2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

2002 BMW M3: I'll take a new BMW, thank you

April 22, 2008

2002 M3 Gearbox (and it glows!!!)

Count me in the seeming minority of those who prefer the new M3 to the last-generation model. I'll leave direct comparisons between the generations to the forthcoming Inside Line comparo, but there is one area where my preferences are clear. I drove our '02 M3 home for the first time last night, which meant a typical slog through traffic. While the M3's stiff, relatively short travel clutch is a treat in free-flowing traffic and in aggressive driving, it feels like a rubbery SoloFlex setting in stop-and-go...

Having driven a variety of new BMW manual transmissions recently, I must say that the new editions provide a better balance for aggressive and everyday driving.

Our M3's gearbox is also notchier than newer models' (especially the 550i I drove all weekend), with a fair bit of that rubbery feel BMW has extricated from its recent gearboxes. In fact, I would say the M3's transmission feels more closely related to my 1998 Z3 2.8 than the 1's, 3's, 5's and M3's of 2008. (Unlike all of them, though, our M3's shifter glows red. Nifty.)

Having said all that, the 2002 M3 is still wonderful. I just think it's showing its age more than some other folks do.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 55,328 miles

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