The last of an automotive legend
This year marks the end of an era, and this road test is probably the last time I will have the chance to drive a brand-new, hot-off-the-showroom-floor M3 with two doors.
I had multiple posters of BMW M3s on my bedroom walls growing up. The first time I joined an automotive discussion forum on the Internet, my username was something along the lines of “2002M3”. At the time I didn’t know much about them more than the technical specifications, but even the pre-teen version of me could tell that there was something special about this car. BMW has announced that for 2014, the M3 Coupe will become the M4. The M3 will carry on in sedan guise, but this 2013 BMW M3 Coupe is the last of a generation. This year marks the end of an era, and this road test is probably the last time I will have the chance to drive a brand-new, hot-off-the-showroom-floor M3 with two doors.
Seconds after picking up my test car from BMW headquarters, I noticed my heart pounding. Sure, there were Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches around when I was a kid. This car was my childhood dream. My parents recall my words as a kindergartner, telling my grandfather when I was about four that the first car I ever buy would have to be a BMW M3. The E36 models of the 90s and their successors, the E46 line, were pretty incredible with their inline 6-cylinder engines, but the latest iterations are just something else.
For the E90/E92/E93 M3 models, BMW decided to abandon an inline-6 in favour of a 4.0L V8. This engine puts out 414-horsepower and the car is, of course, rear-wheel-drive. A conventional six-speed manual is available, but my tester was equipped with BMW’s new double clutch transmission. I may be a purist when it comes to manual transmissions, but this 7-speed box is pretty damn good. The rev-matched downshifts in M-Drive mode sound ridiculous and made every single one of my colleagues (including myself!) giggle like teenage girls.
With the automotive industry, and BMW specifically, inching towards turbocharged 4-cylinder motors, I have found myself experiencing more and more of them lately. Some are better than others, but the sound of a naturally aspirated V8 at full throttle is just plain astounding. I can’t even begin to describe how intoxicating the sound of this car is at any given time. At idle there’s a bit of clatter, but that’s to be expected. It’s the best-sounding car I’ve driven in a very long time. The M3 feels just as home on the backroads in southern Ontario as it does cruising on the highway. Power is there literally as soon as you need it; the motor loves the high RPM range and a firm upshift right before redline is incredibly satisfying.
BMW didn’t engineer the M3 to just be an Autobahn-stormer. It takes corners with ease and I found myself tackling highway onramps at speeds I could only dream of doing in a regular 3-series. The steering is so precise it’s beautiful, and thankfully it’s not as light as in the new “plebian” 3-series models. My Double Clutch colleagues and I have a few secret driving roads that are pretty well abandoned, and are a phenomenal place to have a little bit of fun without breaking the law. I found myself keeping the M3 in “M” mode nearly the entire time I had it, and I didn’t complain once. Even around regular corners, this coupe always wants to be sideways. It’s like a big boy’s Scion FR-S. You really can’t feel all the extra weight it has to haul around compared to much smaller and lighter cars.
Okay, so a starting price of $71,000 isn’t exactly cheap. Optioned up, my test car was in the mid-$90,000 range. That’s some serious dough. Let’s think about it for a second; the only real advantage I found with the Audi RS5 is its marginally better highway fuel economy (I couldn’t get the M3 any lower than 13.9L/100km on strictly highway driving, and no better than 15.8L/100km on the backroads). The only comparable Porsche 911 I would consider owning costs nearly double what the M3 does. In terms of European performance coupes, the M3 is the king for a reason. It’s nearly perfect. My only real complaint would be fuel economy, and that’s me picking on something irrelevant for this class of car. Those who buy M3s know what they’re getting themselves into.
My car came with a plethora of options that inflated the price. The Imola Red paint itself is great (for $3,170 it had better look this awesome!), but I’d prefer an all-black leather interior. It also came with the Competition Package (Dynamic Damper Control, lowered suspension, unique 19″ alloys, etc.), Executive Package (electric rear sunshade, adjustable seat width, park distance control, a satellite radio tuner), and the M-Drive Package (M-Drive, navigation, and voice recognition). On top of this staggering list of packages, the double clutch transmission is an extra $4,000, and the Bamboo Beige Novillo Leather seats are $3,000. As tested, my car was exactly $95,060. Yes, you read that correctly; this M3 has twenty-five thousand dollars worth of options packed into it. However, the attention to detail inside the car is staggering. From the Individual Collection trim on the dashboard to the steering wheel stitching in the same red and blue that BMW purists know as the M colors.
I’ve definitely written before that returning a press car or two yielded sad feelings. Returning the M3 though was a wholly different experience. It was as if my brain had transmitted the message to my heart that this was the last time I would be turning in the keys to an M3 Coupe. I know that in the grand scheme of things, a name change isn’t exactly a big deal, and the heritage line of straight-six engines is expected to return with the M4, but it just is a big deal to me. I was told once that it’s never advisable to face your childhood hero. Based on this theory, this 2013 BMW M3 should have disappointed me. It didn’t. It was everything I expected it to be and much, much more. This car is the closest thing to motoring perfection in my eyes; I’m extremely upset to see it go. On a less sappy note, I have full faith that with BMW’s history and heritage behind it, the upcoming M4 will outdo my expectations and trump the outgoing car.
2013 BMW M3 Coupe Gallery