Despite the 2006 redesign of the regular 3-Series (to the E90 platform), the M3 remained on the previous-generation platform (E46). Changes to the M3 Coupe for the year were minor, including mostly feature upgrades like leather upholstery as standard and a power rear-window shade. What remained the same was its spectacularly high performance level.
At the heart of that performance spins the M3 S54 engine. Although a traditional BMW six cylinder, it is a unique power plant engineered for the highest level of performance. For example, while current BMW sixes feature an aluminum block, the S54 uses iron in order to maintain its 3.2-liter displacement without increasing size and to make it strong enough to withstand its more-than-100-hp-per-liter output.
To achieve those numbers, BMW uses its VANOS variable cam phasing system to control the 24 valves activated by dual overhead cams and assisted by one of the most free-flowing production exhaust systems available. The S54 makes 333 hp at 7,900 rpm on the way to its 8,000-RPM redline, with 269 ft-lbs of torque at 4,900 rpm.
Power flows to the rear wheels through either a short-throw six-speed Getrag manual or a Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) transmission that employs electro-hydraulic shift control to achieve Formula One level shifting speeds. As a result the M3 coupe can do the 0-60 jump in a blazing 4.8 seconds. Yet with this older high-performance technology, you'll pay at the gas pump - mileage estimates are 16/24 mpg.
The M3 rides on a high-performance version of BMW's Macpherson strut front and multilink independent rear suspension. Yet, like the S54 engine, the bits and pieces of that suspension are unique to the M3. The suspension components are stronger and calibrated for a more firm ride. Reviewers, however, found the ride, "comfortable enough, in a sports way." That means you could use the M3 as a daily driver and autocross/time trial it on the weekends.
And if you're into serious weekend track events, BMW offers a Competition Package for the M3 Coupe only that consists of larger wheels (19 inches) and tires, cross-drilled brake rotors and upgraded pads, a stability control disabler, a faster steering ratio, Alcantara steering wheel and parking brake covering, and special aluminum trim.
Even without the Competition Package, the handling is benchmark-setting for its class. One reviewer wrote that with the throttle set in "Sport" mode, "the M3 will tackle your favorite set of switchbacks as fast as any production car on the road."
The interior, like the powertrain and suspension, support the car's high-performance objectives. Heavily bolstered front bucket seats with power adjustments hold occupants firmly when indulging in "spirited" road workouts, as the driver grips the thicker M sport steering wheel. Gauges provide quick and easy reading, with the tachometer featuring the M5-style variable warning segmentation - based on oil temperature, the LED display illuminates amber from 4,000 to 8,000 rpm, shutting off in 500 rpm segments as the engine warms up.
The BMW 3-Series has achieved a "Good" rating in the 40-mph frontal-offset crash test. The M3 has stability control, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, front side-impact, and head curtain airbags.
The M-Series remains a benchmark for its class - reviewers consider it a sports car with a backseat and usable trunk.