What's New for 2002
An optional sequential manual gearbox makes its way into the 2002 BMW M3, which allows the driver to shift with almost instantaneous precision without a clutch. A CD player becomes standard, the automatic climate control has been revised and rear-seat side airbags are optional for both the coupe and convertible.
Last year, the boys of Bavaria finally relented and sent us the potent M3. Boy howdy, was it worth the wait. The M3 coupe and convertible, based on the delectable current-generation 3 Series, is propelled by a magnificent 3.2-liter engine, with 333 thundering horses coming from a single bank of naturally aspirated six cylinders. Capped with a six-speed manual transmission, all that horsepower and the 262 pound-feet of torque (at 4,900 rpm) is good enough to propel the 3,781-pound M3 convertible to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, according to BMW. The lighter 3,415-pound M3 coupe, meanwhile, reportedly gets the job done in an even quicker 4.8 seconds. New for the year, an optional Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) provides Formula One-style paddle shifting on the steering wheel and reportedly allows the transmission to shift faster than a skilled driver can shift a manual or a conventional automatic can shift itself.
But an exhilarating driving experience involves more than mere speed, and the dynamics of the M3 have car reviewers frothing at the mouth to describe the joy derived from piloting this vehicle. From its communicative steering and near-perfectly balanced chassis to the compliant-yet-firm ride, this Bimmer, like most others, will have you searching for that elusive twisty road upon which to spool the revs and extract that stunning exhaust note. Don't think that you'd be lacking structural rigidity should you opt for open-topped fun. In fact, BMW claims that this version of the ragtop boasts a superstructure more rigid than the previous-generation 3 Series coupe. It's quite an accomplishment and the perfect accompaniment to the M3's superb MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear independent suspension system.
Standard features for the convertible include heated power-adjustable sport bucket seats; these are optional on the coupe. For 2002, a CD player finally makes its way onto the standard equipment list. There are front and side airbags (coupes get a head protection system for front seat occupants, too), as well as optional rear-seat side airbags for safety, and, of course, antilock brakes are standard. BMW's Dynamic Stability Control system also makes the grade, and the drop-top version of the M3 gets a Rollover Protection System that automatically deploys roll hoops behind the rear seats in case the ragtop ever goes end over end.
Other options include a removable hard top for the convertible and a Cold Weather package for the coupe that includes a ski bag, heated front seats and a headlight washer system that'll make the cars more palatable during the winter months. A proximity-sensing Park Distance Control system will probably save a few costly scratches to the bumpers, and a navigation system with a wider screen for 2002 lets you know where you're going.
We think that the 3 Series is one of the best cars on the market today, and the M package increases its appeal exponentially. These beauts should have enough oomph and athletic prowess to have the competition whimpering in the corner.
Read our BMW M3 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test