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2011 BMW M3 Overview

It’s too easy to address the glorious engine of the M3 and gloss over the real strong suit of the Deutsche Dagger – its handling. With a 4.0-liter V8 that produces 414 hp at an oxygen-deprived height of 8,300 rpm, it has to handle well, lest drivers end up stuffing it in their nearest apex. But skid-pad statistics don’t have the same visceral impact as dyno readouts, even when approaching 1g.

Not that 414 horses and a 4.5-second 0-60 time aren’t impressive, especially when they come from a naturally aspirated engine that winds up to more than 8,000 rpm. The fact that you can have that in a luxury vehicle in coupe, sedan, or convertible style only lends credence to the legendary status of this most famous of high-performance German automobiles. However, what the M3 has in horsepower, it lacks in torque. With 295 lb-ft, only the base 3 Series trim has less, and the M’s torque arrives later as well, at 3,900 rpm – but whip it like Devo said and she’ll go like crazy.

With the coupe, you’ll get a carbon-fiber roof that lowers both the car's profile and its center of gravity. If you’d like a bit more air and light, you can swap the carbon for a traditional steel roof with a sunroof, and there’s always the convertible option – although that comes with a large penalty for the trip to 60, mostly due to its 441-pound retractable power hardtop.

The M3 comes standard with a six-speed manual, but is offered with BMW’s M-DKG Getrag double-clutch gearbox, a seven-speed shiftable automatic that offers shifts in less than a tenth of a second and is claimed to reduce the car's 0-60 time by two tenths of a second. Still, it’s not a perfect system, as the transitions, especially in harsh downshifting, could use some smoothing. The six-speed has the familiar feather-light clutch, which some feel is even too light, but otherwise is a wholly competent and comfortable setup.

Coupes and sedans offer an optional Competition Package that includes 19-inch alloys with performance tires, a lowered and recalibrated suspension, stability control, and programmable Electronic Damping Control with Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes. Testers have found that Normal mode is a perfect blend, offering comfortable absorption with performance that will far surpass the ability and courage of most drivers out there.

Not forgetting the luxury part of its heritage, the BMW M3 offers several features and packages, including a Premium Package with power-folding automatic mirrors, Bluetooth, and BMW Assist. A Technology Package will get you EDC, keyless ignition and entry, and iDrive, and the Cold Weather Package includes heated front seats and headlight washers, although most options can be added as individual features to any trim.

The M3 keeps getting bigger, heavier, and, of course, faster. Still, it represents the best blend of luxury and performance in the segment, and nothing can touch its handling. This may be the last naturally aspirated M3 for a while, so the urgency is as high as it can get for something as unnecessary as a hyper-performance luxury car. If you’ve got an extra 60 grand lying around, and a desire for an inanimate object to show you just how inadequate your driving skills are, you can’t do better than the M3.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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2011 BMW M3 Top Comparisons

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