2009 BMW M3: The End Of The M As We Know It
September 30, 2009
When I first heard rumors that the next BMW M5 would ditch the glorious 5.0-liter V10 in favor of a twin-turbo V8, I didn't buy it. No way. M cars are for purists who know there's no substitute for a purpose-built high-revving naturally aspirated motor. Porsche would sooner slap a turbo on the 911 GT3 than the Motorsport division would turn to forced induction.
But then the X5 M and X6 M happened. A triple whammy for M loyalists. Not only had BMW violated the unofficial turbocharging taboo, it had also reneged on its promise "to keep the Motorsport realm pure and only include cars" -- and thrown in the second-ever M-badged conventional automatic transmission for good measure (the E36 M3 had an ill-advised slushbox option). In one fell swoop, the M brand went from a symbol of unadulterated driving passion to something disturbingly like AMG.
Since then, of course, the M5's twin-turbo V8 has been confirmed, and it will surely find its way into the next M6 as well (if there is one). Which means that in a couple years, the M3 will be the last naturally aspirated M car standing. And why should we believe that the next M3 won't be turbocharged too? If you're with me in finding the current M3 a bit too emotionally distant for its own good, just wait till it's got a blown motor under the hood like every other M.
A turbocharged engine simply can't match the instantaneous throttle response of a naturally aspirated one, and no amount of low-end torque can approximate the thrill of winding out a classic M motor to its 8,000-ish-rpm redline. I thought the Motorsport folks understood that.
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 9,640 miles