2009 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test - Performance

2009 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW M3: Savouring the Steering at 2/10ths

March 12, 2010

BMW M3 Wheel 2009

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.

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2009 BMW M3: Personal Day

March 09, 2010


I didn't come to work yesterday, and one thing I did with my free time was to take a real drive in our 2009 BMW M3. I've made far too many laps on the freeway in our sedan not to get it on a proper back road.

Well, my first choice for a back road (the northwestern-most section of Mulholland Highway) was strewn with rocks that had fallen from the cliff-faces during the weekend storms. After gingerly picking my way around those, I decided to check out Yerba Buena. This little road is rougher, tighter and narrower -- but has fewer canyon walls looming over it.

Well, I have to eat a slice of humble pie now. The M3 was not as much fun on this road as our departed 2008 BMW 135i, a car I often said was boring. Partly it was an issue of size. The M3 sedan is significantly longer (180.4 in. vs. 171.7 in.), wider (71.5 vs. 68.8) and heavier (+ 300 pounds), and just did not fit as well on the road. I felt less comfortable diving into blind corners.

The other factor was suspension tuning. Our 135i had a soft setup for a BMW, and this allowed it to smooth out a lot of the roughness on Yerba Buena. Our M3's ride felt brittle by comparison. I didn't touch the EDC button, so the adaptive dampers remained in their default, least sporty setting, but the damping was still too aggressive for this road and the car felt nervous.

I couldn't end the day on at note, though, so we finished up on a smoother road where the M3 was happier. I enjoy the howl of the 4.0-liter V8 on its way to its 8,300-rpm redline, and I love the exhaust snort upon a smoothly executed heel-and-toe downshift.

The car is so quick coming out of corners, and there's so much grip, that it's almost a little too much for public roads littered with rocks and shared with cyclists. Perhaps my next personal day will find us on a racetrack.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,792 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Unflappable

February 25, 2010

2009 bmw m3 rear tire.jpg

See that tread pattern on the rear tire of our 2009 BMW M3? Huge tread blocks, shallow grooves, narrow sipes -- this looks like an out and out performance tire, right? Throw in some tire wear for good measure and they probably suck in anything but bone-dry conditions, right?


A couple weeks ago, the Los Angeles region experienced ususual amounts of rain. Really, any amount is unusual, so maybe that's not saying much. But we did get pretty much deluged.

I was driving the M3 back from Burbank when the skies opened up yet again, adding to the already-flooded roads. But what's this? Oh, it's hail mixed in with the rain. Great. This ought to bring the region's irrationally terrified motorists to their knees.

It did, but the M3 was unfazed by the conditions. I mean completely and utterly care-free. Not even a hint of hydroplaning in any of the countless standing water patches it tore through. It was nearly as though the road was dry for the M3 and wet for everyone else, such was the car's unflappable nature and, uh, large speed differential.

This M3 is a hell of a car, and its wet-weather composure simply reinforces that notion.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2009 BMW M3: King of the Hill

February 18, 2010

bmw m3.jpg

Know what I liked most about our BMW M3 was last night? It wasn't its sweet, purring V8 -- nope. It wasn't its unparalleled handling, nor its heated seats that do a back good after a long day spent chained to the computer screen.

What I liked most about the M3 last night as I waited behind a line of cars, halfway up the steep incline that leads out of our underground parking dungeon, was its hill-start assist. Works like a charm and makes starting on a slope nothing more than business as usual.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2009 BMW M3: Riding Out The Rain

January 20, 2010


As you might have noticed from a few previous posts, it's been raining a lot in Southern California this week. It's about as bad as Mother Nature gets around here ... if you ignore the occasional fires, floods, mudslides and earthquakes, that is. Yesterday was an interesting test of our BMW M3's wet-weather traction abilities. I was driving in heavy rain along the Tejon Pass, a hilly, 50-mile stretch of Interstate 5 colloquially called the Grapevine.

