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Mac

Six Months with the E92 M3

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I’ve had my E92 M3 now for six months so I thought it may be worth a write up – you can get an idea of the running costs, and my thoughts on the car. First, some pictures for you.

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Why the M3?

I tend to be a bit of an impulse buyer. I certainly don’t plan car purchases anything like the way some people do on here. My S3 was purchased cos the Audi garage was the closest to my house…RS4 cos they had one and it went fast…etc. You get the idea. Incidentally, for anyone who’s interested one of my first posts on Audi-Sport was asking about the difference between an A3 and an S3….Ummm.

Anyway, I’d had an E46 soft-top for getting on for a year. I’d not specifically bought the soft-top; I’d actually aimed to get the newest E46 shape I could – and that turned out to be the soft top. I didn’t particularly like the newer shape – and to be fair I still prefer the aesthetics of the E46. Liked the car, was great in summer, and was an easy drive.

A couple of people I work with have upgraded their cars – an RS5, and a Porsche C4S. This got me thinking. I test drove the RS5 and was utterly underwhelmed with it. Plenty fast, yes, but just didn’t feel special. So non-special in fact that I forgot about getting a new car for a good couple of months. Until I spotted a low-mileage E92 M3 accidentally on the dealer’s website that I’d purchased the E46 from. This was in the morning – it was on my way home, the deal was done 2 hours later.

As you can see, completely impulsive. To be fair, I’d also looked up the online reviews and they’d all said it was a fantastic car. I must admit I was particularly taken with the aesthetics of this one. Black, with fox red interior, on 19” rims.

Why not a 335? Well, I know these are very capable cars. A friend of mine has one and it’s not that much slower than the M3 truth be told. The drive however is a world apart – it’s not anything like as involving. Getting a 335 would have been like getting a ‘bit faster’ version of my E46, for some reason my brain just didn’t see it as special.

Driving the Car

For the first month or so of picking the car up, it’s reasonable to say I found it utterly terrifying. Not because of it’s outright pace – I’ve had cars as fast before – but the fact that it was rear wheel drive. I think my own personal restrictor was set far lower than that of the car. I had visions of disappearing into a hedge, backwards.

Now, this was further exacerbated by a couple of facts:

· The PS2 tyres on the rear were running low on tread.

· Turns out my traction control unit was – and I quote – “Knackered”.

Interesting hey? So, I had the traction control + some other gubbins swapped under warranty – and at around the same time had the tyres replaced.

Oh my word – what a difference. Sure, I knew the car a little better by then so maybe my confidence was up, but with the new TCU and new tyres, the car felt like a completely different beast.

I really have total confidence in the handling of this car now – the rear wheel drive doesn’t scare me in the slightest. The car grips just as well as any other car I’ve ever owned.

Sure you can get the traction light flashing from a standing start, right up through third gear – but that’s the same as most other 400Bhp+ cars. It was the same in my RS4. The difference in the ‘4 is that I magically assumed that the AWD would just magically sort things out.

I’m now pretty sure that it was little to do with the AWD and more to do with clever electronics. The M3 feels just as planted as the RS4 ever did.

Saying that, personally I’d be less inclined to floor it going through a corner with the traction off. It’d end badly. I’m pretty sure that would have ended badly in the RS4 too – but at least I’d have got to see what I was about to drive in to.

The M3 is an exciting drive. Setting the M button up for sport sharpens up the whole package no-end making it pin sharp. In ‘girl’ mode I find the throttle response a little lax actually – so I tend to leave it in sport all the time, and then have ‘Sport Plus’ or whatever it’s called programmed in to the M button. ‘Sport Plus’ is a bit of a handful round town – it really does shunt you off as soon as you so much think about getting anywhere near the loud pedal.

In corners/roundabouts the car grips incredibly well. Even in M setting you get limited slip at the rear end. Sure, floor it out of a roundabout in M the back will get a bit twitchy, but it’s nothing the electronics can’t cope with, and easy enough to control. Turn the traction off however and I’m sure I’d be facing the wrong way in no time. I tried it once – it’s not been any further than M ever since.

Here’s something that may be slightly controversial – but I actually find the ‘M actually under-steers slightly if you power in to a roundabout or corner. Not in a ‘oh my god I’m going in to a wall’ sort of way, but enough to give you maximum confidence in control – back off slightly, it gets it’s act together and off you go. If you’re brave enough a bit of opposite lock on the way out is possible too. The thing that I find massively interesting here is that the over-steer thing only ever happens when I absolutely and totally force it, and even then I only get it happen maybe one in three times. It’s not as rear happy as I certainly originally thought.

