It could be the ultimate compact rear-wheel-drive high performance car

What is it?

BMW has enhanced the seminal two-door version of their performance icon, the M3 coupe, with a model called the Coupe Edition.

It sports some new colours and body bits, some dark chrome treatments, a 10mm lower ride height, and a series of subtle but telling interior changes that do just enough to justify a special name.

What’s it like?

You’re talking about a compact car with a 420 bhp, 4.0-litre V8 in the nose, driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox.

The coupe already has quite a few advantages: a smaller frontal area than the saloon and a lower seating position, plus lower weight (fewer doors) and a lower centre of gravity (courtesy of a carbon fibre roof that shaves 15kg from an equivalent steel structure).

Throw in this new Editon model’s 10mm lower ride height for what BMW primly calls “enhanced dynamic capability”, plus the fact that it can come equipped with a super-looking set of black 19-inch wheels, and you’d be within your rights to conclude that this is the best BMW M3 of them all.

This matter is best confirmed on a circuit such as the Bedford Autodrome, which is where we tested the M3 Coupe Edition during a BMW track day.

The car has true powerhouse performance, usable right up to its 155 mph electronic limit, and the howl of the V8, rev-limited at 8400 rpm, provides sound effects to match.

The smooth, super-quick gearshifts of the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox (a distinctly pricey option at £2500) make the car far easier for most normal mortals to drive in anger, something you especially notice as you flick down three gears to pile into one of Bedford’s hairpins from 130 mph-plus down the straight.

The car turns brilliantly, throttle-steers beautifully, resists body roll very well and its brakes are huge and fantastically effective at washing away speed without apparent effort.

Does this coupe handle better than the other M3 versions? It’s arguable, given its slight chassis advantage. But it feels a lot like its siblings, too.

The M3 Coupe Edition powerslides at the limit of grip with a predictability that is flattering, entertaining, and if sparingly used, pretty damned fast on the right circuit.

For sheer predictability it shades most supercars, which tend to have more complicated mechanical layouts.

Should I buy one?

If you do, you’ll spend £60,000 by the time you have the right suspension and gearbox, wheels and tyres. That’s 911 money, and to some eyes it seems a lot given that there’s there’s a BMW 320d two-door that shares most of its two-door shape.

The key to perceiving an M3’s value is driving it. Spend time with the Coupe Edition on road and track and we’ll be astonished if it doesn’t strike you as something close to the ultimate expression of a compact rear-wheel-drive high performance car.

For its combination of high ability with accessibility to decent-but-ordinary drivers, no rival comes close.

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Overdrive 10 August 2009

Re: BMW M3 Coupe Edition

Lanehogger wrote:

..And when the 4 door version was launched, it was seen as softer and inferior to the Coupe ....

While I agree with the rest of your post I don't recall this bit, i.e the M3 saloon being considered inferior to the coupe.

In fact, I recall Autocar conducting a test involving the M3 slaoon, C63 AMG and the Lexus IS F (the RS4 was out of production by then) with the M3 winning.

Lanehogger 10 August 2009

Re: BMW M3 Coupe Edition

Can't say i'm surprised at Autocar's summary of the M3 Edition, regardless of whether it is the ultimate driving machine or not.

When the latest M3 was launched this magazine considered the Merc C63 AMG and now defunct Audi RS4 to be better. And when the 4 door version was launched, it was seen as softer and inferior to the Coupe and yet somehow Autocar sees the M3 as the best perfomance saloon when you look at the backpages.

Now i'd never suggest that Autocar has a soft spot with the M3.....

Quattro369 5 August 2009

Re: BMW M3 Coupe Edition

iamnotthestig wrote:
Odd that they're bringing out this, when presumably the CSL isn't too far off...
Nope. BMW have stated there will be no CSL model this time round as part of their cutbacks due to the current financial climate...

...Although they did also say they would never produce an 'M' version of the X5/6