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Old 08-07-2003, 10:34 PM   #1
Bumsarama
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Question STi Vs. M3

I was wondering how the STi would stack up against an M3 (both in stock form) in both a drag race and through some twisties. Leave the mud, snow, rain, etc out of the equation for now. If you had a choice would you go with purchasing an STi or an M3 (assuming you had the money for both). I am really puzzled as to which one I should purchase. I know you guys will say the STi is a much better bargain for the price, but lets just neglect the price and look at only the cars and their features.
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Old 08-07-2003, 10:36 PM   #2
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Try a search... This topic has been addressed a few times
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Old 08-08-2003, 12:08 AM   #3
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I see them in my rearview mirror.
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Old 08-08-2003, 01:57 AM   #4
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It's really hard to compare these cars. I think it's not simple like saying "the STi is better or the M3 is better" it depends on what features of each car are most important to you and go with that.
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Old 08-08-2003, 02:11 AM   #5
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v.

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Old 08-08-2003, 03:24 AM   #6
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I hope those member's who've owned both will give you some more feedback. I've only owned the M3 and I hope to own an STi in the future.

The M3 engine is quite impressive for a 3.2L I6 redline. It's behaviour is totally different from the STi 2.5L turbo. There's something to be said for 8K rpm engines that still have lots of grunt down at 2k. After a while the sound really grows on you too.

The power delivery is about as different as you can get. M3 torque curve looks like a flat line compared to STi's steep torque climb and drop. M3 power rises to redline as well. In practice, the STi will feel faster due to the steep torque curve lending more kick to the pants, but the M3's flatter curve through the entire RPM range means it will be faster but not feel like it. It's also easier to manage traction with a flat torque curve than a peaky one.


Stock to stock, the M3 engine is nicer in my opinion, but then I'm a fan of normally aspirated engines. Aftermarket, STi engine has more potential for less expensive upgrades. I expect 100 hp upgrades will be common place. In comparison, the M3 has very few upgrades. There are a few 40hp upgrades that exist in North America are questionable. Ther are known 60 hp upgrades in Europe but again, reliability and customer satisfaction has been mixed. If you are someone who likes to drive the car stock, M3 is fine, but if you are into upgrades, the M3 engine is not the best choice.

AWD is still a benefit on dry roads or around a track, even if you only consider it has better tire management and your track sessions can go further before the tires get greasy, comparing same tires on both cars. Add to that the variable diff control that lets you tune the power delivery to your liking, even with some rear bias if you prefer. And not much beats AWD traction when it comes to a launch from a stop or power out of a corner.

Having said that, some people still prefer RWD and they are a lot of fun. M3's M differential is a variable limited slip unit that can transfer up to 100% of power to one wheel. It operates on the speed difference between wheels, which turns a shear pump, which in turn apply multiple clutches to give more power to the wheel which is turning slower. Many consider it to have the best traction of any RWD. Power-on oversteer is easy to control in the M3 relative to many other RWD cars. You can also get a lower ratio diff to lower your overall gearing and raise your torque at the wheels.

Transmission, both are 6 speeds, but the M3 aso offers the same 6 speed with SMG II, a computer controlled clutch shifting as fast as .080 secs. It also does other neat things like rev-matching on high-speed downshifts. I will say the M3 stick is known to be notchy until it's warm, and doesn't have a reputation for being as smooth as many Japanese standards seem to be. The clutch is also very stiff but you get used to it.

The M3 is geared similar to STi but top speeds in each gear are higher in part due to the 8K redline. Some say the STi 6th gear is a little low...and I guess it is at least from a fuel economy point of view. But I like the way the STi is geared and think it could be even more agressive (if you're willing to sacrifice comfort and fuel economy for performance).

Handling, I think M3 has the edge, at least in terms of what many people expect from a car handling at limits in corners on a track. That's not to say people who know how to drive the STi can't do as good or better. I'm just saying M3 handles the way many people expect from a car. The ride is firm without being harsh, the steering is quicker and heavier than a normal 3 series and so to me it's better.