There’s less objective opinion to be had here too. The balance of this car is simply astonishing. You feel like you’re right in the middle of it and it moves around you. It’s a very difficult thing to explain – you just do not feel the weight of the car. Turn in is sharp as a tack, and is all I could ask for in a fast mid-size car.

I’ve found myself doing things I haven’t done for years. Like driving to Wales for example over an unexpected weekend purely just to play with the thing. Like giving a friend a lift to Chester from London on the understanding we could go have lunch in Aberystwyth on the way. This car has given me my ‘want’ of driving back.

I did not see that coming.

Aesthetics/Exterior/Cabin

The newer shape of the BMW is growing on me, however it’s no secret I’m still a big fan of the E46 platform. I do like the aggressive stance of the M3 I have to say – I didn’t realise that they’re actually quite easy to spot from any angle. That could be of course because I now own one.

I’ve always thought the 4 exhausts on the E9x look a bit ‘stuck on’ compared to the E46? I don’t particularly care, I never get to see them anyway.

I do like the carbon fibre roof, I think it looks funky.

The interior is far brighter than my previous cars, bar maybe my silver-leathered S3. The Fox red interior matches the paintwork well and brightens up the overall interior.

The switchgear is all good quality, and everything is laid out particularly well – seems to be more functional than design though. By that I mean I always thought the interior of my Audis (S3 and an RS4) were particularly ‘crafted’ places to be. The BMW seems a bit more solid & functional, and not as, well, pretty.

I do particularly love the seats. Fully adjustable, including the side bolsters (took me a while to work that out….) being adjustable depending on the type of driving you’re doing. You also get fully adjustable lumbar support as well.

Anything I don’t like about the interior? A few things, including:

iDrive

My car has the older DVD based SatNav Pro and iDrive system. I find it tedious to use. In fact I rarely use the SatNav preferring the one on my iPhone (TomTom) instead. The USB interface to my iPod works well enough but finding what you want on an iPod with 60-odd Gb of music on can be a bit of a twirl fest.

The SatNav doesn’t even use full post-code search – that to me is appalling….

Gear Throw

As I mentioned a while ago, I found the manual gear throw to be quite long, and because of that slightly tiring. In view of this, I changed the gear throw but replacing the gear knob with a shorter throw unit. You can view that process here. Time and winter will tell how much I like the metal gear knob.

Memory Seat

(Erm, this is probably more me…) The memory seat buttons seem to have a mind of their own. They don’t appear to remember the settings properly. Like I say, this could be me.

As a side note, my daughter loves the seats too. Although on long journeys the constant ‘buzzzz, buzzzz, buzz <moving child>’ can get a little tiring.

Stupid Climate Control is Stupid

One thing I’ve never quite got about any of my BMWs is the climate control. Set the temperature on the display – fine. You then however have another roll wheel in the centre air vents that controls the mixture of air from outside the car – I.e. hot or cold air. This I find utterly pointless. If I set the temp at 20 degrees, I want the temperature at 20 degrees – not 20deg +/- whatever that analogue wheel is set up. I do know some people like this feature – you can adjust the temperature of the air that actually hits your upper body for example – but personally I just find it totally useless and pointless.

The Engine

The engine absolutely and totally makes this car. It’s a very sweet high revving naturally aspirated V8 – it red lines at 8,400RPM. The noise is a little muted inside the car (and thankfully so if you drive a lot) but wow does it sound good with the windows down and in tunnels. I’ve also had the pleasure of listening to the dealer driving it off for a service – and it sounds ace.

Back when I had the RS4 I thought turbo engines were the nuts, and large capacity engines were somewhat lazy. I’ll be the first to admit this was probably because of the V8s I’d driven previously, and because turbo engines were far more rewarding to tune.

The engine in the M3, and in the newer RS4 to be fair, are amazingly responsive engines. They just beg to be revved – the noise is astonishing, and the power/acceleration as you go up the rev range is simply awesome.

Fortunately it can also be a pussycat around town. Trundle around at 3K RPM or less and it’s capable and easy to drive. If I had a complaint it would be that low down the rev range the engine doesn’t feel as torque rich as some cars I’ve driven – 400N-m at 3,900RPM is hardly rubbish, but it’s not as punchy as I’d imagined. Bang it down a gear though and you’re back to having your face on fire.

Dealer Experience

This is something that has stood out for me. I’ve currently had a couple of experiences with a BMW dealer and both have been exceptional. First time was asking them whether I could rolling-road my M3. They explained I could but it would cause all kinds of errors due to the rears doing 100Mph+ while the fronts were stationary – they simply said pop by and they’ll reset it.

