The high-performance BMW M3 is available in coupe and convertible forms. An inline-six-cylinder engine produces 333 horsepower — that's 108 hp more than the BMW 330, the next-most-powerful 3 Series car.
The M3 can have a conventional manual gearbox or a sequential manual transmission. The latter offers hydraulic sequential shifting of the six-speed gearbox, automatically or driver controlled via shift paddles, in the style of Formula One. Other M3 extras include 18-inch Z-rated tires on alloy wheels, a sport suspension and aerodynamic body trim.
A new Competition Package that includes an M Track mode for the Dynamic Stability Control is available for 2005. Compound cross-drilled brakes use larger front discs, 19-inch forged wheels are mounted, steering is quicker and the suspension calibration is modified. Aluminum interior is standard in 2005 models.
Similar in dimensions and appearance to the regular 330Ci coupe and convertible, the M editions have some unique touches, including a crosshatch center air intake and elliptical fog lights. A unique aluminum hood has subtle power dome accenting. The wheel openings are flared outward to accommodate the wide tires. Front-fender gills display M3 emblems, and the mirrors have a distinct aero shape.
A subtle deck-lid spoiler sits above a special M bumper and apron design. The M3 has a wider front and rear track than its less-potent 3 Series mates and features unique suspension and underbody components. A rising belt line imparts the look of a lower stance on the convertible. Options include 19-inch tires on forged alloy wheels.
The coupe holds five occupants and the convertible seats four. Cargo capacity is 9.5 cubic feet for the coupe and 7.7 cubic feet for the convertible.
A heated glass rear window is standard in the convertible, which has a power-operated top. One push of a button initiates the entire top-down operation. As the fabric top unlatches at the windshield header and moves upward, a rigid magnesium cover opens and then closes over the folded material. Options include a navigation system, a removable aluminum hardtop and BMW's Park Distance Control system.
Under the Hood
While the 330Ci coupe and convertible carry a 225-hp engine, M editions get a 333-hp, 3.2-liter inline-six-cylinder with stepless variable valve timing. This engine drives a Getrag Type D six-speed-manual transmission that can optionally incorporate sequential shifting.
BMW's Dynamic Stability Control system, which was modified specifically for the M, combines all-speed traction control and cornering-stability enhancement. BMW claims the M3 coupe can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.
Side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes are standard. A Rollover Protection System in the convertible automatically deploys structural bars behind the rear seats if it detects an impending rollover. Coupes have a front Head Protection System. Daytime running lights are standard, and rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional.
Only serious enthusiasts are likely to appreciate the M3's sequential gearbox, which demands considerable attention. In manual mode, gear changes can jolt occupants' necks. Even the automatic mode's operation is far from gentle.