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2010 BMW M3 Introduction

The BMW M3 delivers huge performance in a compact, highly practical package. It's the defining performance car in BMW's sporty 3 Series line, and possibly the purest in BMW's inventory.

For 2010, all M3s add standard HD radio and some new options, including automatic high beams, but those things aren't central to the M3's spirit. These cars represent the pinnacle of thrill in the generally excellent 3 Series collection of compact sedans, coupes and convertibles.

Like other 3 Series variants, the M3 is available as a four-door sedan, two-door coupe and convertible. Yet the M3s are quicker, faster and flashier than any regular 3 Series model, for the owner's maximum driving enjoyment, and for bragging rights. They're designed by BMW's M division, the in-house skunk works responsible for the company's racing programs.

The biggest difference between the current M3s and their pre-2008 predecessors lies under the hood. These are the first production versions with a V8 engine, and it's a hand-built, high-tech gem. The M3's 4.0-liter V8 delivers 414 horsepower; it will push these BMWs from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 4.7 seconds, with top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. Those figures meet or beat numbers generated by a lot of pure-bred exotic sports cars. The M3s come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but they're also available with BMW's M Double Clutch transmission. This seven-speed gearbox works like a conventional automatic in most situations, but it can also be shifted manually and very aggressively.

The M3s steer and handle like sports cars, too, and like all 3 Series models, they pack a tremendous amount of electronic wallop: advanced Dynamic Stability Control, optional electronic damper control for the shock absorber settings, different power steering and throttle control modes, and an optional feature call MDrive that allows a driver to tailor the electronic settings to personal taste.

Better still, the M3s are more practical than most exotic sports cars. They're easier to get in and out of, and to see out of. All have a well finished back seat that's comfortable for average-size adults. All have decent trunk space, and can be equipped with the full menu of luxury amenities. They're easy to park in crowded city centers, and comfortably easy to drive casually in nearly all circumstances. Until a driver starts working the transmission aggressively, and bumping the free-revving V8 of its stratospheric 8400-rpm redline.

To be sure, the least expensive M3 costs substantially more than other cars in the 3 Series line. It will appeal most to hard-core enthusiast drivers. It may not be worth the price premium to many buyers, who'll find cars like the 335i just as fun and satisfying to drive.

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