I recently had the chance to drive the G80 BMW M3 with a manual transmission. It was the first G80 M3 I’d ever driven and it was a manual by request. When the chance to drive the new M3 presented itself, I had the choice of either a manual or Competition model. Being the stubborn enthusiast I am, the manual was the choice. And the car genuinely surprised me.

After seeing several video reviews from prominent journos, I had a feeling the new M3 would be good. However, being a skeptic by nature, I didn’t truly believe it’d be among the all time greats. BMW’s reputation for making the proper driver’s cars has taken a hit over the past few years. So despite all of the praise being heaped at it, I still couldn’t buy in until I drove it.

Thankfully, driving it really did change my mind. The G80 BMW M3 is a sensational driver’s car that, with a manual transmission, is a ton of fun. The manual itself isn’t brilliant; its clutch is incredibly springy and the shift action is rubbery and notchy; but the fact that it exists makes me happy so I won’t complain. Too much.

Its engine more than makes up for its transmissions lack of Porsche-level perfection. The S58 3.0 liter twin-turbo I6 in the standard M3 makes 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. While it doesn’t feel quite as punchy as the M3 Competition, with its 503 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque, it’s still shockingly fast. Short gearing helps it feel extra punchy but be prepared for the engine/exhaust drone at 70 mph on the highway, with the engine turning at over 3,000 rpm.

The G80 BMW M3 is an excellent everyday sport sedan that still comes with a manual transmission. Just that in itself is enough to celebrate it, even if it is funky looking.