2008 BMW M3 Preview

Jeff Youngs | Dec 31, 2007
  • Fourth-generation BMW M3

  • First M3 with a V8 powerplant

  • Carbon-fiber roof to lower the center of gravity

  • Available 6-speed manual transmission

  • M Drive allows driver customization of vehicle dynamics

  • Aggressive styling differentiates it from the standard 3 Series

  • BMW claims 0 to 62 in about 4.8 seconds

  • North American sales start in 2008


The first-generation BMW M3, introduced twenty years ago, was powered by a 2.3L inline 4-cylinder engine rated at 195 hp. Flared wheel arches and large spoilers (radical at the time for a street driven vehicle) differentiated the M3 from the standard versions of the BMW 3 Series. BMW specifically designed the M3 to homologate the car for Group A Touring Car racing so the coupe was light, nimble, and built to race. Popular with the public (nearly 18,000 units were sold), it was also a winner-many consider it the world's most successful racecar. Two decades later, with its first V8 powerplant, the fourth-generation 2008 BMW M3 takes a bow.

Model Lineup

Unlike the standard BMW 3 Series Coupe, offered with many different engine and suspension configurations, the M3 is only available with one powerplant-a Formula 1 inspired V8. Differentiating itself further from the standard BMW, the only exterior lines in common with the 3 Series Coupe are the two doors, trunk lid, windows, and headlights.

The M3's aggressive character is obvious at first glance. The aluminum hood sports a striking power dome, and the front quarter panels have distinctive M-style side "gills" just below the model-specific aerodynamic mirrors. The roof panel is carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFP), a first for a vehicle in this segment, designed to lower overall weight and the center of gravity. The rear of the M3 sports a dual twin-pipe tuned exhaust. Standard aluminum wheels are 18-inches in diameter, with forged light-alloy 19-inch wheels optional. According to BMW, "The exterior, in turn, through its athletic and aesthetic appearance, powerfully underlines the sporting qualities of the car."

The M3's interior is designed for maximum driving pleasure. M-model specific seats and the leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob offer additional bolstering, comfort, and control for spirited driving. Instruments are white-illuminated with red needles, and feature a variable engine speed warning range based on engine temperature. Several different trim levels and options, including the availability of carbon fiber interior trim and fully tanned Novillo leather, distinguish the M3 from the "regular" BMW 3 Series Coupe.


As has been the case with each previous model, the 2008 M3 is built on a traditional front-engine rear-wheel-drive platform. The 4.0L V8 is rated at 420 hp, making this the most powerful M3 ever sold. While excess weight is often a problem with eight-cylinder engines, BMW engineers went to great lengths to ensure purists need not worry-the new V8 powerplant weighs 33 lbs. less than the inline six-cylinder powerplant it replaces. At introduction, the only transmission offered is a 6-speed manual with a mass inertia optimized, and internally ventilated, twin-disc clutch. According to BMW, a 0 to 62 mph sprint will take just 4.8 seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

BMW says the M3's chassis is perfectly balanced front to back, and the fully independent suspension has been entirely revised. Nearly all of the components are cast, or forged, in aluminum, an alloy prized for its strength and light weight. The spring/strut front axle works in conjunction with the reinforced front strut-tower bar to keep the front wheels in an optimal position during maneuvers. The rear axle, a five-arm design, is also reinforced with a V-strut under the chassis. Electronic Damper Control (EDC) optimizes the car's dive and roll during cornering, acceleration, and braking. Power distribution between the wheels is controlled both mechanically and electronically. Mechanically, the M Differential Lock is able to transfer 100% of the power to the drive wheel with the best traction. Electronic intervention, which can be completely defeated, is handled by the multi-mode Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Responsibility for stopping the BMW M3 lies with four large, ventilated and drilled, compound high performance disc brakes equipped with ABS.


While performance headlines the BMW M3, safety has not left the stage. Dual front-impact airbags (with dual-threshold deployment), front-seat side-impact airbags, and pretensioning seatbelts protect driver and passenger. All outboard passengers are further protected by a side-impact airbag curtain running the length of the cabin. BMW's Advanced Crash Safety Management system will unlock doors, switch on hazard flashers and interior lights, and disconnect the fuel pump, alternator, and starter in the event of a severe accident.

The M3 can also be equipped with BMW Assist, a hands-free communication system based on GPS and cellular phone technology. In the event of an accident, the system will automatically alert authorities to the exact location of the vehicle. BMW Assist can also be used for roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery, and concierge services.


BMW has offered sophisticated technology on its vehicles for years, and the enthusiast-oriented M3 is no exception. Brake Energy Regeneration uses intelligent energy management to engage the alternator only when the vehicle is braking-without creating a load on the engine. The benefits include better fuel economy, and more drive power for acceleration. M Drive (optional) allows drivers to tailor four parameters of the vehicle (stability control, suspension, engine mapping, and steering) to their driving requirements.

In addition to the revised 6-button iDrive (BMW's command center for navigation, entertainment, and communication), the M3 can be fitted with a BMW Individual high-end audio system. The system uses DIRAC technology to digitally process the sound to offer "all occupants of the BMW M3 an extremely versatile and realistic experience of sound." With 16 high-performance speakers, and a digital nine-channel amplifier offering 825 watts of power, it is sure to please even the most discriminating ears.

Video of the 2008 BMW M3 Coupe
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