2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test


2002 BMW M3 vs. 2008 BMW 135i: Self-Contradictory Nonsense

February 20, 2009

M3 lead textcast 2 950.jpg

This week's textcast gets to the heart of the recent 135i vs. M3 brouhaha. Eventually. We promise. Click on the photos to enlarge.

(1:58:52 PM) Sadlier: Legacy GT: best car subaru makes. and quite possibly the best-handling family sedan, period. despite body roll and gooey steering. tell me why i'm wrong
(2:07:14 PM) Magrath: I'll agree that it's the best car they make now that the Forester has jumped the shark.
(2:08:07 PM) Magrath: As for the rest of your nonsense, self-contradictory nonsense....well, it's just not right.
(2:09:07 PM) Sadlier: seriously, all that suspension needs is some firming-up. it feels like they started with a sport sedan and dumbed it down for americans
(2:09:41 PM) Magrath: ...some firming up and some being better at being AWD.
(2:09:45 PM) Sadlier: how so?
(2:10:31 PM) Magrath: It doesn't rotate off throttle. It plows or oversteers. There's no middle ground that a good AWD setup can usually find. It was one of those things that I was glad was verified by the test data because I just thought I was bad at driving it.
(2:11:43 PM) Sadlier: well, i definitely tossed it around with more abandon than any previous family sedan. you know what it reminded me of -- a softer and less sharp but more entertaining A4
(2:20:55 PM) Magrath: More entertaining = less stable? You're quickly falling down the hole of "less confidence means more fun!"
(2:21:30 PM) Sadlier: that's my motto. the less confidence the better
(2:21:34 PM) Magrath: Soon you'll have a '65 mustang with one seat, no carpeting, bias-ply tires and no seatbelts.
(2:21:47 PM) Sadlier: now that sounds entertaining

