Test Drive: 2008 BMW M3

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I test drove a fully loaded 2008 M3 Coupe with a double clutch transmission this past week with Annie. M3’s have always been known as the benchmark for comfort and performance. They’re also getting the reputation of becoming more luxurious and powerful in recent years. But adding all the creature comforts and bigger engines have a price. The 2008 M3 is an incredible sports sedan that does everything well… which makes it kind of a jack-of-all-trades but master of nothing. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll astonish you, but not in the same way a 2006 M3 will.

Power
I walked into the dealership with high expectation, kind of like walking into an highly anticipated movie you’ve been waiting to watch for years. When you put a naturally aspirated V8 (that pumps out 414hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque) into a coupe, you expect to be crushing everything on the road… especially when it’s paired with a dual clutch transmission. The truth of the matter is that when you put your foot down, you don’t get a surge of unexpected uncontrolled savage power.

Some people say that if you change the electronic settings, you can change the entire characteristics of the car. Sure, customization sounds great, but I expect instantaneous performance by default—especially with something that has the M badge. The power is linear, but left me disappointed.

Handling
Weight affects everything from handling, braking to acceleration. Let’s look at some weight comparisons between M3s.
2008 M3: 3726 lbs
2006 M3: 3415 lbs
1996 M3: 3175 lbs

The 2008 M3 handles very well, but it seems over-engineered. As a product, the M division have made a series of decisions that have created a snowball effect. Going with a V8 adds more power, but it also adds more weight and requires more fuel (which also adds more weight). More power means you need bigger heavier brakes to stop, which adds more weight. A double clutch transmission makes the car shift much faster, but adds more weight. The list goes on… and when you add it up, you have a very comfortable car that goes very fast, that’s easy to drive…

But, it also feels HEAVY.

The 2008 M3 handles well, but doesn’t seem to punch above its weight class. It just doesn’t seem as insane as the specs make it out to be.

Comfort
The model I test drove was fully loaded, and it was lush. The comfort is definitely there. The only thing I didn’t like was the seating position—and that’s personal preference. I prefer a lower slung seat; something that’s lower to the ground (like a race car). That being said, for a long 5 hour drive, I’d rather have the M3 seats (or any BMW seats in general). By the way, the back seats and trunk are definitely usable. Big plus there.

Design
Yeh, it’s good looking. The lines are perfect. Yes, the M3 excels in this department.

Conclusion
So as much as I wanted to love the 2008 M3, I can’t. In fact, it represents something that is the complete opposite of what I was hoping for. I expected it to be a more raw, unabridged BMW experience… and that’s where I was left disappointed.

If you want a more pure experience, go for a 2006 M3 (it’s a better value, and frankly a better car). If you want more creature comforts and a huge engine, this is a fine choice. However, my buddy (Tim) recommends that you “get it, strip it, cage it, track it”. And I totally agree.