Verdict: 2009 BMW M3
The Worst Part is That it had to go
No. It's been a year already? Can't be. Then the realization sets in. After 12 all-too-short months and 20,022 miles on the odometer, it's time for the M3 to go home. Panicked, the pleading begins. Then the bargaining.
Anything we could to do hold on to our car for just a little longer, to feel one more embrace from the seats, to experience one more blast to redline, was fair game. Maybe I'll grab the keys and run. Mexico isn't that far...
It wasn't long after this white sedan unassumingly slid into our garage that we called it World's Best All-Around Car. Initially, we were enamored of its package, an easy blend of speed, handling, good looks, roominess, and practicality. But surely, the World's Best All-Around Car title was a touch hyperbolic, right? Short answer: Nope.
Our M3 was a sedate and luxurious sedan as well as a supremely rewarding driving machine. Docile in inclement weather and smooth enough to transport your grandparents (if you can resist temptation), the M3 was equally primed for backcountry road-smash mode, where it would fire every synapse in your brain related to driving pleasure.
And then you'd find the M Drive button, which holds your preferred throttle, traction, and damping settings. With one press, everything somehow managed to get better. This is the M3's genius.
There are faster cars, yes, and there are a few that are more rewarding to drive. But of those, we challenge you to find one that combines speed, thrill, and daily driving duties as deftly as the M3.
Now, before you send your angrily worded e-mails, check that list again. Which ones offer free scheduled maintenance? Our M3's upkeep, carwashes excluded, totaled $0. BMW covered each oil change, service, and inspection under its 4-year/50,000-mile ultimate service program. BMW also repaired at no charge the two outside issues we experienced: a leaking windshield-washer-fluid pump and a door-catch adjustment to silence a creak from the rear passenger area. What BMW didn't cover, though, were replacement tires at 20,000 miles -- one set of Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetrics for $972.09.
"But there must've been something they didn't like!" you might be yelling. Well, fuel mileage was a bit of a bummer. The farthest our M3 traveled on a tank was 288.9 miles, and our observed 15.6 mpg is worse than that of our long-term Nissan GT-R. But when you're charging north of 5000 rpm every day, it's hard not to expect such a result.
BMW's twin-clutch transmission exhibited a few faults, too. On the occasional cold start-up, the gearbox would engage lower gears somewhat hesitantly and with a clunk, but it smoothed out as everything warmed up. Overall, the transmission's acceptance ratio was high, with only a few befuddled Luddites craving a manual. One such example was associate Web editor Kirill Ougarov, who complained, "It's sluggish at slow speeds unless you bury the throttle. I could not make any sense of its shift logic. Sometimes it would downshift, sometimes it wouldn't."
Executive editor Ed Loh far preferred tugging at the wheel-mounted paddles. "Inclines and declines had me toggling the paddles for the right gear. Essentially, the DCT is better used as a manual in these tricky situations, a point that I think will be lost on those who clicked the option box because they don't know how to drive manual."
Others (like yours truly) wouldn't have an M3 any other way. Sure, abrupt throttle changes would prompt aggressive downshifts -- as you would rightfully expect -- but judging the degree of throttle that triggers two downshifts instead of three could be difficult. The downside? A little too much acceleration. Oh, bother. But when driven smoothly, like your everyday family sedan, the DCT always found the ideal gear and switched seamlessly at highway speeds. Put your mom in the driver's seat, and our money says she wouldn't realize she was driving something special.
But now it's gone -- the Mexico dash didn't pan out. And while we now have time to let the bruises heal from the fights over its keys, we realize that the M3 has left a hole in our long-term fleet that won't soon be filled. Finding another car that pleases its driver in such myriad forms might as well be the quest for the Holy Grail; the only obvious replacement for our M3 is the next one. The World's Greatest All-Around Car? Unquestionably.
From The Logbook
"Yes, we love manuals. But, man, in L.A., I'm taking the DCT. I absolutely love the M steering wheel; it's so meaty and just the right size. I like having the paddles on the wheel instead of on the steering column; it makes it easier to pull them when cornering. Steering feel is just so...perfect."
- Mike Floyd
- Mike Floyd
"I drove it to Zion, Utah, and back over a long weekend and found the M3 to be an excellent long haul cruiser-even in 100-degree heat. On the way back, I spent about 8 hours behind the wheel, much of the time stuck in Vegas traffic, yet did not suffer any low back pain-great seats."
- Ed Loh
- Ed Loh
"I can't think of another automobile that does so many things so well-and in such a right-size package. If you put an F1 car and a premium sedan in a blender, the M3 would be the cocktail that pours out. Mmmm, nothing else like it."
- Arthur St. Antoine
- Arthur St. Antoine
"The M3 is as suave as George Clooney in a Brioni tux. It's at once a truly inspiring sport sedan and a genuinely relaxed, sophisticated daily driver."
- Angus MacKenzie
- Angus MacKenzie
|Options||Technology package (M Drive, navigation, HD radio $3250), M Double-clutch transmission ($2900), Premium sound ($1900), Cold weather package ($1000), BMW Assist ($750), Satellite radio ($595), Carbon leather interior trim ($500), iPod/USB adapter ($400)|
|MSRP, as tested||$68,270|
|Avg fuel economy||15.6 mpg|
|Three-year residual value*||$30,039|
|Recalls||Washer-fluid pump, door catch|
|* Automotive Lease Guide|
|2009 BMW M3|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, RWD|
|Engine type||90-deg V-8, alum block/heads|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement||244.0 cu in/3999 cc|
|Power (SAE net)||414 hp @ 8300 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm|
|Weight to power||8.9 lb/hp|
|Transmission||7-speed twin-cl auto|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes, f;r||14.2-in vented disc; 13.8-in disc, ABS|
|Wheels, f;r||8.5 x 18-in; 9.5 x 18-in, cast aluminum|
|Tires||245/40ZR18 93Y; 265/40ZR18 97Y Michelin Pilot Sport PS2|
|Track, f/r||60.6/60.6 in|
|Length x width x height||180.4 x 71.5 x 57.0 in|
|Turning circle||38.4 ft|
|Curb weight||3689 lb|
|Weight dist, f/r||50/50%|
|Headroom, f/r||38.5/37.5 in|
|Legroom, f/r||41.5/34.6 in|
|Shoulder room, f/r||55.4/55.1 in|
|Cargo volume||12.0 cu ft|
|Acceleration to mph|
|Passing, 45-65 mph||2.1|
|Quarter mile||12.7 sec @ 110.6 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||105 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.94 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||24.9 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)|
|Top-gear revs @ 60 mph||2400 rpm|
|Airbags||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|Basic warranty||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||4 yrs/unlimited|
|Fuel capacity||16.6 gal|
|EPA city/hwy economy||14/20 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.20 lb/mile|
|Recommended fuel||Unleaded premium|