(2:25:39 PM) Magrath: In what way? Honest question.
(2:26:54 PM) Sadlier: well, i suppose not in any way that would involve an accident (seatbelts)
(2:27:08 PM) Sadlier: maybe just doing donuts in my high-school parking lot
135i textcast 2 950.jpg (2:28:43 PM) Magrath : Ok, that I'll buy. But let's go back to 135 vs. M3 for a moment: Why wouldn't you give up 2% of feel for 104% performance + 120% better ride? I feel this way about most classics.
(2:29:08 PM) Sadlier : wait, the 135 has a 20% better ride than M3?
(2:29:36 PM) Magrath : Well, all things combined. Not on the highway with the Sumitomos .
(2:29:44 PM) Sadlier : actually, with the sumitomos, i think M3=135, basically. 135's ride is no great shakes. when the M3 had the previous tires, sure, 135 rode better
(2:30:03 PM) Magrath : and I'm talking manual sport seats on 135, not our crap seats, so i guess in an apples-apples long term comparison, the odds are stacked for the M3.
(2:30:20 PM) Sadlier : honestly the M3 for me is at least 60% about the engine and transmission combo. i would fall for just about anything with four wheels and that powertrain. it also helps that the seat fits perfectly and the center stack is nicely designed, and that the styling's great and the handling is superb
(2:31:26 PM) Sadlier : though it could do with some new bushings or something to fix the on-center looseness in the steering
(2:31:32 PM) Magrath : You mean the beat-to-hell transmission that can barely swap cogs? Or the beat to hell shifter that has no spring tension left? Or the beat to hell engine that burns a quart of oil a month and sounds like a clip of "will it blend" at high rpm and has no torque?
(2:31:40 PM) Sadlier : what can I say, that powertrain and i are just on the same page
(2:32:21 PM) Sadlier : also, i have to take issue with your M3 clutch-bashing of late. yes it's got that wonky dead travel at the bottom 2 inches, but i don't think it feels like it's about to break. in fact it feels quite robust to me
(2:33:10 PM) Magrath : Did you read the comments by Jacquot on the M3's test of the Sumitomos? We've held off testing that a few times for fear of the well-worn clutch. There can't be more than a few months left in that thing's life.
(2:33:25 PM) Sadlier : yeah, what did he write..."must not slip clutch," he said
(2:33:57 PM) Magrath : That or "must not break clutch"
(2:34:02 PM) Sadlier : ha. don't see that in the comments. that's interesting though...i guess i like my M3 clutches well-worn
(2:35:01 PM) Magrath : It's not, in all fairness, as bad as the GSR's clutch...now that thing is on last legs.
(2:35:13 PM) Sadlier : yes, that one is about done. and i didn't care for it even when it wasn't about done. for what i do with the M3 though -- medium-aggressive launches, redline upshifts, matching revs on downshifts -- the clutch is on the money
(2:36:20 PM) Magrath : A worn clutch would help with all of those things. It'll slip more, allowing a smoother transition. A new, correctly operating clutch is less forgiving.
(2:36:42 PM) Sadlier : well, hell. may it forever teeter on the brink of death
(2:40:39 PM) Sadlier : also, your "no torque" assessment of the S54 above is of course an exaggeration. unless i am, say, trying to keep up with a violently modded Evo GSR on a tight road [future textcast teaser -- Ed. ], i'm always pleasantly surprised by how much the S54 has in the low-to-midrange given its sky-high redline. yes, you need to downshift to get serious (unlike the 135 and its yawn-inducing torque plateau), but if you're only kind of serious, the M3 moves out pretty well from 3k rpm
(2:42:51 PM) Sadlier : i mean, you could levy the same "no torque" accusation against the R8. its power delivery is quite similar to the M3's. doesn't mean the engine therefore doesn't kick ass
(2:44:13 PM) Magrath : yeah, the no torque comment is hyperbole, but the M3 does require more shifting than the 135.
M3 textcast 2 950.jpg (2:44:22 PM) Sadlier : yes, which i prefer. that was i believe my first comment when i returned from my initial drive in the 135 -- "shifting is optional." i'd rather it be mandatory
(2:44:56 PM) Magrath : Why?
(2:45:16 PM) Sadlier : i guess for the same reason i want a stick rather than an automatic. i want the car to demand my attention
(2:45:44 PM) Sadlier : within reason, of course. after the M3/R8, i don't miss my old Integra GSR and its 6k-or-nothing powerband. but i think the M3/R8 are pretty much the pinnacle, in our fleet at least, as far as demanding driver attention without being overly high-strung (shame about R tronic though)
(2:46:13 PM) Sadlier : and also as far as being really fast and sounding great
(2:49:11 PM) Magrath : But why is your attention in that arena? Steering and braking require 10X more skill (especially braking) than shifting but get no love. I think it's because "car guys" have become snobs. Not everyone can drive a stick, therefore knowing how to drive one supposedly means you're a better driver. It doesn't. It's the curse of hubris. The less attention you have to pay to shifting gears (which a computer can do better, faster and more consistently -- racecars go faster with manumatics), the more you can devote to steering, braking and acceleration.
(2:50:16 PM) Sadlier : yes, and so if my life depended on making the best number around a track, i would select PDK or what-have-you without a second thought. but my life has never depended on making the best number around a track. that being the case, i happen to get more enjoyment out of shifting for myself (and, as in the M3, shifting relatively often), hence my preference for stickshifts hooked to n/a engines with high redlines
(2:52:15 PM) Magrath : Point being, what a good, torque-rich engine -- or a well-sorted automaticky thing-- allows a driver to do is focus on driving and not on the mechanics of how a car works.
(2:52:28 PM) Sadlier : i would actually disagree with that somewhat. i would say that a torque-rich engine allows a driver to be lazy or inattentive without serious repercussions
(2:53:04 PM) Sadlier : where "serious" = speed-scrubbing, momentum-killing. a higher-strung engine demands more thinking before the corner, and punishes you more if you didn't think enough. there's an almost athletic challenge in keeping up with an engine like that, and i enjoy it
(2:59:52 PM) Magrath : Conservation of momentum. Congratulations, you could be a Miata racer with that mentality.
(3:01:23 PM) Sadlier : though please note that i do enjoy low-end torque. it's good for laying patches , and other antisocial activities
(3:01:49 PM) Magrath : ..and I enjoy high-rpm NA motors. Much moreso than turbo ones. Or big lumpy pushrods.
(3:02:27 PM) Magrath : But there's a quality to the turbo mills, and to the pushrods, that makes them better all around-real world cars.
(3:02:44 PM) Sadlier : well, for people who drive like real-world drivers, yes, i.e. people who shift at 3k rpm and are always half paying attention to something else. for them, a twin-scroll turbo six or pushrod V8 will make life easier
(3:04:16 PM) Magrath : No, for people who drive like real-world drivers AND like enthusiasts....if I had just a toy that I towed or left at the track, it would have a screaming NA motor, but around here you have to slog through traffic to get to fun.
(3:04:28 PM) Sadlier : ...and as noted, the S54 is perfectly adequate for squirting through traffic at low-to-mid rpm
(3:05:42 PM) Sadlier : but wait a minute, rewind the tape. if you like high-rpm n/a motors more than turbos or pushrods, then what's above high-rpm n/a motors in your pecking order? given all your grousing about the S54, you must ultimately prefer a different genre
(3:06:53 PM) Magrath : As far as personal preference goes? Nothing. Well, a high RPM turbo is nice, but I love a fast, responsive NA motor.
R8 textcast 2 950.jpg (3:07:12 PM) Sadlier : but...but what n/a motor, within reason, is faster and more responsive than the S54?!
(3:07:47 PM) Sadlier : i.e. the engine you have likened to...what was it? a blender? spinning itself into oblivion?
(3:08:32 PM) Magrath : Actually the R8's 4.2 V8 is my favorite motor when hooked to a manual transmission. And yes, I'm aware that this statement may invalidate everything I've said in the past hour. Shove that in your Logic book!

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