It seems the Americans got there first with applying the M3 name to a vehicle. As is the American right to arm bears, the US Military first received the M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle in 1981 a good five years before the E30 M3 would emerge from Germany in 1986. The M3 was good for carrying seven troops, though that was reduced to six eventually, probably because most Americans are either overweight or carry a lot of luggage.
It’s not just tanks that the US of A has used the M3 moniker with. There’s the M3 Grease Gun (it’s a machine gun, not a lubricating device), the M3 howitzer (a light artillery piece), and the M3 Scout Car (another armoured vehicle), to name a few. But don’t think it’s all explosions and carnage — it’s also a record label, a motorway in several countries including England and Pakistan, a rock band, a measure of the supply of money in the world, and most aptly the name of a documentary series on the History Channel “Man, Moment, Machine” that details a particular man in history, the machine he made, and how it went on to change the world.
Let’s not let the plethora of pretenders steal any glory from the M3. Through the years it’s won more road races than any car in history and the E92 with its four-litre V8 brings that entire heritage and more screaming into the future. I say the future because the BMW’s engine is a technological marvel. F1-derived technology sees the V8 reach its peak power at 8,300rpm, just 100 below the redline. While most V8s are about to fracture into lots of tiny and expensive pieces, the BMW is vapourising 420hp worth of fuel (and yes, that also beats the magical 100hp/litre) on the way to 100kph in just 4.8 seconds. I was caught out at first by this — you get used to changing up based on the engine tone, and I didn’t think the M3 was quick because I wasn’t driving it right. But let it loose above 6,500rpm and skinny people will leave ribcage marks in the seats.
Comfortable seats they are, too. As you would expect, the interior of the M3 is exceptionally executive with the sporty touches in the right places — bucket seats (trimmed in leather), blue and red stitched steering wheel, M3 detailing on the gear stick, the Power button readily accessible near your left hand, the bonnet bulge visible through the windscreen and the carbon fibre-style interior trim.
There’s real carbon fibre in the roof, and this is part of BMW’s philosophy for the E92 M3 to reduce the centre of gravity — alone this feature saves 5kg. Many of the panels are not steel, the engine is 15kg lighter than the outgoing six-cylinder, and there are many weight-optimised parts in the car. This also helps with the fuel economy. BMW’s EfficientDynamics is its program to give the best driving dynamics along with fuel efficiency. BMW claims around 12.4l/100km, but with our spirited driving (and with the power button on all the time) we got nowhere near.
The M3 is capable of being a comfortable cruising car for four adults, though. The stereo is spectacular — 16 speakers delivering 825W of power — and you can even watch TV stations using the dashboard screen when stationary. This screen functions as the navigation device, accurate down to street numbers in New Zealand, and BMW’s iDrive which I still find a bit complicated but am getting used to.
Having had the pleasure of driving an E30 M3 on the same day (you can read my comparison in the next Classic Car magazine) I was initially disappointed in the E92 M3’s performance. In the E30 every corner is an adventure, and the road and you share the steering wheel in a kind of telepathic harmony. This just didn’t happen in the E92. Until I figured out that you have to be going at least 30kph faster. A corner marked 40 is exciting in an E30 at 70kph, but terminally boring in an E92. A corner marked 40 driven at 100, now that’s when the fun starts. Therein lays the greatest problem: where do you drive a car as competent, powerful and devilishly lairy in New Zealand? We don’t have enough race tracks and our speed limits are low.
The M3 is a car packed to the gills with features, and one that turns you into a touring car hero. I could write a book about the E92 M3, but I don’t need to because the press kit given to us pretty much is one. It has lots of words like ‘unparalleled’ and ‘unprecedented’. I have nothing against this because in reality, they’re mostly right. Short of intrusive road noise and a notchy reverse gear you can’t really dislike the M3. It may not have 600hp and anti-tank missiles, but it has the power to dispatch most enemies.
Price: M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle: NZ$4.1m (average); BMW E92 M3: NZ$169,900; M3 HP $181,900 (derestricted to 280kph, 19-inch wheels, electronic damper control)
What we like
- Pretty much everything
What we don’t like
- Excessive road noise
- Selecting reverse gear not easy
- Lack of places to really drive it in New Zealand
Words Darren Cottingham, photos Adam Croy