But reality is not everyone has good roads, and the M3 has problems putting the power down over bumpy surfaces, like crossing a road where the tarmac has ruts from traffic. The suspension doesn't have a lot of compliance, and you end up hopping over the bumps, which generates a lot of rear wheel spin if you're trying to apply lots of power. I always found this annoying. I think the more compliant STi suspension and AWD would make applying power over undulating / bumpy surfaces much more effective.

Exterior looks, I think it's each his own. STi is much more in-your-face, and far more noticable. In comparison, many people don't see the difference between an M3 and a regular 3 series with aftermarket wheels.

Interior looks, I think it's M3 hands down. But the STi has 4 doors, more room, and a little more headroom too I think. M3 does come standard with folding seats, so it can hold a surprising amount if you want. Also, the M3 metal, doors, trunk, are very solid and heavy feeling compared to STi. But the M3 hood is aluminum.


Wheels: STi wheels are quite well made I think, practical for daily use. I'm in the group that feels you don't need a wheel bigger than your brakes, and lighter is better. Any percieved difference in handling with a larger wheel / lower profile tire can be often made up with a stiffer sidewall and higher air pressure. I think STi factory stock wheels are superior being forged and lighter. M3 offers 18" pressure cast or 19" forged. But you're also looking at far more expensive tires. Even if you don't care about expense, you're going to have a harder time finding the tire you want, like an track tire, in 19" 30 series, than in 17" 45 series which will be much more available.

Electronics: I think M3 has an edge here, in terms things like the trip computer, BiXenon headlights, HK stereo, etc. The driving aids stand out, to name a few: Traction control, which operates on 3 levels, first is to retard timing, which gives an instant reduction in torque, next to reduce throttle, and third to apply brakes to the slipping wheels. Corner Braking Control which brakes the inside wheels in a turn to keep you turning instead of going into terminal understeer. Directional Stability control, which retards timing, throttle, and applies individual brakes to keep you going in a straight line. That saved my butt on an icy on-ramp more than once. Launch Control (SMG II) which modulates the clutch slip and throttle on a launch from start. And you can turn it all off if you want, but it's great to have when you need it.

I'm less familiar with STi electronic features, but I will say that the audible shift indicator is great, I think, and makes far more sense than shift lights as with M3 SMG II. You want to be looking at the road, not your tach, when driving.

I know I'm biased but hopefully I've pointed out many of the good STi points. The other pluses for STi that mean a lot to me are ones that are not so important to you. Cost, daily driver and all-weather ability. Money not an issue, I'd still get M3 over STi sedan. But if there was an STi wagon, I'd take it over M3, if I had to pick one or the other.

I still wonder if there will be an STi wagon. I know there is talk of a 2.5L turbo Legacy, but I've grown to like the handling of smaller, lighter cars and I'm concerned the handling on a Turbo Legacy might be too soft and have too much understeer. I guess we'll have to wait and see! I also wonder if they ever plan to put forced induction on their 3.0L Boxer 6 cyl engine.
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Old 08-08-2003, 04:00 AM   #7
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The STi and the M3 are in completely different categories, why compare? The STi vs thing has been exhausted a long time ago...
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Old 08-08-2003, 07:52 AM   #8
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The performance is pretty similar, though it's achieved in nearly totally opposite ways. I'd pick the one that fits your needs better, i.e. # of doors, whether you like leather interior, do you need AWD, are you interested in a sunroof, etc.

I've driven both cars, and would list both as good values, for their respective categories. Both cars offer very high performance levels with decent amounts of practicality. Just pick your mix of luxury, ride quality, powerplant, foul weather ability, etc.

Have a good one.
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Old 08-08-2003, 07:58 AM   #9
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People - comparing an M3 to an STI is perfectly valid. If someone wanted to compare an STI to a HUMMER, it would be ok. There is no point in comparing things that are exactly alike. Comparisons point out *differences* so for God's sake let someone compare a different car to an STI.

I don't know where the phrase "apples to oranges" comes from, but IMO it's one of the stupidest sayings ever. Oranges are sweeter and juicier than apples. Apples are crunchier and have a skin that gets stuck between your teeth. I prefer oranges.

See, I did it. Let this man do it for STIs and M3s.
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Old 08-08-2003, 08:56 AM   #10
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I can give a real world comparison at the drags. Me: 13.28...M3 (this years model) 13.6. Younger person driving the M3. Could come down to the driver.

