2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test - Interior

2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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2002 BMW M3: 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.

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2002 BMW M3: 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?

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2002 BMW M3: Loose Weatherstripping Trim

May 06, 2009

02 M3 stripping before.jpg

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.

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2002 BMW M3: 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.

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2002 BMW M3: 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

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2002 BMW M3: 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

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2002 BMW M3: 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

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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.

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2002 BMW M3: 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:

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2002 BMW M3: 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 that...at 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.

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2002 BMW M3: 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.

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2002 BMW M3: 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

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2002 BMW M3: 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

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2002 BMW M3: Hot, Hot, Hot

April 14, 2008

2002 BMW M3 interior

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

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2002 BMW M3: Hassled in the Parking Garage

February 25, 2008

2002 BMW M3 - Caroline Pardilla

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...

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2002 BMW M3: Where Has the Colorful Leather Gone?

February 15, 2008

BMW M3's Imola Red interior -- Photo by Scott Jacobs

I've spent the better part of two days writing Edmunds.com 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.

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2002 BMW M3: Door Plate Bonanza!

January 17, 2008

A plethora of labels containing fine and not-so-fine print awaits drivers of our BMW M3.

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:

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