapped in beautiful and forward-looking sheet metal.
Inside, the E92 M3's large, framed and embedded infotainment screen is basically in the same location as Hyundai's. There is a dive line on the dashboard, and of course the iDrive knob protruding from the center console. Only the dashboard pays tribute to the past, which seems to be inherited from E46. But in this car that is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the feeling outside of the infotainment interface is not particularly old, because BMW adopted this design and began to iterate. Does this mean that BMW has relied too much on this layout in the past ten years, rather than exerting some imagination? Please debate.
But we cannot blame BMW. The ratio of E92 looks fresh from the day of sheet metal stamping. Why not iterate from a foolproof hit? The second-hand market also has a say in this matter. Few second-hand E92s have fallen below $20,000 (unlike every previous generation of M3), and good examples are steadily rising in value.
For this reason, E92 is a modern classic. A collection proposition that cannot be lost has never been cheap enough to crash the secondary market. The facelifted "LCI" car (circa 2009) is equipped with an updated infotainment system and improved headlights, and is modern enough for everyday drivers in 2021. The E92 M3 is a sporty "Bahn Stormer", completely in the home in central Ohio. The sound of the V-8 M3 is truly awesome. That is the brass part that God Himself emits from the exhaust pipe. "Fucking great" seemed just right.
Following the E92, the fifth-generation M4 came out in 2015 like a Teutonic Terminator; it is chiseled, threatening, and gorgeous. And pay attention to the name change. Since then, the fifth-generation car will use the M3 name. The coupe will use the "M4".
This is a split change. The M4 badge has no historical record; many people think that BMW is chasing Audi's nomenclature, rather than going its own way (the A4 sedan and the A5 coupe are mechanically the same, but separated by two doors). Splitting the market segment into finer parts is not a new idea, but it doesn't really feel like a BMW. Frankly speaking, we are still grudgingly coping.
On the track, we reached 60 mph in a quarter mile of 12.3 seconds and a speed of 3.9 seconds, and measured a lower curb weight (3595 pounds) than its predecessor. This is the first time for this bloodline. Hazza!
Once again, the engine is the star; the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine reduces 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet. The speed of Redline is 7600 rpm. This engine, called S55, has a dynamic graph, and its power curve is flatter than a piece of glass. As crazy as the V-8 mill, you can’t argue with two snails about the original efficiency of squeezing a bucket of atmosphere into the Bimmer 6.
I will never forget the first time I drove the M4, it was sometime in early 2016. I braved the heavy rain and set off from our Ann Arbor office. The engine entered a guttural sound when idling, and I held down the traction control button to disable the driver's assistant. This is a habit that I have developed with other BMWs in my life.
Just when the street light turned yellow, I walked leisurely through the wet city intersection in the car. When I slammed on the accelerator, the S55's mid-range torque surplus immediately rebounded, and the M4 almost rushed into the oncoming traffic. On the way home, I stood on tiptoe and stepped on the car. My palm was smooth with anxiety. Since then, I have not touched the traction control button of a BMW driving on the road. Learned knowledge.
The power of the S55 comes so fast and so early, it will grab the driver, especially if the traction control system is not there to rule them. Sometimes you want to relax, but you don't necessarily want YEEEEEHAAWWWWW to get through quickly. So the M4 broke the harmony between the chassis and the engine. The F82 is a stallion with wide wings and open nostrils-you can't just control it.
With later racing car kits-like the one we borrowed for the Mid-O hero-BMW tamed the loss of grip when the fat mid-range of the S55 crashed. A certain combination of suspension trim, tire compound, throttle mapping and magic takes advantage of the available power. This is a welcome change, especially when the M4 is sitting idling in the pit lane, pointing to the wet track.
You can recognize M4 only by being idle. The lowest part of the S55's speed range is a deep, surging, hoarse hum. In most cases, this sounds like someone plugged a tube into the exhaust pipe of the M4.
However, once you drive into the front straight of the Mid-O, the engine will emit a mechanical symphony sound, and the whine of the turbo compressor is ejected through the cabin, superimposing the high pitch on the several acres of straight six. The noise here is much louder than you might think from the supercharged mill. Can the engine soundtrack compete with the atmospheric M3? Do not. Does it stand out in the range, ferocious and bizarre? Yes.
