It was in the mid-2000s that a case could be made for each M car going ‘up’ a series.
Read the full MOTOR 30 Years of BMW M3 Special
The M5 is similar in size (4784/1800/1437mm) though a porky 1795kg, and powered by a 294kW/500Nm 5.0-litre V8. Wheel and tyre sizes were similar, as were the brakes – even the diff ratio was identical.
This worked well for BMW, creating room for the 1M, however purists were muttering words of discontent, with questions focusing on how a car could wear an M3 badge when it had double the number of cylinders and weighed 360kg more than the original.
Drive an E92 M3, however, and these questions will quickly be replaced by a much simpler one – who cares?
It begins with a press of the starter button. As fine as the nasal scream of the E46’s six-pot is, there’s something about the guttural growl of a V8 that stirs the emotions, especially when enhanced by an aftermarket exhaust system like on Chris Shaw’s E92.
The 3999cc S65 engine is magnificent, feeling as fast as its predecessors without exceeding 5000rpm, at which point it’s barely getting into its stride.
Its hunger for revs eggs you on towards the 8250rpm redline, which is a problem when you’re driving someone else’s pride and joy, particularly as Chris’s M3 sounds like a V8 Supercar.
Of all the cars here it’s the most difficult to exercise restraint in. A six-speed manual was standard, however this example is fitted with the seven-speed dual-clutch. Early examples could be alarmingly erratic, but Chris’s 2012-build shifts swiftly and smoothly, exposing the E46’s SMG ’box as the technological dead-end that it was.
In terms of chassis behaviour the E92 engineers were clearly studying the BMW E46 playbook.
There’s more power and grip, and on cold tyres it’s extremely keen to oversteer – a characteristic of the Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber – but the communication levels are such that the car feels friendly and enthusiastic rather than nervous and wayward.
In fact, it strikes arguably the perfect balance between grip and grunt.
The only question mark regards the steering. It’s extremely accurate, almost go-kart sharp off-centre, but though it retains hydraulic assistance it feels slightly artificial and unnatural in its weighting – a small blot on an otherwise spotless copybook. Revisiting this car has made me want one badly.
The first E92 M3 I drove was a manual Pure Edition II – identical to Chris’s bar the gearbox – and I couldn’t get enough of it. To stimulate sales, BMW Australia deleted a load of equipment, most of it superfluous, and cut almost $15,000 from the price.
Unsurprisingly, the initial 100 cars in 2010 (50 sedans; 50 coupes) sold so quickly the trick was repeated with another 50 Coupes in 2012, now with snazzy colours.
The best part was to come a year later, however, when BMW slashed the price of the M3 Coupe to $125,000, which must rate as one of the greatest bargains of all time.
And with the super-rare GTS and CRT models (see breakout) reserved for overseas buyers and the Competition Package now consisting of merely some wheels and minor suspension tweaks, that was as good as it got for E92 M3 special editions.
I guess, like me, they just couldn’t think of any way to improve it.