Friday, March 25, 2011

BMW M3 2011

The highest praise fo BMW M3 I can give a sports car is to say it performs well both on a track and while driving slowly around town. Why? Because anybody can make a no-compromises car that's fast on the track but beats you to death on the streets. Likewise, anybody can make a comfy boulevard cruiser that wallows around the track. What's tricky is hitting that balance.
One of the few truly awesome cars I've driven, the BMW M3 nails both the sport and the comfort ends of the spectrum. You can tell the BMW M3 if you want it to be sedate or scary-fast — and it listens.
Driving Impressions
Joe Wiesenfelder tested a 2010 BMW M3 with a manual transmission, and you can read his impressions here. My 2011 test car came with BMW M3double-clutch transmission, and I have to say that even though I generally prefer manuals, I'd probably take this transmission if I were buying an M3.

At this point, I realize half the car geeks have stopped reading, half of them have dropped their jaws in amazement and all of them have muttered, "You freaking moron." But here's the thing: I've driven a manual 2010 BMW M3 on the road, at civilized speeds, and I did not enjoy it. Sorry, I just didn't.
Like Wiesenfelder said in his review, you have to wind the engine out to higher rpm to get to its maximum power. What I found BMW M3 is that a relative lack of low-end grunt made dealing with things like parking lots, stoplights on hills and standard city driving kind of annoying. Other manual cars I've driven are more enjoyable. I was expecting to be blown away by that version of theBMW M3, but I found it to be pretty pedestrian. Once I got out of the city the manual was great, but 96 percent of my driving is in the city.
The 2011 BMW M3's double-clutch transmission pulled away from stops and dealt with slow speeds better than the manual. Selecting gears with the steering-wheel paddles was excellent. You can vary how quickly you want the shifts to happen (more on that later), but in every case the transmission responds immediately.There are drawbacks, however, even for a transmission as nice as this one.

I'm not a fan of BMW's gear selectors for its automatic transmissions. They don't move through fixed positions like most cars; you just sort of nudge it where you want it to go and it pops back to a center position. BMW M3 it's easy to figure out, but at the same time, what's wrong with a traditional shifter? It seems like BMW M3 answered a question nobody was asking. Slowing as you approach stoplights, there's sometimes an odd lurching sensation when the transmission downshifts or chooses Neutral. It's pretty subtle, but I did notice it; it's the type of thing that would drive a manual-transmission-purist up the wall.

As for parking, if you realize you need to pull forward a few more feet once you stop the car you have to press the accelerator a fair bit before the car moves. I just had this sinking feeling the BMW M3 was going to lurch forward into a curb or something.The 2011 BMW M3 has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the 2010 BMW M3 Series has been, and its results should carry over when 2011 ratings are released. The 2010 received the highest rating, Good, for frontal-offset and side-impact tests, but it has not been tested for roof strength. BMW M3 Series with active head restraints also received a Good rating in the Institute's rear crash protection and head-restraint tests.

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