When you are on the first two straights on Mid-O, it is not the difference in noise that shocks you, but the contrast in speed. M4 wipes the floor with any of its predecessors, taking into account the lap time and specification table. As you dive into the apex of the arc-shaped Turn 2 in central Ohio, the front end provides tremendous grip, and the M4 seems to accelerate at the speed of a supercar after you leave each corner.
Please note that after the early headaches, the M4 has become one of the most commonly used track tools for the Warriors on the weekend. Facts have proved that the S55 is responsive to modification, robust and reliable. Any M3 owner who wants to get the maximum speed from their HPDE (does not need another Porsche 911 to wave their hands) should only look at the F82.
Despite this, many of the M3 logos are missing.
The classic BMW steering feel—the seductive, legendary, tactile gem—doesn’t exist here, replaced by an electric motor frame that requires effort but will never be as complicated as the old thing. We can never understand the angle of the steering wheel to the pedal box and seat, the driver’s torso is tilted, instead of having the driver’s halves aligned with the longitudinal axis of the car. Then there is a row of buttons for adjusting engine response, chassis compliance, and electric steering sensitivity through the buttons in the console. Who requires these settings? Why? Fortunately, as long as you have enough time, you can easily enter the settings you like, but even the presence of these buttons can feel fussy and almost annoying.
The interior provides through lines, that is, the look and feel of interior touch points such as the steering wheel and shifter. As always, there are high-end decorations decorating the interior, but it is rarely distracted.
No matter what advantages or disadvantages we find in the driving experience of the F82, this car is a triumph of modern design. These sexy hindquarters are connected to a masculine nose with a wide kidney-shaped grille through a swooping waistline, emphasizing the low and tight presence of the M4. Looking back, the whole car seemed to be covered with silk. Several young editors at R&T chose F82 as the best looking M3. Over time, other employees may come over.
The F82 is as ruthless as the T-800 when it loosens on the track, but its charm is less than any M3 before. Maybe another decade of hindsight will change our views, or we will thank the M4 for the great leap forward. This is the future-oriented M3, a super coupe with gorgeous lines, all-day comfort, and a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder that makes our palms sweat.
The sixth-generation BMW M3 has arrived, just like tradition, full of contempt. Main complaint: that schnoz. The kidney grille reaches Dali on the G82, sagging to cover the entire nose of the car. If history can be used as any indicator, then anger will persist. But then we will find M4 to normalize the design. In six or seven years, we will completely forget the fuss and just catch up with the new M4. Rinse and repeat. (Proof: Remember the first M3 equipped with eight cylinders? Unbelievable! Then the M4 was turbocharged? Heresy!).
Thankfully, you can't see that nose from inside the car. The 40-minute interstate highway from the hotel to the racetrack allowed us to immerse us in the great charm of M4. In a sense, this is the most comfortable, peaceful and isolated cruising experience of all the cars we sit in the pit lane in central Ohio, including camera equipment and a Toyota minivan. Whether isolation and tranquility should have a place in M cars is a vague debate. BMW owners voted with their wallets a long time ago. The task of M3 now feels closer to that of M5, but with fewer metal plates (of course, there is also a grille that can swallow two Cockapoos at the same time).
The vibrant new interior highlights the dedication to biological comfort, which represents a huge leap in design. The intricate carbon fiber bucket seat is lined with exquisite contrast stitching and covered with pillow leather. When you walk into them, they seem to shout affirmatively: "You are a special personal injury lawyer." Not only the seats, but also the choice of fabrics, more complex dashboard displays (the tachometer and speedometer are analog, thank you BMW), and the imagination to cover the interior surfaces.
If you consider the "wow" factor of the interior, the M4 ultimately feels like a legitimate Porsche 911 killer. In fact, when you compare this interior with the monotonous interior of most 911 interiors, it becomes even more special. This comparison also applies to race tracks. There is no doubt that this is faster than the base Porsche 911 of Mid-O, and it will maintain the front sight of the Carrera S here. I am willing to spend money.