Having talked to some tire industry people over the years, I've come to learn that summer tires aren't inherently traction-deficient in wet conditions compared to all-season tires. In fact, in Inside Line's All-Season/Summer/Winter Tire Test, summer tires handily beat all-seasons in acceleration, braking and handling during wet conditions. The other nice thing about the M3 is its high level of communication with the driver -- if the tires are starting to lose traction because of water, you'll know about it.

The downside to our long-term car is that the tires are getting fairly worn (actually, three out of the four, since we recently replaced one due to a puncture). And this, according to Dan Edmunds, our in-house engineering/suspension guru, is a big determinant in how well a tire copes with standing water. Basically, the less tread depth there is, the less effective the tire becomes at evacuating and sequestering water.

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2009 BMW M3: Damping Control Too Aggressive For My Tastes

December 21, 2009


Took the M3 on a nice slice of Mulholland Highway yesterday. The engine still feels brilliant along with the brakes and steering. I've noted before that the "sport" button is a bit overkill, and now I'm convinced that the Electronic Damping Control is a similar piece of unnecessary hardware.

Dial in the stiffest setting and the whole car turns into an unyielding piece of aluminum and steel. There is almost no roll while turning or dive under braking. It feels like your very own NASCAR stock car.

Which is great if you're on a track. On a normal road it's not quite so enjoyable. The whole car feels nervous as it bounces and jumps over every imperfection in the road. It may be more capable, but it's not necessarily more fun.

I prefer to have a little give in the car so I can feel the suspension working a little, not to mention feel confident about predicting when it might stop working. Besides, there's already so much capability baked into the car, so it's not like you're missing out on much in the normal setting.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line

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2009 BMW M3: Screwed, but in a Special Way

December 14, 2009

Screwed 014-1600.jpg

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

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

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

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

Not so in the M3.

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

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

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

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

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2009 BMW M3: I Really Like M DCT, But --

December 10, 2009

car-of-the-week-717-2.jpg bmw_m3_century_city.jpg

In the summer of 2008, I spent a week driving a 2008 BMW M3 convertible with BMW's M DCT seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. The M3 convertible is too heavy to be taken seriously as a Motorsport division plaything, but that automated manual gearbox is good, very good, and maybe my favorite of all the twin-clutch transmissions I've tried.

In traffic, the M DCT was almost as smooth as an automatic, and there even seems to be a slight "creep" factor programmed in for parallel parking. But on back roads, where you really should be spending most of your time with any M3, the transmission almost takes your breath away with the quickness, sharpness and border-line violence of its gearchanges.

So why I do drive around in our 2009 M3 sedan, working the rubbery linkage of its six-speed manual gearbox, thinking to myself, "Well, if I had to choose, I'd take the conventional six-speed..."?

Answer: Because I am stupid. And have too much pride. I insist on doing my own shifting, even if I'm not as quick or as smooth. I want to be slower through the canyon and around the road course.

(In all seriousness, though, M DCT shouldn't be your choice if you're wanting to be the quickest out of the hole. If you read our test, you'll remember that its launch control is tricky to use and deactivates itself as soon as the clutches get hot. You'll get a harder launch with the regular six-speed.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,489 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Cool Ride to the Awards Banquet

December 09, 2009


Last night the Motor Press Guild (MPG), the local association of automotive journalists, had its usual holiday dinner and presented its annual Dean Batchelor Award for accomplishment in various categories. Senior Photographer Scott Jacobs and Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr were both up for hardware in the photography category (although since Jacobs won the category last year, we figured another award wouldn't be in the cards for the boys). That's Jacobs' picture above and Niebuhr's below.

So it happened that we chose the 2009 BMW M3 for our ride to the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, near the Los Angeles airport. It was a cool ride, perfect for this sort of thing. But maybe not for the reasons you think.

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: Short 6th

December 07, 2009


As you can seen in the photo above, at 80 mph the 4.0-liter V8 in our long-term 2009 BMW M3 Sedan is at about 3,400 rpm in top gear. This is not a problem considering the M3's V8 is very smooth and redlines at over eight grand, but it is in stark contrast to our long-term Camaro SS, which is geared much taller.

