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The BMW M3 E92 is Still Terrific in Every Way

The old saying “they don’t make em like they used to” could perfectly sum up the BMW M3 E92. BMW had their work cut out to follow up the immensely popular E46, so the E92 had to be something pretty special, and it was. Produced from 2007 to 2013, the E92 signaled the arrival of a new chapter for the M3 and it was largely down to what lay under the bonnet.

BMW’s decision to give their latest M3 a naturally aspirated V8 was a masterstroke. The homologated M3 E46 GTR may have had the 4.0L P60 V8, but the E92 was the first mainstream production M3 to get eight cylinders instead of six.

The S65 4.0L naturally aspirated V8 is still a masterpiece, capable of revving as high as 8,300 rpm while channelling 309kW and 400Nm of torque to the rear wheels. The E92 was also the first M3 to feature either a six-speed manual or seven-speed Getrag M-DCT auto. Offered as a coupe, a convertible and four door sedan, the E92 was the most versatile M3 of the time and was more than capable of wowing all who drove it.

Many variants of the E92 came and went, including the limited run, stripped out GTS. However, what you see here is a rarity. To commemorate the end of E92 M3 production, BMW built a limited run of 500 E92 M3 coupes for both the UK and European markets. Given a plethora of tech and goodies, this final curtain for the E92 was available in just three colours, Imola Red, Mineral White or Santorini Blue, all three of which pay homage to the colours of BMW’s M Division.

This 2012 example, supplied by the team at Southern Specialist Cars in Christchurch is clothed in that Santorini Blue and wow, I would say this is probably one of the nicest looking E92s in New Zealand. Contrasting that epic blue are a set of 20-inch Competition Package Style alloys in satin black joined with a set of grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. Fans of carbon fibre rejoice, there is plenty of it here. Things like the M Performance front bumperettes, boot spoiler and roof are all carbon.

Hop inside and anyone familiar with BMWs from this time will feel right at home. The classic chunky switchgear and thick M-sport steering wheel feel satisfying to hold and touch. The heated black leather seats hold you firmly in place with plenty of support.

It is a very nice place to be, especially when noticing that “One of 500” emblem on the piano black dash trim. Ahead of you sit the classic white on black BMW gauges which still look modern even after 10 years. These days the norm is the LCD screen displaying one’s instrument cluster, but it’s nice to revert back to simple analogue dials like this.

While you get tech like BMW’s i-drive system to operate the sat nav other infotainment goodies, the E92 was never about trying to blind you with technology. Features like this along with dual zone climate control, seat heaters and a Harman Kardon sound system means you can easily daily an E92 should you want to. No doubt many fans out have done just that.

Right, drive time at last. Starter button is pressed and we have ignition, glorious naturally aspirated eight-cylinder ignition. V8s with a turbo or two attached sound good, but there is something to be said about finely tuned N/A V8. With the S65, BMW nailed it by giving it one of the most raucous V8 bellows around. The fact this one of 500 has a larger sports exhaust system makes it even more spine-tinglingly good.

Move off and that bellow continues in earnest. Roll up to a set of lights and it isn’t long before more than a handful of your fellow motorists are glancing your way. I reckon the combination of noise and that Santorini Blue paint scheme may have something to do with it.

Leaving the seven speed DCT auto in automatic, the E92 still manages to be rather docile when sauntering around town. The shifts are still very slick. You can still choose whether you want the changes to be less or more intense. Of the five settings, I spent most of my time in Level 3.

While you do feel the bumps, it is certainly not an unpleasant experience. For an all-out performance car, the ride is actually not too bad. It manages to strike the perfect blend between comfortable daily and German muscle car.

Dare I say that even with that sports exhaust booming away, on a motorway journey, things can be quite subdued. There is background burble sure, but when you are sitting snuggly in those heated leather seats, the E92 serves well as a bondafide motorway mile muncher.

However, the majority of E92 fans aren’t going to buy this car because they want to be devouring long distances. No, they will buy this because of what happens when you select an inconspicuous looking button on the steering wheel. You know, the one with the “M” on it? Push this and the revs rise, the response from the throttle becomes sharper and the diff, gearbox, suspension and engine revert to a default Sport setting. The time has come to partake in driving nirvana.

I dropped down the gears, fifth, fourth, third and finally second, each was accompanied by the sweet sound of naturally aspirated V8 deacceleration. Time to give into temptation. Throttle firmly pressed and we are well and truly off. The revs rise, 4000, 5000, 6000, right the way up past 7000rpm. In this zone shift lights appear above the rev counter to let you know you the engine danger zone is close.

The noise that accompanies each step up in the rev range is a torrent of symphonic bliss. I select the most ferocious setting for the gear changes, flicked up a gear via the right paddle and the process started all over again. Mash the throttle into the firewall from a standing start and you can still get to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds which is still quick for today. Its 309kW is a more than adequate power figure, its just the right amount to have fun while not being overly intimidating.

It is in M mode where the E92 can rearrange your fillings with a stunning blend of grip, power, and handling prowess. The combo of a brilliant chassis and rear wheel drive is so good that when you hold that chunky M-sport steering wheel in your hands and coax that carbon fibre adorned front end into a fast sweeper, you can carry a considerable amount of momentum without fear of it biting back.

It constantly nags at you to push harder and brake later, as if to say “go on, go on, you can do it, have some fun.” There is certainly plenty of fun to be had in the E92, whether cornering at eight tenths or by the scruff of its neck, this M3 can do it all.

The M3 E30 is now firmly out of reach for many of us and the marvelous E46 is also appreciating in value rapidly. The same will likely happen with the E92. Its demise signaled the end of an era not just for the M3, but for sports cars in general.

The E92 will always be remembered as a bold step for M power, a step which for a long time, others had to run to keep up with. This is why the E92, especially one of 500, is well on the way to be a classic. Or, maybe it already is?

Special thanks to Southern Specialist Cars.

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