This is thanks to the improved front end grip, which pounces at you from the first hard corner. BMW’s highest level racer Bill Oberon explained that you should let the car enter the second turn in central Ohio, which is a long and key hairpin turn that leads to the longest straight on the track. By the end of that straight, M4 can reach three-digit speeds, so nails must be nailed on the second corner.
The problem is at the top. At the second turn, just when you asked about the final percentage of the tire's available grip, the road bends. This widened the nose of every other car. Except for G82 M4. When I tried to navigate that corner for the first time, the M4's nose just got stuck and it hit the apex sweetly. That was on cold tires. With consecutive laps, I get more and more hot into the corners, but the M4 has enough grip on my hands to kiss that apex every time-as reliable as the sunrise.
No other M car has a sharper front end and more direct steering. From the wheels, tires and chassis, BMW has determined the ratio of the steering rack here (although they have weaknesses in the feedback department, Hyundai BMW definitely determines the steering accuracy). Although we are heading in the right direction with this car (compared to the F82), the steering wheel doesn't feel much. Nevertheless, nibbling on the outside of those TKT/TK/R19 front tires on the curb proved to be intuitive, even with the tactile qualities we liked in the early M3-such as the hum of the E30 and the trembling steering wheel- It was left behind a few generations ago.
In the pit lane, I found TC Kline, the owner of a BMW suspension tuning company of the same name. For decades, Klein's shop has been adjusting the suspension of the 3 series. In most cases, I want to praise Klein-no parts catalog cuts off my bank account balance like him. When I walked up, Klein had just unfolded from the M4. He has been licking Mid-O as if he owns this place. This is an inspiring sight.
Klein frowned and looked at the car. I asked him when can we expect a catalog that includes the G82 M4 after-sales suspension kit? There will definitely be a new generation of M3 owners who have very high credit card limits and need to be repaired. "Perhaps never," he answered with a frown. This sentence hung in the air like a guillotine.
According to Kline's estimates and our own performance data, the talent of the G82 M4 is wider than any previous M3. But this should be obvious now, a completely logical conclusion. Except for this, Klein mused, it was different.
This car is very capable of grabbing fast laps and ironing out rutted gravel roads. Its system is so thoroughly integrated that replacing the suspension components may throw the digital wrench into the mix. Can the aftermarket really improve this car?
Having said that, how many other M3 owners have had the same idea over the years, "BMW can't surpass this, is it?" Just like clockwork, a new car has raised the bar.
Our day in central Ohio ended at dusk, and the sunset painted the horizon like a flare. The bustling pits are quiet. For the first time in two days, our staff sat in a chair and watched the car quietly return to one or another trailer. Arranging the sixth-generation M3 in the maintenance zone and evaluating them based on their merits and after-the-fact benefits brought a new perspective. We found that the evolution of the series perfectly tracks the changing priorities of sports car buyers. Over the decades, the M3 has slowly evolved from a stubborn racing instrument to a leather-lined tomahawk. Each generation is so evocative of a moment in the enthusiast culture.
Each generation of M3 faces the same criticism from hardcore enthusiasts, condemned as being softer than the previous generation and not as focused as before. When you sit side by side with them, it's hard to ignore that the M3 gets bigger and heavier over time. It is also difficult to ignore these numbers. BMW's flagship runs faster, accelerates faster, and stops shorter in each iteration. In this way, six M3 vehicles revealed another through line.
BMW assumes that every generation of M3 will change the tastes of buyers, and then put these changes into production. This is something brave, really, not a cynical cash grab that enthusiasts will make these changes. Because the rest of the market-and the minds of BMW's most devout fanatics-are always scrambling to catch up with the latest M3. But these hearts and thoughts will always appear in the end, just in time for BMW to launch the next generation of products. So it goes.
Despite its continuous development, M3 is still very popular. It is not as boring as Porsche, and more practical than Corvette. Every Audi S4 or Mercedes car will see 50 M3s on track days. In this way, the brand new or tattered M3 is a secret handshake and a membership card for people in the know.
It is always difficult to tell where the M3 is going. Will it be electric? Maybe it's a hybrid. What else? Although we can never predict the way forward, we are sure that the BMW M3 will lead the way.