At 80 mph in 6th gear the Camaro's 6.2-liter V8 is lumbering along at just 1,860 rpm, which I posted about a couple of months ago. Which do you prefer? I think I'm in the Camaro's camp on this one. I don't see any reason for the BMW not to have a taller 6th gear, especially when gas costs what it does, and the M3 runs on pricey premium.

Oh and I should point out that the BMW's EPA highway rating is 20 mpg, while the much heavier Camaro, which is powered by a larger, more powerful engine, is rated at 24 mpg.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2009 BMW M3 vs. Everyone Else

November 18, 2009


What is it about certain cars that bring out the drag racer in other people? Or maybe it's just L.A. I've experienced stoplight challenges when I was in our GSR and our GT-R but the list of challengers to our 2009 BMW M3 seems to be more diverse than the tuner cars after our long-termers with rear spoilers. Case in point, the following are cars with drivers who I've encountered at various stoplights in the past 24 hours who think they're faster than our 2009 BMW M3, which can hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.

  • 2005 Ford Mustang 5.2 seconds
  • 2006 Honda Civic Si 5.9 6.8 seconds
  • 2007 Infiniti G35 5.5 seconds
  • 2008 Porsche Cayenne S 6.4 seconds

My guess is that they assumed our BMW was a regular 3 Series, but even that will go from zero to 60 in about 5.3 seconds. ::Shrugs:: Have you ever done that? Size up the competition at a stoplight and consider if they're worth the effort?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: Versus GT-R

November 02, 2009


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

Which would you choose?

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

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

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 11,210 miles

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2009 BMW M3: The Need To Run Wild

October 22, 2009


I love our 2009 BMW M3, just the way it feels, the way it sounds, the way it drives. It seems like a bit more car than I can handle, though. I'd be wracked with guilt if I owned it and didn't drive it the way it needs to be driven. To me that would be equivalent to keeping a wild animal as a pet -- they'd never get to realize their true potential. This baby does 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, 60-0 in 105 feet and slaloms at 70 mph. The average driver, like myself, just wouldn't know what to do with that.

Fortunately, our car gets its share of hard driving so I don't feel as guilty simply enjoying its luxuries like that very effective seat heater, red leather seats and, oh yes, superior passing skills.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 18,202 miles

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2009 BMW M3 -- The Ultimate Commuter Car

October 19, 2009


(Our 2009 BMW M3 awaits its next freeway adventure. Photo by Andrew Reed.)

I've always said I would never own a BMW. I just hate the image. I'm sure you've all heard the joke about the difference between BMWs and porcupines. Sorry, I can't deliver the punch line here.

But after spending serious time in the 2002 BMW M3, the 2008 BMW 135i and now the 2009 BMW M3, I'm changing my tune.

I think that the BMW is the ultimate commuter car. Here's why.

I hit the 405 freeway in Los Angeles every morning at 5:45 a.m. Everyone on the road knows it's about to turn into gridlock so they drive like the pagan hordes were coming over the horizon. Five lanes wide and everyone is cutting in and out. But in a BMW, you feel you have everything at your disposal to cope with this chaos.

Specifically, you have more tools to work with than any other car. You can out-accelerate anything to merge into openings in other lanes (rather than dropping back and merging with less rear visibility). The brakes are so strong they give you security at the other end of the speed equation. And the handling is razor sharp for any kind of unexpected maneuver the situation calls for. Plus, the seats offer more adjustments than a chiropractor; the '09 M3 seats fit me like a glove.

Basically, it's like driving around in a safe on wheels. Then, throw in good resale value and decent fuel economy (I know, I know, it takes premium) and it all adds up to an attractive and surprisingly practical package.

So, I'm not saying I'm going to turn into a porcupine, but if I had to buy a commuter car I'd look for a well-maintained 3 or 5 series.

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2009 BMW M3: Video of the Variable Redline

September 23, 2009

We've posted about the M3's variable redline before. Start the car cold and the BMW's tach shows a lesser redline (How much less depends on temperature.) and then the redline adjusts as the car warms, eventually reaching the engine's true redline which is 8,300 rpm.

