From £51,440
Peformance is still outstanding, and new dual-clutch 'box is an improvement

Our Verdict

BMW M3 Coupé
Anyone who drives this car and yearns for more straight-line performance clearly has power issues

The latest generation BMW M3 isn't as thrilling as the original E30 M3, but it's still mighty

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What is it?

This is the alfresco version of the M3, this time with a folding metal roof in place of the previous model’s fabric one.

The roof folds in 22 seconds, and performs the reverse manoeuvre in the same time. Its structure and mechanism burdens the M3 with a not insignificant 230kg, which adds half a second to its 0-60mph time, although you can shave 0.2 from that by ordering the £2590 M-DCT, double-clutch seven speed transmission.

Operating the roof is a simple case of pushing a switch, but mastering every facet of this new transmission is more complicated.

For the greatest simplicity you merely slide the gearlever sideways into drive and leave the transmission to do the rest. You can over-ride this either by pulling on one of the neat paddles behind the wheel, in which case it switches to manual, or flick the transmission sideways again to engage Sport, which is actually a fully manual mode rather than a lively version of Drive.

But if you want keener responses in the fully automatic mode you’ll need the Drivelogic button, located just aft of the gearlever. This is a rocker switch that allows you to choose between five settings in Drive, each of these the speed of the gearshift, the level of throttle blipping on downchanges, the transmission’s willingness to hang onto gears, and its eagerness to downshift. In other words, it gets more lively as you dial towards sport from comfort.

In Sport, this same switch alters the speed of gearshifts and the level of automatic throttle blipping, and also provides an additional launch mode.

What’s it like?

Complicated, at first, and quick, of course. Once you’re in third you’ll be struck by how rangey the car feels in its middle bunch of gears because the engine revs so far, peak power arriving at 8300rpm.

But the most noticeable thing of all, if you’ve experienced BMW SMG transmissions of the past, is that the annoying head nod you involuntarily perform every time there’s a gearchange, has largely been banished. Largely, because in its most aggressive setting there is still a brief surge as you upshift on hard acceleration.

With the M3’s roof folded, you enjoy a new level of aural entertainment from the engine, whose creamily frenetic warble comes at you all the more clearly from the quartet of exhausts.

Apart from the obvious sunny-day advantages of a convertible, this has to be one of the major benefits of buying a drop-top M3. The trade-off, apart from the £4135 price premium, is its weight, which would doubtless be detectable back-to-back on a track, the additional mass fractionally diminishing the car’s agility.

But in isolation this M3 Convertible is a highly athletic beast, changing direction without hesitation and flaunting a cross-country fluency that is a pleasure to exploit. That pleasure is only faintly marred by the odd structural quake and quiver, with the removal of the M3’s roof inevitably weakening its shell.

That said, this M3 Convertible is 30 per cent stiffer with its metal roof closed than the previous fabric-roofed model. A question mark still dances over the M3’s steering, which ought to be more feelsome around the straightahead.

And the transmission? The surprise is that despite the potential for seamless shifts that a double clutch transmission provides, this is not always a jerk-free, quirk-free gearbox, even though it’s a huge improvement on the SMG boxes.

In fact, it has deliberately been configured to create a driveline thump in the sportiest modes, and more seriously, it is quite often slow on the uptake when you’re moving off from rest.

At times you’ll think you’re driving a car with an automated single plate clutch. And the descent through the gears as you stop at traffic lights, say, is not completely smooth.

But on the positive side, the speed of its gearswitches, the extra ratio and its magnificent downshift blips in the sportiest settings are major appeals, as is the convenience of paddle-shifting when you’re rushing a tightly twisty road.

Should I buy one?

Yes. The pleasures of hearing that V8 in all its high octane, warbling glory are not be dismissed lightly, and you lose little of the M3's real-world performance as a result of the added weight. Undoubtedly, though, those who want the ultimate in dynamics will go for the closed roof option.

And the transmission? The performance-obsessed should note that it makes the M3 a quicker car, that you get an extra gear (making it more economical, too) and that it provides another intriguing dimension of adjustment and fine-tuning.

But this is a sometimes quirky transmission, one that does not always do what you want it to – especially from rest – that sometimes jerks, shudders and displays less finesse than a master of the manual gearshift would muster.

It’s very likely a transmission whose appeal grows with familiarity, but some will prefer the simple purity of your classic manual transmission.

Join the debate

Comments
29

24 April 2008

Lovely Motor. Surely the best Cabrio on the market at any price! Especially with the new hard top which despite guys like Porsche triple-lining their cloth roofs just aren't up to the job of 100mph+ cruising without sacrificing both noise and refinement.

Not sure outside of South Africa or South of France the white paint job looks any good, certainly probably never for a bloke! I've a friend with a white M3 with black carbonfibre roof and told him as diplomatically as possible his wife would look better in it.

