A maniacally fast coupé that handles magically with the joys of a good ol' manual gearbox. There, my review of the BMW M3 is pretty much done.
Photos: Joel Tam
Some of you might know that I'm a family man. With three kids often in tow, I must agree that the M3 sedan with the sweet DCT gearbox is an excellent preposition. However, the purist in me simply cannot agree with that set-up. At least not in a car as iconic as the M3. To me, the M3 must only have 2 doors, be fitted with only the necessary spec-list, and by that I mean the standard powered windows, air-con, and lest we lesser drivers find ourselves wrapped around a tree, traction control. Oh, did I forget, a manual gearbox?
It's odd that I should find myself worried about how you readers will take to that last sentence. We have come to a point in the motoring industry that performance car makers are doing away with manual gearboxes, and dual-clutch transmissions are everything - they're faster, easier to live with, and offer the best of both worlds. Which begs the question, which 'two worlds' are we talking about exactly? The world of expedient step-and-go driving? Maybe. The world of engaging and immense motoring fun? Not necessarily so.
Where would the fun be if I gave you a fishing rod that could reel in your catch with the pull of a trigger, or a guitar that would play a chord at a touch of a button? The manual gearbox allows the driver to do one thing no automatic gearbox can. Express himself.
There are very few cars out there that will allow you to thoroughly express and realise your every driving dream. The BMW M3 Coupé with a manual gearbox is one of them.
First of all, the car is a looker, in a don't-mess-with-me butch kind of way. With its sleek profile, 18" anthracite wheels, low roofline and unpainted lightweight carbon fibre roof it certainly looks racy.
The M3 shares only its doors, boot lid and light clusters with the standard 3-series. Everything else is very much exclusive to flagship model.
The bulging wheel arches, bonnet vents and trademark quad exhausts make it instantly recognizable as an M car.
Inside, everything is pretty much the same as the regular car, which may be a let-down for some.
Personally, I like the spartan treatment - like I mentioned earlier, the M3 is a drivers' car, so only the necessary, is necessary.
What you do get though is an M3-badged chunky steering wheel and supportive sport seats.
Under the hood, the 4.0-litre unit is the first V8 to grace a full production M3, and with 400Nm arriving from 3,900rpm, IT IS torquey. The M3 packs a massive 414bhp punch, and acceleration is seriously impressive with the needle meeting the 100km/h mark in 4.8 sec from standstill.
All car lovers will agree, "no sound, no count", and the glorious eight-cylinder symphony that accompanies every prod of the accelerator does not disappoint. Although I would have liked it a bit louder, every note the V8 sang put a smile on my face. With every downshift blip and upshift roar, I was expressing myself through a song, and it was pure music to the ears.
Grip is colossal and body control rigid with a sharp and precise steering, inspiring confidence in tight and winding bukit timah backroads where we tested the car. The brakes are strong and effortlessly brought the 1690kg Coupé to viable speeds before gunning out of each tight corner, individual throttle butterflies singing.
No chance to turn off the traction control. I wouldn't have wanted to anyway, considering that this car is still very much precious to its owner. That said, it is for sale, and if i had the means to buy it, I'd be able to tell you what it feels like with the traction control switched off, because then this car would've been mine already. [Call Jonathan at 9686 7489 for enquiries]