Scott
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Old 08-08-2003, 11:07 AM   #11
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How about a Cadillac CTS-V. I just read an interesting article about it both in C & D and Automobile. It outperformed both the M3 and M5 on the Nurburgring.

I never thought I would ever be interested in a Cadillac. Fortunately, it's out of my price range. But I'm afraid the STi is too, for now.
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Old 08-08-2003, 11:10 AM   #12
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On the track I only saw M3's going backwards. There was about 5 of them so for this track Grattan it was the STi.
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Old 08-08-2003, 11:36 AM   #13
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Quote:
The STi and the M3 are in completely different categories, why compare? The STi vs thing has been exhausted a long time ago...
I agree with you on this. I can just add that M3 are luxury sports cars and I wouldn't quite fit an STI to be luxurious.
I have a really good friend with a 2003 M3 and all I can say that its top end is sick and its differential is amazing!

Good write up Mr. Grinch, I agree with on all of those. I would prefer a M3 as well.
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Old 08-08-2003, 03:49 PM   #14
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I sold my 2002 M3 for the STi.

The STi is faster up until 150 km/h, after that the M3 will start to slowly catch up and pass at around 200 km/h.

The STi handles and brakes better then the M3, there is no question. Any M3 owner who tracks the car will tell you the M3's weak link is the brakes. The AWD of the M3 is amazing and shdn hitting corners like a carouselle, it's point and accelerate, no need to worry about the back coming around. At the track I would dust any car and slingshot out of the corner. The only thing that was comparable was a 911 Turbo which is insane. After a carouselle there is a long straight and the 911 Turbo would pass me like I had the handbrake fully up!! Actually the STi will make a decent driver look amazing. To fully exploit the limits of the M3, you have to have more skill. I have been tracking for about 6 years now, so I consider myself a junior still.

Practicality is another win for the STi, for once I can't wait for the snow. Before the M3 I had an S2000 and drove that in Montreal winters, let me tell you that I learned how to drive RWD very quickly. The M3 would only get stuck in my angled driveway, around town there was no problems. Funny enough I kept my M3 winter tires (Bridgestone LM22s) and they are a perfect fit for the STi! 225/45/17 all around.

The M3 luxury and prestige is obviously where the M3 dusts the STi. Things I miss on the M3:

The HK system in the M3 is a great stock system
I miss steering control buttons for the sound system
The M3 seats were excellent
The ability to carry around clients

Umm that's about it... I quickly forget the above mentioned items as soon as I start driving the STi.

Another thing that is interesting is that I get stopped a LOT more by enthusiasts in the STi then in the M3. No one ever stopped to talk to me when I had the M3, on the other hand everyone asks me stuff about the STi and automatically assume you are a car enthusiast.

Oh yeah, 1464$ tax in a month for the M3 (0 down) vs. 832 tax in a month for the STi (0 down). Insurance is half the price (200 a month vs. 100 a month). Almost half the price and similar performance with greater practicality. Another bonus is my dogs can go in the STi, forget that in the M3.

Anyways, my 2 cents.
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Old 08-08-2003, 04:03 PM   #15
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Don't forget that Subaru stated the M3 was the performance benchmark used for the 2.5L STi offering.

Forget about leather, radio's, and ownership costs (insurance, tax, etc.) as performance wise the STi and defending champion M3 are two evenly matched cars.

Basically the STi is the poorman's and/or cost concious buyers M3/M5/R6. The M3 leads only in the non-performance luxury items such as coupe or convertible format, SMG (auto-trans), and the market perception 'value' intrinsic to driving a BMW.

- Janq
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Old 08-08-2003, 04:46 PM   #16
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Bumsarama, sorry I can't help you out, but when you find out how you do against an M3, let me know. Once my car gets broken in, I'll be getting a little first hand comparo between an M3, M5, lightly modded 350Z, and me. I want to know how the STi stacks up. (I don't want to get emabarassed in my new car, ya know. )
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Old 08-08-2003, 07:47 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by ybnormal07
I can give a real world comparison at the drags. Me: 13.28...M3 (this years model) 13.6. Younger person driving the M3. Could come down to the driver.