24 April 2008

Am I alone in thinking that these 'hard top' folding roofs do not look right with the roof up ?. This is a lovely car with the roof down but with the roof up has too many lines and joins and looks unbalanced. I think the previous generation 3 series convertible and paticularly M3 with the soft top looked a lot better roof up and down. Considering at least 90% of the time these cars will have the roof up I think it is more sensible, better looking and cheaper just to buy the coupe.

24 April 2008

I like.

I can't afford.

I go dreaming about winning the lottery.

I wake up, return to reality and curse at everything for the unfairness of it all.

24 April 2008

I am very fortunate . I have ordered an M3 Cariolet for delivery in the next few weeks. I have test driven the 997 cab,Maserati,Jag XK,etc..I wanted an auto convertible. The Porsche was my favourite but had to be ignored as the rear seats are too small and my teenage children couldn't fit.The M3 has so many bases covered as a daily car, plus it will give you a great drive when the chance arrives.In this economic crunch cars like the Porsche et al are too flash. The BMW is great for those who know and to anyone else it is just another BMW.

What surprised me when I ordered was that I was offered a car to my spec with delivery within 8-10 weeks.Maybe the rumours of 1 year waiting lists are untrue.

I am really looking forward to driving this car for the Summer.

24 April 2008

Interesting issues raised regarding the DCT. BMW have had the last 4 years to copy, erm, i mean follow VW's supposedly perfect DSG yet they have still not got it right. Although on second thoughts; VW do not fit DSG in anything anywhere near this powerful. Maybe there is a physical limit on the power a Double Clutch Gearbox can be expected to handle?

Shame for BMW as the M5 also gets seriously marked down for its automated gearbox too. Not exactly what you would expect of a BMW. Never mind an M badged one!

25 April 2008

[quote Quattro369]Although on second thoughts; VW do not fit DSG in anything anywhere near this powerful. Maybe there is a physical limit on the power a Double Clutch Gearbox can be expected to handle? [/quote]

Quattro, I would have thought from your moniker that you would be an aficionado of Audi. Audi last month announced their new 7-speed S Tronic(DSG) gearbox that's rated to 550Nm(~400lb ft) and 9000rpm. It''ll make its debut end of the year in new Q5 - goes into 4WD Quattro, longitudinal engine installation first. Would seem that BMW have been outdone - again? - by VW/Audi:

http://www.motortrend.com/features/auto_news/2008/112_0803_audi_s_tronic_seven_speed_transmission

http://www.autobild.de/artikel/audi-siebengang-s-tronic_602419.html

25 April 2008

[quote barney1]Am I alone in thinking that these 'hard top' folding roofs do not look right with the roof up ?. [/quote]

No, you're not. The SLK (R170) and SL a fine examples, but these are full on roadsters. I think though what BMW have achieved here is a cabriolet, with hard-top that is actually better looking, roof up than the coupe cousin, which is rare, as I think most cabs look pretty naff roof up (soft or hard, fnarr) including my own Z4.

I think the M3 cabriolet does not lend itself to white colour though. It's far too busy a design to suffer anything light. Black is the way to go. I could well be tempted in a couple of years.

[quote Quattro369]BMW have had the last 4 years to copy, erm, i mean follow VW's supposedly perfect DSG yet they have still not got it right. [/quote]

Thing is, the DSG doesn't exactly make for an exciting drive. If anything from my experience with it it makes for a decidedly dull drive in either full auto or flappy paddle.

25 April 2008

I think it looks great in red, white or blue, roof up or down. Seems to cover all bases. In my car testing days I drove the old M3 SMG at Rockingham for a few laps on bahalf of a leasing company, around about the time the 1 Series was launched. I thought it was great, the oft-mentioned jerkiness didn't bother me at all, so I reckong the new box would be right up my street. That said, I didn't like the DSG in the Golf GTI at the time and I recently tried basically the same setup in a Leon FR petrol and still didn't really like it that much, not because of performance but because it seemed a bit sluggish on the upchange at low speeds.

25 April 2008

[quote Quattro369]Although on second thoughts; VW do not fit DSG in anything anywhere near this powerful. Maybe there is a physical limit on the power a Double Clutch Gearbox can be expected to handle?[/quote]

Doesn't the Bugatti Veyron have a 7-speed Dual Clutch Gearbox of sorts?

But from what I hear some M5 customers are eager to find out how the car would fair with a less jerky automated manual like this DCT with it's slightly lazier approach to speed.

25 April 2008

[quote The Colonel]

Thing is, the DSG doesn't exactly make for an exciting drive. If anything from my experience with it it makes for a decidedly dull drive in either full auto or flappy paddle.

[/quote]

Wholeheartedly agree with this statement. It is technically fantastic but in all honesty i wouldn't want it anywhere near a ferrari or other similar vehicles; its just too damn boring!

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