This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW 3-Series M3 review.

Parkers overall rating: 5 out of 5 5.0

Rather than the six-cylinder engine of the previous model, the M3 is powered by a V8. Holding true to the tradition of developing more than 100bhp per litre, this 4.0-litre engine develops 420bhp at a sky-high 8300rpm. Maximum torque of 400Nm doesn’t sound quite so impressive, especially compared to the Mercedes C63 AMG which boasts 600Nm however the M3 saloon will still sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds while the Coupe manages it in 4.8 seconds.

The heavier and less aerodynamic Convertible covers the benchmark in 5.3 seconds. Acceleration is wonderfully strong, and the gearchange short and slick enough to ensure the engine is always giving of its best. A six-speed manual transmission is offered as standard while a semi-automatic gearbox, called DCT is available as an option. This transmission uses two clutches to offer super-fast changes but although the seven-speed auto is quick (and provides quicker performance than the manual), the changes can be jerky.

At more than £2,500 it’s also very expensive.

As you’d expect from one of the finest handling cars around the M3 is sublime to drive with instant acceleration, almost zero body roll in corners and a superbly balanced chassis. The steering is wonderfully responsive and meatily weighted, but can lack a little feel which is most noticeable on very demanding roads. But in terms of driver enjoyment few cars can match the M3 – it feels and sounds wonderful, especially if you opt for the Convertible version.

But even in the Coupe and saloon that booming exhaust and rumbling engine note are always evident. Customers buying new have the choice of adding electronic damper control (EDC) as an option. There are three settings, ‘comfort’, ‘normal’ and ‘sport’, selectable using a button on the centre console. In ‘normal’ mode the damping is adjusted automatically to try to achieve an optimum balance for all driving conditions, although ‘comfort’ mode still feels pretty firm.

But you notice the difference between the settings when pressing on. Despite being rear-wheel drive and producing 420bhp, grip feels almost limitless on dry roads unless you make a determined effort to force the rear tyres to break traction. The model also comes with an M Dynamic Mode button. Selecting this sharpens the steering and makes the throttle more responsive.

In March 2010 an optional Competition Package was introduced which includes lower suspension and a new sport setting for the electronic damper control system. It also has a revised stability control set-up that intervenes less than before.