2010 M3 New Car Test Drive
The BMW M3 delivers huge performance in a compact, highly practical package. It's the defining performance car in BMW's sporty 3 Series line, and possibly the purest in BMW's inventory.
For 2010, all M3s add standard HD radio and some new options, including automatic high beams, but those things aren't central to the M3's spirit. These cars represent the pinnacle of thrill in the generally excellent 3 Series collection of compact sedans, coupes and convertibles.
Like other 3 Series variants, the M3 is available as a four-door sedan, two-door coupe and convertible. Yet the M3s are quicker, faster and flashier than any regular 3 Series model, for the owner's maximum driving enjoyment, and for bragging rights. They're designed by BMW's M division, the in-house skunk works responsible for the company's racing programs.
The biggest difference between the current M3s and their pre-2008 predecessors lies under the hood. These are the first production versions with a V8 engine, and it's a hand-built, high-tech gem. The M3's 4.0-liter V8 delivers 414 horsepower; it will push these BMWs from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 4.7 seconds, with top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. Those figures meet or beat numbers generated by a lot of pure-bred exotic sports cars. The M3s come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but they're also available with BMW's M Double Clutch transmission. This seven-speed gearbox works like a conventional automatic in most situations, but it can also be shifted manually and very aggressively.
The M3s steer and handle like sports cars, too, and like all 3 Series models, they pack a tremendous amount of electronic wallop: advanced Dynamic Stability Control, optional electronic damper control for the shock absorber settings, different power steering and throttle control modes, and an optional feature call MDrive that allows a driver to tailor the electronic settings to personal taste.
Better still, the M3s are more practical than most exotic sports cars. They're easier to get in and out of, and to see out of. All have a well finished back seat that's comfortable for average-size adults. All have decent trunk space, and can be equipped with the full menu of luxury amenities. They're easy to park in crowded city centers, and comfortably easy to drive casually in nearly all circumstances. Until a driver starts working the transmission aggressively, and bumping the free-revving V8 of its stratospheric 8400-rpm redline.
To be sure, the least expensive M3 costs substantially more than other cars in the 3 Series line. It will appeal most to hard-core enthusiast drivers. It may not be worth the price premium to many buyers, who'll find cars like the 335i just as fun and satisfying to drive.
The 2010 BMW M3 is offered as a sedan, coupe or convertible. All are powered by a high-revving, 414-horsepower 4.0-liter V8, with a standard six-speed manual transmission.
The four-door M3 sedan ($55,850) seats five. Standard equipment includes leather sport seats with driver memory, automatic climate and headlight control, high-intensity Xenon adaptive headlights with washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD and BMW's self-braking Dynamic Cruise Control. HD radio is standard on all M3s for 2010, and all come with a gas-guzzler tax ($1,300-$1,700, depending on the model).
The two-door M3 coupe ($57,850) seats four. The M3 convertible ($66,500) looks much like the coupe, but its metal hardtop opens and closes at the touch of a button in less than 30 seconds. Thanks to the top-operating mechanism, it also loses a couple of cubic feet of maximum trunk space, compared to the coupe.
All M3s are available with BMW's M-Double double-clutch transmission ($2,900). This seven-speed works like a conventional automatic for daily driving, but it can also be shifted manually and very aggressively. Options are clustered in popular groupings, including the Premium Package ($1,350 convertible, $2,000 sedan and coupe), which adds power folding outside mirrors, universal garage-door opener, a digital compass on the rear-view mirror, a leather-upholstery upgrade and choice of interior trim. The Technology Package ($3,250) is the big-ticket option group, adding GPS navigation, Electronic Dampening Control variable suspension, Comfort Access proximity key, driver-adjustable electronics integration. MDrive allows the driver to tailor suspension, steering, and engine response to personal tastes and style, with almost 300 possible combinations, using a single button on the steering wheel. Most options, including the Navigation System ($2,100) and Park Distance Control obstacle warning ($350), are available individually. For 2010, the M3 offers Automatic High Beams ($250) for the first time.
Safety features include front-impact airbags that deploy at different rates depending on the severity of impact, front passenger side-impact airbags and full-cabin, curtain-type head protection airbags. The convertible adds knee airbags that help keep front passengers from sliding under the seat belts. Active safety features, designed to help the driver avoid collisions, include Dynamic Stability Control and the latest generation antilock brakes. The ABS preloads the brake pedal when the driver suddenly lifts off the gas pedal, and includes a feature that lightly sweeps the brake discs dry every 1.5 seconds when it's raining.