Such an awesome car, especially in Laguna Seca Blue. Handling is superb and for the performance a 19-22 overall MPG is pretty good. LOVE LOVE the car. It turns heads everywhere and gets compliments on the color at least once a week. However, the car has been to the shop more than 20X since I bought it. Everything has gone wrong with this car. The biggest problems were the CAT failed ($2000) and also the rear subframe cracked ($1700). The interior is also cheap and the tranny doesn't seem to fit the car, long strokes, clunky, and is not smooth. But that engine and stance makes it worth it... I think. :)
Got mine used w/ 49k mi on it. Would not buy brand new - not worth 55k+ (w/options). The car is very well-balanced in terms of power, handling, comfort, and luxury (mine is loaded - heated seats, nav, park sensors, etc.). Don't worry about all this rod bearing talk - it's a RECALL! (ie. get it done for free) and you wont have to worry because it will have new warranty (motor ONLY). The disappointment is the trans/differential. Gearbox is inconsistent - sometimes it's fine but othertimes it grinds from 1-2 at slow speeds. The diff is noticably clunky w/excessive lash-feels like it will fail. Maybe the newer car owners don't feel it but after the car hits 50k be aware. The warranty ends.
Cornering ability - very stable through the turns will on the throttle. Looks - very classy and sporty. Torque - very good on highway for passing. Gearshift has very light throw (when its not grinding). I've always admired this car before I got one. But after a year, I thought the build quality should be better.
Interior headliner trim falls off (on $50k car!?). The drive-by wire throttle has lag on tip-in making slow driving jerky if you're not perfect. The gearbox can 'crunch or grind' and differential feels too loose and clunky. Nav is a pain to use - hope for a touch screen.
The current M3 is a dream for a performance car enthusiast. With few exceptions, it will bury the competition with always blistering accelleration and it will stop in a heartbeat. Handling is second to none, as might be expected with a chassis and mechanics tuned for the Nurburgring. Where else can you buy a world class, track-ready sport coupe that will also seat 4 comfortably - with luggage. Fit, finish and quality of materials is second to none. BMW - form does follow function.
SMG transmission. Takes a while to get comfortable with and there are a couple of "give-ups" compared to a manual gearbox. But, the options are endless and lots of fun. I doubt there is a pro driver who can outshift the computer, and automatic double- clutching is amazing.
Somehow - a little more storage in the cockpit area please.
Before you buy, be sure to research the service histories of these cars. Model year 2002 had a series of engine recalls that are warranty items (bearing service), but necessary fixes. Be sure they've been done and ask dealer to provide service history to prove it. If buying used, I do not recommend this model year to be purchased from a non-BMW dealer or private owner unless VIN proof can be provided that the recall service has been completed. Engine failure, while rare, is catostrophic. That said, I purchased mine from a BMW dealer with all service documentation and have had nothing but miles and smiles of glee!
Exterior design (w/optional 19in wheels) is both modern and classic. Subtle, muscular shape (aluminum hood power bulge and flared fenders) and classic side "gills" reflective of classic 3.0 early 70's coupe.
Lose some weight baby! It seems all car makers are going crazy with horsepower - and this car has plenty - but weight keeps going up!!!! The power to weight ratio has the biggest impact on performance, but only big power numbers make the marketing material. Good Luck and safe driving to you.