BMW M3 2008 Review

The World's Finest Sports Sedan

BMW has focused on accurate handling, sporty cars and motorcycles since its beginning. Legendary and unique by design, BMWs come from the heart—that being the center of gravity.

A number of automakers follow; Toyota sizes and styles, designs to match status quo yet seldom are they regarded as leading edge. In comparison, BMW for decades has shown great leadership and consistent originality.

The United States really noticed the BMWs originality, quality, and economy in the 1960s. In 1968, BMW introduced the small agile four-cylinder rear-wheel drive 2002. In later years the 2002 Tii was introduced and it was very special. It had fuel injection at a time when most every car used a carburetor. The injector system was completely mechanical with a tiny pulley driven pump it was built like a Swiss watch with a pump for each injector with four injectors, one for each of the 4-cylinders. That Tii model of the 2002 is uniquely collectible today.

The new M3 is completely revised and uniquely collectible also. So different is the M3, that most owners will choose to buy instead of lease., because they plan to hold onto the car and customize it through many years. Conversely, the ratio of leasing is much higher in the other 3-series.

Good LooksThe completely redesigned M3 comes as a four-door and a two-door. Both models are about 180 inches long and drive the rear wheels exclusively. The two-door is about an inch longer with approximately 48% of the weight on the rear wheels which is a touch more than the 4-door. These BMWs are so much better balanced than their predecessors in foul weather and at peak performance.

The look of this new car is muscular; the flared fenders and wheel arches give the M3 strong shoulders. The aluminum hood has vents to the left and the right of the power dome. The front spoiler works to direct air to the brakes at each of the bottom corners. The crystal-clear adaptive xenon headlights have a mysterious lowbrow look about them as if something is up.

As you look down the side of the M3 move your eyes over the fender and notice the two unique aerodynamic supports for the outside mirrors. Notice too the integral rear spoiler built into the trunk. Go ahead get on your knees look under the car; you'll notice the undercarriage is substantially sealed as they do on their race cars. You'll also notice the white turn signal indicators and four shiny stainless steel exhaust tips to indicate you’re “King of the Hill.”

Efficient Big PowerUnder the hood of this aggressive machine is a 4-L, 32-valve V-8 engine with four camshafts each with variable valve timing. The variable valve timing makes a critical difference in the way this engine performs and feels, BMW calls their system VANOS. There is a lot of torque at low RPMs and great horsepower at high RPMs for spirited driving. Like the whole car the 4-L, V-8 is uniquely smooth and well-balanced its red line is given at about 8500 rpm.

Standard is an excellent 6-speed manual transmission with a special heavy-duty dual disc clutch. Optional is an automatically actuated manual transmission designed and programmed with the name Drivelogic—the kind of transmission you'd find in a pure race car; the automatic setting gives you the quickest acceleration. You can play with the gears using paddle shifters which are loads of fun and give you fantastic control, particularly in foul weather.

One place this transmission is not so fantastic is in the world of downshifts. While it's hard to get meaningful downshifts out of this transmission it does block you out of bad shift decisions that can damage an engine and a driveline. So what it does is force you to use the brakes a bit more than a manual might.

The drive wheels have a differential at the rear that works hard to ensure you always have a bite on the asphalt. To even out the slight weight differential BMW put wider rear tires on the M3. Of course, the suspension is completely independent and while you’re looking under the car at the body panels notice some of the attractive cast aluminum suspension components and look at the large ventilated cross drilled brake rotors. Your dynamic stability control and ABS system rely on those larger rotors for a quick response.

As you might imagine the 2008 BMW M3 can be breath-taking to drive as you place your foot down on the accelerator you can feel the strength of the engine's power as you feel yourself pushed back in the seat and hear the engine opened up with eight electronically controlled individuals throttles for each piston. The sound is like motor honey to your ears. The ride is pleasant and not harsh, like so many sports cars. As you accelerate into a turn, you can feel yourself gracefully reaching the limits of adhesion. If you surpass the limits of adhesion in a turn you'll feel all four wheels begin to drift away from you in a very controllable manner. The electronics in this car actually make and bad drivers safer and maybe even an average driver look more competent.

The Goodies to GetThe M3 has a controlled top speed of 155 mph. It reaches about 60 miles an hour in less than five seconds and has the most programmable driveline of any vehicle we have ever piloted. The most collectible version of this car as well as the most entertaining will probably be ordered with the Technology Package.

The Technology Package includes M drive, navigation system, electronic dampening control, and comfort access system. With the M drive, you can set the engine, driveline, stability control and dampening control parameters. In the center of the center console is a big brush metal knob that controls the computer housed above the center console. It used to be just a navigation system. Now it's so much more. Push the big knob down and up comes the M drive screen. On screen, you can actually adjust the stability control to allow you more wheel slip and tail wagging. The dampening can be set three different ways. In addition there is an M on the right front of the steering wheel facing the driver that allows you to recall your performance programming at the touch of one button.

What more could you want? On the right side of the center console is a little button that can ‘tweak’ your engine response. This car is now more sophisticated than your compass, altimeter, and world time temperature watch. This vehicle is extremely satisfying to program, and then drive. There are many of us who love the sheer pleasure and sensation of a wonderful drive and car with out a lot of gadgets. If that's you, then simply avoid the technology package.

One feature you might like even if you're not geekish is the comfort access system. Just keep it in your pocket the door unlocks when you touch the handle. Put your foot on the brake press the start button and you're off no key needed.

Interior Luxury & Intelligence

BMW is brilliant, when it comes to computers—a leader in electronics for years. They do little things like leaving the window slightly open when you close the door so that your ears are not boxed and the door latches with less effort. After the door is closed the window closes a moment later. Another intelligent example; if four-way flashers are left on yet you choose to use a turn signal the flashers are overridden to allow the turn signal to be actuated sure, you should've shut off the flashers; but they know you need the turn signal now.

The interior is a delight of earth tones and natural flowing lines. All knobs have distinct textures and feel and all controls are clearly differentiated. Some are quite sophisticated and will take reading the owners manual thoroughly to control and understand best. The seats offer a choice of three different materials and are especially supportive. If you’re narrow and swim in some car seats or if you are portly and having trouble with the width of many tight side bolsters you'll enjoy this car, because the bolsters on the seat and the seat back can be adjusted inward or be let outward to hug you properly.

At night the exterior lighting is distinctive and jeweled. LEDs are strategically placed about the interior to illuminate the door handles and other controls so as to give comfort to the occupants. BMW was the first to put little projector beams in the ceiling that illuminate the center console in a soft nighttime glow. Now Honda, Chevrolet, and everybody are following suit.

For most of us a $25,000 Honda Accord is excellent and meets all our physical needs. An automobile by its nature is a very exciting toy. If you are an enthusiast, if you really appreciate well-thought-out quality technology, then you are sure to enjoy and even be tickled by the new M3 two and four door sedan.

Call ahead a few days to make sure there's a new M3 in stock with the transmission and features you want. If you really enjoy it then custom order exactly what you want and plan to wait at least two months for delivery this way you'll save the most money.

BMW M3 Sedan Fast Facts


181.8 in.


71.5 in.


3,726 lbs.






3,999 cc’s V8 (4 variable valves per cyl.)

Hp @ rpm

414 @ 8300

Ft-lb @ rpm

295 @ 3900


6-spd Manual; 7-spd Drivelogic


14/20 MPG

Built in

Regensburg, Germany

Safety Score


Real Price

$55,000-$57,000 (not over MSRP)

Web Site

* based on 3-Series