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Rest in peace, Coach
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9,106 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'm dying from mental and physical exhaustion right now from a LONG weekend of pure bliss...Sin City Chapter BMWCCA school in Las Vegas speedway. Had some opportunity to sit in classes and ride with instructors but did not have an opportunity to drive...I noticed Plaz was asking about August in Buttonwillow...I MIGHT attend that one, but would prefer a much later date (Buttonwillow in August can be BRUTAL. Temperature can be up to 110 degrees or more by 9:00am). I'm probably going to make the Fontana/California Speedway school if it's sponsored by San Diego. Email me Plaz.

Anyway, on the way back my friend let me drive his E46 M3 SMG. Quick impressions: It is a possessed beast in civil disguise. The first time I put my foot down on the accelerator it KICKED the back tires out...And I barely touched the pedal. The entire trip back the car was literally BEGGING me to open up the throttle...And everytime I did so DSC kicked in to prevent us from spinning out of control. There is just so much raw power behind that 3.2 liter inline six, it's a damn miracle BMW can cram in so much power into a small package like this w/o resorting to turbo charging. The raw power is almost intoxicating, I-15 was filled with truck traffic and slow moving SUVs in the left hand lane, and I was weaving in and out of traffic at will, going from 85mph to 120mph in a blink of an eye, two taps with the left paddle, ease into throttle, tap once with the right paddle and BOOM I'm pass a train of 5-8 cars.

Suspension was stellar, stiff and nimble but at the same time comfortable enough to be considered a daily drive. However the first thing I noticed when I started driving the car is it's weight. Tossing it and turning it, you feel the mass transfer around and immediately you realize that the 333 horsepower is dragging about 3500lbs of mass (two passengers, me and my friend). The first thing I compare it to was my car and the springs and shocks are definately tighter, we're both running on 18" wheels and I've got the sways, but body roll was NOT evident in the M3, not nearly as bad as the regular 3 series w/ sports. The tire that it came with, Conti-Sports, was simply HORRENDOUS especially after 2 whole day of track sessions. Everytime I pressed the gas pedal in lower gear the DSC struggles to save our *sses.

Now comes the real good stuff: SMG. I was skeptical before about this new feature in a manual transmission, I am not skeptical now. This is the future of manual transmission, PERIOD. I have only seen and experience shifts this precise and quick from a SEASONED instructor. Flawless downshifts, head snapping upshifts, all with a flick of your finger. We were toying with the S6 mode and literally, everytime you shift it was a precise and perfectly executed clutch dump, rev up to 8,000 rpm, wait for the lights to flash and BOOM, a slight jolt from the transmission and you feel your rear end PLANTED into the seat as the transmission grabs the next gear and drops the RPM into the MEAT of the torque curve. I did not try any of the lower settings nor did I try the automatic setting...It wasn't necessary. Just leave it in S6.

The only bad thing about the SMG is I find my self constantly searching for that third pedal. I must have clutched in almost EVERYTIME I went to shift, only to find NOTHING there. I think if the next car I get does not come with a real manual but the only manual option is SMG, I will not hesitate in getting that. However, if a third pedal (real manual) is offered, I'd probably take that instead. Despite the perfect clutch dumps and shifts, it lacks that intangible "feel" of rolling through the gears and the joy of actually executing the perfect heel and toe downshift yourself.

Which leads up to my conclusion...No E46 M3 in the near future. After driving my friends car and his constant little reminders of how I need to LEARN how to handle his car, and after observing instructors PASSING M3s and M5s on the track with 535s and 325s, I've come to this conclusion. If I don't even know how to handle even close to 50% of what my car is capable of doing now, why bother moving up to something that makes 150+ hp than my car? I may move up to a more powerful car if and only if I can eventually reel my friend in and keep up with his M3 on the track with my car...Then, and only then I know my speed and skill is limited by the performance of my car, and then and ONLY THEN will I consider further performance mods or moving up to more HP. I KNOW all that power will be going to waste in my hands anyway.

By the way, I must thank Sergio, Raffi, and Andy for inviting me along for the ride. I will DEFINATELY be signing up for a session or two near the end of the year. Sorry, I would love to attend Buttonwillow in August but I lived through 10+ years of Bakersfield summer heat, and it is not pleasant at all.
 

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I like cookies.
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18,102 Posts
You should go to the school in the summer...

I'll be going in June here and it will be pretty damn hot + lot of humidity :thumb:
 

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595 Posts
great post, HACK.

that was a great read. thanks.

i appreciated your feedback.

there were my impressions, too, aolthough i only drove a 6 speed.
 

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2001 M3:Stick, what else?
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3,300 Posts
Great writeup!

WHen driving on the streets, did you get the feeling that if you drove it daily that your license was going to be confiscated in short order?
 

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blubb blubb blubb
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1,168 Posts
Hack,

Interesting impressions. For me, I'd lean away from getting an M3, even though it seems like such an incredible machine. If you have that much power, on ocassion, you'll use it. And that will lead to accidents, tickets, and all the other things that your parents nag you about. ;) (Not to mention the boost in insurance costs even without any tickets.) Learn to be a better driver with schools, track days, etc. (I'm about to start that routine myself.) You could work on that for ages. Then maybe an M3 or some equivalent. It sounds boring and practical. But I'd say you made the right call.
 

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Rest in peace, Coach
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9,106 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
JPinTO said:
Great writeup!

WHen driving on the streets, did you get the feeling that if you drove it daily that your license was going to be confiscated in short order?
No. The E46 M3 is SURPRISINGLY civil if it wants to be. I was granny shifting for a while (between 3,000-4,000 rpm on this car) and it didn't feel like the car was out of ordinary except for the suspension. Where it REALLY shines is when you go pedal to the metal, and let the beast rev up past 4,000 RPM all the way to redline, then it's time to make sure you've got either friends in high places or a good attorney.

Oh and it gets there pretty fast too, if you want it to.
 

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M Mad
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10,479 Posts
Nice post.

Just about how I feel. Except I would pick the SMG over a clutch. BT, DT don't need the T-shirt.

The SMG allows so much more of your attention to be on what you are trying to do. I never realized how much attention you used doing good up and down shifts, even if you are experienced. There is no way to notice without driving an SMG for a god bit.
 

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Automotive Monomaniac
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10,706 Posts
Hack,

Great review.

The E46 M3 is a great sports car. IMHO, the car is too big and heavy for track use. Like most GT cars today, the M3 has gained weight in the search of safety, civility, and comfort. Don't get me wrong, the car is awesome, but it's not for me either.

I was also going to get an E46 M3. However, after a half-dozen Driving Schools, I realized why the instructors all love the E30 M3. It is all about the pleasure of driving the car and feeling the car though the seat of your pants. Your ass becomes part of the chassis.

My E46 330i was fast on the track, but my E36 328i was more fun. I bet the E30 M3 would be a blast.

I went with a Porsche 911 for the challenge. It is hard to drive, and very unforgiving. I will probably drop from a "B" driver to a "D" driver and have to work my way up again... but that is the fun part. Someday, I will be able to get a lap time in the 911 faster than I could in my 330i. I bet it takes me years.
 

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E- no kidding re: the P car.

doubt it will take you years.

but compared to the e30m3 or an e36 or e46 chassis, your P car is a beast.
 
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