Recently I had the chance of reviewing the BMW M3 E46. Having the opportunity to review the youger brother weeks a part allowed me to make a good comparison between the cars.
The E92 M3 (coupé) was released on 2007, as year model 2008, in the Frankfurt Autoshow. Right after it, the convertible (E93) and sedan (E90) came along. At the time of its release, brand purists were against the newest M3. Criticism came essentially from the fact that the V8 would make the car too heavy.
It did not matter that BMW claimed the V8 had the same weight as the retired S54 L6 from the E46. The critics’ speech was that the M3 was becoming large and heavy, running away from its original proposal – the be light, agile, agressive and small. Were the purists correct? In some part, yes, but not due to the V8.
THE BMW M3 E92
Last year I published a review of the BMW M3 equipped with and ESS superchager performance kit and a bunch of other upgrades. Before that, my contact with the E92 M3 was on 2008.
Initially, the E92 was launched with a manual 6-speed gearbox. Shortly thereafter, came the M-DCT dual clutch gearbox, which was worlds a part in terms of efficiency compared to any SMG gearbox. For those looking for a more involving and fun experience, I still recommend the manual 6-speed, eventhough the M-DCT car will be faster.
The 4.0 V8 is capable of producing 414 Hp at 8300 rpm and 40 Kgfm of torque at 3900 rpms. The E92, with carbon fiber roof, weigths about 1580 Kgs. The E90, with a normal roof, weights about 1600 Kgs. The convertible is the obese of the buch, with 1810 Kgs. This is all in dry weight conditions. Expect more in reality.
0 to 62 mph takes about 4.9 seconds with the manual 6-speed and the top speed is of 286 km/h. With M-DCT, 0 to 62 mph takes about 4.5 seconds and top speed remains the same. Weight distribution as in all ///M cars is in the 50/50 ratio between front and real axles.
Looking only to the numbers of the M3 you will never understand what it feels like to drive it.
INSIDE THE BMW M3 E92
The E92 is significantly bigger than the E46 M3 from the inside and outside. The cabin has become a cozier place to be for both the driver and passengers. WHAT THE HELL MEANS COZIER IN A M3?
One of the greatest praises about the M3 was the combination between its drivebility and versatility. For the E92, I believe that BMW focused more on the second instance. Not to say that the E92 has become a less aggressive car, but there is no denying that the M3 E92 is a much more comfortable place to be in for long hours that the older model. As if it begged to be driven until the fuel tank is empty.
The seats are soft and grab you very nicely during sharp corners, instead of punching your ribs. There are so many ways to adjust them that finding the perfect driving position will be easy. The pedals are alligned perfectly in relation to the steering wheel. The E92 M3 is a democracy – it will accept tall, short, fat or thin drivers.
Nowadays the 2008 iDrive present in the E92 M3 is outdated, but it has all the amenities and functions you would expect from a modern car.
The steering wheel is thick and it is small.
Back seats in the E92 (coupé, remember?!) will not fit a Shrek, but it is possible to take a 5’8″ person with some dignity, even if heading only to the closest Starbucks. Trunk size is adequate to carry two mid-size bags.
In sum, without driving the M3, you would swear it was a normal road going car. This is great plus for those who wish to have one single car to use every day.
Fit and finish could be more distinct from regular BMW models, but this problem is one that has haunted ///M cars for decades.
DRIVING THE BMW M3 E92
The E92 M3 allows you to configure your own ///M mode – that little magic button in the steering wheel. Going through the iDrive menus you can set up your throttle, steering wheel, suspension and stability/traction control responses so that any time you press the ///M button you will have your “go” settings ready. You can also adjust these parameters by means of the 3 buttons to the left of the gear knob. The “Power” button, however, does not mean that once you press it you get more “juice” out of your M3 (as it happens in the M5 E60 and M6 E63) – it only improves throttle response. EDC regulates the suspension calibration. DSC controls traction and stability settings – hold it for a couple of seconds and you will be completely on your own.
The way power and torque delivery happen in the BMW M3 E92 forces you to really “milk” the naturally aspirated V8 so you can feel things happen. Those who are used to turbochargers or superchargers may not like the refinement of the V8 of the M3 E92, but the sound it makes above 7000 rpms is simply amazing.
All starts with very little torque. Up to 4000 rpms there is not much going on. The first gear is really short to hide this. Above 4000 rpms, magic happens. Silence is broken by an agressive high revving V8 sound, which is very similar to the naturally aspirated V10 of BMW. Between 6000 and 8200 rpms what happens is one of the best definitions of automotive nirvana.
Driving the M3 E92 above 6000 rpms is one of those experiences all petrol heads should have at least once in a lifetime. Note that at this point I was yet to take the first corner. When the time arrives, I jump on the brakes, amazing feel and response. The front dives in, you point the steering wheel and the M3 addresses your commands in a sublime, precise and direct manner.
The clutch is lighter and softer than in the E46. Much similar to a normal car than a sports car. It makes life and heel-toes easier. Gearshifts are precise and do not require much. A short shifter would be welcomed though.
Chassis, suspension and steering wheel talk to each other perfectly. The combination of RWD and front engine with a manual 6-speed results in one the easiest and funniest cars I have ever driven. It is very easy to make power slides with the M3 E92. It is hard to control doing this every corner. The M3 E92 is very docile and easy to control. Anyone of skills and sensible thingers behind the steering wheel will have buches of fun.
So, this means tha the M3 E92 is the best car I have ever driven? No.
Compared to the M3 E46, the E92 feels heavier and more lethargic, to the point of feeling slower on the straight line during first and second gears. Bigger dimmensions take their tolls on direction changes. You cannot deny the E92 is a less aggressive animal than the E46. The older M3 is a car that would make you get up early on a Saturday morning to go to the nearest b-road have some fun. The E92 is a car that you could use every day, even with the 6-speed manual gearbox. The E46 demands the driver to push it all the time. The E92 feels more relaxed and civilized.
The driver is a bit more away from the driving experience in the E92 compared to the E46. There are more filters and more electronics between the driver and the car. Pedals and gearshifts are much easier in the E92.
This means that I prefer the E46? It depends. As a driver’s car and second car, to be used during weekend and having a commuter for the daily routine, I would rather have the older model. It feels more sharp, more focused, old school and agressive. If I could only have one car for all occasions, definately I would go for the E92. If I had to take a long car trip, I am quite sure that the E92 would treat me better. Above third gear, the E92 would take the leap on a straight line, which would give me the extra power I need on the road. Furthermore, the E92 has a bunch of amenities I would not find in the older brother.
If we compare the E92 to competitors from other brands, the obvious rival would be the Mercedes Benz C63 AMG. As I always said, Benz made an incredible job giving the C63 AMG so much personality. On a straight line, specially above three digit speed, the C63 AMG would rape the M3 E92, specially the manual gearboxed car. The AMG’s extra 40 Hp and 20 Kgfm make the C63 the faster car, but not more pleasurable, fun and refined to drive than the M3.
No other sports car I have driven manages to be as versatile as the BMW M3. When evolving the E46, BMW focused not only in making a faster car, but also a more refined, comfortable and usable vehicle. The trade-off is that the M3 E92 is bigger, heavier and more of a GT than the preceding model.
It is definately an entertaining car to drive hard. There is no imprevisibility aspect in how it will behave. It is delicious in all senses. Maybe, the M3 E92 deserved a more powerfull and torquier engine. 30 Hp and 10 Kgfm more would be perfect. I love the BMW M3 and that was never a secret for all those who know me. I dream of owning one. It is one of the cars that petrol heads need to experience and own at some point in their lifes.