2008 BMW M3, Part Two

Exterior Design: ***
The 2008 BMW M3 sedan, depending on whom you ask, is either ugly or boring. We think it's a bit of both. But, packing supercar performance into a compact package that won't turn heads is definitely a positive thing. If anything, the M3 isn't subtle enough, we'd take ours — and boy how we'd take one — sans bumps and bulges. We'll add a star for any buyer savvy enough to order theirs with the badge delete option checked.

Interior Design: ****
One part subtle mixed with one part tacky, the 2008 is classic M3. Any car that combines classic BMW-type faces and design language with both red and blue stitching is a winner in our book. We'd specify either black or white for the leather, but the as-tested red is certainly, umm, eye catching. As with any BMW, the controls are precisely where your hands or feet expect to find them, making this interior work better than it looks.

Acceleration: *****
Say what you want about relatively low torque figures, the all-new V8 revs so quickly and evokes so much power that its acceleration is all-consuming. And since when was 295lb/ft of torque relatively low anyways? The engine shares a perfect relationship with the chassis and leaves us wanting for nothing. Quite simply one of the best road-going engines ever.

Braking: ***
Never lacking in power or feel, but still has that ever so slightly not over-braked BMW feeling.

Ride: ***
Firm, but never harsh, the M3 always feels in control but would prefer you took advantage of the fast steering to avoid potholes.

Handling: *****
Simply one of the best handling cars we've ever driven, this is the M3's forté. Where other cars lie about their ultimate capabilities with over-heavy steering or artificial inputs, the M3 doesn't come alive until you're really pushing, its ultimate limits far beyond other fast sedan rivals and even its own grip levels. Want a car that'll drive sideways? This is it.

Gearbox: ****
Unlike other BMWs before it, the gear lever's throw isn't perfection, being both notchy and imprecise unless you're redlining it. An extra star added for the three pedals combined with six-gears. Thank you BMW for offering us the option.

Audio: *****
The radio works, we guess, but it's the engine you'll want to listen to. Neither woofly like a big American V8 nor screamy like a V10, the exhaust note conveys nothing but power and speed in its own unique way. For the M3, hearing is believing.

Toys: *****
There's more acronyms than we could ever list controlling every function and performance variable you could think of, and many you couldn't. When you're driving the M3, you notice none of them, except through the car's sheer competence. All the electronics serve the sole purpose of making it better to drive and giving more control to the driver, which is exactly how all cars should be. iDrive isn't nearly as infuriating as it used to be, you'll be clicking and spinning like a pro after your first day in a car so-equipped.

Value: *****
At $54,575 the M3 isn't a cheap car. But look at it this way: You get a 420bhp V8, one of the best chassis going and five seats for the price of a base Escalade. Or, if you'd prefer, nearly half the price and over twice the seats of a Porsche 911 GT3.

Overall: *****
Many purists will argue the size, weight and complication are the antithesis of an M car. In practice, these concerns aren't borne out. The 2008 model has as much involvement and more speed than any M3 before it. Where rivals are merely range-topping versions of the more pedestrian models below them, the M3 is a bona fide supercar, capable of satisfying the needs of even the most discerning drivers. This much practicality, this much pace and this much involvement from a four-door sedan? To say we're smitten is an understatement.

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