2009 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW M3: The case for nav...and dipsticks

March 29, 2010

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About a week ago I posted my annoyance at the GMC Terrain for not allowing navigation inputs while driving (there is voice control for it, but that's another blog. Hint: it's not great.). 1487 hit the nail on the head, "apparently GM is taking notes from Toyota with regards to using nav while moving. Thats a shame." While others went a different direction, wondering why I'd ever bother with built-in nav in the first place. Something about maps and motor clubs and other things I don't understand.

Here's why I like navigation: I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Vegas (really, I was forced into it, "Surprise, Magrath, get to Vegas. Your assistance is needed.") and in Henderson I checked the oil via the little computer which said, roughly, "Hey, you're low on oil. Still OK, not great, though." To which I replied, "Hey, iDrive, can you point me to the closest BMW dealership? Yes? Great." I didn't have a map. I don't think I'll ever own a map.

Sure, I could've used my blackberry to similar results, but this map is bigger and faster and has better resolution. It's a cool, handy toy that, in the M3 at least is in a very attractive $3,250 bundle that comes with comfort access -- along with not owning a map, I hope never to own another key to a car-- M-drive button (!), and the electronic dampers. All of those things are awesome on this car and I figure if you're buying an M3, get this package instead of the $2,900 waste-of-a-great-car automatic.

As for that dipstick thing in the title...well, jump for some raning.

So I check the oil via the stalk-mounted button and the level is below the indicator in the middle. I'm about to do a lot more...enthusiastic....driving in the near future and I'd be happy if the level was right in between the two marks.

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2009 BMW M3: You've Got To Be Kidding Me

March 23, 2010

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Another week, another BMW tire repair. This time it was the left rear on our M3. No TPMS warning, just caught it at the gas station when checking tread wear.

Stokes fixed this one for $25.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2009 BMW M3: Does It Have to Be Red?

March 23, 2010

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Another Inside Line BMW M3, another flamboyant red interior.

Every time I drive our 2009 M3 sedan, I'm reminded of a James May column (read it) in Top Gear. He wrote it a few years back when Jeremy Clarkson was shopping for a Gallardo. May's point, made convincingly I thought, was that it made no sense to buy a Lambo and do it up with understated black or dark green paint. There's no racing heritage in a Lamborghini; rather, these cars are all about flamboyance bordering on vulgarity. So you have to choose one of the wild and crazy paint codes, or else people will think you're delusional about the marque's history.

For different reasons, I feel BMW M3 buyers are obligated to get the Fox Red Novillo leather.

BMW builds some entertaining cars, but they take themselves so darn seriously. How else to explain their conservative designs (the company is doing its best to eradicate all traces of the Chris Bangle era) and dour, no-tolerance-for-nonsense interiors?

As capable as it is, our M3 sedan has no business taking itself seriously. Yep, this is a car a businessperson might drive, but it makes all sorts of nasty, vicious sounds at startup, and as you drive around town, you hear all sorts of noises and vibrations that you wouldn't hear in an ordinary 3 Series sedan. This is the soundtrack of a car, or a warship, with so much power and weaponry, it's trying to tear itself apart. Sold under a different brand by less prosperous dealerships, this car might be called "Lancer Evolution."

Of course, the M3 has evolved into a pretty luxurious car over the years. But there's still a streak of rawness in it and there's no sense hiding that under beige or black leather. So it's up to you to encourage BMW to be a little less serious. It's up to you to order the red hide.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 18,595 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Brilliant, But Would I Buy One?

March 15, 2010

BMW M3 at Bergamot Museum

This is the question I posed to myself this weekend. Sure, I essentially wrote it a love letter on Friday, and another canyon drive (this time a wee bit faster) reinforced my appreciation for this brilliant machine. However, on a day-to-day basis, I fear that its frenetic nature would grow tiresome, like being friends with Jim Carrey. Sure, great fun on the weekends, but sometimes you just want to relax and watch some TV.

Usually, the "should I drive a sports car every day?" debate centers around ride quality and space issues. Well, those aren't the M3's problems. The ride is actually quite comfortable and the thing is a sedan, after all. My issue is that it takes due diligence to drive it smoothly at normal speeds around town. The M3 is a performance machine and it wants to be treated as such, yet sometimes you just can't or don't want to blast away up to 7,500. Getting the clutch and throttle application just right to prevent herking and jerking takes a lot more concentration than in the S5 or in the easiest car to drive smoothly ever, our new GTI. There's also a fair bit of road noise. These are problems, they are inherent sports car compromises.

As such, I think for the M3's price tag of $67,370, I'd opt for something a little more neutral in character. Something a little more civil for those times away from a canyon and/or in the presence of a girlfriend who'd quietly prefer her travels not to feel like a roller coaster. The E550 Coupe would probably have the exact opposite problem (like being friends with Jim Cameron), so perhaps the answer is an S5, or perhaps a 335i and a boat load of cash.

Either way, I probably wouldn't buy an M3 ... but I'm certainly thrilled to drive it whenever I can.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 18,021 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Tapping Into My Darkside

March 11, 2010

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It's no surprise that our 2009 BMW M3 was voted as the No. 2 long-term favorite of our editors. I know I love it. The only thing is that I also realized that if this were my car I'd be such an a-hole. I'm not saying that every M3 owner is an a-hole, just that I know I would be.

It seems like when I get behind the wheel of this car, suddenly everyone in the world doesn't know how to drive. Why so slow, people? The M3 aggravates my impatience.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 17,861 miles

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Editors' Favorites Number Two: 2009 BMW M3

March 11, 2010

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By the slimmest of margins, our 2009 BMW M3 sedan overtook the GT-R for second place. Its one-year test is not quite done, but it's obvious that the M3 has long-lasting appeal due to its combination of exemplary performance and everyday practicality.

Interestingly, there seems to be two camps within our editorial group; of all our 20-plus editors, only one voted for both the GT-R and the M3. Everybody else, if they voted at all for one of these two cars, made their choice an exclusive pick. Blue state versus Red. GT-R versus M3.

And with that, Editors' Favorites Five, Four, Three and Two are done. Tomorrow we conclude with Number One (hint: it's not the Veracruz). Following that on Monday, we'll also have the runners-up and the winner (?) of our Biggest Long-Term Loser vote.

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2009 BMW M3: Which Wheels Do You Prefer?

March 06, 2010

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First off, please excuse the photo, I know it's crap but I wasn't about to put off my Saturday morning bagel and coffee for a better angle. Anyway, it just so happens that an identical white BMW M3 parked next to our long-termer. It had the red interior and everything, but as you can sort of see, the owner chose to go with the larger wheel and tire combination.

We liked the look and ride quality of the slightly smaller 18s, but it's rare to see one so equipped. What look would you choose?

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line

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2009 BMW M3: Does It Sound Good at Startup?

March 03, 2010

Crank the volume on your speakers, as this was not shot with the best camera or by the best videographer (also, the sun suddenly went nova while the video was being shot... go figure). So listen and then decide if you're yay, nay or meh.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,748 miles

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2009 BMW M3: The Clouds Parted

March 01, 2010

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Perspective is a good thing. You'll probably roll your eyes at what I have to say here, but I do get spoiled with the cars we have available from time to time to drive. I can take things for granted and don't always appreciate a beautiful machine when I drive it.

I own a Mazda 3. It's a solid car. Does nothing great, but does a pretty good job at most everything to make it a well rounded car. For the better part of two weeks I've been in that, and no long term/test cars. I thought my 3 was peppy and fun. It wasn't until I got into our BMW M3 over the weekend did I realize my car is a dog.

I know, "No sh**, Sherlock. It's an M3 with a V8." It's not fair to compare the two, I grant you that. But the perspective of Mazda 3 ownership just makes you realize how awesome the M3 is.

It's pretty. It's got a muscular shape that exudes an "I like to go fast" attitude. It's got a beautiful growl, a responsive throttle and a fat steering wheel to control it all. I purposely drove late at night just so I could hit those freeway entrances and blast through the gears with no traffic and no worries. Just hearing that sucker scream as I hit fifth gear brought a big smile to my face. I wish I could own this mean machine on a full time basis.

Come Monday morning and back to the 3. Talk about letting the air out of my balloon. On the way out of the garage I stared at the M3 like that one hot college girlfriend I let get away because I was an idiot. Right as she left my sight I knew I missed her. You never really know what you had until it's gone.

Hell, maybe next weekend I can ask for the keys again?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2009 BMW M3: Service at 17,000 Miles

February 19, 2010

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Our service visit to Long Beach BMW was quick and cheap. Free scheduled maintenance covered the cost of the oil, oil filter, air filter and the typical moving parts inspections.

We had scheduled the appointment for our 2009 BMW M3 by phone. At the time we were warned, "Be sure you are on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late we will not take your vehicle and you will have to reschedule." We couldn't tell you if the threat was legitimate or not because it worked on us. We showed up on time.

A couple of hours later we received email notification that the service was complete. That was a welcome change to the usual phone call. Welcome until it was followed by multiple spam advertising messages from the dealership. Three before the day was up. We unsubscribed and the barrage stopped. Our phone rang the next day, "This is Long Beach BMW. We see you missed your appointment yesterday. When can we reschedule?" After explaining that we had in fact shown up, and on time, the call ended.

We were satisfied with the pre-service experience. But post-service communication can use some work.

Total Cost: None

Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 16,895 miles

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