The high-performance BMW M3 is available in coupe and convertible forms. Its inline-six-cylinder engine produces 333 horsepower, and the car can be equipped with a conventional manual gearbox or a sequential manual transmission. The latter offers hydraulic sequential shifting of the six-speed gearbox, either automatically or via driver-controlled shift paddles.
A Competition Package for the coupe, which includes a less-intrusive M Track mode for the Dynamic Stability Control, became available for 2005. Compound cross-drilled brakes got larger front discs, 19-inch forged wheels were mounted and the suspension calibration was modified.
For 2006, coupes gain a standard leather interior, and a power rear sunshade is optional. A redesigned M3 isn't likely until 2007, but that new version could have V-8 power.
The M3 has a crosshatch center air intake, elliptical fog lights and an aluminum hood with subtle power dome accenting. Wheel openings are flared outward to accommodate wide tires. Front-fender gills display M3 emblems, and the mirrors are aero-shaped.
A subtle deck-lid spoiler sits above a special M bumper and apron design. A rising belt line imparts the look of a lower stance on the convertible. Standard wheels measure 18 inches in diameter, but 19-inch forged alloy wheels are optional.
The coupe holds five people while the convertible seats four. Cargo capacity is 9.5 cubic feet for the coupe and 7.7 cubic feet for the convertible. Options include a navigation system, a removable aluminum hardtop for the convertible and BMW's Park Distance Control system.
A heated glass rear window is standard in the convertible, which has a power-operated top. As the fabric top unlatches at the windshield header and moves upward, a rigid magnesium cover opens and then closes over the folded material.
Under the Hood
The M3 is powered by a 3.2-liter inline-six-cylinder that produces 333 hp at 7,900 rpm and 262 pounds-feet of torque at 4,900 rpm. The engine drives a Getrag Type D six-speed-manual transmission that can 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 says 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.