What: Rear-wheel drive, 431hp/317kw of power, 550 Nm of torque, 4.1 secs 0-100 km/h, CO2 194 g/100km
What's a better way to start off flyingelmer.com than one of our icons, the BMW M3? It is the perfect kick-off, trying to answer every possible question. M3 is also having its 30th anniversary in 2015, but birthday hero has deserved the living legend status on actual merits, not by checking days in the calendar. With M3, supercar performance meets real life. Can we top that? To dive into this car, we ask the key questions and I set the mood for you with some of the tunes I was listening to driving this car.
Pawn Stars: So how much do you want for it? M3: Let’s save us all time and meet me half way. Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies The M3 has been around for 30 years, which is an impressive selling point for the price tag. It’s cheaper than a Ferrari, but twice as expensive as the standard range topping BMW 335i. Could you do with less? As the M3 is effectively a very common 3-series, you can rely on BMW having an idea of what it takes to put this car together well. Coming from any standard car, the M3 will appear louder inside, given that the 19” wheels and extremely rigid chassis resonate the road surface into the interior materials more than what you would expect. The interior itself is more old school grey overlay with grey plastic buttons, unsurprising in good and bad.
In 2020, cars like the M3 should fear for their existence. This 30 something adult too will now have to accept its mortality. Mercedes and BMW have dropped out naturally aspirated fuel thirsty V8’s, and BMW has returned to its straight six cylinder roots. On the other hand performance is kept up by two turbos and weight saving, the roof and engine brace are now carbon fibre. If you are fixed on V8, you just have to approve that six is less than eight. Sounds simple, yet it’s easy to blame the six cylinder for lack of character compared to the outgoing V8 or that of the Mercedes. It is an unfair comparison anyway. Once we acknowledge that, we can appreciate this six cylinder beast as the best there is.
Alternatively, for the price of the M3, there is also a very contemporary Tesla Model S 85D. It doesn’t take any gas, it’s nearly as fast and inside it’s like an iPhone compared to the old Nokia like BMW. What Tesla doesn’t have though, is soul. Fear, passion and life experience best evoke soul, and here the M3 delivers emotions. It frightens you, it sooths you, it transforms you into something you can’t imagine in advance. It tells you all the right lies that you want to hear and believe.
Bus: Hah, sportscar as people carrier? M3: Take five sensible adults with luggage and see if they feel riding on the bus Soundtrack: Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do I had planned the road trip route and fixed a date for the M3 test drive, but only later found out that I was set to take my four year old daughter to a birthday party at the same time. Initial despair changed quickly into relief, as the new M3 is offered as a four-door sedan, whereas the coupe is now marketed as the M4. The M4 two-door form brings out a much more aggressive stance, whereas M3 is likely selected on practical terms. Good news was that I could now have my test drive cake, and she could eat her birthday cake! In two minutes the child seat was installed into the BMW and race car became a family car. Since the car is German, the ISOFIX mounts were easily found and the space in the back was long enough to install the seat with ease. The rounded M sports seats also made the leg room feel bigger in the back making this a truly utilitarian sportscar.
James Bond: But does it actually shoot missiles? M3: No, but your Aston Martin will be behind me nevertheless. Soundtrack: Queen – I Want It All M3 gives you a speed weapon that will put a much more expensive exotic sportscar to shame. If you plan on beating the launch controlled M3 in a 0 to 100 km/h sprint, you can forget all GT cars from Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Mercedes – not to mention most Porsches. At 1,5 times the cost of the M3, you could have a Nissan GT-R. At twice the cost, you get a choice of Audi R8 V10 (the V8 is slower), Mercedes AMG GT or Porsche 911/Panamera Turbo. Starting at three times the cost of the M3, you may consider something from Ferrari, McLaren or Lamborghini. One of the few cars that can actually match the performance vs. price equation is a Lotus Exige S. But then you will need another car for family members and boot space. So in terms of peer group, the M3 is in the best company there is.