Scott
Definately, all track comparos leave a huge margin up to the driver. I know at least a few M3s have managed to get below 13s in the 1/4 for example. And the M3 launch is much different from most turbos, basically the best times were from launches under 2k rpm, usually around 1700 to 1800 rpm for example.

Around a circuit, lots of more skilled drivers are beating other drivers in faster cars, IE just saw one where they were passing a GT3. Again, it's the driver and what they are used to.

As far as AWD vs RWD in weather, a recent magazine compared M3 to new S4 in the wet and the M3 still won, in part due to the handling feel, and control, but also because S4's have a nasty reputation for understeer / push, which gets even worse in the wet. I mention this only to point out that AWD can't fix something that handles like an understeering pig. That's what particularly interests me with STi DCCD and rear bias. Best Motoring did a special on STi and showed how much less understeer it has compared to previous gen, due to the new diff, and it's quite impressive.

I will say that what the M3 lacks in aftermarket engine tuning, it definately makes up for in aftermarket handling mods. There are a great selection of brake and suspension upgrades that will make the M3 handle better than a Porsche, even one with upgrades. This is usually the comparison that is made, and it makes sense when you're considering the more neutral handling of front engine / RWD compared to the faster but harder to manage rear engine / RWD.

There are also guys who've managed to get their once stock M3 below 3000 lbs, at relatively low cost which is quite an achievement, especially if you consider how much CSL costs.

So if you're in to handling mods, there definately is a lot of potential in the M3. Again, vs STi, RWD vs AWD is a lot of personal preference. AWD will be faster in many cases. But obviously faster isn't everything, or you'd see all M3 buyers getting SMG II which shifts faster than they could ever hope for on a stick shift. After driving FWD autos for a decade, I sure liked going back to RWD.

Again, I'm sure there will be similar handling mods for STi, probably just a matter of time. From what I'm seeing in the forums, it doesn't look like WRX components are always an exact match for their STi counterparts, so a few things might end up being a bit of a wait.

For interior trim, my M3 was leather seats with Alcantara centers and Alcantara on the doors. I'd get it again in any car. I like it so much better than leather for comfort on hot or cold days.
It doesn't get sweaty when hot or freeze your ass when cold, and it grips better. It doesn't crack or require conditioning. My first experience with Alcantara was on a Audi S8 show car and decided after that I had to have it. No regrets. People say the Ecasine (sp?) in the STi is similar but I've yet to see it. If it's as good as Alcantara, then I'd be happy with it.

As far as straight-line performance goes, I really miss the M3. I had no problem passing other cars with similar or better power to weight. Particularly F body LT1 engine cars like Fbird and Camaro SS, or even regular model C5 Corvette. I think that's partly due to the increased traction of the M differential, but it could also be that I pushed harder than those particular drivers.

Another car to watch out for if you're looking for cheap engine HP is teh Mustang SVT, which is also forced induction. Many claim to be getting 400+ RWD with pulleys and exhaust. Even stock, the dyno number they are putting out are higher than Ford's published numbers. It doesn't have the handling that many people want but again that can be improved.

In a few months I expect we'll see the Pontiac GTO, which will replace the Camaro / Firebird for a while. It's a re-branded Holden HSV with 350hp LT1 engine. Another engine that is relatively cheap to upgrade (but not as cheap as SVT pulleys + exhaust!).

I'm not a big fan of Ford or domestics in general but I throw these example out there for those interested in max HP per dollar.

I got the M3 for the handling, power and looks. I definately could have lived without power everything and sunroof. But DSC and the BiXenons were nice to have. I like to leave a vehicle as close to stock as possible, with the exception of wheels / tires, so aftermarket tuning is not a big thing for me.

But if you track the vehicle, you may have no choice but to do some upgrades. Many people track the M3, and as pointed out, some have problems with the brakes. The most common issue is the soft pad compound sticking to the rotors, causing brake shimmy. Some think their rotors are 'warped' but often it's just pad material stuck on the rotors. This is also related to people's braking style, some don't have these issues as much as others do on the same track. Some found that by changing their braking technique, they have not had the problem.

