BMW's high-performance M3 returns for 2008 with V-8 power and a four-door model, which hasn't been available since 2000. Now in its fourth generation, the M3 serves as a more powerful version of the 3 Series, with a 414-horespower, 4.0-liter V-8, six-speed manual transmission and aggressive styling common to BMW's M cars. Competition includes the Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG, Lexus IS-F, Audi RS 4 and Chevrolet Corvette.
This is the first use of a V-8 in an M3, as previous versions were all powered by inline six-cylinder engines. Power has been bumped up 80 hp from the previous M3, which was a 2006 model. BMW says the M3 goes from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.8 seconds. The M3's top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
Except for the chassis, doors, trunklid and fuel-filler cap, BMW says the M3 does not have any other parts in common with the regular 3 Series. The M3 has a carbon fiber roof to save weight and lower its center of gravity.
As with other M models, the M3 has large openings in the front for increased cooling, as well as flared fenders for wider wheels and tires. There's also quad-tipped dual exhaust and lightweight 18-inch wheels; 19-inchers are available. BMW calls the bulge on the M3's hood a "powerdome." It's flanked by two air intake accents, one on each side of the bulge.
The driver can choose from a multitude of suspension and engine preferences using MDrive, which controls the electronic stability system, steering response, ride comfort and throttle response. It varies the settings to make the M3 either suited for everyday driving or ready for track duty.
The leather-clad interior is highlighted with a choice of carbon fiber or wood trim. Available stereo options include an 825-watt, 16-speaker system.
Under the Hood
Even through the M3's new V-8 has two extra cylinders, its aluminum and alloy construction is 33 pounds lighter than the previous six-cylinder. With 414 hp, the 4.0-liter V-8 revs up to 8,400 rpm. BMW's double-VANOS variable valve timing is used, as are individual throttle bodies for each cylinder that provide improved throttle response. A six-speed manual transmission is the only transmission offered.
As you would expect from a performance version, large four-wheel-disc brakes bring the M3 to a halt; 14.2-inch rotors are used up front, while rear rotors measure 13.8 inches. Antilock brakes and an array of assist programs, including BMW's Dynamic Stability Control, are used. The M3 has six standard airbags, with side-impact and side curtain bags joining the required frontal bags.
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