Is a new BMW 3 Series Better Than A Vintage M5?

From Yahoo! Motors

“The new M5 does not need go-faster cosmetics,” said BMW Motorsport Chief Engineer Thomas Ammerschlager. “This car convinces through performance, and we did not want to spoil the act by dressing up our best thoroughbred in fancy clothes.”

That was in the October 1988 edition of Car magazine, back when M cars didn’t have dozens of branded aero bits to appeal to the middle managers of the world. Times have changed though, and the motorsport badge has promulgated to nearly every body style. Even crossovers.

While purists may raise their tri-colored pitchforks about the dilution of the M pedigree, and debate whether the S55 engine in the M3 is too derivative of the regular N55, what’s undeniable is that the current crop of even standard Bimmers can stand up to classic Ms and their bespoke engines. With the refreshed 3 Series and a new 340i model, we now have a regular 3 Series that has more power than the Porsche-beating M5 of the ‘90s.

And it inevitably raised the question: is a regular 3 Series better than an older M car with similar power and weight? There are fewer differences than you think—they’re nearly the same size, with the 340i being a couple inches wider and taller, but four inches shorter.

Granted, it’s not the fairest comparison—even though I fix the M5 as needed there’s 197,000 miles on the odometer, and it’s hard to be objective since this car’s my own. Nonetheless I decided to break the comparison down to four parts: engine, transmission, handling, and value.