Thing is we've only shown you photos and this is the kind of thing that demands video. So I shot some. Yesterday morning. But I warn you now, it's very, very, very, very, very boring. It takes 8 minutes before the BMW says it's free to be revved to 8,300 rpm.

But don't fret. For those with ADHD I've posted a much faster version of the video on the next page. Enjoy.

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2009 BMW M3: Me Like The M Button

September 21, 2009


This weekend I made friends with the M button on the steering wheel of our long-term 2009 BMW M3 Sedan.

If you don't know, the M button allows you to set up the car to your personal taste (ride quality, throttle response, steering effort and stability control setting) with the push of a single button. First you need to use the cars iDrive system to make your menu choices (photo on next page). It's a simple process that takes (literally) about a minute. Then the car remembers how you want it set up and those settings are activated when you push the M button.

The M5 has the system too, and it's really a great feature more car company's should emulate.

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: Tour de Airbox

September 14, 2009


This should help make up for last week's redundant airbox post. With the airbox lid removed we can see some impressive details which allow this monster to breathe. The bottom arrow points to one of the airbox's three intakes. This one supplies air which is gathered through the twin-kidney grille and routed above the radiator to this hole.

The top arrow addresses your questions about water draining into the airbox through the hood duct. The small slit in the bottom of the airbox offers drainage for small amounts of water. However, should some genius decide to run a garden hose in that duct, the overflow would simply drain out the intake hole in the front bumper (driver's side) which is the lowest point in the airbox. Click through for more details.

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2009 BMW M3: Purpose

September 11, 2009


Probably my favorite thing about the M3 is that every time I drive it hard it reminds me that I'm not the first person to do so. Generations of development engineers have hammered this car into shape and it shows. In more than just the way it drives.

Enter exhibit one: Lift the hood and you'll quickly notice that the ducts on either side of the hood's power bulge are there for a reason. Well, at least the one on the driver's side is.

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2009 BMW M3: Coffee and doughnuts

September 10, 2009

2009 BMW M3 interior.jpg

Last week I rambled on about how I love electronic parking brakes such as those in our long-term Audi S5, and how they free up space for cupholders and interior storage.

Well our long-term BMW M3 is a Driver's Car, so it is equipped with a proper mechanical handbrake. Perhaps the handbrake will augment your drifting or doughnut skills?

And our M3 also has a hill-holder brake, so you when start up that steep grade in San Francisco you'll have both suspenders and a belt.

Of course, the mechanical handbrake leads to the trade-off of only a tiny console storage box.
I couldn't find anywhere to place my phone or spare magazine.

But cupholders?

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2009 BMW M3: Rubber in Second. And Third.

September 09, 2009


Here's one thing I love about our M3. You can't do this in the GT-R. And just listen to that thing.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: Too Easy?

September 06, 2009

Driving a sedan with a 4.0-liter 414-horsepower V8 engine shouldn't be this easy.

It's impossible to get a sloppy shift. The BMW gearbox is too forgiving.

If you're stopped uphill at a red light and some joker pulls within an inch of your bumper, have no fear. The new BMW M3 has a hill-hold feature.

Need to match revs on a downshift? The M3's pedals are placed close enough together that even my small feet can manage it.

Shouldn't you have to work much harder to enjoy this much sophisticated power?

Has BMW made driving too easy?

Our 2009 BMW M3 is Car of the Week.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2009 BMW M3: The 3-4 Shift In Motion

August 26, 2009


A while back I wrote that I'd buy an M3 with the manual transmission just for the gratifying third-to-fourth upshift alone. (Should I ever be in a financial position to buy an M3, of course.) Well, I stumbled across an M3 video on BMW's consumer site video recently, and it captures that same shift and the resulting V8's euro-snarl. The video is 40 seconds long; look for the quick cut scene of the guy shifting 22 seconds in.

