E92 BMW M3 Lime Rock Park is a sports car higher truth

Side view of an orange BMW M3 parked in front of a tree.

Sure, it’s a retouched 3-Series, but it’s also not just the sum of its parts.
photo: BMW

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the BMW M division. This important letter gives us some of the best driving cars ever made, and at the top of the list is the E92 M3, the first and only M3 with a V8. That model’s swan song is the limited-edition Limestone Park, dazzling with its orange paint and factory Inconel sports exhaust.

as part of Monterey Car Week, BMW has launched a series of hottest products for journalists to drive.I have written about my experience 1973 3.0 Chinese Super League and 1988 E28 M5, but the E92 M3 is the one I’ve driven before, albeit a few years ago. Now that I’ve had the pleasure of driving all kinds of sports cars, supercars and vintage BMW M cars, how does the E92 fare?

In short, beautiful. The E92 was better than I remembered for several reasons. The first is apparently the incredible 414-horsepower 4.0-liter S65 V8, which peaks at 8,300 rpm and redlines at 8,400 rpm. Not only is it an incredibly free-breathing and responsive engine, but it’s likely to be the last M3 without forced induction, and that alone is cause for celebration.

Rear end of orange BMW M3

In addition to the orange paint, the Limestone Park Edition also features glorious-sounding Inconel sports exhausts.
photo: BMW

The S65’s relatively low torque output of just 295 pound-feet also adds to the experience. It allows you to keep the engine on the boil and keep the torque peak above 3,900 rpm. It also makes the experience more controllable, as you’re less likely to overwhelm the rear tires with a sudden slam on the gas. The M3 comes with a perfect six-speed manual transmission or a surprisingly good (2013) dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that rivals Porsche’s PDK in speed and usability. The version I drove had DCT.

However, what really makes the S65 legendary is the sound. The Lime Rock Park Edition comes with the M Performance accessory exhaust system, which is not only louder (though not obnoxious), but also accentuates the right frequencies to make the engine sound both angry and sweet at high revs. As a bonus, it’s also over 20 pounds lighter than the stock unit, which isn’t something you’ll notice.

The next thing—perhaps the most striking thing for me, over the years—is how good the steering feels, especially compared to any modern sports car with electric power steering. The E92’s hydraulics combine with the M Competition package’s stiffer suspension and lighter wheels for excellent AC steering. It’s perfectly weighted, neither too heavy nor too light, and the accuracy is excellent. This is arguably the biggest difference between this car and the M3 and M4 that followed.

Let’s drive! 2013 BMW M3 Lime Rock Park Edition – New E92 V8-Power!

The chassis of the E92 is also worth mentioning. The standard M Competition package on the Lime Rock Park Edition gets a unique calibration of electronic damping control, and the system does an excellent job of distinguishing between the hardcore M mode and the softer everyday mode. In the softest of settings, it never slops or floats. It’s not something you’ll want to put up with every day in the toughest conditions, but it won’t loosen the padding or bounce you off the surface on bad surfaces.

The chassis combines with excellent steering to create an incredibly controllable and enjoyable performance car. The E92 has a playful feel that the current M3 and M4 don’t have. Current cars always feel angry. It’s incredibly fast and capable, but doesn’t feel as fun as the E92.

Inside, the E92 is ultimately just a well-equipped 3 Series. The seats are supportive, but not like you get a full race bucket in current cars. (BMW’s $4,500 optional M carbon fiber bucket has a special place in hell.) The overall feel is fairly austere, in typical BMW fashion, but it’s comfortable and a great place to spend time. Lime Rock Park comes with an Alcantara steering wheel, which is just a recipe for rough skin after months of oil buildup. The steering wheel rim is also a bit thick for my taste.

At the end of the day, when it comes to in-vehicle technology, 2013 was a long time ago, and the E92 is arguably the oldest in the field. iDrive was notoriously bad at the time, and many of the driver-assist features we enjoyed were nowhere to be found. That said, I don’t think anyone buying an E92 in 2022 will care. Just not that kind of car.

Low mileage and immaculately maintained, the BMW Museum’s example Lime Rock Park M3 completely recalibrated my sense of what a sports car should be. It doesn’t have to be the fast or menacing edge of a supercar. It doesn’t have to have a refreshing exhaust or every tech bell and whistle under the sun. It has to be approachable, engaging, heartfelt and rewarding good driving. The E92 does it all with aplomb.

A few years ago, I promised myself that the next car I bought would be a 997-generation Porsche 911, and I meant it. I love that car and see it as the platonic ideal that a sports car should be. But damn, this E92 M3 Limestone Park made me reconsider that decision, which is not something I ever thought I would say.

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