I did – and they spotted all the errors on the traction control, and then fitted them. Brilliant experience.

Next time was with a brake fluid service. Picked up the car then they said, did exactly as asked, and returned it. They did ring to ask whether they’d mind if they dropped it off an hour later – even the way they did that was fine by me. They first stressed they could drop it at the time arranged if needed, but was it possible to deliver it an hour later as they were a little backed up. Control was with me, and I felt my opinion was important. Wow. This experience is just amazing coming from somebody used to Audi dealers. I wonder if this is a BMW thing or just my local dealer thing…?

Fuel Costs

This is the thing I was particularly interested in…. I’ve done a fair number of miles this year – in six months I’ve done 13,600 miles. This equates to £ £4,296.85 in fuel, at an average cost of £1.412/litre – 90%+ super unleaded.

Average MPG has been circa 20.8Mpg – with the average fill-up range being 230 miles.

There’s a lot of city driving in there so it’s not anything like as horrific as I expected. I understand Molly is getting circa 16Mpg.

Servicing

So far it’s only really had a brake-fluid service – there’s an oil service due and that’s being done next week. I’ll report back on the costs of that once done. So far, the costs are as follows:

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The single extra rear-tyre was because I got a big chunk of metal in a new tyre – how gutting is that? I’ve also purchased the oil separately as it’s cheaper than dealer.

Few ‘improvements’ including:

· Snap-in for the iPhone 4 in the armrest. Charges the phone, rarely use it.

· Bike racks – went for the proper ones given the carbon fibre roof. Didn’t want any warranty arguments.

· New DVDs for SatNav.

Insurance

39 (40 now…) no points, business use, central London address and kept on drive - £1650/year. Two years no claims.

Summary Costs

Six month costs, and projected twelve month costs. The vast majority of the fuel (80%+) for me is business use, so no cost to me.

The second table shows the projected cost with my business mileage removed – makes a fair bit of difference as you see.

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Experience Summary

The engine and balance of this car are simply an awesome combination. I never really understood the obsession with BMW previously – their idea of the ‘ultimate driving machine’ always to me sounded a bit, well, tossy. I think now though I understand what they were on about. Ultimate? Arguable. Fun and exciting to drive? Oh yes.

I love this car. It’s given me the fun of driving back – even around town. I’ve even washed it myself. Twice.

I do wonder how well it will cope with any snow – I guess the answer will be that it won’t.... I’ll hire a small front-wheel driver if that happens, or even a 4x4.

The fuel costs are a little punitive – even when you don’t readily pay for the fuel you’re using. If you’re paying for fuel directly yourself it’s certainly something to think about – fuel will cost you around 30p/mile (£300/1000 miles=£3.6k/year at 12k/year).

I suspect I’ll keep this car at least till the summer however where I go next is a tough one…. I suspect my next car will still have a V8, but maybe with a couple of turbos thrown on….

Edited by Mac

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Good write up - I started one of these after 6 months with mine (just the other week) but never finished it. You have now effectively written mine!

I find that doing far fewer miles I really don't know the car - it might be arguable that I never will with under 4k a year. I'm still in the mindset of the thing chucking me backwards into something. I've never tried the M Sport mode in anger for example and have only turned the TC off a couple of time. While stationary at some lights. That was frightening enough. What a pussy huh? I have read though that the car feels much quicker in MS mode, perhaps because in full protection mode it really is reigning back the power before the TC light comes on.

The fuel is something that really has to be seen to be believed - for me at least. I brimmed mine with V Power the other week and after just 25 miles it is pointing midway between full and 3/4 full. Oh, and 13 mpg. ;)

I am amazed you paid that for the Nav disk though Mac - you can get one for about £35. Bear that in mind if you upgrade to 2012 or whatever. +++

Here is an interesting thing though. I am not sure it feels as fast as I expected. I think it might be because you get loads of power and go quickly and it keeps on building so the differential between fast and faster is less. It certainly noticeably kicks again at about 6000rpm - I always notice that because it is at this point the g/f normally gasps or grabs hold of the grab handle!

I think your seat memory problem is just that, a problem. Never had anything like that in mine. I also quite like the climate control - admittedly I don't really get why the cold/hot wheel exists but I've used it a bit and quite like it - despite it making no sense!

ETA - insurance - I pay £600 on an Admiral multicar policy (had 0 NCB but they used the NCB I had on the LCR of 8 years), on the street in Edinburgh, no accidents, 6 points, big fine, aged 34.

And of course the most important addition. I bloody love it!

Edited by Andrew

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£35 - for proper legit ones? I'm averse to thieving such things as such.

