March 15, 2010
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
February 03, 2010
1) Can't figure out what's causing that rattle on the passenger side. But I hear it clearly even when I am flooring our 2009 BMW M3. It's definitely not the passenger-side seatbelt. It sounds like the door is rattling, like when you don't close it all the way. But I checked and they were both securely shut. Hmm.
2) Even though the M3 comes with a slew of seat controls to ensure that every driver is comfortable behind its wheel, for some reason they just weren't working for me. I couldn't seem to adjust the seat so that I was close enough and low enough to operate the clutch pedal. The thigh extender wasn't extended and I pressed the seat down button as low as it would go. It's funny because I don't recall it being this uncomfortable the last time I drove it back in November.
Since I wasn't comfortable and my left foot was just hovering in the air, my clutch work suh-hucked. Felt like a newbie all over again when just the night before I had a rip-roaring time with our Mazdaspeed 3. I know it's just me since none of the other drivers have complained about this. But I figured it was something to point out. Any theories...besides mean ones, that is?
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 16,211 miles
January 22, 2010
Remember earlier this week when I raved about the seat in the S5? Well, a night in the M3 reminded me that the BMW's seats are even better. And it has about the same amount of mileage on it.
I did notice that the M3's seats are definitely showing more noticeable wear though. Check out that left side bolster. So which would you prefer? Seats that feel great but look a little worn at 15K? Or seats that feel almost as nice, but don't look more than a few thousand miles old?
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line
December 09, 2009
I've noted the convenience of our M3 sedan in the past. With so little lost in terms of styling or performance, the sedan would be an easy choice for me.
But I don't want to oversell it either. Just take a look at those back seats. Not much room there for actual people. Sure I shoved a pre-packaged lamp back there once, but I'm not sure I would feel great about asking someone I liked to spend much time in back.
If I actually used my car to cart people around on a regular basis I might look into something a little bigger. But I don't, so the M3 would still be my $60K sedan of choice.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line
December 09, 2009
Last night the Motor Press Guild (MPG), the local association of automotive journalists, had its usual holiday dinner and presented its annual Dean Batchelor Award for accomplishment in various categories. Senior Photographer Scott Jacobs and Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr were both up for hardware in the photography category (although since Jacobs won the category last year, we figured another award wouldn't be in the cards for the boys). That's Jacobs' picture above and Niebuhr's below.
So it happened that we chose the 2009 BMW M3 for our ride to the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, near the Los Angeles airport. It was a cool ride, perfect for this sort of thing. But maybe not for the reasons you think.
October 19, 2009
(Our 2009 BMW M3 awaits its next freeway adventure. Photo by Andrew Reed.)
I've always said I would never own a BMW. I just hate the image. I'm sure you've all heard the joke about the difference between BMWs and porcupines. Sorry, I can't deliver the punch line here.
But after spending serious time in the 2002 BMW M3, the 2008 BMW 135i and now the 2009 BMW M3, I'm changing my tune.
I think that the BMW is the ultimate commuter car. Here's why.
I hit the 405 freeway in Los Angeles every morning at 5:45 a.m. Everyone on the road knows it's about to turn into gridlock so they drive like the pagan hordes were coming over the horizon. Five lanes wide and everyone is cutting in and out. But in a BMW, you feel you have everything at your disposal to cope with this chaos.
Specifically, you have more tools to work with than any other car. You can out-accelerate anything to merge into openings in other lanes (rather than dropping back and merging with less rear visibility). The brakes are so strong they give you security at the other end of the speed equation. And the handling is razor sharp for any kind of unexpected maneuver the situation calls for. Plus, the seats offer more adjustments than a chiropractor; the '09 M3 seats fit me like a glove.
Basically, it's like driving around in a safe on wheels. Then, throw in good resale value and decent fuel economy (I know, I know, it takes premium) and it all adds up to an attractive and surprisingly practical package.
So, I'm not saying I'm going to turn into a porcupine, but if I had to buy a commuter car I'd look for a well-maintained 3 or 5 series.
September 25, 2009
Yesterday, our long-term 2009 BMW M3 sedan escaped from LA. We left late. I turned on public radio. My passenger chatted about work. The ride was composed, compliant and not-at-all busy, even on the I-405 freeway. The 4.0-liter V8 was loafing in 6th gear and barely audible. I was perfectly situated in the cockpit -- the driver seat was supportive yet the lateral bolsters never felt too confining, and the steering wheel was positioned exactly as I like.
We arrived. I realized I hadn't given a single thought to our E90 M3's Motorsport identity (whereas in our departed E46 M3, it was all I thought about). I could have been in a 335i.
Then, I looked at my watch. Hmm, we got here awfully fast. And the fuel light did come on around 230 miles. So, there it is, a morning commute in a 2009 BMW M3.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,551 miles
September 15, 2009
What's the point of a sedan?
Well, it's got 4 doors - presumably to facilitate easy ingress and egress of passengers to the rear seats. It's probably got a decent trunk on the back of it too, you know, for stuff. In other words, it's safe to say that someone who buys a sedan carries 2-3 other people and their assorted stuff, on a regular basis. I'm sure there's a fair amount of people who buy them to appear older and more responsible, but those people are sad and we won't be talking about them.
