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: 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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2009 BMW M3: Due for Service

February 05, 2010

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This morning I fired up our 2009 BMW M3 and this is what it told me. Turns out we're due for a service. We'll set up an appointment next week and let you know how it goes.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 16,300 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Another Quart of Oil, Please

January 11, 2010

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Ever since I got the keys to the M3 last week, I've noticed that the car has been queuing up its various electronic one-quart-low engine oil warnings (as previously detailed previously by Mike here.) This is, of course, not the first time we've had to top off the oil level with an additional quart. Just last month Scott added a quart at 13,004 miles.

My intention was to add just one-half of a quart of oil, but due to my initial unfamiliarity with the M3's oil monitoring system, I ended up adding a full quart. What happened: I first added half-a-quart and fired up the car. The engine oil sensor is always a bit finicky; you have to wait for it to give a readout, like when you're booting up a computer or something. When a reading came up, it was showing an oil level nearly the same as it was before I added the quart. Hmm. Worried that the oil level might have been way low, I shut 'er off and added the rest of the quart.

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2009 BMW M3: Low washer fluid

December 16, 2009

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The windshield washer fluid in our long-term 2009 BMW M3 is low.

The telltale between the meters in the pic above shows that. But I couldn't find any mention in the Navi display (under the service menu) through the iDrive.

BMW does give you a single auditory chime that's exactly the same as when you unlatch the seatbelt or leave the parking brake on (the first click), so you have to look at the meters to see what's going on. Not that I've done either of those other two.

UPDATE: I just came back from adding washer fluid. Hit the jump to see my surprise.

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2009 BMW M3: Fixed, but in a Temporary Way

December 14, 2009

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Once again, our friends at Stokes Tire Pros came through in a jiffy. The right-rear tire with the screw in it was repairable, but they also knew we had the left-rear replaced only two months ago. The right-rear has only a few thousand miles to go before it, too, needs replacement.

Having the car up on the lift also gave me an opportunity to shoot a few cool photos of the undercarriage. Follow the jump if you care to see them.

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2009 BMW M3: Screwed, but in a Special Way

December 14, 2009

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I was fortunate enough to have the M3 this weekend, and even on the freeway, in steady rain, the 414-hp RWD M3 maintained its composure and its "better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts" character still shined through. So much so that my wife could tell I was driving the M3 with more gusto and enjoyment than most weekend cars. She asked, "So, is this car special?" To which I replied, "Oh, Hon. You have no idea..."

Sure, there are "better" cars on paper; more powerful, more nimble, less expensive, and some would say better looking. But as I listed for my wife all the things that make the M3 the ultimate 3 Series sedan, I realized that it wasn't the parts list, but rather its character that had me hooked.

There's a short list of cars that for me are far better than the sum of their parts: this M3, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and the Porsche 911 GT3 come immediately to mind. Yes, they all have an enviable parts list and should be "special" for the amount they cost, but there's more to it than that. It's how the parts are screwed together, the way in which they interact, and the fact that somebody, with an even greater knowledge than me of what makes a car feel the way it does, tuned all its systems to a level of harmony that few manufacturers have ever achieved--and others fail to even notice.

There's one manufacturer (who shall remain nameless) who has a knack for making a vehicle look competitive on paper, even superior in terms of track results, but rarely does the vehicle feel "right" or come close to overall benchmark status because the feedback is all wrong.

Not so in the M3.

After explaining all that to my wife, she said, "I'm happy for you--now can you please stop driving like that?"

"Sorry, Honey. No can do. It wants to be driven like this; it needs to be driven like this--I owe it to the guys who designed and built it."

Oh, and last night, a Sunday night, at around 4:30 pm, I noticed this giant screw-head in the right-rear tire. I checked the pressure, it was the same as the left-rear and from the look of the screw's head, it had been there some time. Rather than run around town and bribe some tire store guy to stay open to either patch or replace the tire, I decided it was safe enough to wait until this morning and take it to Stokes.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 13,405 miles

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: In Need of Oil

December 06, 2009

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Yesterday our long-term 2009 BMW M3 informed me that its V8 needed a quart of oil. Easy enough. I checked the owner's manual, which stated very clearly that BMW recommends Castrol brand and the engine needs synthetic oil in a variety of acceptable viscosities.

I bought a quart of Castol Syntec 10W-40 and poured it in. Cost? $6.99 plus tax.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 13,004 miles

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: Versus GT-R

November 02, 2009

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We used our 2009 BMW M3 sedan as a chase car to shuttle the GT-R to a service appointment this morning. Seeing the two beside one another made me wonder just how they sized up in terms of performance. Check out these numbers. Then look at the total package.

Which would you choose?

M3 Sedan
Price: $67,370
0-60 mph: 4.8 seconds
1/4-mile: 12.9 @ 111.0 mph
Slalom: 71.8 mph
Skidpad: 0.93 g
Service: 4-yr/50,000-mile free scheduled maintenance
Cost to date: $500.00 (@ 12,000 miles)

GT-R
Price: $73,165
0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
1/4-mile: 11.8 @ 118.6 mph
Slalom: 74.0 mph
Skidpad: 0.93 g
Service: Pay as you go
Cost to date: $8,000.00 (@ 30,000 miles)

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 11,210 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Screwed

October 14, 2009

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Maybe my eyesight is getting worse. Or much, much better. Either way, I managed to hit a screw at the exact intersection of the sidewall and the tire tread. Bullseye! And by 'bullseye', of course I mean, 'damn.'

Short story short: A new Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 size 265/40ZR18 rang up an as-installed cost of $420.81 and took Stokes Tire Pros here in Santa Monica about an hour to do and about 12 hours to locate a tire.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 10,577 miles.

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2009 BMW M3: Another day, another E-warning

October 13, 2009

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On Sunday I asked the question, "Maintenance Reminders: Are they making us lazy, or are they keeping our cars better cared for?" and there were mixed results. Mostly, though, you thought as I do: It's best to be aware, but at the end of the day, having a computer tell you what to do is a handy back-up.

Trouble is, sometimes you encounter a problem soon after taking preventative action. For example, Friday night, some 48 hours before this warning, I checked the tire pressures on the M3 before a slightly spirited run through SoCal (which we'll get to in another post).

At this reading the driver side rear tire read 28 psi instead of the 35 the door sticker wanted. I gave it a visual inspection, rolling the car back and forth, saw nothing hit the closest gas station, got back up to 35 psi, and then drove the 4 miles home.

The M3 is at Stokes now, we'll know more soon.

Follow the jump for more pictures of the warning systems BMW employs for this issue.

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2009 BMW M3: Engine Oil Low, Add Engine Oil

October 11, 2009

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It's no secret to anyone who's ever owned / driven / seen a BMW M3 that these things burn oil. >100 hp/liter and an 8,400 rpm redline will do that to a motor. But this blog isn't about that. Not really. By now we all know it happens and we know that the oil costs $20 from the BMW dealership.

Nope, none of that is news. It would be like putting up a new blog each time we fill the tank with gas. What this is about then is the handy warning systems deployed by the M3 when the oil dips below the "safe" zone.

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: You Sure You're OK?

August 11, 2009

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I ran an electronic check of the oil in our 2009 BMW M3 sedan yesterday and I got the following display. Everything's green. The oil level is OK.

But look where the level reads on the virtual dipstick. If the oil read at this level on normal dipstick, I wouldn't think the level was OK. Rather, I would add a 1/4 to a 1/2 quart of oil to get it back up to the halfway mark.

Well, we're treating our E90 BMW M3 (and our other cars without a conventional dipstick) the same. If the oil reads below the halfway mark, we add oil.

I looked for the M3's preferred 10W60 synthetic at the auto parts store, but of course didn't find it. I did find 5W50 synthetic, which, per the owner's manual, is one of the acceptable alternates (10W40 and 10W50 are the others), for $6.99/quart plus tax. But the ratings on the bottle don't quite jibe with the more specific requirements BMW lays out on its web site (thanks to sodaguy for directing us to this page).

So, through gritted teeth, I drove to Santa Monica BMW and paid $20.87 plus tax for one liter (1.05 quarts) of Castrol TWS Motorsport 10W60. That's nowhere near as bad as buying differential oil for the GT-R, but if we were going to be living with the M3 for more than a year, I'd try to find a cheaper solution for oil top-offs than this. Surely, there's an M-friendly wholesaler out there.

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2009 BMW M3: I Just Checked the Oil at 80 mph

July 07, 2009

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This is a cool feature.

And now all the domestic fanboys can tell me why it isn't.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 5,599 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Quick, Add Some Washer Fluid

June 30, 2009

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In what is surely the least complicated piece of maintenance ever performed on an E90 M3, I refilled our car's windshield washer fluid this morning. Sure, I could have gone to the dealer to have it refilled for free, but why bother when I could dig into the guts of this beast and take care of it myself?

Actually, I was just bored waiting to fill up at the gas station and there was no digging as you only have to flip a very accessible lid open. I was also sick of seeing the overzealous dashboard warning signal staring me in the face. The thing lights up with a big orange flasher complete with an exclamation point. The first time I saw it, I thought the engine was about to spit a piston through the hood.

Upon closer inspection, I realized the slightly less dire nature of the warning and figured it could wait until the next fill up. Incidentally, the M3 returned about 18mpg over the weekend. Not bad for a V8 that was working pretty hard most of the time. And don't forget, when you Peak, you win.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 5,211 miles


UPDATE: Why I'm glad I didn't use BMW fluid, after the jump. Thanks willin58.


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2009 BMW M3 sedan: Happy Birthday

June 26, 2009

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When I signed out our long-term 2009 BMW M3 sedan last night, I initially didn't notice the note on the board: "49xx miles, milestone approaching." That means the lucky person who witnesses the milestone achievement of 5000 miles needs to snap a pic of the odo.

The M3 at 5000 miles drives like it's new (because it is new). I noticed that the clutch and shifter are slightly heavier than our LT 135. Perhaps to handle the greater torque generated by the 4.0L V8?

The car says the next oil change is due in 2011! and the next major service in 2013!!
By this time, the service will be conducted not by BMW, but by Skynet.

Our M3 shares its birthday with our colleague subytrojan.
Both of them will be celebrating this weekend at the Chuck-E-Cheese in Chino, CA.

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: 1,200-Mile Service

April 27, 2009

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As part of the break-in procedure, a service is required at 1,200 miles. They change the oil (10w60) and the final drive gear oil and check for potential updates to the software-- there were none. The service took BMW of Beverly Hills about 4 hours and cost absolutely nothing. The GT-R's 1000-mile service only cost $179 because they didn't have official pricing yet.

Free maintenance, I dig it.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 1,351 miles.

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2009 BMW M3: Well that was quick

April 22, 2009

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We just finished the break-in and ran our new arrival to the track for initial testing yesterday -- results to follow shortly. Maybe we ran it to redline a few times during testing (yup), maybe it's normal protocol to change the first sumpful of oil after the car's initial break-in, but after the M3 sedan had a night to consider such things, the dash offered the international symbol for "look at me," or the exclamation point within a red triangle. Navigating (quite easily I might add) the new iDrive menus brought this message. It didn't offer this guilt-ridden message 40 miles ago, mind you, so the implication that we ignored it is false. Sheesh, layoff, okay? More to come.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 1,305 miles

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