Final figures are a bit screwey - not sure what that's about. Should be:

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Nice review Mac.

I've moved to Audi and certainly miss the service and feel the BMW gave me to drive, needs must but I will certainly be looking at BMW again next time around.

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£35 - for proper legit ones? I'm averse to thieving such things as such.

My defence your honour is that it came with the car. I doubt there is much official about the £35 versions to be honest.

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I know what you mean though - 200 quid is a bit, er, harsh. I should have returned it - the person at parts told me it would give me full post code search, it doesn't.

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I have resolved the cold-metal-winter-morning conundrum.

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Very nice, it looks like you've trodden some dog poo in as well!

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Ah, it does doesn't it? It's not - it's just full of the joys of autumn.

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Nice write-up Mac. When can I have the keys?

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Nice write up Mac, good that you've rediscovered the fun of driving, so often cars like this can be an anticlimax. What would you swap it for, out of interest ?

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M5 or an Aston Martin are probable next moves. Or a 911. Not convinced by 911 as our works car park is full of them.

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Aston V8 I presume?

These are lovely, lovely cars, sound fantastic and the build quality is mega. But they're a bit underwhelming. I know three people who've bought them, run them for about a year (two years in one case) and sold them again (as well as losing a small fortune in depreciation).

Given a 70k budget, I'd go used 997.2 GTS or used new model M5 when they're out +++

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Yeah I know they'll be a massively different drive. The AM thing is just an 'itch' that needs scratching to borrow your term! I'm hoping my mileage will drop a lot next year, in which case the porkers become a more feasible option. Porsche + mileage = punitive depreciation from what I can see, the AM/M5 doesn't seem to take the hit on miles as much as the porsche units do.

Also, like I say, there is an element of 'every other bloody car is a 911' around here!

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Yep, I've heard that about the AM V8s too - nice looking things but probably no quicker or fun than the E92 - also servicing must be more horrific than the 3 series? As I understand it many people have the problem of what next, given the M3 is so good. 911 seems to be a common answer and MrMe was always a big advocate of me having a test drive in one before I bought the M3 just to see what all the fuss was about - different handling league apparently (I think we have now deduced it might be lost on me anyway!). I decided though I wanted the best a manufacturer could offer for that model, not the second from bottom (911 2S).

70k budget - 911 Turbo or GT3 territory surely?

ETA - or maybe, just maybe, Ferrari 430? Or are they every OTHER car?!

Edited by Andrew

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997.2 Turbos are great - effing quick, but I'd get a GT3. Effing quick and handle better +++

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Turbo/GT3 options sure, but not with that sort of mileage.20K+ year I'll not spend that much given the effect on resale.

Who knows - I'll probably buy something completely different :D

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Masser would be nice..... To be fair, I won't be looking till after 5th April anyway, and budget depends on what happens between now and then :grin: Could end up in a Fiesta :eek:

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As an aside - how is it you seem to have driven every flipping car on the planet Mook? And how do I get in on that action? Is it something to do with attending your BBQs?

(I ask that - I am sure the answer is track days or meets).

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As an aside - how is it you seem to have driven every flipping car on the planet Mook? And how do I get in on that action? Is it something to do with attending your BBQs?

(I ask that - I am sure the answer is track days or meets).

Trackdays, business networking, long-standing friends and asking the right people at the right time I guess +++

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Each to their own, and all that, but with Mac's loose criteria I'd be looking Italian next time. Was going to suggest an 8C until I saw the prices (!)

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Italian - such as? I'm fairly open to options really. Outright performance isn't as high on the list as it once was. I want a car to enjoy, and I don't think that's all about trafficlight GP and pure grunt.

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I wouldn't discount a 911 purely on the grounds of ubiquity - they are that good, and I guess you just accept the challenge of finding a nicer one than the rest of the car park (that's the thing with there being so many about - there's a lot in absolutely horrid colour combos and silly spec options).

Not a fan of the Aston V8, although I believe the later cars are a big improvement. For me an Aston should either be a soft top or a proper GT. Preferably both, i.e. DB9 Volante.

The Maserati strikes me as the more mature enthusiast's choice. (And by mature I don't necessarily mean 'old'). The latest GT looks gorgeous, sounds awesome, goes well and seems a genuinely nice place to be (sat in one at Goodwood when the new one was launched).

Compared to all these, the M5 would be a very different proposition. Kind of grown up, and potentially not as exciting.

How about Jag XKR? Too 'old'?

I think I'd be looking at a 'nice' 911 - but not a Turbo unless my budget was pushing 100k. Maybe a nicely spec'd GTS?

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