BMW M3 Video

If you haven't checked out BMW's consumer site before, you can also find a bunch of other M division videos, including various M product promotionals, one on the new AMLS M3 racer and a sum-up of the division's racing history. They're all under the Experience gallery.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2009 BMW M3: I'll Take These Four Doors Anytime

August 10, 2009


I put over 300 miles on our 2009 BMW M3 sedan over the weekend. This was my first extended visit with the four-door, E90 version of the M3. Unfortunately, I was too heavily scheduled to get it on any back roads, but I enjoyed getting to know it on the freeway.

The 4.0-liter V8 (414 hp at 8,300 rpm, 295 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm) has all kinds of power, but it's not all evenly distributed throughout the range as it is on BMW's DI twin-turbos, so you feel like you're cheating yourself if you shift much before the 8,500-rpm redline. I like engines that give you this kind of incentive.

I could probably do without the engine's cold-start lumpiness. But I like that I can always hear the V8 at a 75-mph cruise, thanks to the modest overdrive reduction on the 6th gear (0.872) combined with a shortish final drive (3.850).

I have to agree with the criticism leveled against the M3's manual gearbox, but I'm so desperate to have a conversation with the cars I drive, that I find myself wanting to put up with the Getrag's long, springy clutch pedal stroke. I kept a pair of M3-friendly driving shoes in the trunk all weekend.

I had two additional passengers in our M3 sedan about a third of the time, so those rear doors and extra inch of rear legroom (34.6 versus 33.7 in the E92 coupe) were indispensable. Actually, our long-term M3 turned out to be a very practical car in these situations. It was adequately roomy for all of but one of the my passengers (there were 5 in total).

Even more surprising was its utterly compliant ride quality. With the exception of a slight busy feel (and audible resonance) over rain-grooved pavement (which doesn't exist in Germany where I'd guess the chassis tuning was finalized), it manages to feel highly controlled yet never, ever brutal.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,397 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Comparison Drive, Part Two

August 04, 2009


[The following is a continuation of yesterday's M3 comparison drive post. Your editor has finished his drive with the M3 and is ready for the follow-up with a base Corvette coupe.]

Oh, dear.

I've just saddled up into the cabin and it's already not looking good for America. Literally. Our Detroit editor Dan Pund once described the new Dodge Challenger's interior as a "dour black bog." Having just come out of the M3, this is comparatively what the Vette's interior looks like.

There's no pretty two-tone interior with metallic trim. Nor is there a fancy navigation screen or iPod adapter. And compared to the M3's meaty steering wheel, the Corvette's Cobalt-issue wheel feels spindly and too big in diameter. It doesn't telescope, either. Everything has just taken a step down in refinement, as if I've moved from a lovely villa in San Francisco into a rented apartment in Fresno.

Is this a forehead-smacking "I should have bought an M3!" moment? Nah. Because then I fire up the big 6.2-liter V8 and things get better immediately. At idle, the Corvette's sound is deeper, more guttural and vastly more pleasing than the M3's. It's also helped by the fact that the Corvette is cheating a little -- it has the optional dual-mode exhaust that's been hot-wired to be fully open on demand. (A 40-second video of the dual-mode exhaust (it's a black Vette but not mine) can be found here.)

My friend in the Aston Martin V8 Vantage couldn't stay around, so it's just me rumbling out of town. The Corvette has a pretty comfortable ride quality, even with the equipped Z51 sport package. Over bumps, though, the Corvette is less complaint than the M3, especially if the M3's dampers are set to the base "Comfort" mode.

Out on the country roads, departing after a stop sign gives me the chance to work the V8, umm, just a little. And yes, holy schnikeadees, you better make sure the front wheels are straight because the Corvette is ridiculously quick. With less weight to move and more torque than the M3, the accelerating Vette could fool me into thinking there's a rocket strapped where the exhaust normally is.

Shifting gears takes a tad more time than it does in the M3, but the shifter still has a pleasingly meaty and solid feel to it. In general, the Vette's drivetrain comes off as more thuggish than the M3's high-strung V8, but each is undeniably addictive in its own way. Every time you get on the Vette's throttle, you'll want to sing out the chorus from the Team America: World Police theme song.

