The fourth generation of the M3, designated E92 in coupe form, marks the first time BMW has put an eight-cylinder engine in this series of car. The M3, based on the latest 3-series, gets many performance tech upgrades unavailable in the standard-series car.

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With this generation of M3, BMW smoothed out most of the hard lines from past versions of the car and minimized external ornamentation. But the two-piece kidney grille remains as a signature piece of BMW design, as does the Hofmeister kink on the rear side window.

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This 4-liter V-8 is an impressive piece of engineering. Using direct injection and BMW's Double-VANOS technology, it produces 425 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

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The coupe body shows that this M3 means business, as opposed to the sedan and convertible body style also available for the current M3. Rear seat room is, as can be expected, tight, but the front is very comfortable.

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M3 badges on the marker lights set this car apart from the standard 3-series cars.

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Electronic Damping Control is a feature that gives the M3 three different settings for the suspension. In Comfort mode, it feels like most sports cars, rigid but with some give. In full Sport mode the suspension increases rigidity, pushing tires to pavement.

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A carbon fiber roof reduces weight at the top of the car, lowering the center of gravity.

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There is usable space in the trunk, which would make the M3 suitable as a daily driver if it weren't for its poor fuel economy.

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Optioned as this car is, the cabin looks very clean. There is no navigation screen, and the double-clutch transmission's shifter barely rises above the console. Manually adjustable seats are another weight reduction feature.

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The steering offers an excellent feel of engagement with the road, and BMW's Active Steering technology actually changes the ratio of steering wheel input to wheel turn based on speed.

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The high-compression engine means a red line of 8,400rpm, but the tachometer starts to show a warning at 7,800rpm.

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The dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly and with hard engagement. During downshifts, the car blips the accelerator to better match revs, making for smooth gear changes. This transmission option also brings in 11 drive programs that make shifts more or less aggressive.

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The paddle shifters are very useful in the M3, letting you keep your hands on the wheel at the start of a turn.

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The Power button sharpens the accelerator response, and the EDC, which stands for Electronic Damper Control, has Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes.

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The iPod integration option adds a USB port to the console, and uses the radio display to show music library content.

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Audio sources are limited in the M3, which, for example, lacks Bluetooth audio streaming. But HD Radio comes standard.

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The base audio system in the M3 is quite good. Although not overly powerful, the sound is well-balanced, with good detail across the frequencies.

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The radio display also serves as the interface for the Bluetooth phone system, which shows contacts downloaded from the phone.

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