BMW M3 – 2008 First Drive: Infallible. Unbeatable. Best. Benchmark. Live your life addressed by those terms and you may become intimately aware of yet another term: pressure. Even Tiger Woods misses an easy putt every once in awhile – its called being human, and much to the disgruntlement of type A personalities everywhere, perfection is elusive.Case in point: the BMW M3. For as long as enthusiasts can remember, this German Autobahn-cruising and Nurburgring-tested thoroughbred has used class-leading dynamics to keep an ever-growing body of contenders at bay. Try as they might, engineers from all corners of the globe were unable to develop an alternative to the M3 that enjoyed fanatical praise equal to that bestowed upon the first four-cylinder model all the way up through the most recent 333-horsepower variant. It was good to be BMW, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Fast forward to 2008, where the luxury sport landscape has been riled by the introductions of the Lexus IS F and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, with the thunderous sound of RS 5s and supercharged CTS-Vs rushing to crest the horizon. BMW’s M3, last sold in coupe and convertible forms for the 2006 model year, took a hiatus during 2007 and has reentered the market in coupe and sedan guises; the convertible will be available later this year as a 2009 model. The intense pressure to remain on top has led to an M3 first: a V-8 engine, one with 414 horses and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, neither of which represents best-in-class. Nor does the 4.7-second 0-60 mph performance, or for that matter, the M3’s 155-mph top speed. Still, performance cars are based on handling as much as raw power, and that’s an area where the BMW continues to shine, thanks in part to M Dynamic Mode technology. Plus, the SMG transmission has been replaced by an optional seven-speed, double-clutch automatic, so there’s plenty for BMW and M3 fans to remain happy about…even if continuing to be the best of the best isn’t necessarily among them.