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2009 BMW M3: Comparison Drive, Part One

August 03, 2009


Eight hundred and fifty horsepower. That's what has been sitting in my garage ever since I brought home our 2009 BMW M3 sedan. It's a bit absurd, really, having a white 2009 M3 with gray wheels parked next to my black 2008 Corvette coupe with gray wheels. What have I done to deserve this yin-and-yang good fortune?

But ever since editor Josh Sadlier brought up a point on an Edmunds Daily post about how the M3 challenges the Corvette as a value-for-the-money leader, I've been wondering how the two cars stack up. So I decided a little comparison drive was in order. It's good versus evil, propeller versus flags, bratwurst versus hot dog. It's the everyday sport sedan versus the everyday sports car.

Since it was just me over the weekend for this comparison, I'd have to drive one car at a time on a 100-mile route that was mostly highway, country roads and curvy roads that head up into the Sierra Nevada. The M3 was up first for this early morning drive. With a clean M3 and a blue sky, it was if the driving gods had pronounced, "Go Forth Young Man and Burn Some Hydrocarbons." Well, OK, if you insist, holy ones.

M3 Drive

The M3's 414-horsepower 4.0-liter V8 isn't a morning person, though. Like head honcho Karl posted before, fire the V8 cold and it's rather rough and grumbly. Apparently, BMW has it this way to reduce cold-start tailpipe emissions.

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2009 BMW M3: Cold Blooded -- Like a Muscle Car Should Be?

July 13, 2009

M3 Gauges.jpg

When you first fire up our long-term 2009 BMW M3 you get serenaded by all the standard warning lights and bells found in modern cars. Honestly, sometimes I suspect collusion between the automakers and the light bulb/electronic chime industries.

Beyond its expected light show this M3 sedan provides additional sound and fury of a nature rarely seen in a 21st Century automobile. The 414 horsepower V8 actually shakes and rumbles like a classic muscle car powerplant on a cold winter morning. The drama fades quickly as oil flow increases and (I assume) components like the fuel injection pulse and hydraulic lifters settle into a comfortable pace. But those first 30 seconds or so hardly feel like a modern luxury-badged sedan costing over 60 grand.

The real question is: Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I'll admit the cacophony of sound caught me off guard the first couple times I started the car after it sat all night. "What is all that racket?!" I found myself asking. But then I remembered how much power the car makes and how few cars exhibit any sense of mechanical soul these days.

Thus I've come to grips with a 2009 BMW that feels and sounds a lot like my 1970 Dodge Challenger for the first 30 seconds every morning. Assuming you value soul over silence, even in your 21st Century ride, you should be fine with the M3's cold-blooded nature.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 5805 miles

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2009 BMW M3 sedan: Happy Birthday

June 26, 2009

milestone.jpg BMW M3 odo.jpg

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

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

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

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

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Eval Engineer @ 5000 + 15 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Does It Really Need a "Power" Button?

June 18, 2009


You gotta love any car that features a prominent button on the center console labeled "power". Who cares if it's even connected to anything, just the very act of pushing it in and seeing it light up is kinda fun.

Then again, in the M3 pushing the power button doesn't actually increase the V8's output, it merely quickens up the throttle response to make it "feel" more powerful. Sounds like a no-brainer right?

That's what I thought, but the more I drive it the more I realize that I might like the standard setting better. I mean let's face it, the thing isn't exactly limp off the line as it is. The added response does introduce a little more urgency to the drive, but sometimes I find it a little distracting. Maybe it's the overabundance of power that makes it seem unnecessary, but the immediacy of the throttle in power mode seems a little overkill. Either that, or I'm old, one of the two.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 4,478 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Two-Card Monte

June 16, 2009

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You've got a 50-50 shot at this. One of the hood vents in our 2009 BMW M3 performs a very important function; the other is a fake put there for the sake of design symmetry.

Which is which?

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: Making Sweet Dyno Music

June 14, 2009

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This week's Car of the Week, our long-term 2009 BMW M3, starts things off with a hair-raising shred of sleepy Westminster, California's early-summer atmosphere.

