The BMW M3 is a sports version of the popular compact 3-Series automobile made by BMW Motorsport. The first M3 was based on the 1986’s E30 range, and there has been an M version of every 3-Series since.
For enthusiasts of ultimate automotive performance, it’s a magic name: BMW M3. Combining the all-around excellence of the BMW 3 Series with the spectacular performance and handling prowess that could only come from BMW M, the M3 is the formidable BMWsports car that has won - again and again - the accolades of the world’s motoring critics while providing its buyers with real performance and equally real practicality. Less than a year ago, BMW M, creator of all things M, brought forth a new M3 - an all-new generation of this legendary sports car.
As has been traditional with the M3, it was the coupe model that appeared first; a convertible variant followed soon thereafter. Predictably, the independent experts took notice. In a June 2001 comparison test of the M3 coupe and a key competitor, Car and Driver declared the M3 the winner. "Incredible engine, sweet steering, silky gearbox, hi-fi driving experience" was how the magazine characterized BMW M’s new ultra-performance coupe.
In another comparison test, pitting the M3 against two key rivals, Automobile Magazine (May ’01) gave the BMW the edge and characterized it thus: "The BMW is a more tactile car, more responsive and fractionally quicker. It’s a bigger challenge to drive, and that, ultimately, makes it a more rewarding purchase."
In August ’01, Motor Trend compared the M3 coupe with two sports-car competitors and concluded, "It’s ironic that the M3 can do all that it does so extremely well and still be a four-place machine with a useable back seat and a real trunk."
And in its July 23, 2001 issue, AutoWeek found that the M3 convertible would outperform BMW’s own 0-60-mph time (5.1 seconds, vs. BMW’s claim of 5.4 sec.). "But numbers can’t measure the grins this car elicits. We’re talking ear to ear. Toss it around a turn or through some cones and you’re in danger of grinning the whole top of your head off. Around here, we call the M3 simply ’The Car.’ Says a lot, no?"
For 2002, these new-generation M3s begin a second model year with several evolutionary changes and a revolutionary new transmission option:
- The optional Xenon headlights, now Bi-xenon, encompass low and high beams, vs. just low beams before.
- Also optional is a new automatic control that switches on the headlights and related lighting according to ambient light conditions.
- An in-dash CD player is newly standard.
- Radio-station presets are now included in the Vehicle and Key Memory system. When a particular user unlocks the M3 with his or her remote, the presets last set by that user are re-captured.
- Also new inside is Titan Shadow trim, with a graphite-like color appropriate to the M3’s high-technology character.
- The available BMW Onboard Navigation System, encompassing GPS navigation and many other useful functions, has been updated with a larger, easier-to-read color monitor and optimized controls.
- Topaz Blue Metallic, has been added to the exterior color selection, Fern Green Metallic discontinued.
- The biggest news is the Sequential Manual Gearbox, offered as an option on both M3 models. Building on technology that is now virtually universal in Formula 1 racing cars, SMG affords sports-oriented drivers a means of absolutely optimizing performance - or making driving more effortless, according to the driver’s wishes.
With this new engine and the also new 6-speed transmission, the M3 achieves true sports-car performance. Factory data for the European version indicate acceleration from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in around 5 sec.; 80-120 km/h (50-75 mph) in 4th gear takes just 5.9 sec., indicating that this engine delivers not just brilliant performance through the gears, but also usable response at everyday driving speeds. Top speed is electronically controlled to 155 mph.