EVO takes a look at four greats from a soon-to-be old school group of cars. They will be considered 'old school' not just because of their age, but because of new technology and the changing demands on performance cars.
Why has EVO gathered these cars up for a day of driving fun, but also lament? Because the M3 and the others cars in this group are "united under a dark cloud of recent or imminent death. Of course there will be another GT3, another M3 and another Clio Cup, but they won’t quite be the same. The cars that replace these machines will each lose something at the burning core of their appeal."
So, these cars are "a celebration of genuine evo Hall of Famers, one final triumphant drive into the heart of our favourite stomping ground, one final plea to the people who have crafted these extraordinary cars to never forget what made them so special… These cars are united by their tight focus and sublime execution, united by a dedication to thrill the lucky blighter behind the steering wheel."
The final car of our quartet is the BMW M3. The M3 may have started life as a homologation machine pure and simple, but those who pine for the old days neglect just how fantastic the newer cars have become. The E46 was fantastic and despite some lukewarm reviews in the early days, the E92 V8 M3 remains the benchmark fast, practical coupe by a country mile in my opinion. Anyone who tells you it isn’t hasn’t driven one or has forgotten just how exceptional this car is. OurTM3 is actually a 2007 car owned by Adam Walker, evo reader and my new best mate since he’s letting me drive his pride and joy as much as I like and at any angle that seems appropriate.
Of course, the M3 plays the same trick, offering a similarly broad repertoire and a phenomenal engine of its own. It’s also the bargain of the moment. This 40,000-mile ’07 example is worth around £22,000. Yet it has a 4-litre V8 with 414bhp at 8300rpm and hits 100mph in 10sec, it’s beautifully built and sweats a brooding aggression that hasn’t dated a day since its launch. In keeping with our purist theme, this car has a manual ’box and does without the adjustable EDC dampers.
On the very worst sections of road, you do miss EDC just a little as the car bounces where the slightly softer Comfort mode of the adjustable set-up might let it breathe. Having said that, there’s no escaping the M3’s inherent qualities. The engine takes centre stage. It’s incredibly sharp and revs with the manic appetite of a supercar. The M3 is often said to have ‘no torque’. This, my friends, is hogwash. OK, so it doesn’t have the mambo of a 6.2-litre V8 made by AMG, but 295lb ft at 3900rpm isn’t so bad. More importantly, it pulls hard from 2500rpm and if you were to restrict yourself to just 5000rpm you’d still make seriously quick progress. And you’d still have another 3500rpm to go…
The V8 is also the perfect match for the chassis, allowing it to really hook-up even out of second-gear corners and giving you a progressive and vast power band to play in should you overwhelm the rear tyres. And you will. I mean, why not? The M3 has sublime balance and although it can snap away pretty quickly initially, once you’ve caught that first spike you’re plum in the middle of the sort of oversteer you like to daydream about. Matching this progression and the M3’s natural ability to indulge will be the M division’s biggest challenge for the next M3. Can it make a turbocharged engine as intuitive to modulate so precisely? I hope so. It might also want to improve the braking system’s resilience (nothing wrong with the feel), give the damping slightly more control on bumpy surfaces and dial more feel into the steering. If it manages all that, the next M3 will be quite something. Quite something indeed.
To see what they have to say about the other three soon-to-be replaced or extinct hero cars, head on over to EVO