The performance of a 3,500-pound car with over 400 horsepower and pound-feet of torque is guaranteed. But it also makes one consider the more fundamental implications of a machine like this. When does a modern performance car become too artificial? Where does the line get drawn between spec-sheet numbers and on-road feel?
This is the quandary that the M3 finds itself in. For the uninitiated, the current model will be a hoot and a half. But if you've had any significant seat time in the older versions that cemented the nameplate's legendary status, the new car will feel callous, distant. Even in the midst of high-spirited shenanigans, the lack of organic mechanical feedback will be sure to rankle those who remember the honest analog goodness of the old M cars.
Philosophical musings aside, there's no denying the outright power of this innocuous-looking sedan. The 3.0-liter inline-six features two turbochargers to boost output to 425 hp and 408 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the rev-happy engines that powered past M3s, this one manages the turbos in such a way to make all the power low in the rev range, meaning there's no need to wind it out to the 7,600 RPM redline for the full show. This doesn't mean we'd refrain from doing so, though – there's nothing like hearing an angry M car at full tilt, even if there's more piped-in sound than we'd like.
Enthusiasts will rejoice in knowing that an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual is standard fare on the M3. And though we enjoy heel and toeing as much as the next guy, the truth is that we prefer the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Even around town it's a seamless performer, and the programmable modes make it easy to turn this track hound into a domesticated sedan. When you do get on it, the shifts are lightning-quick, making it faster than any three-pedal example.