2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

2002 BMW M3: Poor Man's Dream

March 03, 2008

Here's something I really love about our 2002 BMW M3: I could afford it.

I've long been a fan of buying used cars. But never have I felt stronger about how it maximizes your dollar than when you buy an older performance car. We paid $30,000 for this car, roughly half of what a new one costs. While it is half the price it is almost as much fun as a brand new one. Sure it's a little loose in the transmission and suspension. And the beautiful red leather has been worn smooth. But five minutes behind the wheel and all regrets melt away.

I spent the weekend in the M3 pretending I was a different person, someone who has rarefied taste (perhaps a wine swirler) a man who knows quality when he sees it and demands the best, dammit. The M3 was the perfect costume for me. I had to go to a fancy OC raquet club (not a "racket club" mind you) and I was careful to park near the front door. As I pulled out of the parking lot I let the German engineering growl disdainfully at lesser vehicles around me.

The driving dynamics of the M3 are so superior to other cars that you aren't really driving the car until you begin to push it well beyond the normal requirements of traffic. Merging onto the 405 Freeway where it meets the 22 and the 605 there are about eight lanes of traffic, a vast expanse of asphalt. With all the mid-range and high-end acceleration I was through there like a hot knife through butter.

One thing that surprised me was how good the visibility is in this car. With all this speed on tap, and a desire to try moves you wouldn't attempt in other cars, it's a good thing you have a clear view of the landscape around you.

The only thing that scares me about this car is the potential repair bills. If I bought one I'd probably go the certified route.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 52,680 miles

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