2009 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2009 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW M3: The case for nav...and dipsticks

March 29, 2010

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About a week ago I posted my annoyance at the GMC Terrain for not allowing navigation inputs while driving (there is voice control for it, but that's another blog. Hint: it's not great.). 1487 hit the nail on the head, "apparently GM is taking notes from Toyota with regards to using nav while moving. Thats a shame." While others went a different direction, wondering why I'd ever bother with built-in nav in the first place. Something about maps and motor clubs and other things I don't understand.

Here's why I like navigation: I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Vegas (really, I was forced into it, "Surprise, Magrath, get to Vegas. Your assistance is needed.") and in Henderson I checked the oil via the little computer which said, roughly, "Hey, you're low on oil. Still OK, not great, though." To which I replied, "Hey, iDrive, can you point me to the closest BMW dealership? Yes? Great." I didn't have a map. I don't think I'll ever own a map.

Sure, I could've used my blackberry to similar results, but this map is bigger and faster and has better resolution. It's a cool, handy toy that, in the M3 at least is in a very attractive $3,250 bundle that comes with comfort access -- along with not owning a map, I hope never to own another key to a car-- M-drive button (!), and the electronic dampers. All of those things are awesome on this car and I figure if you're buying an M3, get this package instead of the $2,900 waste-of-a-great-car automatic.

As for that dipstick thing in the title...well, jump for some raning.

So I check the oil via the stalk-mounted button and the level is below the indicator in the middle. I'm about to do a lot more...enthusiastic....driving in the near future and I'd be happy if the level was right in between the two marks.

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2009 BMW M3: Keyless Access That I Actually Use

March 08, 2010


I usually have little patience for keyless access/ignition systems -- I don't like it when they're slow to recognize I'm carrying the keyless remote and I don't like feeling around for little rubber buttons on door handles to unlock the rear doors or lock the car after I park it.

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2009 BMW M3: Learning to Love the M Button

February 08, 2010


Awhile back I wrote that the M3's electronic gadgetry was overkill. Too much of a good thing was my general sentiment. It was already more than capable as is, why add a bunch of buttons that make it feel all tensed up and nervous?

On a long to the Ojai valley about 90 miles north of L.A. (that's one of the town's landmark arches in the picture, look closely and you'll see it was built way back in 1999) I gave the M3's "M" button another shot. It more or less coordinates all the possible means of electronic changes like the throttle control, dampers and stability control. You can set it up any way you want, but one of our resident track jockeys had already dialed in a nice setup, so I just pressed it and went.

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2009 BMW M3: Fantastic Navigraphics, but "Real-Time" Traffic..?

December 18, 2009

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I love, love, love the BMW M3's screen. It's wide, it refreshes quickly, it's easy to read, and BMW have figured out a way of dealing with polarized sunglasses without needing to cock your head like the RCA dog. What's more is that the screen remains (largely) immune to reflected, direct sunlight so it doesn't wash out. Finally, the method of showing traffic flow on the new iDrive is better than any other in the business. If you ask it show traffic conditions, the map goes all shades of gray except for the color-keyed traffic flow. Cue Guinness commercial with guy belting out, "Brilliant!"

Now, all those attributes would be great if the traffic info (streamed from satellite sources) were up-to-date. Alas, good technology, even tech that's less than a year old, is only as good as the information it digests and displays.

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2009 BMW M3: Truly Keyless Entry

December 08, 2009

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See those five small ribs on the M3's door handle? That's how you know this car has the optional comfort access system.

That's BMW's name for keyless entry. Actually, it's more like buttonless entry as it simply means you don't have to push the unlock button to open the doors. In this case, just grab the handle with the fob in your pocket and it opens.

This is a slight variation on the soft, rubber button used most often on less expensive cars. Seems like what was once a mark of technological distinction is now considered an unsightly blemish. A perfectly reasonable solution as far as I'm concerned.

Is it odd that it's optional on a $60K sedan? Yes, it is. Almost as odd as being optional on a $90K sedan.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line

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2009 BMW M3: Tire Pressure Warning System

November 30, 2009

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I'm really tired of seeing BMW's Tire Pressure Warning System in action. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the advance notice regarding a slowing dying tire, but I'd prefer tires that simply didn't get punctures (or at least not when I'm driving on them).

