Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2008 BMW M3 coupe.
Third-party performance tuners like Alpina, AMG, Brabus, Ruf and others have thrived in the land of the autobahn, typically modifying cars from one particular brand. In the late '70s, BMW became the first of the German automakers to establish its own in-house tuning division, incorporating its motorsports arm into what's now know as the M division. The firm's racing knowledge disseminated down to its production cars with the introduction of the M1 and later the M535i. In subsequent years, M followed up with the M5 and M3. Eventually Mercedes followed suit by buying out AMG, while Audi launched Quattro GmbH. Over the past two decades, M has continued to create ever faster iterations of mainstream Bimmers and for 2008 the M brain trust brings us the fourth generation of the M3.
The original 1986 M3 used the boxy body of the E30 3-series coupe, equipped with a high output, 16-valve four cylinder engine to homologate the body and engine for Group A touring car racing. Over the years, M3s, like all other BMWs (and pretty much every other car on the road), have grown bigger, heavier and more powerful. The E36 and E46 M3s both drew motive force from in-line six-cylinder engines ranging from 240hp to 333hp. The new E90-based M3 has what could turn out to be the ultimate engine of the series, with an all-new 4.0-liter V8 generating 414 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. But what's it like to live with? Follow the jump to find out.