Welcome to the Twilight Zone - 2002 BMW M3 Long-Term Road Test

2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

2002 BMW M3: Welcome to the Twilight Zone

June 04, 2008

Remember the Twilight Zone episode ("The Eye of the Beholder") where this woman is in the hospital awaiting plastic surgery to fix her heinous face? At one point in this episode the woman's mug is all bandaged up, and the surgeon is calming her, telling her he believes he has corrected her appearance to look normal -- like everyone else. But when the surgeon removes the bandages, he and the nurses recoil in horror -- the procedure is a total failure. She has retained her pre-operative appearance.

The camera then exposes her face -- she's a gorgeous blond! The camera pans over to the surgeon and the nurses -- they're hideous, porcine freaks.

To my mind, our long-term M3 is like the woman in this episode, except the other way around. When you take the bandages off, you see that it's really not all that special -- yet it's somehow the darling of our long-term fleet, the vehicle over which almost all of our staffers are effusive in their praise (JRiz isn't as enthused as the others).

For me, it's a good driving experience, but nothing to get excited about. Though it spins freely, the engine is not as powerful as its reputation would suggest, and the clutch feels a bit strange compared to the impressive clutches of the new BMW models. This M3's clutch pedal has a bit of dead travel, then a heavy stroke that suddenly falls away – not progressive at all. It's similar to the trigger pull on a double action revolver.

I know this car is old, but my outlook on this M3 also wasn't helped by all the interior creaking and the fact that it stinks. I don't mean the performance stunk, I mean olfactory-stink. Like someone left a cadaver in it.

I'll let the other porcine creatures gush over the E46 M3. This Twilight Zone viewer prefers the 135.

Albert Austria, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 56,665 mi

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