I saw a similar screen in our Long-Term 2009 BMW 750i less than a month ago, so forgive me if I feel I've reached my Tire Pressure Warning screen quota.

In this case the screen popped up when I first started our BMW M3 last week. I hopped back out, grabbed my tire pressure gauge and confirmed it was at 21 psi. Hmm, that's odd. A few blasts with a tire pump had it back up to the prescribed 33 psi, with no visual or audible signs of a leak.

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2009 BMW M3: iDrive Isn't So Bad Anymore

September 28, 2009


No assessment of a current BMW seems to matter until iDrive is discussed. Well, I'm here to tell you to get over it. iDrive works just fine now.

Maybe it's still not the most intuitive interface ever invented, but it's not that bad either. The fact that BMW added a few hard buttons around the control knob helps. Even if you don't use them, however, it's still easy to find your way around.

Which is nice, since there's plenty of functionality built in to the system. From Bluetooth and navigation to setting up the "M" button settings, the iDrive menu pretty much does it all. Sifting through the menus is fairly simple as it involves turning the knob more often than pushing it in one direction or the other. I drove the M3 all weekend and I never once cursed the system in vain. As far as I'm concerned, it's a non-issue.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 9,621 miles

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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: Variable Redline Indicator

July 30, 2009

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Tradition has carried on from the previous-generation M3 as the new M3 has a variable redline indicator on the tachometer. When you first start up, the redline is low and then slowly rises in engine speed as the V8 warms up. From a diagram in the owner's manual, it appears that redline can be as low as 4,500 rpm, though here during the California summer our 2009 M3 sedan's redline has never been lower than 6,000 rpm or so. Of course, once it's fully warmed up, the engine can spin up to 8,400 rpm.

The old M3 had a colored light indicator for redline (previous blog posts with photos are here and here) but this time it's an analog indicator that circles the outside of the tach. It operates sort of like a reverse thermometer; the red part slowly drops down as the engine warms up. The new redline indicator is more sophisticated than the old M3's colored lights, but part of me still likes the old lights for their honest simplicity.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: My Headlamps Don't Need Schpritzing!

July 09, 2009


Why does BMW assume my headlamps need to be blasted repeatedly with high-pressure cleaning solution (that also douses the otherwise clean car with mist) when all I want to do is to clean my windshield before I set out for work in the pre-dawn morning? I know the car knows it's dark outside because I have the headlamps on, but instead of linking the headlamp- and windshield-schpritzers when the lights are on, how 'bout a dedicated button for blasting my headlamps when I want to?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 5,695 miles

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2009 BMW M3: I Just Checked the Oil at 80 mph

July 07, 2009


This is a cool feature.

And now all the domestic fanboys can tell me why it isn't.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 5,599 miles

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2009 BMW M3: Jan van Eyck

June 25, 2009

I jumped into the M3 this morning and started it up quick. I was in a hurry.

As the nav screen loaded, a detail caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. The pseudo reflection in the detail bubble reminded me of the Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Portrait and it's convex mirror.


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I dunno, maybe I just needed some coffee.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2009 BMW M3: Keyless Entry That's Truly Keyless

June 22, 2009


I spent most of the weekend thinking BMW had screwed up. Much like our Dodge Challenger, it seemed as though our M3 had one of those "keyless entry" systems that still required use of the keyfob. I looked at the door handle and saw no visible means of unlocking the door, and even after pulling the handle nothing happened.

So every time I went to get in, I pulled out the fob, clicked the button and then stuck it back in my pocket since the "start/stop" button works fine without it. Senseless I thought, could it really be that screwed up?

To make sure I wasn't going to make an ass out of myself I went back down to the garage and tried the handle again. Sure enough, a second pull of the handle unlocks the doors, who knew? And before you say RTFM, I'll have you know that I considered that option, that is, until I couldn't find it. Turns out all the manuals are stored in the trunk. You tell me what's more ridiculous.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 4,879 miles

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