Posted on 2/9/2009BMW
The BMW M3 has been on car enthusiasts’ wish list since the first-generation M3 debuted in 1988. Over the course of three generations, the M3 grew from a four-cylinder glorified go-kart into a stunningly capable GT car. But the formula remained constant: Combine the relatively small, compact 3-series body with a race-derived engine and maintain class-leading handling. The fourth-generation M3, which debuted at the 2007 Geneva auto show, doesn’t stray away from that proven formula.
Unlike the second- and third-generation M3s, which had inline-sixes, the 2008 BMW M3 will have a high-revving, naturally aspirated V-8. The 4.0-liter
engine (3999cc) is based on the 5.0-liter V-10 from the current M5, but minus two cylinders (and the corresponding liter of displacement). With
double-VANOS variable valve timing, an individual throttle body for each cylinder, a 12.0:1 compression ratio, and a shrieking 8300-rpm redline, the
all-aluminum engine produces 414 hp at 8300 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 3900 rpm. Thanks to its lightweight construction, the V-8 will weigh in
at just 445 lbs, actually 33 lbs less than the iron-block six of the previous generation. With various other weight-saving measures being
employed, the 2008 car could weigh around 3400 pounds. Enthusiasts near and far are relieved to know that it will come standard with a conventional
six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed sequential manual likely will be offered later for video-game junkies and other masochists. The M3’s V-8
will produce five fewer pound-feet of torque than the turbocharged inline-six in the 335i, but it will be fully a third more powerful.
Test drivers have been posted 4.8-to-4.9-second 0-to-60-mph times in the 335i, and we expect the M3 to do that sprint in well under 4.5 seconds. Top speed, as with most performance BMWs, will be limited to 155 mph.
The 2008 BMW M3 will compete with the new Audi S5 coupe and Lexus IS F when they go on sale in the U.S. in less than a year. The M3’s extra 64 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and lighter weight promise to deliver a more raw experience than that of the all-wheel-drive Audi & Lexus, but we expect the M3 will cost thousands more.