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BMW'S ULTIMATE SALOON.

Byline: John Connor

BMW's motto of The Ultimate Driving Machine begins to mean something extra special when you get behind the wheel of any of itsMmodels.

Take the latest M3 saloon for example, its powerful new V8 engine is so full of torque that you can put it in sixth gear and drive it as you would an automatic. It is so special, that despite its two extra cylinders, and the fact that it has 753cc more capacity than the previous M3 six cylinder power-pack, it is still 15kg lighter than the engine it is replacing.

The car is also rather special in other ways.

In addition to a six-speed manual at pounds 49,415, which is available now, buyers have the choice of ordering the flagship sevenspeed version.

Although this model does not arrive here until July at pounds 52,005, it features an all-new seven-speed double clutch manual gearbox, which not only speeds up the gear changes, but also cuts the zero to 62mph time down to 4.7 seconds.

The engine in both versions has an electronic limiter fitted restricting its top speed to 155mph, but have no doubt if this was removed I imagine a top speed of 200mph would not be out of its reach.

Fact mixed with fiction just about sums up this sophisticated four-door saloon. Its pedigree can be traced from earlier BMW models with competitive credentials.

The new M3's DNA includes the kind of luxury fixtures and fittings gleaned from the marque's top-drawer models such as the 6 Series. Satellite navigation, climate control with dual zones for extra comfort and steering that can be changed to suit driving conditions or driver preferences are fully evident.

Following on from the M3 coupe and convertible, the M3 saloon has sports suspension honed to perfection. Allied to a beautifully crafted six-speed transmission, it was in complete harmony with the latent power on tap from the new V8.

It felt safe in cruising mode and it felt safe when under power on winding rural roads.

These important factors were aided and abetted by a spacious leather filled cabin with room for five adults and a boot capable of swallowing 450 litres of luggage. Then there is the emission reducing system, ranging between 295 and 285g/km, which comes under BMWs Efficient Dynamics programme.

And that's not all. A Brake Energy Regeneration system utilises the power lost on the engine overrun to recharge the battery.

This feature alone helps the M3 saloon to become on of the cleanest and fuel efficient performance cars ever.

The bodyshell also plays its part. It is designed so that every crease and aperture either channels the air to the engine or provides downforce to enhance the aerodynamics. Even the door mirrors help the car to slide through the air.

BMW says its expects to sell 400 M3s in a full sales year. The coupe is already proving its mettle and now the saloon has the chance to make it own impact.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 11, 2008
Words:500
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