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BMW M3 Saloon

Road Test

BMW M3 saloon

Driven April 2008

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Hard sometimes not to see things through the distorting lens of one's real life, so looking at the M3 Saloon, I was made up to have proper access to the back seats, and a slightly bigger boot.

Boring practicalities, but they make a difference if it's your only car - often the case for M3 owners, according to BMW's own research. The M3 now sports a saloon variant in the UK for only the second time in its entire four-generation lifecycle.

It goes without the flashy carbon-reinforced plastic roof of its Coupe little brother, but otherwise we're looking at a very similar car, except with four doors, a smidgen less Essex aggression and a touch more weight. Not that much, though; BMW's engineers have kept the Saloon trim at just 25kg more than the Coupe.

Seems like CFP roofs aren't the dynamic cure-all some might have you believe. The Saloon does sit 25mm higher though, so the centre of gravity has to suffer a little, according to the laws of physics.

The rest is pretty much the same as the two-door, and the better for it. The 4.0-litre V8 still barks to an 8,400rpm red line, charging through a slightly-too-long six-speed manual gearshift (at least until the seven-speed double-clutch M-DCT 'box arrives later this year) and arriving at 62mph just 0.1 of a second after the Coupe - about the thickness of a fog-lamp lens.

You still try to change gear at 7,000rpm too, then realise the engine has more to give and put your hand back on the wheel.

The fact that I've opted for a more-door means that I'm likely to be carrying passengers, usually kids. So wringing the neck of a racy V8 isn't going to be on the cards every time. (Back to the point that M3-Saloon-buyer uses his car every day.) But what about those moments when the kids aren't in the back?

Well, you won't notice the extra lean unless you step straight from the Coupe. You can still play with the optional electronic damper control, still mess with throttle maps using the 'Power' button, and still switch everything off and scare yourself on a couple of corners.

The M3 is still a great car in saloon form, and quite possibly the one I'd be most tempted by.

Just one problem that I can see. If I want a BMW saloon that has space, practicality, image and performance, then I'd be more tempted by the slightly larger, slightly cooler M5. The base-spec M3 Saloon is a smidge under £50k. And while an M5 lists at £65,250, I've found a couple with around 15,000 miles on the clock for under £50k. The maths is all too simple.

Tom Ford

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