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BMW 3-Series M3 Coupe engines, drive and performance

2001 - 2006 (change model)
Performance rating: 5 out of 55.0

Written by Parkers Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 11 May 2023

It is a 3.2-litre straight six gem which delivers serious fire-power whenever you need it yet will happily trundle around in top gear when you’re attempting to be economical. A sequential clutchless manual gearbox is an option. The limited edition CSL version was boosted to 360bhp over the standard 343bhp and was only available with the SMG gearbox.

Feels a little firm at slower speeds but the pay-off is fantastic handling that is both balanced and responsive. All controls offer plenty of feedback. Tackle a series of bends with inch-perfect precision or slide like a lunatic – the choice is yours. The CSL is set up for a far more extreme driving experience – it works wonders on a race track, but it becomes less effective if the roads are wet thanks to very specialised tyres.

The CS, which was launched in 2005, borrows the 18-inch brake discs from the CSL, a more direct steering rack and its 19-inch alloy wheels, and less interventionist stability control system. For more skilled drivers the CS allows greater indulgence to exploit the car’s chassis. The rear end of the car can be provoked to step out to a greater degree before the electronics bring the car back into line.