2013 BMW M3 Coupe
2013 BMW M3 Coupe
2013 BMW M3 Coupe
2013 BMW M3 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Review by Justin Pritchard, photos by Justin Pritchard and Jonathan Yarkony

Think, for a moment, about the presence of the word “performance” in the term “performance” car”.

The word performance can take on numerous meanings – perhaps quarter mile times, braking distances or horsepower output figures. I’d suggest, however, that there’s more to it.

Think of “performance” as in putting on a performance. A display. A scene.  Like a great concert, show or movie, a memorable performance is full of sights, sounds, feelings and sensations that leave a lasting impression. For most, a great performance causes smiling, sorrow, elation, happiness, sometimes tears and a permanent spot to be reserved in one’s memory for future reflection of said performance and the feelings it generated.

In plain English, you can equate “performance” with putting on a hell of a show. And in that context, there are many fantastic performance cars on the market.

Your writer has driven numerous examples from different price points and countries of origin. But when reflecting on the meaning of the word ‘Performance’ in the above context, I realize there’s one performance car that’s earned a warm, fuzzy place in my heart and brain.

It’s the BMW M3.

Admittedly, this car is old news. At writing, currently available M3 models ride the last-generation 3 Series platform (E90/E92/E93). This range-topping 3 Series launched here a few years back, and there’s a new one coming in the immediate future.

But, as that new M3 and its M4 coupe counterpart has yet to be seen or experienced by your writer and his familiars at the time of publication, it’s the current E92 coupe model that remains one of the market’s best performance cars this side of a six-digit price tag.

Visual presentation is an important part of a memorable performance. For the M3, various visual cues are discreetly tucked away in and upon its bodywork to communicate the presence of capability beneath. Outstretched fenders and wider wheels than a standard 3 Series deliver a planted and stable stance. Venting on the fenders and hood suggest the M3’s need for high-performance breathing. The brake rotors are drilled. The treads on the gummy-bear sticky Continental tires border on racing slick. The discreet little “M” badge is applied in numerous areas, and signature quad-pipe exhausts dispense combusted fuel in style.

Mind you, the M3 is relatively discreet overall where styling goes – meaning it flies somewhat under the radar. This is fine, since it’s under the skin where this machine really shines.

Namely, that’s because of the M3’s sensation-filled driving experience. Steering, handling, braking, acceleration and shifting come together at the tips of the drivers’ fingers and toes, laying the foundation for one of the most memorable performance experiences I’ve ever come across. It’s this coming together of sensations that tugs hardest at the heartstrings of performance buffs.

2013 BMW M3 Coupe2013 BMW M3 Coupe2013 BMW M3 Coupe
2013 BMW M3 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

The M3 is always talking to its driver. Communicating, conveying or offering something. And the underlying sensations beneath which all others exist here? Precision and immediacy. There’s a tremendous level of each engineered into the M3’s dynamics.

Examples? Brake pedal feel is exemplary. Even a faction of a change in pedal pressure translates into a big change in applied stopping power. Precise modulation comes easily. Even a slight touch on the pedal has the M3 disposing of its forward momentum in a serious rush, both temporal and adrenal.

Steering is similarly precise and immediate. Driven hard through a road course or winding road, you feel a sensation of eagerness, urgency and accuracy, delivered with a confident character. The quick but heavy steering makes it easy to lock the M3 onto your desired line in a fast corner, and it feels precisely tuned to the suspension as well as the M3’s weight and size. Driven hard, it’s confident, calculated, calibrated and dialed-in, without being hyperactive or high-strung.

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