Ripping V8 power, stellar handling along with decent ride quality, comfortable and highly supportive front seats, sports car performance with four usable seats.
Abundance of technology may overwhelm some, fussy navigation and iDrive controls, annoying procedure to shut off climate control.
"M" — among serious driving enthusiasts, there's no other letter that carries so much weight. Tell a fellow car buff you drive a 2008 BMW M3 (or any other member of the M family) and you might as well tell them you broke 70 on your last round of golf, or that you're taking Scarlett Johansson out for drinks. In other words, they'd be impressed...and jealous.
For the uninitiated, an M emblem on the butt of a Bimmer signifies the carmaker's Motorsport division. This in-house tuning team takes the performance of a given BMW model (in this case the 3 Series coupe) not only to the next level, but into the stratosphere. With the 2008 BMW M3, it's all there — sizzling acceleration, handling and braking that nearly defy physics and controls that have just the right feel and action to them, making the car an extension of your body.
But in practical terms, one may wonder if an M3 is worth nearly $17,000 more than the thoroughly capable 335i coupe. The latter is certainly quick enough (sprints to 60 mph in a blistering 4.9 seconds), it handles great and offers a less aggressive ride. For most people, therefore, the answer is no — they'll be sufficiently giddy with the performance and overall livability of the 335i.
But look at the M3 another way. As a practical four-passenger coupe that happens to beat the performance of a highly respected (and highly priced) sports car, say the Porsche 911 Carrera S, the 2008 BMW M3 coupe starts to look like an outright bargain.
BMW breaks recent M3 tradition by snubbing six-cylinder power. With its chief rivals in the super sport coupe/sedan class — Audi's RS4 and S5, and Mercedes-Benz's C63 AMG — now packing V8s underhood, BMW certainly didn't want to be caught two cylinders down. And now that the "normal" 3 Series (the 335i in particular) can be had with a rip-snorting 300-horsepower twin-turbocharged inline-6, the upgrade to a V8 seemed mandatory.
With 414 hp and a redline that exceeds 8 grand, the M3's V8 is a thriller that'll pin your ears back with its smooth, potent rush from 3,000 rpm to that 8,400-rpm redline. The six-speed manual's shift action is solid and precise, with less of the somewhat rubbery feel found in the previous-gen M3. With its firm resistance and progressive action, the clutch is just what we'd expect in a performance car — in hard driving it feels just right, while around town it's not so stiff you feel like you're doing (left) leg presses at the gym.
At the track, the 2008 BMW M3 ran the 0-60-mph dash in just 4.3 seconds and ripped through the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds. Its stopping ability was equally impressive. The M3's confident, easily modulated brakes took only 100 feet to stop from 60 mph — the shortest distance we've ever recorded.
Pry yourself away from the spec sheet and belt into the driver seat and the M3 gets even better. Pushed hard on a ribbon of deserted blacktop, the M3 comes into its own, with both car and driver settling into a groove at speeds that will have you wishing your best friend was the local traffic court judge. Always a strong point in a Bimmer, the steering is just about perfect in terms of weighting, precision and feel. The trademark feedback is still there, if not quite as tactile as the previous-generation M3's. Factor in the chassis' superb balance and the tires' tremendous grip, and the M3 makes good drivers feel great and great drivers wish they had a racetrack in their backyard.
The other 90 percent of the time, when you're driving in the real world of potholes and commuter traffic, you'll find the M3's optional three-way electronic damping control adjustable suspension (Comfort, Normal and Sport) a nice feature to have. When set to Comfort it provides a firm but not harsh ride, Normal is noticeably stiffer (more like a sports car) and Sport is harshly stiff and best left for track days. Still, it's a good bet that many would appreciate an even softer setting for rough pavement encountered in town and on the highway.
Concerning the other reality of fuel consumption, we averaged 15.6 mpg, against the EPA estimates of 14 city/20 highway and 16 combined. We imagine you'll do a few mpg better given our proximity to deserted canyon roads and our staff's heavy feet.
As you'd expect, the aggressively bolstered front seats are tops at holding one in place while slicing up a twisty road. And thanks to the multiple adjustments that include the side wings and under-thigh support, they're also very comfortable and supportive on long interstate drives. The two-passenger rear seat is actually usable by a pair of adults. We had our 6-foot-3 and 5-foot-5 staffers rotate seating positions, with one in the driver seat and the other behind, and in both cases they each had sufficient room and support.
At speed on the freeway, the M3's wind noise is notably low, but that's unfortunately offset by the tire roar sent courtesy of the high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport tires. Keep in mind our car had the optional 19-inch wheels and rubber; the standard 18s may be better in this regard.
In typical BMW fashion (which favors slim roof pillars and plenty of glass), the M3 provides clear sight lines. The cockpit likewise provides clear instrumentation, and the clever moving redline on the tach (it starts lower, around 6,000 rpm when the engine is cold and gradually moves up to 8,400 rpm as the engine warms up) is handy for hard-core enthusiasts. Our quibbles are age-old BMW ones, meaning having to repeatedly tap the fan speed down to shut off the climate control system and the needlessly complex operation of the iDrive multifunction controller that operates the optional navigation system. The numerous personalized performance settings (M Drive) may also confuse some — reading the thick manual is an absolute must.
Lending a measure of unexpected practicality, the M3's rear seat is not only of a 60/40-split-folding design, but also features a trunk pass-through that allows longer items to be transported while still carrying four passengers. The trunk's capacity is 11.1 cubic feet, on the smallish side but fully usable thanks to its squared-off shape.
Design/Fit and Finish
In addition to those expected performance and handling enhancements, the M3 coupe offers a tasteful amount of eye candy. Most noticeable is the carbon-fiber roof, which lightens the car up on top, lowering its center of gravity to optimize handling. The functional side vents, hood power bulge, unique front and rear fascias, quad exhaust outlets and unique wheels also serve to increase the wow factor and separate the 2008 BMW M3 from its increasingly ubiquitous 3 Series siblings.
The M3's interior is rather plain, save for the splashes of aluminum trim (included in the Premium Package), though materials and build quality are excellent. Those looking for a more luxurious vibe can choose dark wood trim in lieu of the aluminum, provided they opt for the Premium Package.
Who should consider this vehicle
Though the M3's 335i sibling offers all the performance most enthusiasts could ever want, the fringe element who relish the idea of driving a practical four-seat coupe that can put the hurt on a number of prestigious sports cars will find the M3's cost of admission money well spent.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
2008 BMW M3 Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2008 BMW M3 and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2008 M3 featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2008 BMW M3 and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2008 M3 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2008 M3.
Review I purchased a 2008 BMW M3 Convertible with the DCT transmission two weeks ago. It has all options except extended leather and parking sensors. This car is amazing. It's ridiculously powerful and fast. If you feel like being an F1 Driver, you can shift with the paddles, if you're feeling lazy (or commuting), you can just put it in "D" mode, and let the DCT do the work for you. With the convertible hardtop, the car is quiet and rattle-free. The stereo is excellent, and the seats are very adjustable, supportive and comfortable.
See all consumer reviews and retings for the 2008 BMW M3
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Available BMW M3 2008 Submodel Types: Sedan, Convertible, Coupe
Available Trims: Base
Exterior Colors: Jet Black, Alpine White, Mineral White Metallic, Black Sapphire Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, Silverstone Metallic, Titanium Silver Metallic, Jerez Black Metallic, Space Gray Metallic, Imola Red, Mystic Blue Metallic, Yas Marina Blue Metallic, Silver Gray Metallic, Bright Red, Cosmos Black Metallic, Interlagos Blue Metallic, Melbourne Red Metallic, Sakhir Orange II Metallic, Sparkling Graphite Metallic, Alpine White III, Austin Yellow Metallic, Diamond Black Metallic, Laguna Seca Blue, Oxford Green Metallic, Phoenix Yellow Metallic, Steel Blue Metallic, Steel Gray Metallic, Tanzanite Blue Metallic
Interior Colors: Black Extended Merino premium leather, Black, Black premium leather, Black Full Merino premium leather, Black Novillo premium leather, Gray, Imola Red, Sakhir Orange/Black Full Merino premium leather, Anthracite/Black leather/cloth, Fox Red premium leather, Beige premium leather, Fox Red/Black/Black premium leather, Sakhir Orange/Black Extended Merino premium leather, Bamboo Beige Novillo premium leather, Bamboo Beige premium leather, Fox Red Novillo Extended premium leather, Silverstone Extended Merino premium leather, Silverstone Full Merino premium leather, Amaro Brown Extended Merino (Individual) premium leather, Beige, Cinnamon, Combination Carbonstructure Anthracite/Black leather/cloth, Fox Red Novillo premium leather, Golden Brown Extended Merino (Individual) premium leather, Gray premium leather, Imola Red premium leather, Silver premium leather, Sonoma Beige Full Merino premium leather
Popular Features: Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Auto Climate Control, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Trip Computer, Post-collision safety system, Tire Pressure Warning, Upgraded Headlights, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Power Driver Seat, Bluetooth, Alarm, USB Inputs, 2nd Row Bucket Seats, Heated seats, Navigation, Automatic Emergency Braking, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Aux Audio Inputs, Leather Seats, Keyless Entry/Start, Back-up camera, Soft Top, Parking sensors, Heads up display, Blind Spot Monitoring, Upgraded Engine, Sunroof/Moonroof, Upgraded Stereo, Lane Departure Warning, Pre-collision safety system, Apple Carplay/Android Auto