That's where we subjected unsuspecting neighbors to repeared shrieks of the M3's 4.0-liter V8 as we caned it across its rev range range to the 8400-rpm redline at full throttle.

MD Automotive once again rented us time on their Dynojet chassis dyno for this exercise, which we undertook purely in the name of science. We swear.

BMW says the M3 generates 414 horsepower at 8300 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at 3900 rpm. Turns out they were right about the output.

Make like Kriss Kross for the dyno chart and video.

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2009 BMW M3: Angeles Crest Highway vs. M3 V8

June 04, 2009


It was bright and sunny, so we drove the 2009 BMW M3 sedan across the Angeles Crest Highway. Who wouldn't?

Every city has its own place to go if you like driving, and L.A. is lucky to have a couple. Angeles Crest Highway is one of the best. It started out as a Forest Service road into the San Gabriel Mountains in 1929, but it took until 1956 for a paved road to make it across the top to Wrightwood. Max Balchowsky celebrated by driving his Old Yeller I race car up there from Hollywood Motors, his garage on Hollywood Boulevard.

We had something to celebrate, because the road all the way to Wrightwood had just been reopened for the first time since the winter of 2005, when huge storms washed out 17 sections of asphalt clinging to the mountain slopes along a 10 mile section of the route. Once CalTrans officially opened the gates on May 20, the motorcycle guys had been up there in force and news stories had filled the local paper.

Probably the M3 would be the car you'd pick if you were looking forward to the 198 corners between the Shell station at the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and the restaurant at Newcomb's Ranch. But Angeles Crest Highway is no longer the place to rip it up unless you choose your timing carefully. There are too many bikes, too many accidents, and too many CHP cars.


No matter where you drive the M3 on a mountain road, it's not much fun to shift this car's six-speed manual transmission. As ever, the shift linkage feels rubbery, the clutch action is heavy and the pedal travel is long. Sure, it's great to beat your chest and say you prefer a manual transmission, but it's hard to see the point here unless you like to feel like some kind of German farmer plowing his spargle field with a 180-mph tractor. The seven-speed Getrag dual-clutch transmission is the way to go with this car, I think.

But it turns out that there's nothing about the M3's transmission that matters on a winding mountain road. Six-speed or seven-speed, which three gears do you really need today? The M3's 4.0-liter V8 redlines at 8,300 rpm, and 85 percent of the maximum 295 pound-feet of torque is available over a range of 6,500 rpm. Which means you don't really have to shift this engine much at all. Third gear doesn't top out until you hit 105 mph, so it's pretty much all you need.

So that's how it played out. Once you quit playing with the transmission, you can think a little more about the corner ahead, the intuitive action of the steering, and making a smooth transition from throttle to brake pedal and back again. The eight individual throttle bodies of the M3's DOHC V8 deliver incredibly crisp throttle response, so you can modulate the power with incredible precision. And there's just a lot of pleasure that just comes from an engine's ability to change rpm.

It's 66 miles from the Shell station at the foot of SR-2 at Foothill Boulevard to the Shell station at the entrance ramp to Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass. It was one of those great days, so warm and fine that you had to drive with the windows down. The road starts out at an elevation of 1,300 feet in La Canada and climbs all the way to 7,903 feet at Dawson Saddle, which makes this the ninth highest road in California. Toward the north, you can look out into the desert of the Antelope Valley.

Roads go places. And one of the really great things about a car is that it can take you to them.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 3,832 miles


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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: It's Party Time

May 27, 2009


As you can see, this sticker, which is essentially stuck in the driver's face, dictates that our new long-term 2009 BMW M3 sedan gets a mild break in; no full throttle and a 106 mph max speed for the first 1,200 miles and only short periods at top speed and constant cruising at 137 mph until the odometer clicks past 3,100 miles.

Well, the day has come.


On my way into work this morning the M3 clicked past the magic number. The reins are officially off.

On a related note, I think I'll sign out the M3 for the weekend.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 3,143 miles.

