out of 10

For 3-Series buyers the M3 is the halo of the lineup and with the latest generation of the car buyers can opt for either coupe, convertible or practical four-door sedan bodystyles. Additionally, the 2011 BMW M3 is like no other before it. This generation’s heavier, more expensive and offers a dual clutch transmission; oh, and it’s got a V-8 engine too.

For driving enthusiasts the M3 has been the model of choice in BMW’s lineup for a while now, though that title arguably has passed on to the smaller and more affordable 1-Series M Coupe. For this reason, we only rate the M3 a 9 out of 10 here at MotorAuthority.

Compared with its closest competitors, the Audi S4, Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, the BMW M3 is like a scalpel among butter knives. The steering is quick yet very accurate. Just throw it at a corner and the car moves with predictability and always feels solid. Our only quibble is that the car’s 4.0-liter V-8 engine really needs some revs dialed up before any fireworks happen and even when it does, the 414 horsepower doesn’t quite feel like it’s all there.

The M3’s still very quick, especially if you opt for the M DCT dual clutch unit, though the manual is just as good if you prefer the old-school option.

Incidentally, this high-rev V-8 engine is based on the larger 5.0-liter V-10 unit from the outgoing M5 and M6 and features the same 90-degree cylinder-bank angle, identical bore and stroke measurements and four-valve-per-cylinder layout. A full aluminum block, magnesium cam covers and aluminum-silicon alloy for the crankcase, allowed engineers to keep weight of the engine at just 445 pounds, 30 pounds less than the previous M3’s straight six.

Quality, fit, and finish are all excellent, as you'd expect from BMW. An area where it also excels is styling. The M3 series has never fallen short in the looks department, and the latest generation doesn't disappoint--in fact, it may be the sharpest M3 range ever.

With pricing starting at $55,900 for the sedan, $58,900 for the coupe, and $67,550 for the convertible, the 2011 BMW M3 is one premium performance machine that you won’t have to blow the bank account to buy. For a full review of its styling, performance, comfort and quality, safety and features, check out TheCarConnection's extensive report.

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