On tonight’s episode of the famous (or infamous, depending on how you feel about the show) British motoring program, Top Gear, host Jeremy Clarkson will drive both a BMW i8 and M3. The idea is that he will drive the i8 for a decent stretch, to a parked M3 and then decide which he will drive back. These are two of BMW’s highest performing cars, so it begs the question — Which would you choose?
First there’s the M3. An absolute icon of the automotive industry, the M3 is the go-to choice for anyone looking for a proper, four-door sports car. With its 3.0 liter, twin-turbo inline-six, making 425 hp, the M3 is an absolute rocket. In comparison to M3’s of yore, the current F80 model is quite the techno-fest.
The twin-clutch transmission, electronically controlled, limited slip differential and somewhat fake engine sound, the current M3 looks like an Apollo rocket in comparison to the old ones. However, in this particular competition, the M3 is the old-school, blue-collar sports car of the two. It makes horsepower using just an engine and no electrons, it puts its power to the rear wheels only and run solely on gasoline. In this modern age, the M3 is a breathe of petrol-scented, fresh air.
On the flipside, the i8 is a technological powerhouse. A masterpiece of innovation. A symphony of electrons. Okay, I’ll stop. But seriously, the i8 is like nothing else on the road that mortals can purchase. I made the comparison between the current M3 and an Apollo rocket earlier, but the i8 makes the Apollo look dated. Nothing short of the Starship Enterprise can challenge the i8’s technological prowess. But that doesn’t mean the i8 is boring. It’s far from that. The i8 uses its twin-turbo, 1.5 liter, three-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and all-wheel drive to fire you in and out of corners with ferocity that simple, petrol-powered cars cannot match. Plus it looks like nothing else on the road.
Both of these cars are incredibly special, both offer thrills that most other cars cannot hope to achieve. The beauty is that they both do those things in such different ways. And the fact that two fantastically capable sports cars with two completely different approaches can come from the same company is remarkable. This time could be looked back at as the golden age of the automobile because of cars like the M3 and i8.
But the question still remains — Which, of these two excellent cars, would you rather own?