EDIT: Here is an updated review of the car after 1 week of ownership
Well folks, I went to my dealer this afternoon, expecting to pick my car up tomorrow, and ended up driving home in it. How happy am I!!!
I've attached a few pictures to let you see ho Jerez Black really looks and will give you my first impressions after 60 miles or so in the car. I've also attached a picture of the demo car my dealer has. The red colour looks so much better in real life than in any of the pictures I have seen. if anyone has ordered it and is worried about how it will look, don't be. It's awesome!
So, let's start with the colour, as I see this has been talked about quite a lot on here recently. Jerez Black is definitely a bit of an enigma. It's definitely not a standard black and, in fact, ranges from glossy black under certain daylight conditions to a matt purple under forecourt lighting. When the sun shines on it you can definitely pick out the purple flecks in the black and it really does stand out. I'm really pleased with it and, having seen some other colours, think it was definitely the right one to go for. Now, more of a surprise to me was the Fox Red leather. I had no idea what it would look like in real life and took a real leap of faith in accepting this colour. In the photographs that I had seen it looked really bright, almost orangey, but in real life it just looks stunning! There is a lot of black in the interior - carpets, steering wheel dash etc., and this contrasts really well with the red. It is quite a deep red, darker than I was expecting. My next M3 is due around November, but is still spec. changeable, so I will definitely be losing the Silverstone with black and changing it to Jerez with Red again.
When I first drove the car it felt a little strange. I guess I still had the magazine reports in my head and so expected it to feel like it had lost its edge and, to be honest, that's exactly how it felt. The steering was a little vague and light, the suspension a little too soft and it just didn't feel like the wild child we’ve come to expect from BMW’s M division. I also found the throttle response to be a little vague. When I pressed the pedal, I wasn’t hit with the wall of acceleration I found in my M5 and M6. I knew something wasn’t right, so I ventured into the i-drive and configured the M-Drive settings. With the settings changed to my liking, I set off once again and immediately noticed the difference! Unlike its M5 and M6 stable mates, there is no increase in power when you hit the M button, but the other settings are there – dampers (assuming you specify EDC), DSC and a general change in the whole response of the car. You don’t see the same Jekyll and Hyde change that you experience in the 5 or 6, but it does still become a different animal! Suddenly there was response when I pressed my right foot and the steering seemed to give more feedback. I’m still on the run in period, so can’t go above 5,500 rpm, but there is a lot of power waiting to be unleashed. One thing I did find, though, is that you do have to keep the revs up above 4,000 to get the best from the engine.
Servotronic steering has had a lot of bad press in the past, but I have to admit, I like it. Although the feedback isn’t entirely natural, it is nice to have light steering at low speeds and more ‘feedback’ when going fast. This is also configurable in the i-drive and, from what I can tell, setting it to Sport mode causes the steering to become a fair amount heavier. It still feels a little artificial, but it is certainly not numb, as a few magazine articles have suggested. You do still get a reasonable degree of feedback from the road.
There are a couple of things I really miss in the car. SMG is one. This, for me, was one of the highlights of the M5 and M6. I would love to see it in this car as I have lost count of the number of times I have tried to change up a gear today, only to wash my windows instead! Another thing I really miss is the head-up display, but I guess I can live without it.
Without doubt, the highpoint of this M3 is, as always, the engine. Yes, it sounds a bit dull on start-up, but once you give it some revs, it really comes alive and roars back at you. It is a joy to listen to and is going to sound amazing through a tunnel at 8,000 revs! Acceleration, up to 5,500 revs at least, feels pretty linear, so you don’t get the shove in the back that you feel in, say, a 911 Turbo, but I get the feeling that, once the run-in period is out the way, there is a lot to come from the last few thousand revs. The brakes also feel up to the job, on the road at least. I’m still bedding them in, but they have a nice feel to them and do an excellent job of slowing you down. The only downside to the brakes is that the pedal is set a little high, making heeling and toeing quite tricky. Blipping the throttle on the downshift is not easy.
I haven’t really explored the handling to any great degree yet, although I did hang the back end out on one roundabout and managed to give myself a bit of a head rush as I flew round another and changed direction to exit. The EDC setting definitely makes a difference to the feel of the handling and the amount of warning you get before it breaks away. As with the M6, go for the stiffest setting and there is very little warning, but the car still feels very controllable. More on that when the tyres have had chance to bed in.
I still have to explore some of the entertainment options, like the DAB radio and the USB connection for music players, but the Logic 7 Hi Fi is definitely worth the money. The sound quality is amazing! I also love the adaptive headlights. They’re one of those options you don’t notice you have until you drive a car without them. Visibility in corners is fantastic.
Anyway, enough from me for tonight. I have to go put my daughters to bed, but I will write some more when I get the chance.
FYI – I will also be posting this on the M3 section of the M5Board.com
If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to send me a PM.