How will you know then that the M3 feels special enough? Albeit several very successful track versions have been created, the street version can never be the same? Right? As I went to pick up the car, I expected it to blend in with the corporate Bimmer bunch as it is supposed to, but no. Orange paint, black carbon fibre roof, 19” black double-spoke wheels, carbon ceramic brakes with golden cylinders, adaptive M suspension, 7-speed M DCT double clutch transmission with Drivelogic, electrically adjusted M sports seats clad in black leather, head up display, Harman Kardon surround sound, M Drivers’ package with increased top speed restriction (280 km/h vs 250 km/h as standard), four carbon fibre exhausts ready to fire missiles… The carbon fibre wrapped exhausts offer a very aggressive, high pitched violent growl ending with a good loud bang under high revs. I spent the first hour of the test drive coming into terms with everything that the car presented. You whip this car and soon you may find that tables have turned and you are at the receiving end.
Porsche 911: Do you even race? M3: Check out Wikipedia, I have more titles than you. Soundtrack Apulanta – Anna Mulle Piiskaa So I set suspension, gear shift speed and steering all into most extreme mode… First stretches out of the parking lot, I am subconsciously tense, the car feels absolutely alive on my hands, feet and butt. This chassis translates everything from the road into your spine, yet it’s not painfully rock solid. Test drive starts in chilly 10 degrees Celsius with rain washing down so no hope of getting the ceramic brakes to heat up properly. They are perfect for track or aggressive Alpine mountain driving, but public traffic in freezing Finland… both me and the brakes are left numb. Something to consider before you spend 8,000 euros on them.
First proper acceleration into the highway, the tarmac is like ice. Car shoots ahead twisting like as if I was squeezing a rattle snake into a gun barrel, ready to fire it. Traction control assisting the power delivery, in few seconds the M3 is in pace with the traffic. Acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h takes only four freaking (out) seconds, 50 km/h to 80 km/h happens faster than reading this sentence. The 7-speed gearbox is always ready, thanks to dual clutch activation and steering mounted paddles. There is no way you could shift faster with a manual gearbox. The paddles require very little movement, so it takes just a ‘click’ with finger tips. First gear. Foot off the break. Full throttle! ‘Click’, second gear! ‘Click’, third gear! 100 km/h. Just. Like. That.
Next I direct the M3 towards real roads, those that require full attention from both the car and the driver. Traffic and law permitting, this car would stretch highways at 280km/h, yet arrogant speeding is pointless here – I want to feel the car, not the speed. I choose a country road with a good, variable profile: slow bends, fast bends, uphill, downhill, blind spots, mile long straights, and combinations of all these. This road is like your elderly grade school teacher, who can tell out in a second if you did your homework, and you better not lie about it. The road starts as an unassuming 50 km/h local street, but quickly changes into a dark and glooming forest hell hole where you ride a rollercoaster and must-keep-to-your-side-of-the-road. Or else this green hell chews you up, spits you out and you’re as good as yesterday.
This car has some amazing safety gear for driving on a road like this, something you don’t necessarily think of at the dealer. The head up display should be available on all cars. I have never been more alert on speed, and on this road it’s much too easy to approach a curve just a little too fast and at the last second notice driving into loose gravel. Equally, the dual clutch gearbox with paddle shifters makes sure I have just the right gear and revs to exit any bend, or to overtake a slower vehicle. The adaptive M suspension and the active M differential really make this car stick to the road like a rollercoaster car. Stability data, pedal position, wheel rotation and yaw rate are calculated constantly to correct any tyre about to go loose. That is more than just hi-tech on paper, as the traction control light sets off very easily, this resulting either from the very rigid chassis or system settings. The body and suspension are so closely integrated and interactive, that there is never any surprises on what the car will do next, so you truly are in control of everything. The carbon ceramic brakes are absolutely relentless taking 100 km/h off your life in seconds just by applying your toes.
In the end… The M3 is a car that warps from a bend to another. You see trees on both sides being pushed back in blurred motion as the two turbos whip the straight six into barking mad revs, topped by loud bangs from the exhausts. In curves you fight lateral G’s, going on to straights you hold your neck up against acceleration whiplash, slowing down your eyes endeavour to separate themselves from the skull. The M3 feels perfectly balanced, it makes you work for driving hard, but it doesn’t exhaust you for desperately trying something too hard. At the same time, it does Mondays, supermarkets, rain, snow, family visits and all the unpleasant things for you, while you can enjoy the bi-turbocharged six cylinder soundtrack. The BMW M3 does have all the right answers and adds value way beyond the price tag. For that, Flying Elmer is proud to recommend the BMW M3.