2009 BMW M3: Savouring the Steering at 2/10ths
March 12, 2010
I had an appointment last night up in Calabasas on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains. I also had the M3. 1 + 1 = Weeeeee!
However, as it was rush hour, I not surprisingly got stuck behind the typical Toyota Prius or Toyota Sienna or Toyota Avalon that chugs along through Topanga Canyon at between 5 to 10 mph below the speed limit. I don't write this as a set-up to an unintended acceleration joke (though you're encouraged to make them), it's just a fact.
As such, any sort of glorious canyoning was kept to brief bursts. They were enjoyable bursts, but most of the time I was caged into a 2/10ths driving experience. Yet, like slowly savouring a sip of fine wine or a bite of molten chocolate cake, I found I could still appreciate the M3 while traveling slowly through a canyon. With Dave Matthews' Before these Crowded Streets providing a chill soundtrack, it was almost therapeutic.
With my fingers delicately holding the chunky M steering wheel at 3 and 9, I paid attention to every little nuance of the road that transferred from the tires up through the steering and into my fingers. It's like reading Braille. I could indeed "feel" the road, almost as if I was being dangled off the front of the car on a boom.
The weighting is also near about perfect. So many times automakers dial in a bunch of effort at speed so that the steering seems sporty -- especially with variable electric systems. No thanks. The M3 remains relatively light, making it all the more easy to understand what's going on at pavement level.
I realize I lack the vocabulary to truly express how good the steering is in the M3, but I walked away once again impressed with what can set BMWs apart from the pack. Unfortunately, with electric systems and BMW's new adjustable driving settings, I fear that this greatness will be lost at the hands of a tiny fuel economy improvement and the desire to be everything for everyone. Frankly, if you think the M3's steering is too NVHy for your liking, buy a Lexus. I'll gladly savour excellence.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 17,930 miles