Gateway Drug Meets Real Deal - 2002 BMW M3 Long-Term Road Test

2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

2002 BMW M3: Gateway Drug Meets Real Deal

April 17, 2009

Prelude vs. M3 003.jpg

When I scored the keys to the M3 last night, I couldn't resist going on an impromptu comparison drive. 2002 M3 with 70k miles vs. my recently acquired 2001 Prelude with 68k miles -- fair fight, right? Right, except for, um, the M3's rear-wheel drive and additional 133 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. In other words, the M3 is infinitely awesomer than the 'Lude. But the experience did remind me that Honda's classic VTEC fours are total gateway drugs for M power.

That's why I've had a thing for our M3 ever since I ran it through the gears for the first time. Like the Prelude, or my old Integra GS-R, or an S2000, the M3 has a motor that practically begs you to drive the whee out of it -- but unlike those torqueless wonders, the M3's inline-6 has good pull from as low as 3,000 rpm, and it just keeps building in a seamless surge until the rev limiter intervenes. It's basically VTEC version 2.0: same thrilling high-rpm thrust and soundtrack, with the added bonus of usable midrange torque. Ditto the M5's V10 and the new M3's V8. I suspect I speak for VTEC owners everywhere when I say that these Hondas are what you drive until you can afford an M.

I do wish the M3 had the Prelude's shifter though. The Honda takes that category hands down.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 70,104 miles

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