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2002 BMW M3: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2002 BMW M3 as our editors live with this car for a year.

BMW M3 2002

What do you want to know about?


July 07, 2009

After six months and more than $4,000 in repairs and maintenance, we're still not ready to give up our 1984 Ferrari 308. It's simply too much fun. But we are almost ready to admit that it isn't the best daily driver.

This is irrefutable proof that we're pig-headed, but we're not stupid.

Further proof: We've purchased ourselves another not-so-new car for our long-term test fleet. It's a 2002 BMW M3, and it just might be the absolute best way to spend $30,000 since the Gentleman's Club.

What We Bought
Our 2002 model is a highly optioned black M3 coupe with a six-speed manual transmission and the standard 18-inch wheels and tires. It's exactly the car we set out to find; no SMG transmission, no convertible.

Aside from those restrictions and a budget of around $30,000, we were up for almost anything, including the hideous yellow worn by the M3 in this promotional video we found on YouTube.

After a week or so, our search expanded as far from our Santa Monica office as Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota. But that quickly proved to be a dumb move. Sure, rear-wheel-drive high-performance cars are cheaper in the Snowbelt during the dead of winter, but Southern California had a few gazillion M3s to choose from, and none of them has ever been struck by a snowplow, completely glazed in road salt or driven to a Whitesnake concert. Also, the cost of getting the car home would pretty much soak up any money saved by buying out of state.

After a few weeks on the trail and a few close deals, this black coupe appeared on It was a recent trade-in by its original owner for a new 335i at the Santa Barbara Auto Group, a dealership about 100 miles north of our office. A friend of ours lives in the coastal paradise that is Santa Barbara, and agreed to check it out for us the following morning.

Like every other M3 of similar vintage, the car had just turned 49,000 miles. It was sold originally by this same dealer and serviced there as well. Everything works and its red leather seats and door panels are like new. Tires are good: In fact, during prep the dealer replaced two. The salesman, who could not have been more pleasant to deal with, also told us they repainted the front bumper and changed all the car's fluids. A quick test-drive to feel the clutch, brakes and the pull of the 333-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder and we were at the negotiating table. Asking price was $33,900.

Wondering what we should pay, we consulted Edmunds' True Market Value® Pricing. The car is in outstanding condition after the dealer's improvements, and is equipped with every option in the book besides the unlikable SMG transmission. The list includes heated front seats, power moonroof, rear side airbags, navigation system, power front passenger seat, AM/FM cassette Harman/Kardon audio system, rear parking sensors and a power driver seat with memory. Heck, the thing's even got a rear ski bag and rain-sensing windshield wipers. TMV pricing report: $28,889.

We talked the dealer down to $30,000 and drove the car home.

Why We Bought It
The Roundelisti will tell you the first M3 (E30) is the best. We disagree. This M3, the E46 M3, sold between 2002 and about five minutes ago, is the absolute best BMW M3 ever made.

But that's not why we bought it. We bought it because everyone we know wants one. It's the dream ride for every young gearhead. If you were born during the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan or Clinton administrations, chances are an E46 M3 is on your wish list. Plus, it'll look fantastic parked next to our Ferrari.

Named for its internal chassis code, the E46 generation of M3 came after the E36 and is about to be replaced by the E92. It's sure to go down in history as one of the most desirable cars of all time. It was designed before iDrive, Chris Bangle and BMW's desire to make the M3 compete with a Porsche 911. It's timeless. And it's suddenly affordable for working stiffs like us.

There isn't really much more to it than that. Pure desire.

Although we don't plan on drifting the car like these maniacs in the above video, we do plan on modifying it slightly during its year with us. There are wheels and tires in its future (which is why we didn't want the optional 19-inch wheels), a short-throw shifter maybe, and anything else we can think of that will improve the car without negatively affecting its reliability.

And so we just bought an M3 for less money than the sticker price of our long-term Honda Accord V6. Like we said, we're not stupid. Check our long-term blog pages for regular updates from the M3's driver seat. Hopefully it'll prove more economical to own than its Italian garage mate.

Current Odometer: 50,236
Best Fuel Economy: 20.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 17.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 18.9 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Junk in the trunk.

January 04, 2008

Things were different back then. In naught-Two the world was a simpler place. Fewer iPods, no Zunes (who am I kidding, there still aren't any Zunes) and Bluetooth was more likely to be associated with pirates than wireless communcation. And, apparently, in Germany at least, the cassette tape was still a viable music medium. That's right folks, behind the fancy tilting Nav. screen (which there will be many posts about in the future) is a tape deck.
A tape deck. In a $50K car made in this decade. What life must have been like for those poor souls.

But that's not the real problem. Our Long Term Hyundai Azera had a tape deck, and above it was a CD player. It's no iPod jack, but I'll take it. BMW put the changer in the trunk. I guess back then people liked to walk more than they do today. Or they had a longer attention span. What I do know is that today, in 2008, this is a pain in the bottom, especially in a car that I never, ever, ever want to stop driving.

On the bright side, the Harman/Kardon stereo that the tape deck and trunk mounted CD player connects to is fantastic. Even after 4-years and 50K miles of use, the highs are bright and clear and the bass is deep and crisp. At high volumes (far higher than I would ever use) there is some mild fuzz that could be from wear, or more likely, from improperly shielded wires. But if you listen to it that loudly for any amount of time you'll be deaf in days and Voila! Problem solved.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 50,777 miles.

Still Great After All These Years

January 08, 2008

It's been a while since a 2002 BMW M3 ventured to a test track, but with 50,576 miles on the odometer, our black M3 showed definitively that it still is one heck of a machine. While the 0-to-60 and skidpad are a little off "historical" numbers for it, the braking was dead-on and the slalom was actually better. It also beat the M3 Competition Package we had back in early 2005. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton immediately knew this M3 felt better through the slalom than any previous edition of this generation he'd tested, guessing 50,000 miles had softened up the dampers making them more compliant and less likely to force a slide. As the above picture shows, though, sometimes a slide can be a good thing.


0-30 - 2.1 seconds
0-45 - 3.6 seconds
0-60 - 5.3 seconds
0-75 - 7.8 seconds
1/4 mile - 13.9 seconds @ 107.1 mph

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton: "Hard to maintain grip with any more than 2500 rpm on the launch. There's some throttle/timing manipulation with each wide-open-throttle upshift that smooths each gear change nicely."


30-0 - 29 feet
60-0 - 111 feet

Walton: "Hard pedal but near zero dive. This is a sports coupe. Tires almost vibrate and hum under full ABS stop. Excellent."


.87 g

Walton: "It should not come as a surprise that with near 50/50 left-right weight distribution (including the driver) that this car post nearly identical clockwise/counterclockwise skidpad times."


70.4 MPH
(Previous M3 testing generally showed between 68 and 69 mph)

Walton: "Astounding, excellent steering response and feel of the road. Confident, crisp turn-in with immediate yaw response. Despite previous experiences with this generation M3 that always threatened to spin, this one keeps its tail planted. I love this car more this time around than when it was new."


Curb Weight: 3,472 pounds with 50/50 distribution

Idle dB:
Full Throttle dB: 85.3
70 MPH dB: 70.8

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 50,576 miles

Connecting rod TSB, "could puke bottom end out"

January 09, 2008

I received an e-mail this morning in regards to a TSB ( Service Information B11 02 03 ) for our new used Long-Term M3, and to all M cars with early — produced between October, 2001 and February, 2002 — S54 engines. The oil-pump and connecting rod bearings need to be replaced or, as was so delicately put in the message, the car could "puke its bottom end out."

Some sleuthing from an eager staff member (SubyTrojan) with connections at BMW, confirmed that our M3 was one of 4,000 cars involved, and was repaired in the summer of 2004, just over a year after the introduction of said TSB. The mileage was 23,361. We don't know if the car exhibited the tell-tale knocking that precedes puking.

With that out of the way, we're free and clear to continue driving this car the way BMW intended.

(Closed course, pro driver, amateur camera operator)

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Can I Keep It?

January 15, 2008

Please, please, can I have it as my very own?

My first taste of our M3 was as a passenger. I got to sit back, crank up the heated seats, and enjoy listening to its healthy sound.

When I switched to the driver's seat, I was stuck in traffic, so I played with the navi system... The graphics are a little on the old side but it works. It's not particularly intuitive in its operation, but I remembered how to use it from our BMW X3 that we had a while back. (I still miss the X3. Sigh.)

I like masculine-looking cars. The Mini Cooper S is fun and all, but it looks like it should be sitting on top of a wedding cake or something. The M3's black exterior and red leather interior are manly and sporty. The red is darker than it appears in pictures. And it doesn't scream "look at me I'm a performer." It just has discreet M badging here and there and blood and guts under the hood.

And it's so easy to drive. The clutch is stiff as hell, but it engages quickly. This car wants to play. And it makes you want to play. I wonder when I'll get in it again. It's always the car that gets signed out first.

Oh, and I think I'm the only person to ever use the trunk. It's pristine. Here it is full of domesticity.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 50,980 miles

Door Plate Bonanza!

January 17, 2008

I drove our 2002 BMW M3 home during the middle of the week - big mistake. Don't get me wrong; the car is fine. But on this particular day, traffic choked my route more than usual. Let's just say I didn't get to savor any of the M3's finer points.

So I'm going to talk about door stickers instead. I can tell by your sharp intake of breath that you can hardly wait for this one.

Our M3 sure has a lot of them - door placards and warning labels, I mean. The most prominent one is the dire warning about the side airbag and what it can do to children. But immediately below that disturbing nugget of information there sits a bright orange sticker that demands attention:

Whew, that's a relief. We sure dodged a bullet there. But seriously, why bother at all with a lawyer-excreted warning label if it's to be followed by a "Ha ha! Just kidding!"? Did the previous owner have them disconnected? The sticker does look a little like it was added later.

One theory around the office was that perhaps the M3's sport seats don't allow for airbags. But according to our site and other sources, the 2002 M3 is supposed to have side airbags and, from what I can tell, they are door-mounted anyway. If that theory were true, how hard would it be to synchronize the label with the seat, both of which are installed at the same factory? I can't find any documentation or web forum posts to explain this. Any BMW fans or E46 M3 owners have the answer?

And then there's this tire pressure placard. It might be hard to read, but that's the point. You're looking at a matrix with three tire sizes (M3 sizes differ from front to rear), two load conditions, two pressure units and two languages. One load condition and tire pressure set point exists for 4 or fewer persons, another is for "Max Vehicle Weight" (which could be just 3 or 4 persons if they happen to live a sedentary lifestyle of video games, pizza and 6-packs.)

But who has a set of vehicle scales at home? "Wait, guys. Before we go to the bowling alley, let's all stop by the truck scales and air-up." Yeah, right.

According to the chart and the key in the upper left corner, our M3 has triangles up front (225/45 ZR 18) and circles in back (255/40 ZR 18). So our tire pressures, with four or less aboard, are 33 psi front and 35 psi rear. Above the 4 person limit (whatever weight that actually is), the requirement jumps to 41/48, but that's for max vehicle weight (aka GVWR). It's unclear what the pressures should be in the range between 4 persons and GVWR.

Of course this is insanely complicated. Because tire pressure has been a hot topic since the Ford Explorer / Firestone debacle led to the TREAD act, the government has taken steps to clarify this situation. For one, a single tire pressure placard is longer allowed to serve a range of optional tire sizes. The placard on a new M3 (and any other car) must now relate to the specific tires fitted on that individual car. The font size and layout is standardized so that tire pressure placards are recognizable as such and are easy to read. And they added-in the spare tire's pressure for good measure.

Enough with the engineer-excreted material. I've got to make sure I drive the M3 on the weekend next time and steer clear of traffic. I know this was exhilarating, but I hear the steering and handling are worth blogging about, too.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 51,080 miles

Hoping For a Catastrophe

January 18, 2008

I sincerely hope that within the next 11 months, one of our M3's pistons goes rocketing through the hood. Or we receive a service bill for a mysterious $2,000 "valve adjustment." Short of such calamities, it's likely that I'll continue to believe that I should buy this car when its year is up. I don't need a car, certainly not a $30,000 one, but the thought enters my mind every time I drive it. As much as I love the Ferrari, it does not generate the same response...

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 51.107 miles

Oh, Happy Day

January 22, 2008

Late Monday morning I got the call from Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh:

"I need an SUV to pick up a car exhaust," he said. "Can we swap?"

I smiled. I had the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz. Jay had the 2002 BMW M3... I smiled bigger.

Thirty minutes later Jay and I were exchanging keys in my driveway, just before I needed to take my daughter's friend home to Oceanside, Calif., 70 miles south of my Long Beach residence.

I buckled both girls into the M3's bright red, bowl-ish rear seats and we took off.

Hope Jay needs to move a set of tires next weekend.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 51,180 miles

Spoiled By Twin Turbos

January 25, 2008

My first drive in our long-term 2002 BMW M3 came last night during a torrential downpour (not shown), and my first thought was: It sure doesn't have the rapid-fire off-the-line response of any BMW 335i I've ever driven.

This is absolutely true, of course: The M3's 3.2-liter inline six doesn't make its peak torque of 262 lb-ft until 4,900 rpm. The twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.0-liter in the 335i hits you with 300 lb-ft at just 1,400 rpm. (The weight difference between the cars appears to be a little over 100 pounds in favor of the M3.)

In retrospect, it's not as if I needed more torque on saturated streets... Hopefully, my number will come up again when there's an opportunity to drive the M3 in drier weather — and at higher rpm.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Between the Storms

January 28, 2008

There was an eight-hour window of sun and mostly dry pavement on Saturday, so I took the long-term 2002 BMW M3 into the Malibu canyons. This was easily the most enlivening experience of my weekend, which I'll admit was a little quiet.

But that doesn't take away from what a special car this is. In retrospect, my mention of its somewhat soft off-the-line response seems almost foolish. The 3.2-liter six has an explosive mid-range and a free-revving character that the comparatively mild-mannered twin-turbo 3.0-liter (in the 335i) could never match in stock form. The sound and feel of the engine when you drop a gear or two going into a corner is something I'll probably never forget. Although the clutch pedal's long, springy travel is not my favorite in traffic, when you're shifting quickly, it feels just right.

Then, there's the chassis. The ride quality is never punishing in the M3, yet it feels noticeably more adept around corners than a regular E46 or E92 3 Series. Between the high levels of grip and feedback, I got so locked into what I was doing that I think I may have forgotten to breathe a couple times... I heard myself gasp.

I also liked how the tail gave me a little sass on damp sections of pavement — nothing scary, just a reminder that, yep, this car is rear-drive — before the stability control stepped in.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 51,832 miles

M Cars Unite!

January 28, 2008

The driving rain we've experienced over the past week in Southern California ain't the best companion for the ulitmate driving machine. As such I had to behave myself in the long-term BMW M3, but I wasn't the only one. On my way up PCH I saw another M driver excercising (or not) his M5 in the rain.

Our long-term car behaved itself as long as I did... The traction control kept the back end in line even when I didn't, the wipers and heater (and seat heaters) kept the forward view clear and the cabin toasty. I wouldn't normally pick the M3 for inclement weather, but now I know it's a reasonable choice even if you can't go corner carving.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief,

2002 BMW M3's First Ticket

January 30, 2008

It's not for the reason you think though. I didn't get it because I was speeding down PCH or...dancing in and out of slower-moving freeway traffic. Nope, our 2002 BMW M3 got a ticket just for sitting still. That's how bad ass it is... Kidding. It got tagged for not wearing a front plate, a violation in California. Thing is, it's not going to wear one, at least while we own it, because Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham doesn't want to mar the car's beautiful front end. Understandable. It IS pretty but getting tickets can be expensive, too. Solution? Maybe we'll just throw the front plate on the dash from now on when we park. Hopefully that'll appease the parking gods.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 51,919 miles


February 01, 2008

Ok, it's pretty rare I'd get the keys to such a car. But when the opportunity arises, I grab that brass ring.

It just happened to work out in my favor yesterday in a multi car transfer/trade. I was to take our M3 back to the office after running an errand in Torrance and car swapping with another editor. I was cautioned not to hammer our M3 as it has a bad shoe. The driver's side rear tire is showing a little bit of thread, so no power slides. Dang, I like slides. Ok, so the photo above really isn't the engine in our car (it's of the V8 M3). I couldn't find the photo that was just like this of a six cylinder M3. Just practice a little suspension of disbelief for now. The tech hand out associated with the photo I was looking for talked about how the pipes were formed in such a way to help improve the growl. It made an impression on me. So much so that I couldn't help but listen as I mashed the accelerator many years later.

"GGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!" she scream as I accelerated onto the freeway.

Wow. I mean.... Wow. Forget the old dog and new tricks crap, this car can light 'em up as good as anyone. The few years it has aged are almost of no consequence. Taking a look around the car it's still in great shape. Only some minor wear in a few places but otherwise it's top shelf. I'd say it's a great buy.

I would say it's a great buy except for the fact the M3 is "I've arrived" or "I'm spending every penny I got to come close" car here in Southern California. They've everywhere! As I walked out to the car this morning I thought some dude and his kid were jacking my car, only to find it was an identical M3 parked two spots away from me. He was just dropping his kid off for school. No joke!

Ok, so it doesn't have the unique factor (especially here in LA), but there's plenty of style and "holy crap that's fast." If I were to consider purchasing one, it'd be a hard decision between a growling power slide and the fact it's a thirty something general issue vehicle.

Hmmm... Could I have the keys one more night to make up my mind?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 52,012 miles

Pit Stop

February 12, 2008

Our M3 has been making an odd noise - a thump, thump, thump sound at very low speed. The tires also seem to be wearing unevenly - chunking on one rear tire too.

This morning we dropped it off at Long Beach BMW. About an hour later, our service advisor Anthony called us and recommended the following:

Replace front pads and rotors - $1,041

Replace rear control arm bushings - $800

Four wheel alignment - $280

4 new OE spec tires - $1,331

We believe the thumping noise is tire related and the dealership all but confirmed this. Therefore, we're going to replace the bushings, get the alignment and hold off on the brakes... Recent track testing confirmed the M3's stopping prowess so we think there's a little life left in the binders.

As for the tires, we'll get our own from Tire Rack and have a local shop install them.

Other than these minor problems, the M3 continues to run strong and provide more fun than pretty much any other car in the long term fleet.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 52,094 miles

Lighter Wallet

February 13, 2008

Here's the bill for our recent M3 repairs. Look closely and you'll find a grand total of $1,173 for a four wheel alignment and replacement of rear control arm busings. Several of you have suggested that those bushings crack prematurely and our Long Beach BMW tech confirmed this adding "it's especially true on cars that are driven hard." Guilty as charged.

The good news? I'm about $1,200 closer to getting a free flight on Jet Blue thanks to the BMW's hefty bill and my American Express card...

We opted not to do the suggested brake rotor and pad replacement as even our tech said they were not down to the wear indicator yet. Now that the suspension is back to spec, we're looking for new tires to replace the current ContiSport Contacts that are on the M3. Editor in Chief Scott Oldham simply said "I want something stickier." I'm not going to get to cozy with those new tires, I don't think they'll be around long.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor

Where Has the Colorful Leather Gone?

February 15, 2008

I've spent the better part of two days writing vehicle reviews for the various iterations of Bentley Continental GT. It offers no less than 17 different leather colors, with customers able to select any two to apply to several areas throughout the interior. It makes playing around on the Bentley Configurator a great way to drop a few hours at work.

But even with 17 leather colors available, how many of you would choose colors outside the black, grey and beige spectrum?.. Of all our long-termers, the 2002 BMW M3 is the only one to feature something different with its Imola Red leather (although the Aura, Veracruz and Mini do offer interesting colors). I think it looks superb and it's a shame BMW has cut down on the number of colorful leathers it offers. The various M cars in 2000 came in 11 shades, including Kyalami Orange, Evergreen (teal), Estoril blue, Modena Natur (light orange), Magma (light brown) and Mulberry (really dark grey). The Z3 could also be had in purple and dark green at one point. Today's interesting M colors are restricted to Indianapolis Red (oxblood-ish, M5 & M6) and the same Imola Red (M coupe/roadster).

Are people just not feeling colorful interiors any more? The new Malibu and G8 would indicate GM thinks otherwise, but they seem to be a minority. I wonder if such colors hurt resale?

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 52,094 miles as the M3 awaits its new tires.

Our Sticky New Tires Are In

February 19, 2008

Last week we ordered a new set of tires for our 2002 BMW M3 on Tire Rack. The plan was to buy the stickiest set of tires we could get in the original equipment 225/45R18 front and 255/40R18 rear sizes. We thought about going with R-compound tires, but Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 "extreme performance summer" tires were the best we could do in our size. These Yokohamas sell for $263 per front tire and $321 per rear tire.

Our tires arrived over the weekend, so today we drove over to Stokes Tire Pros and had all four of them mounted. The whole process only took 15 minutes. Installation cost $105. You'll recall that we already had an alignment performed at the BMW dealer, so mounting and balancing was the extent of it.

Below is the damage to the old Conti tire (rear, driver's side) that prompted our dealer visit and subsequent tire purchase.

Getting all four of the new tires into the M3 would be no picnic, of course, so we made life easier on ourselves by bringing along our long-term 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander as a support vehicle. Easy in, easy out.

We plan to test the our long-term BMW M3 with even more aggressive tires at a future date. Likely, we'll go up or down a size in wheels to open a longer list of tire options. We might, for example, drop down to 17s as many autocrossers do.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 52,147 miles.

Way Out of My League

February 21, 2008

By some amazing stroke of luck, I ended up with our 2002 BMW M3 last night instead of the Honda Fit that I was scheduled to drive. Wee! (OK, the above picture isn't the best picture of the BMW but I thought it was pretty cool that it had the Ferrari, our other used long-termer, in its sight.)

Anyhow, as a play on Brian Moody's analogy between a cute girl and the G35 on his G35 post yesterday, I found our luxurious and very fast M3 to be like that extremely good-looking guy who seems to have lived a charmed life and who, in turn, is wayyy out of my league. It's not that I'm down on myself, it's that it's sort of intimidating and I wouldn't be able to appreciate it the way it SHOULD be appreciated... I could jump a green light and speed up to the speed limit, maybe rocket onto the freeway via on-ramp, but I can't take this baby canyon-carving like it seems like it wants to.

All that power and I just wouldn't know how to handle it. It wouldn't be fair to the car and it wouldn't be fair to me. BUT I wouldn't mind being a passenger going along for a ride with a very experienced driver.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Hassled in the Parking Garage

February 25, 2008

When you really like the car you're driving, it's natural to feel protective of it. And so it is with our 2002 BMW M3. I took extra care when parking it in this Culver City garage, centering it within a compact space. You can imagine my dismay when I returned from dinner to find this sloppily parked Eclipse Spyder GS beside it...

It was such a bad parking job, I couldn't get the driver door open wide enough to wedge my limbs and torso inside. So I got in from the passenger side. Although the M3 had a more challenging ingress than the last car I entered from the passenger side (a '99 VW Passat), I managed it — and with the parking brake set.

On this occasion, I decided that I like the fact that our M3 is nearly 6 years old. It's still a wonderful car with a superb drivetrain (among other things), yet it's not so new and expensive that I'd worry incessantly about driving and parking it in LA if I owned it.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 52,347

Poor Man's Dream

March 03, 2008

Here's something I really love about our 2002 BMW M3: I could afford it.

I've long been a fan of buying used cars. But never have I felt stronger about how it maximizes your dollar than when you buy an older performance car. We paid $30,000 for this car, roughly half of what a new one costs. While it is half the price it is almost as much fun as a brand new one. Sure it's a little loose in the transmission and suspension. And the beautiful red leather has been worn smooth. But five minutes behind the wheel and all regrets melt away.

I spent the weekend in the M3 pretending I was a different person, someone who has rarefied taste (perhaps a wine swirler) a man who knows quality when he sees it and demands the best, dammit. The M3 was the perfect costume for me. I had to go to a fancy OC raquet club (not a "racket club" mind you) and I was careful to park near the front door. As I pulled out of the parking lot I let the German engineering growl disdainfully at lesser vehicles around me.

The driving dynamics of the M3 are so superior to other cars that you aren't really driving the car until you begin to push it well beyond the normal requirements of traffic. Merging onto the 405 Freeway where it meets the 22 and the 605 there are about eight lanes of traffic, a vast expanse of asphalt. With all the mid-range and high-end acceleration I was through there like a hot knife through butter.

One thing that surprised me was how good the visibility is in this car. With all this speed on tap, and a desire to try moves you wouldn't attempt in other cars, it's a good thing you have a clear view of the landscape around you.

The only thing that scares me about this car is the potential repair bills. If I bought one I'd probably go the certified route.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 52,680 miles

Has a refined Palate.

March 13, 2008

Driving our Long Term BMW M3 the other night, a warning flashed across the pixelated display. It was the M3 after all, so naturally my brain assumed it was the traction control giving me a stern warning. It wasn't, low oil — not low traction — was the culprit.

M3's are known to burn a little oil, especially if you really drive 'em so it was no real surprise... I manually checked the fluid and it was low. Driveable, sure, but the full potential of our 8,000rpm inline-6 would have to be saved for another day.

The plan was to hit Kragen, buy oil, refill and then play. I'd be back on the road to funsville in no time.

Except that Kragen didn't have the Castrol TWS 10w-60 in stock. Neither did Autozone or the other Kragen. As the big-name retailers weren't going to have such a rare vintage, my only option was to go home and sleep until I could find a BMW dealership. (Truthfully, here in SoCal, I'm surprised a 24-hour BMW parts department doesn't exist.)

The next day, with time to kill, I stopped by BMW of Bakersfield to check their inventory. I bought four-liters (crazy brand, not using the traditional quart) at $10.25 per. Our M3 took 3/4 of a liter before the level was acceptable. A reserve bottle is now netted safely in the trunk to prevent future lack of fun.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 53,000 miles

Slice of Heaven

March 18, 2008

Recently I found myself in Pahrump, Nevada. It's about an hour north of Vegas. I had stayed late for a photo shoot and was leaving the next morning before dawn to make it back to LA by noon.

Coming out of Pahrump, you drive through the southeastern edge of Death Valley... The desert gets cold in the winter, and especially at night. The M3's freeze warning was going off constantly as the temp dipped below 25.

Even though I was very tired from many days of hard work and the early hours without coffee, that drive through the beautiful red rock valley was probably one of the best driving experiences I've ever had. The beautiful colors in the sky, the craggy mountains shining with Alpine Glow and the purr of the engine was my moment of driver's Zen.

If you ever have the means to drive through Death Valley at dawn (even without an M3), I highly recommend it.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer


March 28, 2008

I don't know what I did. I must have saved an entire class of quadraplegic kids from a burning schoolhouse, because the Gods smiled, took on the benevolent form of Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Pardilla, and handed me the keys to our 2002 BMW M3 last night. Good God!

There does not exist a word or phrase of such otherworldly grandeur to describe how this car feels. I have always been a BMW guy, from my 2002 tii to my current 535i, but I always forget how incredibly good they feel, the stunning competence in which every part of the steering, shift action, clutch, brakes, and loud pedal work so seamlessly...

Multiply that by about a billion and you have the M3. I'd rather not go into detail about the speeds reached or the moves performed last night. My only regret is not being able to drive it on some deliciously curvaceous mountain road, where every nerve, every synapse, would surely be on edge, heart beating, breath shortening as you challenge yourself, ripping through every turn on the razor's edge.

When I got home last night, I felt as if I had been electrified. My body was literally buzzing as if I had taken a quintuple shot of espressso with a crack chaser. Me likee!

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor, @ 54,114 miles

Engine Failure Imminent! Or maybe not...

April 09, 2008

So the long-term BMW M3 scared the hell out of me this morning. But it's supposed to be a "thrilling" car, so maybe I'm just an old stick in the mud. Regardless, when I looked down and saw the oil light on next to the speedo my blood pressure shot up considerably. My first instinct was to reach up and turn off the key, but at 40 mph on the heavily-trafficked, narrow and twisting Malibu Canyon Road — with no pull off space in sight — I didn't see that as my best immediate option. Instead I quickly lifted off the throttle and pushed in the clutch pedal. As luck would have it I'd just passed the highest point on this route through the Santa Monica Mountains, which meant I could realistically coast for the next 3-5 minutes (depending on traffic speed).

During that time I scanned the oil temperature gauge and the engine temperature gauge. I also turned off the audio system and listened intently for troubling noises/vibrations. All appeared fine, and upon further reflection I realized the light was yellow, not the traditional red I normally associate with "Turn Off The Engine Now!!" By the time I hit PCH I decided to keep the tachometer below 2,500, keep the radio off and my ears open, and keep my eyes on the engine/oil temp gauges.

That's how I drove the last 10 miles into work, then I checked the oil level and found it right on (but not below) the low line on the dipstick. It took exactly 1/4 of 1 quart of oil to get the oil level midway between the low and high line, and I've since confirmed that, indeed, the M3 has a red version of the oil light reserved for if/when things get critical (you can see it everytime you first turn the key on).

As an early warning system for a high-performance car it's not a bad design. But as with so many things, a litle RTFM helps avoid panic.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief

Rerunning the Numbers

April 09, 2008

After replacing the worn ContisportContact rubber on our long-term M3 with four new Yokohama Advan AD07 tires (225/45R18 front and 255/40R18 rear) from the Tire Rack we headed back to the track for a retest.

Straight-line acceleration was slightly quicker.

Old tires:

0-60: 5.3
Quarter mile: 13.9 @ 102.1*

*Note: Trap speed was incorrectly reported as 107.1 in the original post.

New tires:

0-60: 5.4
Quarter mile: 13.7 @ 102.4

Handling showed the expected improvements as well.

Old tires:

Skipdpad: .87g
Slalom: 70.4 mph

New tires:

Skidpad: .89g
Slalom: 71.0 mph

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 54,981miles

Spy versus Spy, or M3 vs. M3

April 10, 2008

The contrast of these two M3s in the Inside Line garage couldn't be ignored. Our long-term 2002 BMW E46 in black, and the 2008 BMW E92 M3 in white. The infamous Spy vs. Spy conflict had come to the automotive realm. Is this a great place to work, or what? M3 enthusiasts, ourselves included, have already anointed the E46 "The Best M3 Ever ." Citing its "Bulldog stance, awesome grip, racecar brakes, and an engine for the ages, " we had to have one of our very own. Those who know that a Roundel has nothing to do with calligraphy or a 100-pound cheese wheel will quickly point out that this was last M3 before iDrive,Bangle, and a V8.

Can the E46's silken 333-hp inline-6, tidy dimensions, and razor-sharp dynamics (made better with new tires) hold a candle to the E92's 420-hp 8,400-rpm redline V8, electronic dampers, and hard-core Michelin PS2 tires? Keep in mind the new M3 is some 230 pounds more massive but has electronic aids that could land the space shuttle safely — in the fog. Has BMW improved the M3 or have the boffins saddled it with too many gizmos and gee-gaws to make it a less pure, less enjoyable, and ultimately less rewarding machine? So, which is it, the classic-black E46, or the appliance-white E92?

Which will prove itself more worthy of the ///M badge? Which one would you rather drive home, or at the racetrack? Which Spy is going to spit out his shattered teeth and slink away with a charred hat and trenchcoat? Any bets? You sure about that? Stay tuned.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 55,000 miles

Hot, Hot, Hot

April 14, 2008

Oh boy, does red leather get hot. I had the M3 parked in my driveway instead of my garage yesterday. I went to hop in around 1:00 PM and when I opened the door I felt a wave of heat hit me. Heat and that lovely older car fragrance of slightly dusty leather... Usually, when it's 90 degrees in the city, it's not quite so hot at the beach. But I had to air out the car for a few minutes before I could get in.

Fortunately, the air conditioner works really well. So, I directed all vents to me. The car didn't complain at all driving with max A/C on.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 55,119 miles

Does It All

April 21, 2008

After a long weekend with the 2002 BMW M3, I can join the chorus of voices praising this car for its stunning capability in any situation. So many aspects of this car are so commonplace now that we almost take them for granted, like a tire pressure monitoring system or a sport button for the throttle, or defeatable stability control, but they were still relatively new at the time, and make this car such a wildly capable machine.

And they serve so many purposes. Feel like canyon-carving?..

Sport mode, DSC off and away you go, wagging your tail around corners. Wanna ride smoothly but maybe with a little more pep? Hit the S button and feel what seems like extra strength forcing your right leg down on the loud pedal.

And it's so supremely confident. It's gorgeous. It sounds like a dream. And it's got an interior like a Bourbon Street bordello, awash in smooth red leather. And you can carry a couple passengers, play six CDs from the trunk-mounted changer, fill the large trunk with gear, and hit the road for hours of fun. And arrive looking stylish. As the song says, I'm the friendly stranger in the black sedan. Won't you step into my car?

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor @ 55,364 miles

5 Months and 6,000 Miles

April 21, 2008

We bought our black 2002 BMW M3 exactly five months ago. We paid exactly $30,000 for it on 11/21/07. And since that day we've driven the car almost exactly 6,000 miles. The day we drove her home from the Santa Barbara, California BMW dealer the odometer read 49,042 and just the other day it crossed the 55,000 mile mark...

So are we happy with our purchase? Does Barack Obama have a funny name? Even with 55,000 miles under it, the black M3 is the best car in our fleet. It's fast, comfortable, solid and just plain cool looking. One run behind the wheel and you wonder why all cars don't feel as good.

Still, we're always looking down the road. Come November the M3 will have to go. What should we replace it with? I'm thinking a C5 Z06 Corvette.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 55,370 miles

I'll take a new BMW, thank you

April 22, 2008

Count me in the seeming minority of those who prefer the new M3 to the last-generation model. I'll leave direct comparisons between the generations to the forthcoming Inside Line comparo, but there is one area where my preferences are clear. I drove our '02 M3 home for the first time last night, which meant a typical slog through traffic. While the M3's stiff, relatively short travel clutch is a treat in free-flowing traffic and in aggressive driving, it feels like a rubbery SoloFlex setting in stop-and-go...

Having driven a variety of new BMW manual transmissions recently, I must say that the new editions provide a better balance for aggressive and everyday driving.

Our M3's gearbox is also notchier than newer models' (especially the 550i I drove all weekend), with a fair bit of that rubbery feel BMW has extricated from its recent gearboxes. In fact, I would say the M3's transmission feels more closely related to my 1998 Z3 2.8 than the 1's, 3's, 5's and M3's of 2008. (Unlike all of them, though, our M3's shifter glows red. Nifty.)

Having said all that, the 2002 M3 is still wonderful. I just think it's showing its age more than some other folks do.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 55,328 miles

Fuel Economy Update

April 23, 2008

In the 5,000+ miles we’ve driven the M3 since we bought it late last year, we have yet to give you an update on the fuel economy. And while you generally don’t buy an M3 for its fuel economy, we thought somebody still might be curious about it.

Best tank: 22.4mpg
Worst tank: 13.0mpg
Lifetime average: 17.9mpg

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 55,341 miles

Helpful Mirrors Keep the Wheels Looking Good

April 29, 2008

Call me lazy or even paranoid, but I like the fact that the M3's passenger side mirror tilts down when you throw it into reverse. It takes all the fear out of curbing those beautiful deep dish wheels. And judging by the pristine condition of our 18s, the little extra help has worked.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 55,843 miles

Broken Trunk Handle

May 02, 2008

When I opened our long-term 2002 BMW M3's trunk to fetch my man-purse gym bag filled with chainsaws, the handy handle decided to come with. Repeated use has apparently taken its toll. Squint at the little image above and you can see the floppy result of a retaining screw which has pulled through the plastic.

Here's how that piece of plastic should fit:

Should be an easy fix, and the trunk is still accessible...We'll let you know how hard the new piece hits the wallet.

Jason Kavanagh, Engieeering Editor @ 56,115 miles

A Sticky Lock and Another Quart of Oil

May 27, 2008

We expected a few problems when we bought our used BMW M3. Not major issues, but the kind of little things that wear out, break off or otherwise stop working from normal wear and tear. This weekend the driver’s side door lock started to stick, a situation which required the indignity of having to reach in and open the door from the passenger side. I made sure to do this out of sight from any bystanders in order to maintain the M3’s reputation, but by the end of the weekend I was leaving it unlocked to save the trouble... I gave the lock a shot of graphite powder to see if it would looses things up a little, but it didn't work. A trip to the dealer is in our future.

On another note, our M3 continues to consume oil at a measured pace. A quick check of the dipstick showed the level down to the first mark, so I added the better part of a quart. I never saw any warning lights, so I’ll assume it was never in any danger of running dry. We’ll keep an eye on the level in the next few weeks to see how quickly it gulps that quart.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 56,534

A New Door Lock Motor and a Leaky Hose

May 29, 2008

We’re well aware of the fact that dealer service isn’t cheap, but getting our BMW M3 fixed was still a shocker. We took it in for a sticking door lock on the driver’s side door and after a once over by the dealer we got the bad news. 

The door lock actuator motor needed to be replaced. It was going to be roughly $300 for the motor and $400 for labor. Apparently BMW’s technicians were going to use chopsticks to disassemble the door panel before replacing the world’s most complex door lock motors... That wasn’t the end of our problems though as the technician also noted that we also had a leaking power steering hose. A broken door lock was a nuisance, but a loss of power steering? Now that would be bothersome. Cost for the hose? A mere $310. Yes, like the lock actuator, this hose was crafted from a solid hunk of titanium and shipped from Germany via Gulfstream jet. Getting to the hose must have required pulling the engine too as the labor charge was another $400.

We picked it up yesterday and everything works great including our AmEx as the final tally was a staggering $1,532. Needless to say, the next time something goes wrong with our M3 an independent BMW specialist will get the first phone call.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 56,542 miles

2002 BMW M3

June 04, 2008

Al forgot to mention in his M3 post which is totally misguided an interesting difference of opinion, that a little warning lamp appeared on the dashboard yesterday. I couldn't get a decent photo of it, but it looks something like (O) that. The owner's manual says only to have the brake pads checked out, but we've suspected the brakes have been close to the end of their useful life since we drove the tar out of it in Josh's brilliant comparison test against a current 135i and 335i.

It turns out it's the brake pad wear warning lamp that is connected at the other end to that little sensor you see pictured above...

I didn't take that photo either (I pulled it from the Interwebs), and it's apparently from an E36 M3, but they all have similar systems in place to keep you from marring otherwise smooth rotors. According to our own Maintenance Guide, "Inspection II" doesn't require a pad replacement, but only an inspection of the brake system.

We'll hope for the best but suspect this may cost a few dollars. According to several BMW enthusiast sites, there's a chance we'll need to replace the sensor(s) as well as the pads, depending on how much wear has occurred to the sensor(s).

We'll keep you informed.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 56,770 miles

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

Twilight Zone revisited

June 05, 2008

After Herr Osterreich's instantly infamous Twilight Zone post about our long-term M3, I started to wonder about my unstinting infatuation with the car. Was I just another hoodwinked journalist who reflexively associates the blue and white propeller — and the M badge in particular — with automotive excellence? It was a burning question, so I grabbed the keys last night and gave our black Bimmer a good 60 miles' worth of enthusiastic exercise. Here's what I found: (1) the Austrian must not have been driving the M3 hard, and (2) my infatuation has if anything intensified, for reasons discussed below.

Let's start with Al's claim that "the engine is not as powerful as its reputation would suggest." I suspect Al wasn't really putting the M3 through its paces. First of all, the otherworldly 3.2-liter inline-6 (surely one of the best non-exotic sporting engines in recent memory) has great midrange punch. But winding it out to its 8,000-rpm-plus redline, and feeling the seemingly limitless surge of turbine-like power en route, has got to be one of the most thrilling automotive experiences you can have outside of less attainable creations from Italy or Zuffenhausen. This engine was purpose-built for people who love to drive. It's always on edge, champing at the bit, urging you to downshift and mat the gas — and it never sounds less than fantastic (controversial OEM exhaust note notwithstanding). Moreover, there's a feeling of raw mechanical honesty about the M3's naturally aspirated mill that's missing from the 135i's twin-turbo six (not to mention an invigoratingly progressive power delivery in place of the 135i's Nebraska-like torque curve).

Anyway, in a nutshell, here's why I like the M3 a little more every time I drive it: it's one of those rare and special cars that just comes together perfectly when driven hard (a trait it shares with our soon-to-be-dearly-departed Ferrari). Take Al's negative assessment of the M3's clutch in his post, for example. If you're driving the car through traffic or on the highway, yeah, okay, the clutch isn't as light or forgiving as newer BMW units. But my response to that is, bang off a couple full-throttle upshifts at 8k, or charge toward a corner and execute a spine-tinglingly perfect heel-and-toe downshift — and then tell me what you think. There's a remarkable mechanical harmony to this car that only fully emerges when you're really flogging it. You just can't drive the M3 all-out without feeling the love for this stupendous machine.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 56,827 miles

Overlooked greatness.

June 18, 2008

Thanks in part to the fan-freaking-tastic driving experience (Al Austria's post is completely wrong) there hasn't been much mention of the bits of the car that don't have an M preceded by three stripes on 'em

This weekend, with temperatures hovering in the low-mid 90's, the only things I was happier to have in this car on my jaunt through the canyons than, of course, the screaming inline-6 and ultra-grippy Yokohama Advan Neovas were the power-operated rear vent windows.

Giving the otherwise trapped air a place to go with the windows down, utilizing these little guys instantly cools the interior and reduces that nasty wind buffeting caused by an open sunroof.

It's a handy feature that I wish was available on more cars. Things like this — and sliding doors — shouldn't be relegated to the land of the mini van...

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 57,000 miles

Buying a Used Classic

June 19, 2008

As I drove our long-term M3 last week with the windows down and sunroof back, I reveled in the luscious engine sounds amidst a beautiful Southern California day. As I pulled into the Edmunds garage and briefly considered going back out just for the hell of it, it dawned on me how much of a wise buying decision this M3 was. Here is a car that with the right care will be a classic someday, a car that is more fun at six years old than most cars are at mile 1 — and we bought it for less than 30 large.

In between spouts of doing actual work (if you can really call what I do "work"), one of my favorite diversions is to trawl eBay motors for used cars that fit into the M3's bargain future classic category. I'll spend time looking at mid-80s Porsche 911s or first-gen Boxsters, or checking out BMW M Coupes or old Aston Martins (not so much bargains here). I'm not sure why I think it's fun, maybe it's my great desire to have a Leno-sized garage someday...

However, after buying what I think of as my own future classic, I've realized a good tip for buying one. Find one with an old year and low miles, one that could be described as a toy rather than day-to-day transportation. This not only increases the chances of you buying someone's well-treated baby, but the way auto pricing works, the older year ensures a lower price despite mileage. Our M3 doesn't quite match this, but I certainly hope we keep this in mind when we start to search for a pre-loved replacement for the Ferrari. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to wasting time on eBay motors.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

A Tight Squeeze Made Easier

June 23, 2008

I had occasion to transport my daughter in the M3 this weekend. No surprise here: coupe-u-lar body styles make inserting and extracting a child seat and said child more difficult. At least the M3 has a couple tricks up its sleeve.

Besides showing how well the M3's oh-so-sumptuous red leather seats have (not) worn over the past 6 years, this photo illustrates how little room there is between the B-pillar and the seat back. Luckily, when you pull the all-too-obvious release handle (that also doubles as a seatbelt retainer), the seatback not only tilts forward, but the entire seat assembly also "jumps" up and forward in a sort of parallelogram-like motion. Neat.

While it's still not as easy on my back as a sedan, this thoughtful feature does make life a little easier.

But here's the kicker: When you push the seat back, it falls into its original adjusted position, not some vertical-and-all-the-way-forward default position like we've witnessed on some recent coupes we've seen. Even our 2008 BMW 135i can't match the trusty ol' M3 in this regard.

As Karl discussed here, the 135i's seat back tilts forward and back manually (to its original position), but you need to motor the seats forward and back with a button.

You see? Some things don't get better when they're digitally remastered and reissued.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 57,890 miles

Salt and Pepper

June 24, 2008

I don't often get the chance to drive our long term M3, so when the slot became vacant to a bottom feeder on the chain such as myself, I jumped at the chance.

I was running to a photo shoot last night. I quickly hopped in and got running into East LA. My mind was focused on the traffic and what I want to do with my assignment that night. It wasn't until I got back into the car did I notice how time has flown by. No, not because it was 10pm or that I had multiple missed calls, it was the nav system graphics.

I remember when the nav system was a new technology in the BMW and at the time I thought it was pretty darn cool. As time has progressed, the technology has been refined. Now there are high-resolution touch screens, different voices or accents to choose from and a myriad other technologies available.

Looking at our M3's nav screen it reminds me of the Atari 2600's Adventure. Sure the graphics were very blocky and there were only six colors but we didn't know any better. Back when I was a kid it was the coolest game out there. In the Wii/PS3/Xbox world of today, it's downright primitive.

Our M3 is showing it's age a little more day by day. But am I going to turn down the chance of hearing the engine's growl and snort as I fly down a freeway entrance at night just because the graphics are a little dated? (Enter your Bronx-style expletive response here)

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

HAL in the HVAC

June 30, 2008

Here's an observation I had in our long-term 2002 BMW M3 over the weekend.

The fan delivers air to the cabin with a peculiar whooOOSH.... whooOOOSH... whooshwhooshwhoosh... . whooOOSH sound that is especially prominent in the first 5 mins after the car is started.

Anecdotally, the climate control system in my old E36 M3 did this exact same thing before it had a massive freak-out and stopped working entirely.

Sign of impending demise, or "it's normal, they all do that"? Stay tuned.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 58,042 miles.

Something Beyond "I Lust After This Car"

July 08, 2008


Well, I wish it had the optional 19-inch wheels— I don't think those 18s do the car justice.

And I wish it had the model year 2004-and-up tail lights — I just can't get down with the awkward-looking backup lights on our '02. It's like an early version of the X3 mismatching tail light syndrome (credit goes to Automotive Editor John DiPietro for pointing this out and thereby causing my permanent obsession with e46 M3 tail lights).


Did I mention that I lust after this car?

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 58,309 miles

Shifter Feeling a Little Worn Out

July 11, 2008

I'm not one to criticize our beautiful, fast, comfortable, ageless and affordable M3, but I will. It's the shifter that's bugging me. I remember driving this generation M3 when it was new and the stick felt nearly flawless. Easy to move through the gates, yet solid when notched into gear.

The stick in our long termer is still fluid form gear to gear, but the engagement feels a little too rubbery. You can find the gates, but when you're locked into gear there's too much give in the stick. It's a small price to pay for a car that's so great everywhere else, but if it were mine I might look into an aftermarket piece to stiffen things up a little.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 58,421 miles

Cruisin' Like It's 1999

July 21, 2008

While driving our long-term M3 in the past, I've used the tape deck to play my iPod or portable XM radio. However, the sound quality is so craptacular, I decided to take a trip down memory lane. I dug out my mammoth CD collection book, popped the M3's trunk, then pre-selected the six discs I wanted to listen to on the journey. Given the '90s nature of this exercise, I decided to sample from CDs left over from the Clinton era: Oasis, Dave Matthews, Coldplay's Parachutes, Collective Soul, Ben Folds, Eve 6.

Having had a 2000 Jetta with a similar six-CD changer, I was used to this trunk-mounted song and dance — I never thought of it as that big of a deal. In retrospect, though, it's just a massive pain in the ass. On road trips, I'd often make pit stops to change CDs even if the gas tank and my bladder were A-OK. Using the M3's changer has an added pain with a magazine that features six individual trays that must each be popped out to switch a CD. My Jetta's magazine had a little switch that would eject all the discs from the magazine at once — much quicker.

I remember being quite impressed by my buddy's 1997 Volvo 850 that had an in-dash three-CD changer. The thing would pop in and out of the radio faceplate when switching discs and made a bit of a racket, but dang it was cool. How things quickly change. Considering that the M3's trunk-mounted changer and equally ye-olde navigation interface seem oh-so-quaint now, I can only imagine what today's selection of iPod connections and iDrives is going to seem like in 10 years. I'll report back in 2018.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Here Come the Big Brakes

July 21, 2008

You might remember Chris Walton's post early last month about our M3's brake pad wear warning lamp appearing on the instrument panel. Turns out, this problem hasn't fixed itself. In fact, we knew long before the lamp came on that the M3's pads (and probably rotors) were on their last legs. The first signs of wear began to show when we compared the M3 to its newer cousins at a racetrack earlier this year. As the day progressed and the laps piled up, the M3's middle pedal became less and less confidence inspiring. But driving the car on the street doesn't seem to create any drama. Still, the light has been on for too long and we've decided to act.

We're getting nuts. Ok, maybe not nuts, but we're going to install big brakes on our M3. After visiting a local dealer for unrelated service several months ago, we know that simply replacing the M3's front pads and rotors is a $1,041 job. Stoptech's 332mm four-piston brake kit for the E46 M3 cost $2,195 and comes with bitchin' red calipers and two-piece rotors which use aluminum hats. Also included in the kit are Axxis Ultimate pads, stainless steel lines and fluid. It's an investment, but the more capable brake system should keep us from having to worry about brakes at the track (or anywhere else) again.

Look for a test of the Stoptech system in this space later this week or early next week.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Big Brakes Have Arrived

July 23, 2008

Here are most of the Stoptech parts needed for the brake upgrade we've got planned. Not pictured are the stainless steel lines for all four corners. The rotors on the left are the company's patented Aerorotors(TM) which use an aluminum hat and are part of the front big brake kit. The stiff four-piston calipers and steel lines should reduce compliance and improve pedal feel. The rotors on the right are Stoptech's slotted Sportstop(TM) rotors (purchased individually with lines). Motul Racing Brake fluid will further the system's heat tolerance. Grand total: $2,640.

As I mentioned last time, we'll be using Axxis Ultimate pads which Stoptech recommends for "aggressive street" use. If we plan extensive track time for the car, we'll likely need pads designed for higher temperatures. Still, this system will substantially increase our brake system's total heat capacity over stock and should be more than capable of handling any hard street driving the car will see. In other words, this should solve our fade problem.

As several readers already mentioned, we aren't anticipating a substantial decrease in single-stop distance from 60 mph (our usual brake test). Distance reduction in single-stop tests from this speed is more likely achieved through stickier tires or weight reduction.

Look for details on installation tomorrow.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 58,933 miles.

Installing the Big Brakes

July 24, 2008

A more accurate title for this blog is: Having the Big Brakes Installed. We hired Lucent Motors to do this job for us. This West L.A. shop specializes in high-end German hardware. In fact, while on site, our M3 kept some excellent company:

Our friend Tom Chan at Lucent explained that installing performance hardware on Porsches, Mercedes, BMWs and several other luxury marques is the company's bread and butter.

Lucent charges $500 for a job like ours which required installing new front rotors and calipers, installing new rear rotors and pads and swapping all four stock brake lines for the stainless steel lines from Stoptech. They bleed the system and test drive the car. Making our 332mm Stoptech system fit under the stock 18-inch wheels required use of these 10mm spacers. This will marginally compromise the M3's steering geometry, but it's the only way to make the brakes fit under the stock wheels.

Here's what serious stopping power looks like:

Check back tomorrow for a post on bedding in the new pads and double checking the system before testing.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 58,990 miles

Breaking in the New Brakes

July 25, 2008

Before hammering on our new brake set up, Stoptech requires a relatively simple bed-in procedure. Pad-bedding demands a minimum of two series of ten partial braking events from 60 to 10 miles per hour. Each series is performed without letting the brakes cool between braking events. Then, after ten partial stops, the system is cooled to ambient temperature. After cooling another series is repeated. We performed two series of braking events.

This achieves two goals. First, it conditions the pad material by driving manufacturing resins out of the pads. Second, it creates material transfer to the rotor, which is essential in achieving proper friction characteristics for optimal performance.

In practice, this is a smelly, but necessary, procedure. About half-way through the first series of stops the pads begin to smoke something awful. Here's what they look like:

After ten stops we drove the car at high speed without applying the brakes until the system cooled down. Then we parked it for about 30 minutes before repeating another series of partial stops. This time there was no smoke. Pedal response and effort remained consistent throughout thanks to high-temperature fluid and stiffer-than-stock calipers. However, the heat shield on the right front began to rub when the system was hot. After removing the wheel, caliper and rotor we found this witness mark on the heat shield:

Using less-than-subtle motivation we were able to clearance the heat shield so it stopped rubbing. Really, it just took a couple thwacks from a rubber mallet to convince the shield it needed to give a few more millimeters of clearance.

Now we're ready to test. Look for that data on Monday.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 59,042 miles

Testing the Big Brakes

July 28, 2008

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the strengths of a big brake kit like this one lie not in its ability to reduce a car's single-stop distance from 60 miles per hour, but rather in its ability to endure sustained high-temperature operation by adding thermal capacity and maintaining consistent pedal feel.

Stoptech's brakes do exactly that. Even so, 60-to-0 stopping tests are a standard around here and both our previous M3 brake tests we performed from this speed. So, if for no other reason than to have an apples-to-apples comparison, we repeated this test with the new brakes.

And, what do you know, there wasn't a huge improvement. The M3 stopped from 60 mph in a previous test on these tires (Yokohama Advan Neova AD07s) in 109 ft. Last week it recorded a best stop of 107.6 feet and settled consistently at 108 feet. More importantly it could have repeated this test all day. Repeated stops from 60 mph don't approach overheating the system. In fact, it takes a few runs to get the pads up to temperature so the first few stops were longer than stock — a compromise made by high-temperature pad material.

This result does speak to the fact that Stoptech's brakes maintain the M3's stock front-to-rear brake proportioning — something which is commonly overlooked in many aftermarket kits. This balancing act is crucial to proper brake performance.

The real test will be during aggressive street driving which is what the Axxis Ultimate pads we're using were designed for. Look for further updates after we've had the M3 in the mountains.

Also, the M3's brake pad wear warning light is still on because the installer thought the aftermarket pads wouldn't work with the stock sensor. We've since been told that it will and are planning to reinstall the sensor later this week. Check back here for updates.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 59,202 miles

It Does Not Blow

August 01, 2008

No seriously, our M3 literally does not blow. As I typically do when driving the M3, I immediately shut off the A/C, put back the sunroof, rolled down the windows and popped open the rear vents — perfect nice-weather motoring. When the stereo started being drowned out by a nearby truck in traffic, I rolled everything back up and hit the "Auto" button to bring the HVAC system to life. Nothing happened. I overrode Auto by turning up the fan to max. Nothing. I turned off and on the A/C button. Nothing. I pressed the airflow direction button and felt around for air. Nothing. The BMW HVAC controls aren't the simplest in the world, but I knew I wasn't screwing it up. Also, it was working the night before.

When I drove in this morning, it still wasn't working. I think it's just the fan, however, as I could feel A/C coming out of the vents when I was driving at high enough speeds for the natural air flow to come through. I hope nobody's planning a Death Valley adventure in the M3 this weekend.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 59,450 miles

Fill 'er Up

August 04, 2008

I drove the M3 this past weekend and it wasn't until I was about the leave the office when I read Riswicks' blog about the failed A/C fan. CRAP! This thing has a dark leather interior, it gets hot quick and retains the heat. It was going to be an oven on wheels!

Not being completely aware of the afore mentioned problem I was cursing myself for picking the M3. Thankfully, as I left the garage, the fan sputtered back to life. Good thing too since it was fairly hot around town. It wasn't blowing super cold, but what I got out of it I was mighty thankful for.

But later that night the oil light came on. The tank was nearly empty anyways so I checked the the levels I filled up. The dip stick registered in the lower quarter of the normal range. I didn't add anything and the light was off as I drove away from the station.

But on Sunday it came back on. This light was getting annoying, but I'd rather resolve it than ignore it. I figured the level was getting low anyways and the sensor was probably picking up under spec levels as the oil sloshed about. A little top off wouldn't hurt, right?

A quarter quart did the trick. No light, plenty of cool air and I was a happy driver.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

11,000 and in Need of Service

August 20, 2008

Tomorrow we will have owned our long-term 2002 BMW M3 exactly 9 months. In that time we've driven it a few clicks past 11,000 miles and I think everyone here will tell you it has been a positive experience. Even with 60,000 miles on its odometer the M3 feels new.

Sure we've just put some new, larger Stoptech brakes on it (which feel great by the way), and we splurged for some sticky Yokohama tires from, but those were both purchased because of want not need. We could have gone cheaper with factory replacement brakes and rock hard Pep Boys specials, but what fun would that have been?

None is the answer for all you haters out there.

When we bought the car it had just been serviced and its engine freshly lubricated, so we knew it was going to be a while before we'd have to pay for an oil change. Well the time is creaping up. Car says it will want fresh oil in 850 miles everytime you fire it up.

Meanwhile, the low oil light is on again, so we're just going to kill two birds with one stone. But where should we get the oil changed? The local BMW dealer? An independent shop? Jiffylube? Our own driveway?

You tell us. We might even listen.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 60,158 miles

Make Some History

August 28, 2008

So, last night I had an opportunity to drive our 2002 BMW M3. Normally, The Man doesn't let me near the nicer, more performance oriented cars in our long term fleet. Something about him being worried about me cutting the exhaust off the car and running straight pipes. Just because I did that on my personal car, doesn't mean I'd do it to the M3. Even if I did, I'd totally put it back...

Anyway, how much did we pay for this thing? That's right, 30 grand.

Walking out of a local liquor store last night, brown paper bag in hand, I strolled toward our black M3. There was only one working light in the parking lot and it illuminated the ground around the BMW. Not to get sappy, but it was one of those moments. A moment that every car guy needs to have and one that you're not likely to get with a lot of other cars costing $30k. Walking over to a beige Accord? A light blue Camry? Please.

When you grow old, and your kids ask you about the cars you used to own, don't you want to be able to tell them about the years you owned an M3? Maybe a Corvette or a Ferrari? Your kids aren't going to want to hear, "Well, we had to sell one of the Corollas after we had your sister, so we bought a Camry. What color was that, dear?" No. Even the most Communist of children want to be regaled with stories of sport seats, power slides and exhaust pulses ricocheting off the walls of tunnels.

Suck it up and buy something really cool, just once. Ok, maybe twice. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your kids. Oh, and make sure to have your picture taken next to it too.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 60,333 miles

60K Service

August 29, 2008

Just about a week ago Inside line Editor-in-Chief Scott Oldham alerted you to the fact that our 2002 BMW M3 was due for an oil service. And as this blog is for you guys, he opened the door for you to determine our course of action: Do it ourselves? Take it to a BMW dealer? Or go local?

We read the responses and weighed our options carefully. We were all set, Dickies coveralls laid out nicely, to do the job ourselves when we looked into our BMW's history. Turns out the M3 is a hair more complicated than the bitchin' Camaro we learned to turn a wrench on. M3's, we found out ( SubyTrojan gets some serious credit here), require some major services to be performed during their normal life cycle (Inspections I and II in BMW-speak). The first one should happen after the 1,200 mile service, the first oil service — figure at about the 30K mile marker — and includes a myriad of checks, changes, adjustments and alignments. The first owner of the car had this service performed under warranty at the required time. Their record keeping and watchmaker precision with services is one of the highlights of this used car. The second service — one that includes new plugs, a change of transmission fluid, diff fluid, engine oil, air filter and microfilter along with a valve adjustment — had not been done. This interval happened at some point between the original owner selling the car and us buying it. What luck.

I called BMW of Beverly Hills to see what this service would run. North of 2-grand somewhere. I blacked out after I heard "two-thou...". After hearing the first portion of the price, Oldham made the executive decision "Let's go local." And so we did.

In a response to the original thread frequent rabble rouser chimed in, "

Go to Summit Automotive - they are an indie BMW/Alfa shop in Marina Del Rey. I have been happy with their service.

721 Washington Blvd

Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 "

So that's what we did. If this goes wrong, Desmo, it's on you...

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 60,200 miles

So You're The One

September 02, 2008

Not to be outdone by the brash little 135i, our long-term M3 also headed north for the holiday weekend. We saw it all, the M3 and I — stop-and-go traffic from L.A. to Santa Barbara, glorious vistas and vectors along the incomparable Big Sur Coast Highway, and various attractions in San Francisco, from a fort called Battery Rathbone-McIndoe (above) to the Golden Gate Bridge (post-jump). Now, nearly 1300 miles later, I'm ready to take my well-known M3 fanboy status to a whole new level:

If I had to choose one car from our fleet to drive every day, this would be it.

No, BMW has not been sending me extra bottles of M-badged Kool-Aid. The M3 is just that good. It's the only car we've got that gives me a temporary case of Tourette's — "I bleeping love this car!", "Holy bleep!", etc. — every time I get behind the wheel.

The primary reason resides under the M3's hood. My fellow enthusiasts, believe you me, this engine is absolutely feral. Our M3 has the much-maligned stock exhaust, and I still nominate it for the "Best Soundtrack At WOT With The Windows Down" award. I obliterated the staff record for most gratuitous rev-matched downshifts in a single weekend (unofficially 247) because I just couldn't get enough of that primal rasp. And it revs so freely that other ostensibly sporting engines feel as dull as dump-truck diesels by comparison.

But the clincher for me is, well, pretty much everything else about this car. It's got the right number of pedals (sorry, GT-R, Evo and R8). The stereo sounds good (better luck next time, WRX STI), as long as you don't mind burning some CDs for the occasion. The backseat is a surprisingly pleasant place for two adults to spend some time (nice try, 135i). And while the shifter may be as rubbery as a plate of calamari, full-throttle 8,000-rpm upshifts in the M3 are worthy of inclusion in William James' magnum opus.

Sure, it's old. Sure, it cost us a mere 30 grand. This is still the best car in our garage.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 61,921 miles

Indie Service Center Success!

September 02, 2008

Within minutes of setting foot in Summit Automotive in Marina Del Rey, two things were apparent: The first is that these guys are real mechanics. From the dot-matrix printer to the yellowing CRT computer monitor to the desk-pad, covered in scribbles that, once examined, turned out to be fairly complex diagrams of automotive components, everything in the office was functional on a fundamental level. These guys are not salesmen and they certainly aren't showman. Nobody was wearing a suit and, even at the early hour we retrieved our M3, everyone had a little grease on their hands.

The second thing we realized was that, for the past two days, our M3 was in excellent hands and we wouldn't have to ban Desmolicious for his suggestion.

Follow the jump for the full results

Without question our M3 was the newest vehicle in their shop. By a decade. But our computers and fuel injection didn't scare them one bit. Our request that the car be back same-day also didn't bother them — all of the parts and fluids were in stock and the day belonged to our M3.

If you'll remember from my previous post the list of things to be adressed in this service are are oil change, diff-fluid change, plugs, and a valve job.

The bad news came early: The shim set they thought they had for ann E46 M3 was no longer in stock. Like I said before, these guys aren't salesmen. It would take about a week to get their hands on a set and they could take care of that anytime in the future. The rest of the service would continue on as planned.

Our M3 was ready in the late afternoon that day. We opted to pick it up the following day to avoid the horrible rush hour traffic that defines Southern california.

The bill? $869.83 It's an M3 not a Camry, there has to be ONE downside to this car.

Parts came to $452.50. The highlights were $123 for spark plugs, $101 in specially formulated (83-22-2-282-583) gear oil, and $72 in engine oil. Filters and wipers made up the rest. Shop labor was a reasonable $380. The state of California made up the rest of the tab — $37.33 in taxes.

We're still waiting on the valve job and we'll let you know how that goes. For now, though, we're happy with the service we recieved from Summit and wouldn't hesitate to recommend their shop.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 60,613 miles.

Wheels That Never Get Dirty

September 08, 2008

The best thing about our M3's stock 18-inch wheels compared to the optional 19s? Their finish. Instead of brightly polished spokes, the 18s have a slightly duller, matte gray color. I think BMW calls it ghost chrome, but I could be wrong about that. More importantly, a nice coat of brake dust barely shows up. In fact, you would have to neglect this car for weeks before you would ever notice the wheels were seriously dirty. And trust me, if you owned this car, or I owned this car, neglect would not be a problem.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 60,842 miles

Time for a New Alternator?

September 17, 2008

The alternator warning light (shaped like a battery and illuminated in red, in case you can't tell from this phone camera capture) started coming on last night in our 2002 BMW M3. At first, it only stayed on a for a few seconds, but now it stays on for a good minute before it extinguishes.

Most likely, we will be paying another visit to our indie shop, Summit Automotive. We'll let you know what happens.

Erin Riches, Inside Line Senior Editor @ 62,186 miles

Not Completely Irresistible

September 19, 2008

It's pretty rare to hear a bad word spoken about our long-term 2002 BMW M3. Okay, it happens — rubbery shifter, CD changer in the trunk, maintenance issues, etc. But when it comes to the way our Bimmer drives, no one not named after a European country has expressed anything but admiration for it.

Enter a college buddy of mine, code name Professor Tea Bag, who's in town to start a Ph.D program at UCLA but can't move into his place till Monday. Last night we drove the M3 over to his new neighborhood — and when I say "drove," I mean the usual drill in this car: windows down, sunroof open, zero-to-the-speed-limit acceleration runs from every stop, ferocious throttle-blips on every downshift.

The Professor was petrified.

"Is that really necessary?" he fumed as I grabbed second and floored it, throwing him back against his seat. "I mean, what's the appeal?"

I slowed down and then goosed it again. "Listen to it!" I shouted over the din. "It's the engine of the gods!"

But he just stared at me blankly. Which got me to thinking. You know what? Being an automotive enthusiast is like being an oenophile. You might be serving one of the finest red wines in the world, but it won't matter if you're serving it to someone (like me) who thinks red wine tastes like bitter grape juice. Similarly, even the all-time greatness of the M3 will, alas, be lost on a man who thinks that as long as a car will eventually reach the speed limit, it doesn't matter how long it takes to get there.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 62,220 miles

Alternator replacement

September 19, 2008

Two days ago Erin Riches alerted you to a warning lamp that's activated on our Long Term 2002 BMW M3. You had your own thoughts and guesses on the cause. At last count you were split, 4 / 3 for battery and alternator. There were also a few write-in votes: Bad connection, voltage regulator and something about an Eagle Talon (Which hits a bit of a personal soft spot; my first car was a turbo AWD DSM.) and a wholesaler. Good guesses all, but we had a bit of information that you didn't. A bit of information that our guys over at Summit Automotive relayed in passing, "Might want to keep an eye on the alternator. They tend to go on these cars around 50. Maybe 60 [ thousand miles]." So we knew what we were getting into.

While we certainly had a good experience at Summit, independent shops do have drawbacks: time constraints and parts availability are the major ones. Keeping that in mind we decided to use our local BMW dealership, BMW of Santa Monica for the repair. Not only did they have the parts in stock, but they could see us that very same day. Besides, we hadn't used them in a couple of years and this blog is as much about the service shop as it is the car. And so, at 1:23pm on Wednesday, I dropped off our M3 at Santa Monica BMW.

There were a few good signs right off the bat arriving at BMW SM. First was the presentation. While I won't knock a good dealership for not offering state of the art aesthetics, I certainly appreciate the good dealerships that go the extra mile. (Unlike Lexus of Santa Monica that offers the high gloss, but none of the good service.) Next was the wait time, I had barely had time to peek around the bays before my service advisor bounded over. Turns out he's an E46 M3 owner as well, so perhaps our experience was a little better based on that alone. I told him about the battery light and he said the techs would be able to look at it immediately. Then I mentioned the fan failure. The one that prompted Riswick's "It does not blow" blog. Less than a second passed before he said the cause was most likely — as we already knew — the final stage unit and they were in stock.

When he called back with an estimate, $1500 for the alternator replacement and $600 for the FSU replacement I stalled and said I'd call back. Then I called Loren, AKA: Subytrojan. He's a solid resource on BMW maintenance and a nice guy to boot. I think he cried a little when I told him the price for the final stage unit. Doing it ourselves, he said, would be a few hours work. Not hard, but time intensive. A lot of M3 owners I'm sure are in the same boat regarding free time: there's simply not enough of it. Schmidt and I conferred and settled on paying for the repair. Budgeted BMW owners can spend a pleasant afternoon in the driveway with a set of Torx drivers replacing this and save a few bucks. Everyone else, be prepared to pay. The part alone lists at $137.40.

I called back intending to authorize the complete repair when our guy surprised me. "We want to be your BMW service shop." He started, "I can do the alternator for $1350 and the final stage unit for $500." It wasn't a huge savings but it was appreciated none the less.

At 1:40pm Thursday, just over 24 hours from the time I dropped the car off, it was complete. The total bill was lower than the estimate but still a whopping $1,899.88. $1,058 was labor. $777.71 was parts ($640.31 for an alternator w/core exchange) and $64.17 went to the Governator's office.

For the geeks out there, our alternator was charging at 11.4 volts, the replaced unit was pushing the recommended 14.2V.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 62,189 miles

Great Seats, Too

September 23, 2008

By now, you've all figured out that we kinda like the way our M3 drives. So I won't go over least for today. In terms of daily-driver comfort, the M3 is likewise endearing. Light, progressive clutch, easy shifter, a sport suspension that doesn't violate my vertebrae. And these sport seats with their hefty side bolstering look like they mean business. They do, what with power adjustments for the seatback wings and 4-way lumbar support. They've also got adjustable thigh bolsters, 3-mode heaters and a driver memory. After I ran a fast 5k the other day, I appreciated these perfectly-supportive seats even more as I spent the rest of the afternoon running errands.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 62,339 miles.

There's a Hole in the Headliner

September 25, 2008

That's a bummer. Don't worry, like everything else on this car, it'll only cost $3,465,765 to fix. Well, that's if we use the dealer. At an independent shop it'll only be $1,987,976.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 62,361 miles

Cold Start

September 30, 2008

I've always thought the variable redline tachometer in the M3 was a cool feature.

When I got into the car the other morning it was light up to 6,500 rpm. Even though I've stared at this gauge many times, it was at that moment that I noticed for the first time it lights up to 4,000 rpm.

It sent a cold shiver up my spine.

I've never lived in a climate where block heaters were needed. My hat's off to you folks who weather that kind of cold, but I'd rather stay here on the southern coast.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 62,590 miles

For A Few Dollars More

October 03, 2008

If you've been following the progress of our long-term 2002 BMW M3 the past 10 months, you know that the sublime driving experience has been tempered with some maintenance and upgrade expenditures. Here's the fistful of dollars tally so far:

$1,173 — alignment and new rear control arm bushings. $1,273 — Yokohama tires and install. $1,532 — door lock and power steering hose repair. $3,140 for the Stoptech brakes and install. $870 — 60,000-mile service. $1,900 — Alternator and FSU repair.

Obviously, we didn't have to go with the M3's upgraded tires and brakes ("We could have gone cheaper with factory replacement brakes and rock hard Pep Boys specials, but what fun would that have been?" quipped Oldham earlier.) Or we could have tried to use independent shops or our own wrenches more often. But it is what it is. Which is, erm, a grand total of $9,888, or about $1,000 a month since we've owned it.

For reference, the now departed 1983 Ferrari 308 cost us $4,625 in total maintenance.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

$524 For Nav? No Thanks

October 06, 2008

Based on Edmunds TMV, the optional factory navigation system on a 2002 BMW M3 commands an average of $524 for a private-party deal. Based on my time with our long-termer, I'd tell prospective buyers to make sure to find an M3 without the factory nav.

Technology has definitely advanced in the last six years. The nav's dial-based interface is clunky and the screen is low resolution. Take your $524 and buy a quality aftermarket system. Our last portable navigation system round-up review article can be found here.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 62,868 miles

Welcome To The Machine

October 16, 2008

There are a lot of things to love about our E46 M3. One of my favorites is how it never lets you forget that it's different than all other 3 Series. Yes, it's a BMW, and it has leather upholstery, automatic climate control, a navigation system (albeit a crappy one) and a backseat. But lurking underneath all that luxury is a real sports car.

Just sitting still, it looks agressively purposeful thanks to the widened fender flares, pumped up hood and wide rear tires. When you're piddling around parking lots in first gear and push in the stiff clutch, the transmission clunks like a muscle car's. On the freeway, the engine can still be heard above wind and road noise. And when you drop the hammer, the engine rips to a furious crescendo while the shifter satisfyingly connects from gate to gate.

There's a mechanical soul to the M3. And every time I hop in it, I know it's going to be a fun drive.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 63,012 miles

What M3 Would You Buy?

October 20, 2008

If you had $20,000 to $30,000 to drop on a performance car, would you end up with an E46 M3? And if you did, what year M3 would you chose?

Having the keys to someone else's M3 (in this case, Inside Line's 2002 M3) makes me think of stuff like this. No question in my mind — the E46 is one of the all-time greats. It's great enough that you think of liquidating what's left of your 401K to live the dream. (No, I really don't know what the "dream" is. Presumably, it involves Halle Berry somehow.)

Because I'm all for national service, I've even devoted a whole hour (!) of my work day to help you with your M3 purchase. Here's some background. The E46 M3 was produced from 2001 to 2006. Following is Edmunds True Market Value pricing, dealer retail for ZIP code 90404 as of 10/20/08. Note that these prices are comparable but don't include any variation for options, condition or mileage.

2001: $19,070
2002: $21,105
2003: $24,440
2004: $27,876
2005: $31,474
2006: $34,875

There weren't many changes to the M3 during its run. Perhaps the most significant item was the availability of the Competition Package for 2005 and 2006, which included forged 19-inch alloy wheels, upgraded brakes, quicker steering, revised suspension tuning and a less intrusive stability control.

A scary amount of stuff has broken or failed on our M3. So maybe stay away from the older cars and get a 2004 or a 2005 with the Competition Package. Then again, it seems like we've fixed just about everything on our car short of an engine rebuild. And it has those nifty tires and brakes don't ya know? So maybe think about buying ours when we sell it in a few months. It might as well be a celebrity car.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 63,082 miles

Civilized Beast

October 27, 2008

Everybody expects the 2002 BMW M3 to be fun when allowed to run free. And it is. Uncorked, unchained, visceral, throw-you-head-back-and-laugh-with-manic-glee fun.

But for me, the most remarkable thing about this car is how well-behaved it can be in more mundane situations. Its suspension is taut enough to connect you to the road, but it's not stiff to the point of banging me around on a quick trip to the grocery store. Unlike many other performance cars, it's not a one-trick pony. From its cooperative handling to its roomy trunk, it's a choice most people could easily live with.

All in all, I find the M3 very practical, especially when you consider that we got it for just 30 grand. It's a beast when it needs to be, but it knows how to be perfectly civilized as well.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 63,313 miles

The Hills Are Alive

October 30, 2008

I have a handful of recurring thoughts when I'm driving our long-term M3, most of them having to do with desperately wanting to own it. But last night I couldn't stop thinking about how it sounds. It's ferocious. It's a snarling tiger rapaciously pouncing on its prey. It's Riswick at a James Bond memorabilia convention. No other car sounds like this, whether you're blipping the throttle on a downshift or banging off a 2-3 upshift at 8,000 rpm. It demands to be driven with the windows down and sunroof open — even if you have to don a fleece and crank up the heat, as I did yesterday en route to the original Tommy's in downtown L.A. at 10 pm.

Which got me to thinking about Das Vaterland and its automotive soundtracks. It's easy to buy into stereotypes of German austerity and soullessness, but outside of Italy, I think the Germans have got the best-sounding sporting cars on the market. Practically any Porsche sounds sublime, of course, but what's remarkable to me is the recent rise of the bad-ass German V8. Audi's 4.2-liter V8 rumbles with an awesome combination of attitude and refinement, and AMG's 6.2-liter V8 bellows like a Detroit big-block that was sent to finishing school. In fact, the least aurally impressive high-performance German V8 might well be the 4.0-liter V8 in the current M3, and it's certainly no slouch.

In any case, you gotta give props to our M3's inline-6. Definitely one of the most distinctive-sounding engines in recent memory.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 63,355 miles

Generating Map

November 03, 2008

Yesterday I drove my daughter in our long-term 2002 BMW M3 to Hollywood's El Capitan Theater to see High School Musical 3.

I took the wrong way out of the Hollywood and Highland parking garage, and subsequently went north instead of south on the 101 freeway.

Trying to consult the navigation system on the freeway was a joke. Although I was only doing 60-65 mph, the nav system couldn't keep up on the scale I needed in order to read the names of the upcoming exits.

Seventy-five percent of the screen blocked out in yellow, flashing "Generating Map."

Don't think I'd have had the same issue with a current nav system.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 63,734 miles

2002 BMW M3 Shift Action

November 12, 2008

Jeez, if I had a dime for every wannabe car guy who told me his BMW shifted like a dream. The used-up six-speed manual transmission of this 2002 BMW M3 shows you the weaknesses of the Getrag manual transmission, especially when it's been forced to endure years of abuse like this one has.

Sure, the transmission works, but it's clearly led a hard life. Second gear is barely accessible when the car is cold, even when you double-clutch it as if you were driving some kind of weak-ass British car from the 1950s, a time when synchromesh was some exotic new technology. I'll bet that most people just grip the gear lever and rip it, muscling it into place.

Which is where the problem starts, I think. You need a pretty stout clutch to transmit as much horsepower as this, and the action of the M3's clutch pedal is predictably long and heavy as a result. The trouble is, it takes a real effort to get the pedal all the way down, and it's doubtful anyone really makes the effort. Instead they just force the shift lever into gear, and its light-effort action fools you into thinking that everything is all right. And since the Getrag has such a notchy feel as you slide the lever into the gate, you might not even realize that the actual gear engagement is getting worse over time.

This seems to be the BMW way of doing things, as even the BMW 2002 was notorious for its balky gear engagement. It just shows you that a light-effort, short-throw gear lever might feel great, but it's not a good match with a heavy, long-throw clutch and a drivetrain that winds up as much as this one does.

The transmission is the most complex, expensive component in a car, a real masterpiece of precision engineering. As a racing driver can tell you, it's the one component in a car that you should never abuse. Unfortunately, as this M3 shows, the transmission is the one component in a BMW that is most likely to be abused.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Inside Line @ 63,843 miles

Spiritual Successor?

November 12, 2008

Our E46 M3 is a runner to be sure, and hopping in for a run through the gears reminds you just how solid and capable a car it is. The straight-6 revs like a weedwacker and makes noises so scintillating you'll cackle out loud and keep the sunroof open so you can howl along with it. The chassis is still rock solid and provides feedback that's direct enough to make you feel like you're chatting with the contact patches. After a week with time in the E46 M3, the latest M5 and new 135i, it begs the question, where's BMW's DNA headed?

Our E46 is definitely showing its age, with its antiquated GPS, slightly sloppy shift action (is there an abuse hotline?), and old-school, colored-cut-outs gauges (Will the variable redline slowly creep down the tachometer as the car ages? "Sorry boys, don't have much more than 5000 rpm in me today. You know, the knees..."). All the M3 goodness is still here (due in part to new brakes and rubber), and the car retains a mechanical directness that is wildly appealing. You feel like a hero when you drive the M3, rev-matching shifts into your own driveway just to hear the mill one more time.

The new M5 feels like tech overkill by comparison. Its steering has lost that beautiful telepathic sense, and the first-gen SMG gearbox is so good at annoying it actually makes you long for an automatic (well OK, maybe not that bad, but it's close...). The dreaded "i" word (no, not iDrive: isolating) has actually entered the vernacular when describing a BMW. Make no mistake, the M5 is an awesome and formidable machine, with a stellar chassis and a truly fantastic powerplant, it just seems like BMW has lost its way a bit in trying to fix things that weren't broken. Understand, of course, that the SMG gearbox was always money when driving the car above 8/10ths, and the M5's steering setup can pay dividends on other fronts (low-speed-steering effort, autobahn-speed stability, etc.).

Enter the 135i, and you suddenly feel like BMW's E46 M3 DNA is thriving completely intact. Though no uber-taut M3, the 135i's directness, chuckability and revvy thrust make you giddy again for the brand. Like the E46 M3, you walk away from the 135i shaking like a junkie: You know you need one of these things like extra GM stock, but you don't care. You want one. This with a regular ole' manual gearbox and steering that never seems confused.

All this begs the question: At $30K used, would you rather a warranty-less E46 M3, or a whip-cracking 1 Series? To get the real fun, you'll need a 135i to tart up a skosh (think $40K), but heck, we've already spent $10k wrenching on our long-term E46 M3. Or, you could snag both for the M5's $85K+ sticker.

With BMW's current lineup - if driving fun is the mission - does what you spend equate to how much joy you get back? Our E46 M3 can certainly make you long for simpler days, but maybe that's because we're driving it like hoons, while someone else picks up the maintenance tab.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor, @ 63,855 miles


November 14, 2008

The usual amount of drool was dripping onto my "I <3 M3" T-shirt when I scored the keys to our 2002 long-termer the other night. That is, until I noticed the screw embedded in the driver-side rear tire. Zoinks! A visit to our friends at Stokes Tire Pros was clearly in order.

The puncture was perilously close to the sidewall, they informed us, but a replacement tire was going to run us in the neighborhood of (gulp!) $460 installed. We told 'em to give patching it a shot. They ended up being pleased with the patch job — "Should be good for awhile," said the patch doctor — so we're rolling with it for the time being.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 63,890 miles

Wear or Patina?

November 17, 2008

Occasionally, when driving a car I really like, the distinction between "wear" and "patina" isn't so clear. Such is the case with our M3. This car is old and used in many ways that our fleet of new machinery isn't. But most of us don't care. In fact, I find some of the M3's worn bits somewhat endearing. Like a tired pair of jeans or, in my case, a nasty old ball cap, some of this stuff is cool. And some of it, well, isn't.

The driver's side seat bottom bolster, which has been abraded by every manner of denim and polyester for six years, still looks stunning.

Here's how the once blue and red steering wheel stitching looks now:

Here's the center console just in front of the emergency brake handle where every driver's thumb scrapes after releasing the brake:

And the key, which I'm assuming once included an arrow and a trunk-release icon on its buttons:

So, wear or patina?

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 64,120 miles

Coming Apart At The Seams

November 20, 2008

I'm not really bothered by the interior wear issues in our long-term 2002 M3 that the other Josh highlighted recently. Considering that it's six to seven years old and hasn't exactly received meticulous care, this cabin is looking pretty good.

But I'm not so high on the busted trunk piece shown above, the thing you grasp whenever you open or close the trunk. I remember thinking it felt pretty flimsy when last I grabbed it (while loading CDs for my S.F. trip), but at least it was still kind of attached. Seems a clip or two has given way since Jay first pointed this out back in May — when I opened the trunk to get our trusty roll of paper towels for oil-checking purposes yesterday, it nearly came off in my hand.

And then there's the loose passenger-side kidney grille, which I noticed when I was checking the oil. You can slide it back into place, but it doesn't snap tight, so it must be down a couple clips as well. Slam the hood shut and it'll pop right back out again.

I'm a little surprised that problems like these and the headliner hole are cropping up on a 2002 BMW. It's not that old, is it?

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 64,265 miles

Still Worth the Money

November 24, 2008

Couldn't resist taking the M3 for a nice long drive this weekend. Actually, I took the motorcycle out first, and after seeing how scenic and clear the roads were (who says there's no fall in California?), the M3 got the call the next day. Not sure I really need to go into all the reasons why this car rules, but here are a few.

It's six-years-old and has almost 65,000 miles on it, yet people still stop and stare at it.

I've driven it countless times over the past several months and I still stop and stare at it.

Its engine redlines at 8,000 rpm and it never sounds the least bit reluctant to get there.

The steering is still dead on, no free play, no looseness, nothing.

You can actually lean on the seat's side bolstering through a fast turn.

Yeah, it's not cheap to maintain, and wasn't exactly cheap to buy, but for me, this weekend, on this road, it proved why it's worth the money.

Which one would you have taken first?

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 64,483 miles

Let's Go Autocrossing

December 01, 2008

On a whim, I signed up for an autocrossing school Saturday at California Speedway's Lot 12 in Fontana. And on a whim, I requested our 2002 BMW M3 to experience what's left of the sticky Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 tires we put on in February.

Autocross school is better than a championship for a novice like me, as I probably got 15-16 laps in for the whole day — about 3 times as many as you'd get in official timed competition. Somewhere during my third lap, I realized I was driving one of the trickier cars out there — perhaps topped only by a Canadian-built, not-a-kit-car Cobra.

Which is to say that driving a E46 BMW M3 around an autocross course is very, very fun. Any combination of steering and throttle input (and not anything close to full throttle) had the back end coming around. The M3 offers good feedback through the seat and the steering wheel, though, so the slides were easy to predict and catch — well, most of the time.

I was torn: Part of me wanted to turn some cleaner runs and quicker times, but another, equally impassioned part of me wanted to get the tail out through every corner. In the end, we sort of compromised. My times came down a bit, and I created my own enormously entertaining, hands-on course in car control.

Rarely have I ever had this much time and space to play with a powerful, rear-wheel-drive car. The Stoptech brakes also felt great when I got on them hard. The only casualty of the weekend was the right foglight. It was already missing its protective casing and when it knocked against a cone, the lens cracked. The light still works, but when I noticed it was bouncing out of position on the freeway, I yanked it out.

I am now intrigued by the idea of using an E46 M3 as a hooligan autocross car, a counter to all the WRXs and Miatas out there. Video and photos shot by Loren Wong (SubyTrojan) submitted for your enjoyment.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 64,897 miles

What an Elegant Solution

December 01, 2008

I needed to check our long-term 2002 BMW M3's oil level and tire pressures in preparation for a weekend autocrossing school (photos of that coming tomorrow). I'd guess I've never checked the oil in our M3 before, because I was surprised when this little finger extended out after I yanked the hood release in the footwell.

What a cool idea. I don't have to look like I don't know what I'm doing at the gas station, fumbling under the hood panel for an unseen latch. Instead, I just pull this external lever and a second later the lovely north-south inline six appears before me. Every car should have this convenience.

The oil level checked out fine, but I added air to the tires.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ about 64,650 miles

Road Booger

December 03, 2008

Not to put too fine a point on it, but our 2002 BMW M3 picked up what looked like a nasal secretion while visiting California Speedway yesterday.

Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be an ancient piece of chewing gum. Our crack forensics team says the M3's projecting and sticky front tires picked it up off the parking lot somewhere and spit it back onto the rear quarter-panel.

Chances of something like this happening were improved by the Stoptech brake upgrade we installed a while back, a move that required 10 mm worth of front wheel spacers to gain the required caliper clearance.

Perhaps it's time for a pair of Yosemite Sam "Back Off" mud flaps. The paint looks OK so far, but...

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing at 62,345 miles (I think)

Three Things I Love About the 2002 BMW M3

December 08, 2008

Our 2002 BMW M3 has a few minor problems (curling trunk liner, missing dome light cover, loose trunk flashing) but at 65,000 miles there's still lots to love about it. Here are three things that come to mind and a short, highly opinionated reason why this raises my pulse.

1. Changing Redline on the Tach. When you first fire it up the redline, shown in glowing red, is about 6,500 rpm. But after it's hot the redline climbs to 7,500 rpm. I can imagine some Germanic voice saying, "Yes, I know you want to wind za crap out of it immediately. But you must wait until za vital oil is warmed and fully circulated before you may do so."

2. The fat, fat steering wheel. Is it too fat? Edmunds editors could debate this along with the great questions of existence, for hours on end. But my firm conviction is that it is just right. It is a constant tactile reminder you that you are driving a car that is a cut above everything else on the road, even when it is six years old with 65,000 hard miles on it.

3. Growls and snarls. This M3 is like an athlete who's so good he doesn't have to advertise it all the time. So a threatening growl is your normal exhaust note. But step into it and you find another whole level of snarling performance awaits you.

For Once...

December 09, 2008

...I had nothing to do with missing tread on rear tires.

Above, is what remains of the tread on one of the rear tires on our 2002 BMW M3. No doubt these tires fell victim to gratuitous powerslides and general hooliganism brought about by our crack staff. I'm sure Ms. Riches' excellent adventure had a little something to do with it too.

While these tires would be perfectly safe for most of the year here in Southern California, the rainy season (read month) is fast approaching. Despite the fact that all California drivers are idiots, the roads and freeways here are notoriously bad in the rain. Improper drainage, poor lane markings along with massive hidden oil deposits that seep to the surface conspire to send everyone, even cars with fully treaded tires, careening into the wall when it's raining.

As much as I hate to err on the side of safety, it might be a good idea to buy some new tires.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 62,550 miles

Down With A Bum Leg

January 02, 2009

As you can see our beloved M3 is down with a flat Yokohama. We already pumped it up once, only to have it flatten again. Usually we would just get it patched, but all four Advans on the car are so worn (there are cords showing on one) that fixing it doesn't make much sense. And so the car sits waiting for some new shoes.

Anybody got any tires they'd like to recommend? As much as we liked the Yoks, we thought we would try something new. What tires should we get for the M3?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

New Tires Finally for Our German Mustang

January 18, 2009

After a week or so of waiting, our long-term 2002 BMW M3 is back on the road and rolling on a new pair of shoes.

Faithful readers will remember that we had beaten the E46's set of Yokohama Advans into submission and were in desperate need of replacements. As always, to we went, credit card in hand.

But a new set of Advans seemed boring. As much as we were impressed with the tire, we wanted to try something new, but what? We knew we still wanted a Max Performance Tire because the M3 rarely leaves L.A.and Spring is closer than we think, but beyond that we were open to anything.

Well, we ended up with a set of Sumitomos. Yes, Sumitomos. The company's max performance model is called the HTR ZIII and we figured they were worth a shot for two reasons.

1) They are dirt cheap. In fact, they are the cheapest max performance tire that comes in the M3's required sizes. And at $132 for each front and $153 for each rear they cost about half as much as a set of Advans or a set of Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s.

2) We thought it would be fun to see what you get for that low price. Are they a steal or is this an example of half price/half performance?

We decided it would be fun to find out. Soon we will retest the car at our test track to sample the ultimate grip and extreme handling characteristics of the Sumitomos, and we'll surely report on their ride quailty and overall durability in the coming weeks.

As usual, and the crew at The Tire Rack made everything easy. The tires were shipped quickly and showed up as promised. We then zipped over to our favorite local tire installer, Stokes Tire in Santa Monica, and had them installed. They charged us $109. That's $100 for install / balance and $9 for hazardous waste disposal.

And so far so good. The Sumitomo name might not impress your buddies at the local hangout, but the tires look good, and they feel great. They've been on the car for about a week now and we have no complaints.

New set of Sumitomos.

Old set of Yokohamas.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 66,698 miles

Track Testing the Sumitomo HTR ZIII

January 21, 2009

(Photo by Kurt Niebuhr)

2002 BMW M3 W/ Sumitomo HTR ZIII performance tires


0-30: 2.1

0-45: 3.6

0-60: 5.3

0-60 (with 1 foot of rollout like on a dragstrip): 5.1

0-75: 7.8

1/4 mile (ET / MPH): 13.6 @ 103.3


60-0: 115 feet

30-0: 29 feet

Skid Pad


Comments: Balance is still good. Edge of control might be slightly dulled relative to Advan rubber.


68.5 mph

Reasonably good slalom speed for inexpensive rubber. Overall limits lower. Tires seem more heat sensitive and are marginally less responsive

Tires: Sumitomo HTR ZIII. F: 225/45ZR18 95Y R: 255/40ZR18 99Y

The M3 was recently tested with the old Neovas, results are listed after the jump.

2002 BMW M3 W/ Advan Neova AD07


0-30: 2.1

0-45: 3.7

0-60: 5.4

0-60 (with 1 foot of rollout like on a dragstrip): 5.1

0-75: 8.0

1/4 mile (ET / MPH): 13.6 @ 103.6


60-0: 109 feet

30-0: 27 feet

Skid Pad



71.02 mph

Tires: Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 F: 225/45R18 91W, R: 255/40R1895W

If we use for the price comparo, the Advans are $269/ea for front and $325/ea for the rears. That's $1,118 for rubber alone. No shipping, no mounting. The Sumitomos are $132 and $153 respectively. $570 for rubber, a $548 savings over the Advans.

Are the savings worth it?

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 66,381 miles

If It Was My Money

January 26, 2009

The tenure of our M3 isn't going to last much longer and there have people often remark "Well, I should buy this car when we're done."

And just to answer a question you might have right now, no we don't gets deals on them.

We bought it used to see what the ownership would be like. I've loved this car. I love the sound, the ease of blip shifting, the power, the handling and the looks. But when I get into it during the day and see how the rubberized surface has been scratched up, the missing overhead light, and dangling trim it makes me wonder if our thoroughbred is on the backside of it's spunk.

A car like this need attention, and as it gets older it needs more and more. I don't think age is a deal killer. This M3 has plenty of big time pros, but the maintenance on a maturing performance vehicle isn't something to take lightly.

Would I buy it after it's tour is done? I thought about it a lot last night as I drove home from a late night movie. I pulled up next to a gray buzzard hunched over the steering wheel of his yellow GT500 at a stop light. Game on.

Once you get that rush of acceleration and growl of it's purebred engine, it's really hard to say it isn't worth it all.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 66,986 miles

Brakes Feel Great, Sound Awful

January 28, 2009

Sure, our M3 probably didn't need upgraded brakes, but then again, it didn't need 333-horsepower either. Someone at BMW thought it might be fun - and they were right. Same goes for the brakes. They feel great and you can hammer on them endlessly without guilt.

They're not perfect though. Around town they're starting to squeak. It's like having a parakeet stuck in your ear. Kind of annoying to say the least. Not sure if it's something we can address easily. You'll also notice the considerable amount of brake dust on the wheels. Good thing they're dark to begin with.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 66,963 miles

False Positive

February 02, 2009

I was enjoying a carefree weekend with our long-term 2002 BMW M3 — nothing demanding, really, I was just keeping an easy pace and taking care to baby the aging six-speed Getrag gearbox . And that's about when the amber "low oil" light came on two miles from my apartment. It stayed on until I shut the car off.

There was a quart of the M3's preferred 10W60 synthetic in the backseat, but when I picked up the bottle, less than a half-pint was left. It was 6 p.m. on Sunday and I had evening plans, so I rushed to the nearest auto parts store. They didn't have 10W60, so I was forced to buy one of the two allowed alternatives per the owner's manual: 10W40.

Meanwhile, the low oil light had extinguished in the M3. I let the car sit for 40 minutes after returning home, and when I pulled the dipstick, the oil level was perfectly fine — smack in the middle. Thanks, car.

So what we did learn here? Not a lot, but if I owned an E46 BMW M3, I'd keep a case of 10W60 on hand just to avoid running around on Sunday nights.

P.S. Ignore the brake wear warning light on the right side of the cluster. The brakes work extremely well, but the stock brake pad wear sensor has never been quite pleased since the installation of our Stoptech big brake kit.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 67,063 miles

One Funky Morning

February 09, 2009

It's been raining here in LA the last few days. Several times with pretty heavy downpours. I spent most of the weekend on my couch not feeling well so the M3 was parked on the street the majority of the time.

When I got into the car this morning the trapped moist air had a strong stale laundry smell to it. It reminded me of a college roommate, not in a good way. I had to blast the air at full for a long time with the windows cracked to work the moisture and the smell out of the system.

I just wish it was that simple back in my freshman year with Doug.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Spoiled By The S54

February 10, 2009

We've had a lot of desirable long-term cars over the years, but I think our 2002 BMW M3 has been praised more consistently than any other long-termer for the way it drives, bizarre Austrian rants notwithstanding. As the odometer approaches 70,000 and the e46 M3 generation marks the third anniversary of its demise, this is still arguably the most fun-to-drive car in our fleet, as I was reminded while caning the M3 through the canyons in Malibu on my lunch break today.

However, I do blame this car for causing one of my biggest professional headaches: the M3's 333-hp S54 inline-6 has become the standard by which I judge sporting engines, and most of them just don't measure up.

The 370Z's 3.7-liter V6? Reprehensibly truckish. The A4's new 2.0T? Sounds like a Scion. Evo X? A turbocharged blender. Hell, BMW's own twin-turbo six seems soporific compared to the M3's gloriously free-revving powerplant.

I still love me some V8 (Z06, R8, S5, current M3, any AMG product), but those extra two cylinders usually don't come cheap. Particularly in the $25-35k price range, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better motor than a used e46 M3's.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 67,202 miles

The Feel of the Wheel

February 17, 2009

By now, y'all know the M3's performance can be more thrilling than a ride at Six Flags. And that the sweet noises the engine makes when it's on the boil are enough to cause unmitigated lust (see Sadlier's last post). Yeah, you can count me among the M3 fanboys. But one part of the M3 that strikes me as another thing they got spot on is, to paraphrase the words of the Rolling Stones, under my thumb(s).

I've already waxed poetic about the great seats. Now, I'm talking about the steering wheel. A just-right diameter, a thick rim (but not ridiculously so, such as on the newer M coupe), perfectly-placed "9 and 3" spokes with thumb reliefs and even the M-specific red and blue stitching add to the sporty tactile experience that reminds you that you're piloting something special.

As they say in the auto trade, the feel of the wheel will seal the deal.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 67,716 miles

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

February 20, 2009

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

(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 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.

(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.

(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!

New Tire Review

February 23, 2009

A month ago we mounted new shoes on our German Mustang. We ordered a set of Sumitomo HTR ZIII tires from to replace our worn Yokohama Advans. Why Sumitomos? Simply, they were cheap. Then we track tested them, which proved that if ultimate dry grip is your first five priorities then you should buy the Yoks.

Well, my tire needs are a bit more complex then that. And after nearly 2,000 miles of driving, I'm sold on these Sumitomos.

First, I'm not going to track days or spending enough time carving canyons to spend twice as much on tires to eeeeeeeeek out that last big of dry grip. It's just not worth it to me. And the M3 is still way too fast for the street on the Sumitomos. Around town they provide more than enough grip. Wet or dry. Yes, I've driven this car in the rain recently, and was very impressed with the grip the new tires provided.

I also like the ride and sound of these new tires. They feel good, without proritizing stick too much over comfort. And they look good. Not only the tread pattern, but I like the simple sidewall design and the way it wraps up over the rim.

If I had a complaint it would be aimed at the tire's effect on the M3's steering. It seems to be a bit less tight on center than it felt on the Yoks. But the change is minor, and may be caused by the car's accumulation of miles more than the new rubber.

Regardless, these tires are a steal for the price. For less then half the cost of a set of the Advans or Michelin PS2, they're a great choice. Honestly, unless I had money to burn I have yet to figure out why I would spend more for the Advans or the PS2s. Not for basic performance street driving anyway.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 68,132 miles

Missing Red Clown Nose

February 27, 2009

I was driving our 2002 BMW M3 around last night when I noticed that that red clown nose dimmer switch was missing from the rearview mirror. So, yeah, couldn't dim the headlights of all those motorists I left behind in the dust. Heh.

The mirror looks so sad without that red button that I did a quick search online just to see how much it would be to replace an E46 rearview mirror with dimmer. There seemed to be a wide range of choices with a wide range of prices, from the 99-cent one (opening bid) I found on eBay to the $50 defective leaky one (also on eBay) to a $300 oval mirror found on an M3 forum.

Haven't brought this up with the key keepers yet but in all honesty none of the other editors even noticed the dimmer was missing.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 68,308 miles

A Good Thing About the Nav

March 02, 2009

I know other editors have hated on the archaic navigation system of our 2002 BMW M3 in past blog posts. Sure, it's best if you have lots of time to scroll through the alphabet to spell out your destination on the nav before you have to get where you're going. (Never navigate while you're driving, at least in this car!) And the map of your route is so tiny that it's useless. And when you don't want to use the nav, the default screen is the menu screen, not the audio screen or even just the map. All annoying issues, especially when you've already had exposure to more modern navigation systems, both portable and in-car.

But what I did appreciate about navigating toward a destination in unfamiliar territory with our M3 is that the guide gives you ample time to make the required maneuvers. When I was stuck in the dreaded traffic hell that is 110 North near downtown L.A. on my way toward Eagle Rock, the guide gave me an ample heads-up to get many lanes over to my exit onto the 5 North. I also like how she always says things like, "Prepare to turn right" or "Take the second exit." She doesn't talk all the time like other nav systems I've tried but she does give you the required info when you need it. In other navs I've used, I'd miss a turn since I'd be stuck in the right lane at the time they instructed me to turn left. *facepalm*

Yes, living with this 2002 nav system is like living with a cassette tape deck but it's better than nothing at all and still functional. So the next owner of this 2002 M3 may have to deal with this old-fashioned nav but at least the M3's fun driving ability is still timeless.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 68,434 miles

Know Your Competition

March 05, 2009

Every time I drive our 2002 BMW M3 I can't help but feel like it's driving with a chip on its shoulder or something because it seems like either drivers of other similar sporty cars are trying to get me to race or cops regard it suspiciously. To both groups I just shrug and go on my way trying to be as nonthreatening as possible: hanging two car lengths back and going with the speed of traffic. Sure, the temptation is always there but I've been able to push it to the back of my mind.

But this morning....

I had just exited Culver Boulevard off the 90 highway and was sitting at the front of a queue of cars. I usually hate that position because 9 times out of 10 there is always some schmo who skips over the lane of waiting cars to get in the next lane over so that they can drag race to get to the next light and turn right in front of all the other cars.

Well today, it was a light blue 1960-something Mustang. I knew he was trouble the second I saw him exit the freeway behind me. At first it looked like he was going to fall in behind the line of cars but then he spotted the free lane next to me and drove up beside me. Except he hung back a little so that I couldn't see him in my peripheral. Tricky!

I was familiar with the timing of the light since this is my commute to work so I knew when to get the car ready. And sure enough as soon as the light turned green, the Mustang floored it, squealing his tires, and moving over into my lane with me still in it! But half a second later I was able to oh-so easily scoot past him. Ha!

Honestly though, what was he thinking? I'm in an M3. Hello?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 68,524 miles

Dirty Even When It's Clean

March 16, 2009

What the paint on our 2002 BMW M3 looks like with the odometer close to 70K miles, said without judgment. This is a picture of the passenger side front end, missing fog light courtesy of an errant cone during an autocross. I noticed the faux dirtiness when I had just gotten the keys back from the car washer. "Did they not clean the car?" I wondered looking at what appeared to be dried mud spatters on the front end. But when I touched it it was just worn. I wonder how much a paint job would cost?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 69,190 miles

The Routine

March 24, 2009

I've driven our M3 enough now to have established a routine every time I get behind the wheel. Right after clicking my seatbelt, I reach down and enable the "Sport" throttle calibration and disable the stability control.

And with those settings configured, I know the fun won't be delayed or interrupted.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 69,500 miles

Cracks 20,000 Miles in Our Hands

March 30, 2009

When we bought our beloved E46 back in December of 2007, the 2002 BMW M3 had covered 49,750 miles. Well, that was 15 months and 20,000 miles ago.

The good news: We haven't spent a dime on maintenance since we had that alternator problem dealt with back in September around the 62,000 mile mark. Well, not unless you count tires. I'm also astonished at how tight this car feels. We don't baby it, believe me, yet there is not a squeek or a rattle to be heard. Tight as a drum, and I swear the suspension feels new.

The bad news: The steering and shifter are feeling their age. Especially the shifter.

By the way, a new M3 Sedan will be joining our fleet in April, and its arrival will mark the end of this car's time with us. I for one will miss it. Will you?

Anybody out there want to buy a well preserved 2002 BMW M3?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 69,789 miles

Glowing Gearshifter

April 01, 2009

This may be a silly thing to blog about but I like this feature on our 2002 BMW M3: the illuminated gearshifter. Now, I'm just speaking from the perspective of someone who jumps in a different car every night. I hate how when I'm driving a long-termer on the freeway and I can't tell if it has one more gear above 5th. I'm always afraid that I'll inadvertently shift it into Reverse.

Anyway, the M3's gearshifter actually has its own lights inside. I think it's the first time I've noticed that in any car. Are there other cars that have that?

I checked to make sure it wasn't the orange lights overhead that were illuminating the shifter by blocking it out with my hand. And sure enough, it glows on its own. Nifty!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 69,844 miles

Chugs past 70,000 Miles

April 14, 2009

As I mentioned recently in a previous post, we bought our E46 M3 15 months ago with a tick less than 50,000 miles on its odometer. Well, last night I jumped in the black coupe to drive home and noticed its odometer read 70,000 miles exactly.

To commemorate the milestone I drove it home like I stole it. Great car.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Gateway Drug Meets Real Deal

April 17, 2009

When I scored the keys to the M3 last night, I couldn't resist going on an impromptu comparison drive. 2002 M3 with 70k miles vs. my recently acquired 2001 Prelude with 68k miles — fair fight, right? Right, except for, um, the M3's rear-wheel drive and additional 133 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. In other words, the M3 is infinitely awesomer than the 'Lude. But the experience did remind me that Honda's classic VTEC fours are total gateway drugs for M power.

That's why I've had a thing for our M3 ever since I ran it through the gears for the first time. Like the Prelude, or my old Integra GS-R, or an S2000, the M3 has a motor that practically begs you to drive the whee out of it — but unlike those torqueless wonders, the M3's inline-6 has good pull from as low as 3,000 rpm, and it just keeps building in a seamless surge until the rev limiter intervenes. It's basically VTEC version 2.0: same thrilling high-rpm thrust and soundtrack, with the added bonus of usable midrange torque. Ditto the M5's V10 and the new M3's V8. I suspect I speak for VTEC owners everywhere when I say that these Hondas are what you drive until you can afford an M.

I do wish the M3 had the Prelude's shifter though. The Honda takes that category hands down.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 70,104 miles

It's Called Character Lines

April 27, 2009

In a previous post about the seats, some of you had asked how the red leather in our 2002 BMW M3 was holding up. I'd say that after seven years and over 70,000 miles, they look pretty good broken in. (However, the weather stripping coming apart is another matter. Yikes.)

Anyway, the below shot of the side bolster seems to be the only place where there's some wear on the seat. Compare that to our 2008 R8's seats after just three months in service.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 70,719 miles

Would You Trade It In For The New M3?

April 30, 2009

I drove our new M3 like I meant it for the first time this week, and while I'm totally with Jacquot on the color choice, here's what I texted back to the office:

"A race car that seats five, with a supple ride and a killer stereo. Best all-around car in the world."

I stand by that assessment, but after taking our old M3 up the PCH to Oxnard last night (not once have I just driven this car straight home), I'm not sure I would trade it in for the new one if it were my car. TMV for our M3 is about $19k, so I'd need another $37k or so to get into the new one. Even if I had silly money, I'd have to think twice about getting rid of the E46.

Yes, the aging S54 inline-6 is noticeably less powerful than the ridiculous S65 V8, but it's got every bit as much of that refined ferocity that sets M engines apart. I still prefer the looks of the old car, too, though it loses out on functionality to our E90 four-door (a curse upon you, BMW, for not making an E46 M3 sedan). For my money, I think I might keep the E46 and buy a new 328i wagon with that $37k.

What would you all do?

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 70,996 miles

Loose Weatherstripping Trim

May 06, 2009

Our old M3 was looking a little down recently. Specifically, the flocked (velour-like-covered) rubber trim strip that covers the inside edge of the driver's door weatherstripping was down and out. Armed with a tube of Permatex Super Weatherstrip Adhesive (under $3), I got to work.

After making sure the two surfaces (the weatherstrip and the velour-covered rubber trim strip) to be wed were clean, I laid down a bead on the trim piece and put it firmly back in place. For the next couple of minutes I quickly moved my palms up and down the strip, applying even pressure to it as the glue set. A bonus massage for the Bimmer.

Apart from a few minor traces of the glue where it squeezed out along the edge (which we'll remove after it has fully dried), it looks like this did the trick.

John DiPietro @ 71,232 miles

How old is that in dog years?

May 11, 2009

Personally, I have never kept a car more than five years. I let go of cars for a variety of reasons — got bored of them, blew up an engine (or two), I wanted to go faster or my tastes have changed. Buzzing around town this weekend in our "old" M3 got me thinking — is there and automotive equivalent to dog years?

As it is, I get the feeling that our E46 would be in its early-40's in human years. It's got plenty of athleticism and enthusiasm left in it, but those crow's feet are starting to show. As noted in earlier posts, it's got some wear here and there, but it's holding up fairly well. As hard as I suspect this black beauty's been flogged, I think it's actually surviving exceptionally well.

Scratches and wear from daily use are showing on the ashtray lid (even though we don't smoke in our cars), as DiPietro posted, the weatherstripping is losing is adhesion, there are a couple of nicks in the upholstery and there's a wear spot where our thumbs rub against the handbrake well. Most obvious for me though, was the steering wheel — it's now smooth and shiny from years of shuffling by sweaty-palmed pilots.

Unlike some cars though, the M3's buttons are still in excellent shape. I once had a Ford Mustang Cobra that had several black buttons that had worn to white plastic. Those worn bits were completely illegible after only two years on the most frequently used buttons (volume and track skip). I can't see even a hint of this type of wear on the Bimmer.

Given my judgment of its equivalent human age, the automotive aging comes in just under six years per human year. Of course, this equation relies heavily on what kind of car it is, how hard it was driven and where it was driven. In the case of our '02 M3, I could easily see it as the Keith Richards of the car world — still rockin' hard well past its "sell by" date. What say you?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 71,300 miles

I Heart the M3. Again.

May 20, 2009

Having driven the 2002 BMW M3 for the weekend, I should've written this blog post on Monday, but I was dragging my feet, fearful of the Bavarian Backlash after I admitted I was so totally over the coupe.

But this morning a great thing happened. I took the M3 out to run a quick errand and turns out, I do like the car. It was my crappy weekend full of mindless errands that was annoying, not the M3 coupe's lack of rear doors or updated nav system. In fact, it wasn't the M3's fault at all that my kid was invited to two birthday parties in the same afternoon (one pool, one beach) that had her climbing in and out of the back seat, trailing wet towels and sand over my seat back as I ferried her from one group of shrieking girls to the next.

Once back in the M3 this morning BY MYSELF, the BMW and I had a perfectly lovely drive together.

Although it did make me promise to take home an SUV or a minivan this weekend instead.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 71,820 miles

Keeps On Tickin'

May 22, 2009

The thing about the new cars in our long-term fleet is, they really shouldn't be having serious problems. We get 'em fresh off the lot and ditch 'em after 20,000 miles. Any modern car should be able to handle that.

When you're talking about a used performance car, though, that's a different story.

We added our long-term 2002 BMW M3 to the fleet in January of 2008 with 50,000 miles on the clock. People don't buy stickshift M3s to putter around at 3,000 rpm, so it's safe to assume that our example had already led a pretty hard life. And over the past 17 months, we've added almost 22,000 ...erm... "enthusiastic" miles to the tally, including drifting, autocrossing, repeated performance testing, and generally treating the red hash mark north of 8,000 rpm as the "shift here" light.

Yet despite having weathered the full Edmunds treatment for an unusually long period, this thing absolutely refuses to break. You can almost hear it scoffing at us: "Is that all you got?" The M3 pulls just as hard and clean today as it did when we bought it, and it still feels tight. Color me impressed.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 71,826 miles

Hot or Cold?

June 01, 2009

See this little knob between the M3's center dashboard vents? It controls the air temperature coming out of those vents and the two outer vents by the doors. And it does so with authority over the enitre automatic climate control system. Why this is silly after the jump...

Dialing this little knob to full hot or full cold will give you exactly that regardless of what the rest of the system is trying do. This is a great thing if, say, you like your feet to be 90 degress and your hands to be 60 degrees. But, overall, it's cumbersome, unnecessary and, oftentimes, confusing.

The manual isn't any help. It points out that one can turn off the airflow through these vents with the outer knobs (1) and adjust its direction with the tab in their center (2). But it fails to mention that by moving the center knob (3) you can completely contradict what you're trying to accomplish with the primary climate controls.

Certainly, this can be an interesting fine-tuning tool for cockpit comfort, but, more often, I find it frustratiing — like when I jump in the car on a cool morning after parking in hot weather the day before. Naturally, in hot weather, I had the vent temperature control set to cool (or, more often, another driver did). Now, however, it's 50 degrees and I want hot air.

What do the vents do? They blow cold until I reset the knob. I don't get it. And that's just when the system is set to "automatic." Combine this knob's abilities with the mode controls, which allow selectable airflow to the windshield, center vents or foot area and you can make some truly self-defeating things happen with cockpit temperature.

I'm sure there's no shortage of fans of this "feature" out there. But the way I see it it's just another adjustment I have to make before I find comfort.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 72,300 miles.

Three Things I Love, Three Things I Don't.

June 25, 2009

Last night, I had a choice of either the new M3 or the old M3 to take home. I took the latter, which no doubt has some of you scratching your heads. You see, the old M3 will be going away soon and as I haven't driven it in a while, figured I better get time in it while I can. Even though it was just for my traffic-filled six mile commute, it was worth it — this morning I let it sing on the wide-open on-ramp to the 10 trapped-way. Of course, one last dance through the canyons is on the docket too. So yeah, I like it that much. Dare I say, I'm as smitten with this car as Mr. Sadlier.

Herewith are the 3 things I love and, uhhh, don't love about the car:

1) Silken, muscular and free-revving 333-hp inline six.

2) Multi-adjustable sport seats that are comfortable on long trips and supportive on canyon runs.

3) The look and stance of the car. Seriously people, the E46 is the highwater mark of 3-series styling.

No Love:
1) No 'off' button for the climate control — you have to repeatedly hit the fan's 'down' button to shut it off.

2) The cheap plastic trim near the parking brake and cup holders that looks like hell thanks to its easily-scratched up nature.

3) Exhaust note. Sounds tinny and wimpy compared to the hearty engine note.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 72,880 miles.

Is There Any Depreciation on Driving Pleasure?

June 29, 2009

I don't know about you, but I can't afford a new BMW M3. But now, I might be able to afford a used one.

Our 2002 BMW M3 Coupe is going to be leaving home soon, and it will be my job to push it out the door. So this morning I took a look at what we paid for it and what we hope to sell it for.

About 18 months ago we paid $30,000 for our menacing, black, freeway rocket. It had 50,000 miles on it, definitely not a spring chicken. Still, the needle on the fun factor registered a high reading.

Now, our True Market Value price is $18,508 at 72,951 miles. That means the car has depreciated $11,492. If you were leasing the car, that would be the equivalent of $638 a month (before taxes and DMV fees). That's still a pretty steep monthly payment for me.

But on the other hand, that's a lot of car.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 72,951 miles.

Forget the Fuel Economy and Enjoy the Ride

July 06, 2009

Looking at the mileage records for vehicles in the long term fleet I usually find that I get higher fuel economy than other drivers. So I was waiting for that effect to kick in with the 2002 BMW M3.

No dice.

Lifetime average for the M3 is 17.4 mpg and I only improved the efficiency to a measly 19.6 mpg on the last tank after driving 277 freeway miles. I couldn't even crack 20 mpg!

This car is impossible to drive calmly. It was never intended to provide good fuel efficiency. It was built to deliver driving pleasure and even at its advanced age it does that quite well.

Buyer Opens A Pandora's Box of Questions

July 20, 2009

Last week I got a quote from a wholesaler for our 2002 BMW M3. It was a good price but I was interested to see what kind of respons it would get on the open market.

So over the weekend I decided to throw it up on Craigslist. Maybe I could improve the wholesaler's quote. The TMV for this car is $18,400 and I decided to drop the price slightly to $18,000 since time was short.

Friday night I got an email from an interested buyer. Saturday I got several more emails. Sunday morning I got a call from a young guy who wanted to see it right away. "I'll be there in 30 minutes," he said. "I promise I'll be there." Well, since he promised...

Sure enough, in 30 minutes, here comes this nice kid, only 20 years old. He wanted to take out a loan from his uncle to buy the car of his dreams. On the test drive he told me he had been following this car, this year, since he was about 13 years old.

He immediately began asking questions about what service had been done to the car in our 20K plus miles of driving. Digging through records I found that we had done the 60,000 mile inspection 11, oil changes, replaced tires, upgraded the brakes and performed several other repairs.

Then he asked if the car had been driven hard. All I could say was, "It's an M3. What do you think?" Basically, the car asks — no, demands — to be driven hard.

I gave him all the information we had about the car and its condition. But frankly, I hope he doesn't buy it. I hope he saves his money, buys a Honda Civic and waits until he has a little less testosterone before he gets an M3. As for our car, this is a good one for the wholesaler.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 73,850 miles

Sold to Buyer Who Says it is "Car of My Dreams"

July 22, 2009

A few days ago when I posted about the 20-year-old who wanted to buy our 2002 BMW M3 I got quite a few comments.

Most of you said in no uncertain terms that it was too much car for someone that age. Others felt it was inappropriate for his family to fund this purchase. Still others were very negative about the outcome of putting a car like this in a young driver's hands.

But one commentor said something I really liked: "This kid's been in love with that model of M3 since he was 13. My guess is he'll be very careful with it. If anything, the worst that can happen is he'll damage the paint from over polishing it."

I'm not sure if this is true, but I'm going to keep this in mind. Because the kid bought the car.

Here's what happened.

When the kid came last Sunday, he asked a million questions about how the car had been driven and serviced. Looking back through records and blog posts I found it had been maintained better than I realized. I emailed him Monday morning with followup info but I didn't hear anything back all day long.

Fine, I thought, I really wanted to wholesale it anyway. And $16,000 (minus a $500 broker's fee) wasn't bad. In my Craigslist ad I had listed it for $18,000.

But then on my drive home my phone rang. It was the kid. We talked about the service records and I said I would be willing to deduct a certain amount for various issues. "I want to negotiate face-to-face," he told me. Okay.

An hour later my wife looked out the front window and said, "Here comes the committee." The kid came with his mother and uncle. Standing by the M3, we talked about maintenance and other issues. The uncle test drove the car. And then he said, "We want to make an offer."

This is always an interesting moment since you have no idea what will come next. But I was thinking that if I could get $17K it would be a $1,500 improvement over the wholesaler.

"We'd like to offer you $17,000," the uncle said.

Now, it would be a mistake to say, "Great! I'll take it." Instead, I winced and said, "I was hoping to get a bit more than that. But there are a few outstanding issues. And I know how much he wants the car. So, okay, I'll accept $17,000."

We drove to the bank where the mother got a cashier's check for the full amount. As we drove back the kid was really babying the car (which is hard to do). I couldn't help being like a dad either, and said, "You know, in a car like this it's easy to go way faster than you realize. And keep an eye out for cops."

He dropped me off at my house and I watched the black BMW disappear around the corner. I'm hoping he takes great care of it. And I hope the worst he does is damage the paint by overpolishing it. Good luck and safe driving.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @73,900 miles

Parting Shots

August 13, 2009

" ^ 'nuff said" Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor.

That's right, our 2002 BMW M3 is gone (Read the Long Term Wrap up here.) As sad as it is (for some of us — the ones who weren't responsible for keeping the cabinet full of liquid-gold M3 oil), let's pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and take a walk down memory lane with the latest installment of Parting Shots. Walton said it best above, but follow the jump for more, and don't forget to leave your own Parting Shot in the comments.

"A car for the ages. Timeless. A true modern classic. Not exactly cheap to own, but greatness rarely is. In a few years E46 M3s will be under $10,000. I think I see some late night internet shopping sessions in my future. I'll own one eventually. My wife will just have to deal with it."

-Scott Oldham, Editor-in-Chief, Inside Line


"The lesson here is to never, ever loan your M3 to a friend. This car is a victim of serial abuse - every shift ripped at peak rpm. Is it any wonder that the engine swills oil, the second gear synchro is toast and the shift linkage is worn? This car needs on on lengthy spell in rehab and a careful elderly owner."

-Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Inside Line


"I'd like to use my space to mention the navigation system. In short, avoid it on a used BMW. You might as well have a big hole in the dash with a nice potted bamboo growing inside. It's slow, unintuitive and somehow manages to make first-gen iDrive make sense. This certainly shows the folly of this decade's rapidly evolving in-car electronics interfaces. The latest-and-greatest in your new car quickly becomes a hapless dinosaur in somebody else's used car."

-James Riswick, Automotive Editor


"If I remember correctly, the original idea was to see what kind of cool car we could get for about the same price as a new, nicely equipped Altima or Camry. Would I rather have this used M3 rather than a new car that's at the same price range - yes, yes, 100 times yes!!!

What a blast to drive - it still feels fast and still looks good. Price of maint. and/or repairs might ultimately keep me away however."

-Brian Moody, Road Test Editor


Nav sucked. Stereo sucked. Shift linkage sucked. Clutch sucked. Maintenance sucked. Trim pieces sucked. Stinky crayon smell sucked. Dropping it into 3rd gear with a quick blip of the throttle as you approach a 60mph bend, feeling the front wheels grab hold of the road surface as you will the car through the corner only to have the car will you back, urging you to go faster as you crest the next rise with the engine tearing past seven thousand rpm's... I'm sorry what? I'll take it.

- Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor


"My favorite memory of our E46 M3 is the weekend I autocrossed it. It got so loose through the cones, but its precise, communicative steering made it a friendly car to gather up. It soon became a game of how big a slide I could get it into and still bring it back. And once I figured out how the M3 wanted to be driven, it ran some pretty good times, too"

- Erin Riches, Senior Editor Inside Line


Sadlier: "I've never gotten such satisfaction out of simply starting a car up — there's nothing like the e46 M3's unadulterated growl at ignition. You know this car is special from the first time you turn the key."

Magrath: "Do you mean "you know it's special" because it's always asking for oil when you start it? Or because you're high from the crayon smell?"

Sadlier: "You should include your replies to the parting shots as well."

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant & Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor


"I'm going to miss this M3 for many, many reasons. I have fond memories of sliding it around Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, slinging it through the local mountain roads and listening to its 8000-rpm swan song before every shift. But, the memory I'll never forget, the one that is forever etched into my cerebral cortex, is that of my wife — in labor — screaming at me from the passenger seat as I searched for a gas station on our 1:00 am trip to the hospital for the birth of our first child.

To say I have some memories in this car is, as they say, an understatement."

-Josh Jacquot, Senior Road Test Editor


"It's the dream car. Can't afford an M3? Wait a few years and it's still an awesome car, now affordable. The new M3 may have a better nav system and hill-hold, but the old one has character. Just add a 99-cent air freshener and you're all set."

-Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor


Remember that spare quart of oil in the trunk that sprung a leak? And we didn't realize anything was wrong until it was almost empty? Well that was me. Sorry.



"Proved beyond a doubt that the M badge is more than a fashion accessory.

Every time we beat on it, it shrugged it off and came back for more.

I'm amazed at how excellent the leather still looks.

I don't recall the Crayola-scent option from 2002, but this M3 definitely has it."

-Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor (again)


Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

I Miss It. Do You?

September 07, 2009

Yesterday I was tooling along in and quite enjoying our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. Then I stopped at this redlight behind the black E46 M3 pictured above. Look closely and you'll notice it's an M3 with the Competition Package, which means its rides on a set of supercool 19-inch BBS wheels and packs other goodness from the Europe-only CSL model. It's the one the have.

When the light went green I tried to stay with the guy, but he was on it and the A4 just didn't have enough guts. He knew I was trying, so he really pushed it, eliminating any chance I would have of getting another look at the car.

About a half-mile down the road he caught a green, but I was lagging so far behind I got stuck at the light. All I could do was sit there and watch him disappear over a rise. By the time I got moving again he was long gone.

Now all I can think about his how much I miss our beloved black E46 M3. Am I the only one? Some cars just stay with you...ya know?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Editors' Favorite Number Five

March 08, 2010

We had to put a lot of money into our 2002 BMW M3, but its addictive and irrepressible spirit allowed it to crack the top five. Even better, it never actually broke, despite 25,000 miles of our own plus fanboy editor Sadlier treating the redline hash mark of its straight-6 as a "shift here" indicator. Rumor has it he got an "E46 Forever!" tatoo on his shoulder...

2002 BMW M3 Intro and Wrap-Up

Editors' Favorite Number Four posts tomorrow at 9 a.m.


July 25, 2009

Why We Bought It
Performance and Fuel Economy
Retained Value
Summing Up

We don't make a habit of purchasing used cars for the long-term fleet. But our success with a 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi encouraged us to try again. This time it wasn't about owning an exotic. Instead it was about owning the car of our dreams, a car that we've held on our must-own list for the past seven years. A car that we consider the best M3 ever made. So we bought a 2002 BMW M3 E46.

Secret M3 love affairs quickly sprouted up within our ranks. We tried suppressing them with little success. One editor went so far as to say, "I sincerely hope that within the next 11 months, one of our M3's pistons goes rocketing through the hood. Or we receive a service bill for a mysterious $2,000 'valve adjustment.' Short of such calamities, it's likely that I'll continue to believe that I should buy this car when its year is up."

Why We Got It
As explained in the BMW's introduction, our reason for buying an E46 version of the M3 had everything to do with pure desire. We've always wanted one. Our friends have always wanted one. Editor in Chief Scott Oldham added, "It's sure to go down in history as one of the most desirable cars of all time. It was designed before iDrive, Chris Bangle and BMW's decision to make the M3 compete with a Porsche 911. It's timeless. And it's suddenly affordable to working stiffs like us."

We found a well-nurtured M3 with 49,000 ticks on the odometer for sale within 100 miles of our Santa Monica office. Maintenance records all checked out. It seemed to us like this was a sign. So we negotiated the price to $30,000 and, rather than buy a loaded Honda Accord at the dealership across the street, drove away in the E46 M3. Before the BMW even made it home, a wish list of aftermarket add-ons had passed among cubicles. We expected a fun year.

"Oh, the M3," said one editor after a night in the car. "Unlock the door, buckle up and boom: instant jackass. I can't help it." And so our M3 driving experiences began to flood the long-term blog pages.

We took our first opportunity to compare the M3 E46 to the current-generation BMW 335i and 135i coupes. Following the comparison test, Senior Editor Erin Riches commented, "The 3.2-liter six has an explosive midrange and a free-revving character that the comparatively mild-mannered twin-turbo 3.0-liter [of the 135i and 335i] could never match in stock form. The sound and feel of the engine when you drop a gear or two going into a corner is something I'll never forget. Between the high levels of power, grip and feedback, I got so locked into what I was doing that I may have forgotten to breathe a couple times...I even heard myself gasp."

Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham was equally complimentary of the E46. He wrote, "The M3's brilliance really shows when you back it down a notch. Around town at half speed and in the mire of stop-and-go traffic, it displays its impressive range of talents. Its clutch, for instance, fluffs drag strip launches like a twin-disc carbon unit but its pedal effort is light. Its seats are wide enough for the freeway and somehow bolstered perfectly for the corners. And its engine, man oh man, what an engine. The 3.2-liter inline-6 is as smooth as molasses, has the bottom-end torque of a V8, midrange of a V12 and the upper-rpm rush of a superbike."

Anybody who knows cars knows that maintenance costs increase exponentially with age. We expected as much from our 49,000-mile M3. Take into account our affinity for open track days and this test was certain to get expensive. We ordered a new checkbook and flipped open the cover.

Certain expenses were unavoidable. M3s have a thirst for 10W-60. In addition to scheduled oil changes, we must have poured another full case of the stuff into the block during its 25,000-mile test. Just 3,000 miles into the test we felt the fiscal shock of E46 ownership beyond the warranty period. An audible thumping led us to the dealer for a wheel alignment and new bushing for the rear trailing arm. Another 4,000 miles exposed a leaking power-steering hose and faulty door lock actuator. Not quite 6,000 miles later we replaced the alternator and final stage unit. All told we spent more than $4,500 for these repairs. Then we forked over a grand for the car's 60,000-mile scheduled service.

Other expenses were voluntary in the name of performance. We upgraded to a Stoptech brake kit and went to a local shop to have it installed. We also ordered a set of Yokohama Advan Neova summer tires. They improved grip considerably and survived 13,000 miles of powerslides and autocross courses. Once we'd punished them to the cords, we opted for Sumitomo HTR ZIIIs. They were half the price of the Advans, and by prioritizing comfort over stick these Sumitomos felt really good on the streets. When it came to basic performance and street driving on a budget, these HTR ZIIIs were the way to go.

Total Body Repair Costs: $250 minor damage to rear bumper
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 20 months): $870
Additional Maintenance Costs: Castrol TWS 10W-60 by the case; two sets of tires
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: Replace cracked rear trailing arm bushings, alternator, final stage unit, door lock actuator and leaking power-steering hose
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Days Out of Service: 6 divided between body repairs and waiting for parts
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We spent 25,000 miles with the M3. And due largely to aftermarket enhancements, it saw more track time than any long-term car before it.

As is routine, we tested once for baseline figures. The M3 reached 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 102.1 mph. A stop from 60 mph required 111 feet. Around the skid pad it generated 0.87g of lateral force. We consider this to be excellent performance from an aging car with midlife Continental ContiSportContact tires. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton remarked afterwards, "Astounding steering response and feel of the road. Confident, crisp turn-in with immediate yaw response. Despite my previous experiences with an M3 of this era that always threaten to spin, this one keeps its tail planted. I love this car more this time around than when it was new."

We mounted the Yokohama Advans and retested. New skins didn't affect the 60-mph milestone but shortened the quarter-mile by 0.3 second to 13.6 seconds at 103.6 mph. Tire stick shortened stopping distance to 109 feet. Lateral grip increased to 0.91g. Our Stoptech brake upgrade didn't significantly improve the 60-0-mph stats, but the new stoppers showed zero fade over repeated runs. And admittedly, our standardized tests did not allow the track-ready brakes to heat to their optimal performance level.

We recycled the Advans for a set of Sumitomos and tested again. Acceleration times matched those posted by the Yokohamas. Deceleration from 60 mph remained impressive at 115 feet. Lateral balance was stable with 0.85g performance, but the car's subjective handling response seemed slightly dulled relative to the performance offered by the Advan rubber. These Sumitomos generally felt more sensitive to heat and marginally less responsive than their Yokohama predecessors.

Best Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 17.5 mpg

Retained Value
We paid $30,000 for a 2002 BMW M3 with 49,000 miles. As far as we are concerned, it was among the best long-term car investments we've ever made. Of course we measured the experience in fun. Our accountant saw the $17,000 sale price at under 74,000 miles and was less excited.

True Market Value at service end: $18,400
What it sold for: $17,000
Depreciation: $13,000 or 43% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 73,900

Summing Up
"When you grow old and your kids ask you about the cars you used to own, don't you want to be able to tell them about the years you owned an M3? Maybe a Corvette or a Ferrari? Your kids aren't going to want to hear, 'Well, we had to sell one of the Corollas after we had your sister, so we bought a Camry. What color was that, dear?' No. Even the most Communist of children wants to be regaled with stories of sport seats, powerslides and exhaust pulses ricocheting off the walls of tunnels." And with this, Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr echoed our collective sentiment.

We bought a 2002 BMW M3 E46. Maintenance costs tapped into our wallet for under $0.25 per mile, an amount we chalked up to normal wear and tear. Equipment upgrades accounted for the majority of our expenses, each of which paid for itself in the form of involuntary, mischief-laden giggles.

Is the E46 the greatest M3 ever built? We still think so. Simply put, owning this 2002 BMW M3 was a blast. It was unlike any other long-term test experience before it. There was a tear in our collective eye the day we sold it. But we wiped it away, wished the buyer luck and watched him drive away.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.