While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.
To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done with the S14; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8, and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.
Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. But if you were clever in the boxes you ticked, you could still get the essence of what made the M3 the greatest car in its segment without a lot of frills. First would be the Competition Package, which gave you more variability on the suspension and more sideways action from the dynamic stability control. You got bigger wheels and stickier, wider tires to make use of that harder suspension.
Tick the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and that track-readiness was taken to the next level. Then, you’d want to stop right about there. Of course, few people selected such a targeted, bare-bones performance oriented M3 out of the gate, which makes finding one today difficult:
This past weekend, I went out to Coventry Motorcar to sample some of the cars. My wife and I took out a nearly new RS5; it was impressive for sure. Then we took out the twin-turbo V12 CL65 AMG that was chipped; with well over 700 horsepower and enough torque to bump-start a Saturn V rocket, the throttle pedal simple corresponded to a large amount of giggling every time I dipped into it. But the car that we drove that stood out was the less powerful, older BMW M3. It was an E46; getting on a decade older than the RS5 – and obviously the technology has increased in leaps and bounds, as the Audi has near infinite adjustments for every aspect of the car. But driving dynamics? The M3 showed why it was, and still is, the benchmark that all other cars are compared to. It was thoroughly composed down the road, and slipping inside you felt instantly at home. A throaty shout announced each touch of the throttle, growing in vigor to a scream as the motor worked its way up the tach. On the go, it felt more composed than the Audi; amazing as it sounds, the Audi felt like it was trying to convince you it was fast. The BMW felt relaxed and at ease; it was like Usain Bolt showing up at a power walker’s evening workout. It just felt natural. When I got back to the shop, the manager said “if you liked that, wait until you drive the 2011”.
Move up to the E92 chassis, and the lack of technology that the E46 employed was remedied. Check out the option list on this particular example, and you’ll find everything conceivable and probably more than you need. The Premium Package gives you the power to move your seat, open your garage, fold your mirrors in tight spaces, navigate to those spaces thanks to the compass in the mirror, and connect your phone to the car. Premium 2 gives you an even better sound system than standard and Sputnik sending soundwaves to it. Then there’s the Convenience Package, which means you don’t need the keys to start the car, you don’t need to know exactly where the trunk is when you’re backing up, Magellan in your dash so you don’t need to remember how to get anywhere, voice command so you don’t need to use your hands, and traffic warning updates so that you can seek alternate routes. When you start to explore those detours, you’ll find the S65 V8 to be even more useful than normal thanks to the addition of the dual clutch transmission and Competition Package, which upgrades the wheels, suspension, and brakes. It transforms from simply a means of transport to a happiness generator, making you smile with each sweep through a corner and stomp on both the throttle and brakes. And on your mountain excursion to avoid the traffic jam the car alerted you to, it’s got the Cold Weather package as well to make sure you tush stays warm. The only thing this car doesn’t do is wipe your bottom after you go to the bathroom, but head to a race track and it’ll still embarrass supercars with its driving dynamics and otherworldly abilities. It is, quite simply, the best sports coupe you could buy:
When you have effectively the exact same car as many thousands of other enthusiasts, it’s hard to stand out. Countless Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen enthusiasts try their best to personalize cars, but the reality is that even when you select numerous individual details your car is still one of many that are probably pretty similar. One solution is to buy a car that’s fairly obscure and modify it to your liking; but you’ll struggle to have a car that’s like new and probably won’t function well as a daily driver. If you want something new, reliable and with a warranty, your options are limited – that is, of course, until you select some of the special options offered by Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW. All will paint your brand new car either one of their options outside of the normal color pallet for an additional fee; for a lot extra, they’ll even paint it any shade you can find anywhere. It’s an expensive option – but if I were thinking long term, it’s one I’d probably select. Chose wisely, and you’ll end up with a stunning package – one like this Java Green 2013 M3 Individual: