2002 BMW M3: 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