Regardless, many experienced M3 drivers found that installing the drilled Euro rotors, along with high-temp race pads and ATE super blue fluid, was more than enough for weekends at the tracks. A few in this catagory might get stainless steel lines as well. But then there are the hardcore group that go with 6 pot Brembo or Alcon 14" brakes, slotted rotors, and Castrol SRF fluid. You'll find people who upgrade to the high-end braking systems with any sport-oriented car, some are already upgrading their STi brakes.

Again, I'm trying to minimize my M3 bias and give an honest idea of what you might expect from M3 ownership. Check out the M3 forums too. Some replies will be obviously biased, but there are M3 owners out there who respect the STi for what it is too.

Of course, a test drive in both should be a deciding factor. There should not be a shortage of M3's to test drive at this point. However, getting a test drive in an STi is next to impossible... I probably will never get to test drive one at the dealers here in Calgary, at least that's what they've told me.
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Old 08-08-2003, 10:06 PM   #18
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Not sure if my STI is particularly fast BUT it beat my buddies M3 6 speed convertible EASILY from a light when I got a bad launch and pulled quite well on him on the highway, I would say to 220 or so when I slowed down. He definately was not gaining. I also took my other buddies M3 hardtop with the SMG. No driver advantage here and I took him on the highway as well. Not a huge amount, but for sure enough to pass him.

The rest is to preference. If you want faster, it seems to me the STI is the way to go. If you want prestige, class and all that other cool stuff, the M3 is major sweetness.
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Old 08-08-2003, 10:18 PM   #19
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Like I said, I have owned both, and the M3 is the better luxury car however the STi is the better 'driver's sports car'.

The cabriolet is a couple of hundred pounds heavier.

Rob
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Old 08-09-2003, 05:00 AM   #20
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Nothing wrong comparing M3 vs STi...
I'm trying to make up my mind with Z06 vs STi vs EVO..

Might give up on STi though... it's just too hard to find one at
good price here in socal...
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Old 08-09-2003, 02:20 PM   #21
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If you want a car that is NOT going to be your daily driver, go for the Z06. I've raced/driven the car and the thing is incredible. Driving my STi after the Z06 makes it feel slow and the handling feel numb.
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Old 08-09-2003, 03:47 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by JT-KGY
Nothing wrong comparing M3 vs STi...
I'm trying to make up my mind with Z06 vs STi vs EVO..

Might give up on STi though... it's just too hard to find one at
good price here in socal...
try somewhere far

i got mine @ Palms Springs.. about 110 miles from you probably.

but @ MSRP and no nonsense options.. what else can you ask for?

oh maybe you can tell them not to fill up your tank..
those cheap bastards don't put 91 !!!!!
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Old 08-09-2003, 05:51 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by 300blueballs
If you want a car that is NOT going to be your daily driver, go for the Z06. I've raced/driven the car and the thing is incredible. Driving my STi after the Z06 makes it feel slow and the handling feel numb.
Test drove the Z06... the ride is not harsh that I thought wouldn't
be bad for a daily driver... It has a big trunk too....
The only downside compare to STi is it's lack of two rear seats...
and the fact that it's much bigger make parking in tight area a
pain....
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Old 08-09-2003, 05:58 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by RichQY
try somewhere far

i got mine @ Palms Springs.. about 110 miles from you probably.

but @ MSRP and no nonsense options.. what else can you ask for?

oh maybe you can tell them not to fill up your tank..
those cheap bastards don't put 91 !!!!!

I was hoping that by this time STi will be selling at below MSRP...
Because even at MSRP... STi will be nearly 3k more than what I
could get for EVO...
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Old 08-09-2003, 06:09 PM   #25
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Just goes to show you how much of this is personal preference.

MontrealSTI mentioned the STi handles better than his M3 did, and I think he mentioned it was easier to drive too. 300blueballs mentions how his STi felt numb compared to the Z06. I had the M3 and drove a Z06 and while no one can deny the power, I found it more difficult to handle around corners compared to the M3. Not sure if it was steering feel or the car's response to steering input, I don't know, it was different enough that I did not find it as easy to drive hard as the M3.

I hope the original poster gets the chance to drive both vehicles, and if he doesn't need 4 seats, he should try the Z06 for kicks.

Other options if he doesn't need useable rear seating include G35 coupe and 350Z, or even Boxster S which is just a bit more than M3. Also if he needs 4 doors, he might consider G35 sedan or M5.
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