I have to admit I was feeling a little disconsolate. Everybody I spoke to, everything I read, suggested the new Lexus IS-F was better than the M3.
How could it happen? How could the king be toppled so easily, by a manufacturer that makes good copies of existing BMWs and Mercs at best. They certainly have little experience making a super-sedan. Could it possibly be that good on their first attempt?
Well, I'm happy to say that the reports of the M3's demise were greatly exaggerated. The IS-F is undoubtedly a capable car. Why shouldn't it be? The Japanese had a simple formula to replicate. The fact they failed to pull it off is perhaps the bigger surprise
To their credit, Lexus had the correct recipe: big engine, small car, carbon trim, sports seats, 19" wheels, Brembos, etc. Yet the culinary skill is in how you combine those ingredients, as any fan of Top Chef will testify.
While BMW makes it look deceptively easy, Lexus and Mercedes have proved what too much hot sauce can do (continuing the tortuous cooking analogy). Perhaps Audi got closest to cracking the code with the B6 RS4, creating a genuine challenger. Yet somehow BMW continues to rule the roost.
And it's not just our opinion. Even the Editors of Super Street magazine, the guardians of the import dungeons, had to concede the M3 was better.
It's a narrow margin, we'll admit, but a win's a win. Although we're sure Lexus will have another try in a few years, by which time BMW will have re-invented the M3 with a new turbocharged six-cylinder. Exciting, isn't it?
We been getting many emails aksing me to have another rant about a particular aspect of the European tuning scene. However, the subjects under discussion are the bugbear of the correspondent's, rather than my own. The last appeal was against the widespread use of M3-style fender vents on every car under the sun. And while I think it's pretty stupid to have M3 vents on a GTI or Civic, I think that's universally accepted. No need for me to hammer that one home.
To be honest, I'm at peace with the world. We've established that I don't like vinyl graphics, carbon hoods or black wheels.
Two out of three isn't bad. We're seeing very little vinyl these days (asking owners to remove it wherever possible) and carbon hoods are generally painted now. However,
I seem to be out-voted on the black wheels.
As I said at the time, black wheels, especially matte black, look dead. Where as a silver wheel fills the fender, reflects light and pleases the angels. A black wheel looks like a hole, especially from a distance. Dark grey is acceptable, color-matching is good. I just don't like black wheels.
It's a personal choice and it's never stopped a car getting featured in et - not many, anyway!
Next month will be a special E46 3-Series widebody and Waterfest issue, so prepare for more BMW goodness.
Greg Emmerson, Editor