E92 BMW M3

BIG DRIVES ON THE V8

Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

We’ve been look­ing at our fair share of post-2000 Euro bar­gains, but our eyes grow tired and we need to go back a bit fur­ther. Vin­tage Mercedes-Benz SL road­sters are al­ready big-buy­ing, but how far be­hind is the boxy R129? Now, look­ing at BMW M3s, they’re a lot like Porsches… in that ev­ery time a new one is an­nounced, purists laud the old model as “the last good one”. So you can imag­ine the back­lash when BMW an­nounced the fourth­gen­er­a­tion of the M3, his­tor­i­cally the driv­ing dy­namic zenith of the Bavar­ian mar­que’s range.

“A V8!?... Rub­bish! M3s are sup­posed to have an in­line-six!” they cried.

That ig­nores the fact that the first M3, the E30, orig­i­nally came with a four-pot.

But the V8 might be the rea­son you should get in to one soon.

You see: in the face of the cur­rent F82-gen­er­a­tion M4 (BMW jum­bled up its model nam­ing sys­tem in its cur­rent range, blame Mercedes), with time – many will re­vere the E92 over its suc­ces­sor. As the M4 went back to a six-cylinder en­gine, col­lec­tors viewed it as ev­ery bit as sac­ri­le­gious be­cause the six cylin­ders are now in the wrong con­fig­u­ra­tion ( V6) and (gasp) it has two tur­bos strapped to it! Oh, what a bla­tant af­front! The spir­i­tual M3, BMW’s archetype of nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated per­for­mance… now with forced in­duc­tion.

In the age of down­sized pow­er­plants and the ever-in­creas­ing preva­lence of tur­bocharg­ing, we’re un­likely to ever see a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated M3 again. And that makes the E92 the last of the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated breed.

Fur­ther­more, it’s the only V8 in the fam­ily tree and – in ret­ro­spect – it was an ab­so­lute peach of an en­gine! De­but­ing within the E92 M3 at the 2007 Frank­furt Mo­tor Show, was BMW’s all-new S65 V8 en­gine. A 4.0lt unit of 309kW at 8300rpm and 400Nm of torque at just 3900rpm that cat­a­pulted the svelte coupe into triple dig­its in 4.5 sec­onds

in dual-clutch trans­mis­sion guise (4.7 for the man­ual).

The burly V8 rum­bles to life at the press of the start but­ton, and with torque peak­ing so low – it feels just as fast as the pre­ced­ing straight-six E46 M3, un­til you look down and re­alise you’re barely at 5000rpm and it’s only just hit­ting its stride.

The E92 M3 is also the first M3 that doesn’t pe­nalise the driver for not stick­ing with the stan­dard man­ual trans­mis­sion. The E46’s SMG gear­box was no­to­ri­ously… rub­bish. But new for the E92 gen­er­a­tion was BMW’s DCT gear­box, which is quick, sharp and smooth. Though a less en­gag­ing gear­box, it lunched the lap times at

Mo­tor mag­a­zine’s 2008 Per­for­mance Car of the Year (it ul­ti­mately fin­ished in sec­ond place).

Of course, for pure fun – and dare we say, re­sale value – the seven-speed man­ual is a hell of a thing and if this is purely a recre­ational car, we’d highly rec­om­mend hunt­ing one down.

It was down on power against the ri­val Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG at the time, though was far lighter es­pe­cially sans the op­tional sun­roof which found a sleek car­bon fi­bre piece grafted in its place. It ul­ti­mately yielded an iden­ti­cal power/ weight ra­tio to the ever-pop­u­lar mus­cle car Merc.

It feels as ev­ery bit as sharp as an M3 should be; ex­traor­di­nar­ily ag­ile, plenty of grip with a play­ful over­steer bias and scalpel-sharp steer­ing – BMW’s heroic driver’s car has lost none of its char­ac­ter with this di­vi­sive gen­er­a­tion.

The cabin it­self is min­i­mal and sharp, swathed

“IT FEELS JUST AS FAST AS THE E46 M3 UN­TIL YOU LOOK DOWN AND RE­ALISE YOU’RE BARELY AT 5000RPM”

in leather and fea­tur­ing a neat and un­clut­tered cen­tral stack of HVAC and ra­dio con­trols. The multi-func­tion in­fo­tain­ment screen is con­trolled by the iDrive sys­tem on the cen­tre con­sole, with the driver’s ‘Power’, ‘EDC’ (elec­tronic damper con­trol) and ‘DSC Off ’ but­tons con­ve­niently sit­u­ated next to the gear lever.

Clean and func­tional de­sign car­ries through to the ex­te­rior as well. Its large un­clut­tered pan­els draped over the chas­sis, al­most pur­pose­fully melt­ing over its flared and widened haunches – char­ac­terised by a sharp swage line below the waist­line, trail­ing from the side gills evolved from the E46 M3 around and across the tail lights.

A power bulge flanked by two re­verse ducts (all func­tional too) add some rear-view mir­ror ag­gres­sion to the front end.

Un­like many mod­ern cars, it has aged beau­ti­fully – more so than the os­ten­ta­tious C63. So which one to buy?

Well that’s largely up to per­sonal pref­er­ence. This gen­er­a­tion M3 came in a coupe, sedan and con­vert­ible body (de­noted by chas­sis codes: E90 and E93 re­spec­tively), with early-pro­duc­tion 2008 mod­els start­ing at as lit­tle as $35,000 on the sec­ond­hand mar­ket. Many are still un­der 100,000kms, and there ap­pears to be lit­tle dis­crep­ancy between man­ual and DCT ex­am­ples. There are plenty of op­tions in the $35,000 - $45,000 price range, in which case you’re hard­est de­ci­sion will likely be what colour you’d like.

There’s a bit of a premium for later-model up­dated ex­am­ples, with BMW’s LCI (life cy­cle

“THE E92’S PRE­CI­SION DRIV­ING DY­NAM­ICS AND BURLY V8 WILL ONLY GROW MORE DE­SIR­ABLE”

im­pulse) up­date ar­riv­ing in 2011. These cars gen­er­ally see ad­ver­tised prices between $50,000 and $60,000 but with it you get mi­nor in­te­rior trim changes, LED tail lights, white halo head­lights and mar­ginal per­for­mance in­creases.

The E92 ap­pears to sit at its de­pre­ci­a­tion tip­ping point. It’s still a rel­a­tively new car, only out­moded by one gen­er­a­tion – and has likely caused sec­ond­hand prices to fall so far from its $170,000 new price. It’s sim­ply not old enough to be con­sid­ered a ‘clas­sic’, though that may not be the case for long. Out­stand­ing ex­am­ples of the pre­ced­ing E46 M3 have al­ready over­taken the prices of the cheap­est E92s and peo­ple are al­ready over­look­ing the cur­rent M4 to the E92 with more de­sir­ing eyes. With BMW’s next-gen 3 Se­ries wait­ing side of stage and, not too far be­hind it a new M3; the E92 and its pre­ci­sion driv­ing dy­nam­ics and nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8 will only grow more de­sir­able.

TOP LEFT We reckon the M3 coupe has aged beau­ti­fully.TOP RIGHTUn­clut­tered cabin is a nice place to be.BOT­TOM LEFTThe only V8 M3 yet, and likely the only one we’ll ever see.

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