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2009 BMW M3: The Final, Final Word On the 18-Inch Wheels

May 07, 2009


This subject doesn't really need to be brought up again, so of course I will anyway. When it comes to the great M3 wheel and tire debate, Oldham is big on 18s, Jacquot thinks the 19s would look better.

Originally I was with Jacquot on this, at least when it came to buying our '02 M3 coupe. Then those 18s grew on me and I switched to the Oldham camp. He's also the boss, so I figured it was the smart move anyway.

When it was time to decide on the rubber for our M3 sedan, I had no trouble with the 18s. And whenever I look at them I have no regrets. I mean check out that sidewall. Sure, it's a little taller than you may be used to, but the way its rounded off and smooth makes it looks like some sort of racing slick. And in a world of increasingly frail-looking wheels and tires, these look sturdy and durable. Nothing wrong with that.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line

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2009 BMW M3: Sticky Rubber

May 03, 2009

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The tires on our 2009 BMW M3 are undeniably sticky; they messed up my driveway a bit this weekend.

That's OK, I'll take it. After all, the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires help this 3,710-lb sedan stop from 60 mph in 105 feet, slither through the slalom at 70.0 mph and orbit the skidpad at 0.90 g.

But will they last 20,000 miles? Highly doubtful, but we intend to find out.

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: More Traffic Friendly

April 24, 2009

2009 BMW M3 Sedan Interior - Edmunds.com

Over the course of this year, you'll no doubt be hearing a lot of comparisons between our 2002 BMW M3 Coupe and our 2009 BMW M3 Sedan. No doubt, there'll be lots of Josh Sadlier pining for the old car as he weeps gently in the corner with a picture of his dear "Emmy." No, he hasn't admitted to naming the M3, but I just know he has.

So to kick off the festivities, I thought I'd weigh in about an area not typically discussed in regards to a BMW M3: how easy it is to drive in traffic. The old M3 has a rather stiff clutch pedal that feels like it's attached to a taut coil spring (at least according to my leg). It's marvelous during aggressive driving, but it grows tiresome in stop-and-go traffic. Other than our STI, it was the last long-termer I wanted to get stuck in gridlock with.

By contrast, I'd be happy to take the new M3 any day of the week. The engagement point can be a little tricky at first, but after three or four blocks, there was no more jerking about. Clutch effort is now much easier on the old hamstrings, but still manages to feel mechanical and communicative. Perhaps this is where the car has lost some raw charm, but on a day-to-day basis, I could live with that.

Oh, and the audio/nav interface doesn't make me want to rip it out of the car and chuck it onto the street. That's right, I'll say it, "Yay iDrive!"

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1,311 miles

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2009 BMW M3: The First Test

April 23, 2009


On Tuesday we tested our M3 on with 1,166 miles on the clock in 96-degree weather. Neither of these conditions were ideal. But do either of them really matter? No, probably not. Why not? Well, because the 34 miles remaining to our official 1,200-mile milestone wouldn't have made the M3 any faster or extended its durability any longer. And the weather, well, we correct for weather.

Still, we could tell the M3's 414-horsepower, 4.0-liter V8 was working hard in the boiling atmosphere at our test track.


0-30: 2.0 sec.

0-45: 3.4 sec.

0-60: 4.8 sec. (4.5 sec. with 1-foot rollout like on a dragstrip)

0-75: 6.7 sec.

1/4-mile: 12.9 @109.8

These times are identical to those produced by the last M3 sedan we tested which just happened to be in a comparison test against the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63. That test was performed in 82-degree weather.


30-0: 26 ft.

60-0: 105 ft.

The M3's brakes needed quite a few stops to reach maximum efficiency and achieve this stopping distance, but they never hinted at fade.


Skidpad: .90g

Slalom: 70.0 mph

These numbers are both lower than our previous test car which was fitted with the optional 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport rubber (our car has 18-inch wheels). We also tested the M Dynamic stability control mode which produced .87g on the skidpad and a 69.4-mph slalom speed.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ something more than 1200 miles. Relax.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests