2009 BMW M3: Worth It
September 10, 2009
Over on the M3 open thread, nealibob voiced a concern that's probably on a lot of people's minds: "I have to wonder why one would pay the premium over a 335i...I just do not see the point in shelling out 25+% more...without contributing much to performance."
Answer: If you care about maximal handling capabilities and the unadulterated thrills of a high-revving naturally aspirated motor, the M3 is worth every additional penny.
As a few commenters mentioned in that thread, the 335i (even with the Sport Package) feels soft and undisciplined at the limit compared to the phenomenally athletic M3. The M-specific suspension tuning, enhanced in our long-termer's case by the exclusive adjustable dampers, is night-and-day sharper than the regular 3er Sport Package setup in hard cornering.
And when you're driving at 10/10ths, there's no substitute for the instantaneous throttle response of a naturally aspirated motor; moreover, the M3's 4.0-liter V8 is inherently more engaging because it actually requires you to think about what gear you should be in (and rewards you in a big way when you get it right), unlike the twin-turbo six and its shelf-like torque curve. Sounds a whole lot better, too, though I have to agree with those who've said it's too refined for its own good. I once described the E46 M3's inline-6 as "feral" -- wish I could say the same of this V8.
Overall, I'd liken the M3 to a high-end digital SLR camera. Its cheaper sibling may offer most of its features for less coin, but if you're an enthusiast who really sweats the details, the only reason you won't ante up is if you can't afford to.*
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 8,268 miles
*Unless you'd rather scour the classifieds for a low-mileage E46 M3 with the Competition Package. A subject for another day.