The M3 is a sports car icon that will only set you back $70,000.
|Definitely a predator|
|Refined, simple, German.|
The sight lines of the M3 were not an issue. Even in stop and go traffic, we always felt like we could see everything around us. The side mirrors threw us for a bit of a loop as we tried to reposition them and instead they folded in. Wrong button; the switch that folds in the mirrors is right next to the repositioning switch and the only reason we saw that would cause you to utilize the fold-in feature is if you’re pompous. Seriously, folded mirrors on an M3 just look silly…
The gear shift was interesting. Tap it to the right to put it in drive, tap it again to take it out of automatic and into paddle shift mode. The lever always came back to rest in the middle, similar to the electronic shifter of the Prius. There is no parking brake on this car, so you have to use the hand brake to keep it in place.
The outside of the M3 is gorgeous. The BMW lines that have been with us for a while now are modern and yet still remind us of BMW’s heritage. The side vents with the M3 badges look great along with the side indicator lights and hood panels. The wheels are BMW classic and still look fantastic. There are six exterior colors that require you to chip in $550, while if you get an M3 in black or white there is no charge. “You can have it in any color you want, as long as you want a black one.” The salesperson (politically correct for once here) was a little sarcastic and I think he was talking about Ladas during the Cold War, but we like its application here. Seriously, you have to pay for any color other than black & white. There are ten, I repeat, ten different colors of leather for the interior that you can match to the paint. The leather is only an extra $1,250.
The M3 sounds great, the way German engineering should sound. Not a lot of excess, just functional. We prefer the look of the simple Audi to the M3, but both are good-looking cars that will turn heads.
We had to drive the flappy paddle shifters on this model. Could some of you please stop buying all the manuals long enough for us to at least take a test drive? The low end torque wasn’t the best and for an automatic transmission felt very much like a manual. A lot of head jerks as power was applied and taken away in stop/go traffic.
Once we got out of the traffic (4:30pm is a horrible time to take a test drive), the M3 rushed to meet our every want. The jerking at low speed gave way to smooth gear changes and squee’s (Internet nerd term, too old if you don’t register, then again, how’d you find us…) of glee! The paddle shifters were not nearly as bad, which we blamed on our race enthused sales person. The best was coming to a light and down shifting as fast as possible (think video game buttons being struck quickly and ferociously). The computer helped out and didn’t allow us to destroy the transmission. Once you come to a stop the computer reads all those inputs and selects second gear for you. Don’t forget to tap the down shift paddle one more time or you’ll be laboring away from the line in second gear. Overall the paddle shifters with the seven gear automatic transmission were enjoyable. Other than the low end, the power always felt like it was there. The lag time on shifts was not as long as the 2011 S4 we drove a couple weeks ago.
There was a particularly entertaining section of interstate entrance ramp with a quick left and a sweeping right where the M3 excelled. For a rear wheel drive car, never once did the back end try to get out on us and we were trying (within the legal limits). 70mph in this car felt like a crawl. Using this car as a daily driver is like using Secretariat as your cart horse, trudging along to market. If we went forward with the M3, there would also be an immediate order for a speed laser diffuser.
The dealer we visited had a coupe and sedan version of the M3 on the lot. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of interest right now in these cars as gas prices hover around $4. You might be able to talk a salesperson down a little, but they won’t give too much, since this is such an amazing machine.
Thank you, Baron BMW. Hopefully we’ll be up to ten readers by our next test drive…