The (my) problem with the M3 sedan is, if you're going to spend your days driving around with friends and family in the back seat and all of their stuff in the trunk, the M3 is a little pointless. While you might relish attacking freeway ramps and back roads, I doubt your friends and coworkers are going to appreciate getting thrown around like dice in a back alley on their way to an Olive Garden. Trust me, you showing off your bonkers car and questionable car control skills to your friends is going to get old.
Imagine if you had a family.
If your wife didn't wind up losing her voice screaming at you to slow down, regurgitating her lunch all over the dashboard or poking her eyes out with a mascara wand as you clip that perfect late apex, someone's going to call child protective services because your baby's going to have all the hallmarks of Shaken Baby Syndome.
The ride is just too stiff, and the temptation to destroy every road you drive is too great in this beast. Not mention the back seat isn't even that roomy. Sorry, M3's were born as two door cars and that's how they should stay. You want a good sedan? Buy a G8.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 8,714 miles
September 08, 2009
I love our 2009 BMW M3's front seats because they are so supportive, yet comfortable.
And they're adjustable for:
1. Seat back side bolster width
2. 4-way adjustable lumbar support
3. Seat bottom fore/aft and height
4. Seat back rake
5. 2-setting memory control
6. Manual thigh support extension
I also love the brick color leather. With most other luxury makes, you get a choice of black, tan, or gray. Boring.
But they're starting to creak. It's only noticeable at parking speeds when the radio is off, but it's there.
I don't think it's from contact of the seat with the center console, but that's possible.
The creaking isn't as bad as our dearly departed CTS, but our M3 has only 8000 miles.
We'll see if others here notice it too.
Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 8200 miles
August 10, 2009
I put over 300 miles on our 2009 BMW M3 sedan over the weekend. This was my first extended visit with the four-door, E90 version of the M3. Unfortunately, I was too heavily scheduled to get it on any back roads, but I enjoyed getting to know it on the freeway.
The 4.0-liter V8 (414 hp at 8,300 rpm, 295 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm) has all kinds of power, but it's not all evenly distributed throughout the range as it is on BMW's DI twin-turbos, so you feel like you're cheating yourself if you shift much before the 8,500-rpm redline. I like engines that give you this kind of incentive.
I could probably do without the engine's cold-start lumpiness. But I like that I can always hear the V8 at a 75-mph cruise, thanks to the modest overdrive reduction on the 6th gear (0.872) combined with a shortish final drive (3.850).
I have to agree with the criticism leveled against the M3's manual gearbox, but I'm so desperate to have a conversation with the cars I drive, that I find myself wanting to put up with the Getrag's long, springy clutch pedal stroke. I kept a pair of M3-friendly driving shoes in the trunk all weekend.
I had two additional passengers in our M3 sedan about a third of the time, so those rear doors and extra inch of rear legroom (34.6 versus 33.7 in the E92 coupe) were indispensable. Actually, our long-term M3 turned out to be a very practical car in these situations. It was adequately roomy for all of but one of the my passengers (there were 5 in total).
Even more surprising was its utterly compliant ride quality. With the exception of a slight busy feel (and audible resonance) over rain-grooved pavement (which doesn't exist in Germany where I'd guess the chassis tuning was finalized), it manages to feel highly controlled yet never, ever brutal.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,397 miles
May 11, 2009
There aren't many seats capable of contracting to the point of gripping my slender torso, so when I find some that do I feel the need to call them out. The front chairs in our M3 sedan are nearly flawless despite their relatively basic appearance, and it's not just because of their claw-like grip. They are also easy to adjust, firm without being uncomfortable and nicely finished.
I expect seats this good in a sedan this expensive, but that doesn't mean BMW doesn't deserve a little back slap for delivering on the promise.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line
April 24, 2009
Over the course of this year, you'll no doubt be hearing a lot of comparisons between our 2002 BMW M3 Coupe and our 2009 BMW M3 Sedan. No doubt, there'll be lots of Josh Sadlier pining for the old car as he weeps gently in the corner with a picture of his dear "Emmy." No, he hasn't admitted to naming the M3, but I just know he has.
So to kick off the festivities, I thought I'd weigh in about an area not typically discussed in regards to a BMW M3: how easy it is to drive in traffic. The old M3 has a rather stiff clutch pedal that feels like it's attached to a taut coil spring (at least according to my leg). It's marvelous during aggressive driving, but it grows tiresome in stop-and-go traffic. Other than our STI, it was the last long-termer I wanted to get stuck in gridlock with.
By contrast, I'd be happy to take the new M3 any day of the week. The engagement point can be a little tricky at first, but after three or four blocks, there was no more jerking about. Clutch effort is now much easier on the old hamstrings, but still manages to feel mechanical and communicative. Perhaps this is where the car has lost some raw charm, but on a day-to-day basis, I could live with that.
Oh, and the audio/nav interface doesn't make me want to rip it out of the car and chuck it onto the street. That's right, I'll say it, "Yay iDrive!"
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1,311 miles