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      04-11-2013, 05:00 PM   #1
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Initial Impressions

**warning long post. new owner, can't help it**

So I got my first M3 about 2 weeks ago [2010 E90 LMB, DCT, Comfort, Tech, Premium]. Iím coming from a modified 2001 MR2 [2ZZ engine swap, 6 speed, suspension, etc]. Both cars rev past 8k RPMs, but are very different. I thought Iíd share my thoughts here.

Seating position:
At first the M3 felt like a bus compared to the MR2 which feels like a go kart. A huge plus for the M3 are the seats themselves. Like the M3, these seats excel at both comfort and sport. For some reason (maybe bc this car is built for tall Germans), when adjusting the steering wheel for my seat position I canít see the tach, so I have to adjust the seat quite high to get everything aligned properly (seat to wheel & tach). I decided I will have one position for regular driving and a second position for ďMĒ mode that sits lower and compromises tach view.

Transmission:
I love driving stick even in traffic, but was really excited about the DCT after test driving. Driving the DCT in traffic was really funky to get used to. I kept thinking I was going to stall when coming to a stop and didnít know whether I should throw this thing into Neutral like I do when driving stick or let it do its thing. I still downshift when slowing, but have learned to trust it. Downshifting and rev matching in this thing is heaven. I love braking hard, downshifting into second and have the car bark at me while matching revs right before I power out of a turn. The DCT is incredibly smooth up and down. Wife and kid make the DCT an easy call. If I were still single, I would be racking my brain between 6 speed or DCT. Actually started missing the 6 speed after going on a spirited drive. Iíve noticed that the pedal position is setup really well for heel toe. In fact, I find myself sometimes accidentally hitting the accelerator when braking.

Throttle response:
I donít like the whole throttle mapping thing. It helps differentiate regular driving mode from Beast mode, but I could really do without. I prefer Beast mode because it feels like the electronics are interfering the least. When in Sport Plus and S5, it really does feel like Iím driving a manual car. The engine responds exactly as my foot dictates (feels more natural both on throttle and off throttle) and it only changes gears when I tell it to.

Engine:
This engine is more than twice as powerful as the engine I previously drove (180 to 414 hp). People complain about the lack of torque down low, but I love how this engine is built. It is less Mercedes/Camaro and more F1/racecar. It feels a little like Clark Kent before 3k and Superman above 3.5k all the way to 8k+. I love the dual nature. It reminds me of the s2000. To go fast, you have to drive it like you stole it. When you do, this thing is just beastly. [This makes enjoying the engine on public roads kind of difficult.] The torque range is so broad and flat. This engine is amazing. You had to push the MR2 past 6k to get decent power so the engine felt very peaky. Not so with the S65. My MR2 feels like an RC car compared to the M3, which is probably no surprise. Iím not an M3 purist, but this thing is special and no matter how fast the new M3 is, turbos are not the sameÖ

Brakes:
The brakes are very capable, but Iím still getting used to the brake feel. The effective braking zone feels too narrow. It feels like there is a lot of nothing when you first press it, then some brake, then bam! it bites hard. That combined with getting used to DCT has resulted in some embarrassingly aggressive stops. The MR2 was light and brake feel was excellent. Easy to feather/modulate. Further, because it was mid engine you always felt like you where getting pulled to a stop rather than pushed to a stop. The M3 is heavy, but the suspension prevents significant nose diving. I still have to get used to the brakes.

Steering:
Very heavy, but connected. This is a BMW trademark right? I like it. Doesnít feel like a lot of electronics are getting in the way. MR2 steering is also direct, but lighter. I think both are appropriate for the car weight and power. The M3 steering wheel and controls are so well designed. While driving aggressively, everything I need is at my fingertips. Big negative is that the wheel gets sticky so fast. I wish they would have used a different kind of leather. Iím cleaning this thing weekly to prevent stickiness.

Overall:
Iím surprised at how much I still like driving my 10+yr old MR2. Iíve developed a robotech-like connection with that car. That said, the M3 is a beast and I am head over heels. Iím already smitten by its quirks like how it is loud and grouchy when you wake it up in the morning. It takes a few minutes to warm up and quiet down before you head out for the daily commute. Itís kind of a dream car for me and I canít believe you can buy one of these used for mid-40s. An absolute steal for what you get.
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      04-11-2013, 05:09 PM   #2
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Good read.
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      04-11-2013, 06:32 PM   #3
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      04-11-2013, 06:43 PM   #4
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Congrats! I would continue experimenting with the throttle as you get more acquainted with the car overall. I started in Sport mode, and although I still use that mode on the street because I like having a punchier throttle in that setting (makes the car feel faster even though I know it's not), it took me a year of back country road and track driving to realize that the best mode for throttle response is Normal. It feels sluggish to me during casual driving (hence my continued use of Sport there), but on the track or other precision driving scenarios, that's the truly linear setting, and thus the one that affords the most control -- and when your driving setting has you staying between 4 and 8K RPM, Normal doesn't feel sluggish anymore.

Congrats again on the new baby, may it bring you years of enjoyment.
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      04-11-2013, 07:38 PM   #5
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Congrats and enjoy. Good review, too. I remember test driving mine and experiencing the rev match for the first time....awesome feature, and a definite must for the track.
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      04-11-2013, 08:04 PM   #6
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Yeah, this M3 has it's own feel...depends on what car you're coming from and used to. I came from an e46 M3 so I have different impressions, i.e. the steering in normal mode is pretty light compared to the e46, especially at lower speeds but is my favorite setting at speed, very communicative and not artificially heavy feeling. I like normal throttle response too, it feels the most natural and linear, not as twitchy as the sport modes.

Spend some time with the car, play with the different modes in different settings. I used to max everything and think WOW!

Congrats on your M3!
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      04-11-2013, 08:11 PM   #7
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      04-11-2013, 08:28 PM   #8
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"dream car"

x2

The best kind of dream is the one you don't have to wake up from!

Congrats & welcome. My old car was 2800 lbs, FWD, with 160 hp, so I had a similar adjustment. Enjoy the new normal.
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      04-12-2013, 12:22 AM   #9
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Thanks guys. I'm still in the honeymoon phase and can't wait to go to work just for the commute.

I went for some late night twisties the other day and realized that to get to know the car I really need to take it to the track. Felt rather like a bull in a china shop. The car is too fast to open up in tight switchbacks. I felt like I was going 50%, tip toeing around so as not to get myself into trouble. It was fun, however, seeing the headlights sweep back and forth over and over. While not a dedicated track car, this car has big boy power, brakes and chassis and is obviously made to shine in higher speed track scenarios.

Time to get a helmet and sign up for a track day soon. If anyone knows of a good way to get introduced I'm all ears. Something for beginners possibly with some instructor time. I'm not looking for side by side anytime soon. Maybe when I'm there, I'll test out the throttle modes under track conditions.
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      04-12-2013, 12:45 AM   #10
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Dct is great. Congrats
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      04-12-2013, 08:21 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imserious View Post
I went for some late night twisties the other day and realized that to get to know the car I really need to take it to the track. Felt rather like a bull in a china shop. The car is too fast to open up in tight switchbacks. I felt like I was going 50%, tip toeing around so as not to get myself into trouble.

Time to get a helmet and sign up for a track day soon. If anyone knows of a good way to get introduced I'm all ears. Something for beginners possibly with some instructor time. I'm not looking for side by side anytime soon. Maybe when I'm there, I'll test out the throttle modes under track conditions.
You're right that the car is faster than you can safely drive on public roads, which is why I've said repeatedly that M3 owners who never take their cars to the track will never truly understand what their car is capable of or why it was designed the way it was. Tip-toeing around on public roads especially when the car is new to you is exactly the right way to do it.

As for introduction to tracking, instructor involvement will be mandatory, not optional, so no worries there. As for events, it depends what's available in your area, but as long as you run with a reputable group the experiences will be pretty similar from one to the next, particularly as a novice. There are threads about advice for first-time track experiences, but the single biggest pieces of advice I can give you are a) make sure that either your normal insurance covers you for HPDEs or purchase track insurance, and equally importantly b) leave your ego at the door. Sounds like you won't have an issue with the latter if your instincts are telling you to tip-toe now, and that's good, because the people who show up to their first track experience with something to prove and think they'll blow their instructors' minds by being so fast are typically the who take their cars home on flatbeds -- not that that happens often, don't worry. Meanwhile, the people who approach their first track day mindful of the fact that they know nothing about REAL driving and pay close attention to their instructors are the ones who learn a whole lot and have a total blast.

Oh, and the single greatest way to stave off the "I need to mod my car so it will go faster" itch is to ask your instructor to drive your car on the track while you ride along.

As for the helmet, I just bought this one with a smoked visor rather than the included clear one: http://simpsonraceproducts.com/produ...id=10399&sort=. Yes, being able to look like Black Stig was a selling point for me.
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      04-12-2013, 04:47 PM   #12
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Nice write up! Welcome to the M.

RE: brakes. It's mostly the DCT that causes those lurches at slowdown. Other than our brakes being butt ugly physically, they're actually decent. But I mean it on the ugly, my 135's calipers and rotors look sportier. Go figure.
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      04-12-2013, 07:44 PM   #13
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Thanks for the tips JP. Will definitely head to the track to learn, not pretend I'm Senna. And good choice in helmets. I like. It would be cool to actually get in white as well.

Thanks for the welcome peeti. Yes, would be nice if BMW signed with brembo earlier and offered the brake upgrade with the competition package. That said, they are solid and hey, the rotors look nice as is!
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      04-14-2013, 08:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imserious View Post
Thanks for the tips JP. Will definitely head to the track to learn, not pretend I'm Senna. And good choice in helmets. I like. It would be cool to actually get in white as well.

Thanks for the welcome peeti. Yes, would be nice if BMW signed with brembo earlier and offered the brake upgrade with the competition package. That said, they are solid and hey, the rotors look nice as is!
That helmet is available in white.

The brakes are definitely solid and should serve you well bone stock at least as a novice on the track unless you go to a track that's very hard on brakes. You will probably want to upgrade your fluid before too long though, in fact if you're due for a fluid flush anyway I'd consider using something better, like ATE Super Blue or Type 200 (same stuff except the former is blue and the latter is gold). If you continue tracking, as you get better you'll probably want to go to upgraded pads; I use StopTech Street Performance since they're much OEM on the street (i.e. decent pad and rotor life with similar levels of dust, no noise on the street, and decent cold stopping power) but last longer on the track. Past that you'd be looking at dedicated track pads and/or a BBK. StopTech's is popular around here.
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      04-15-2013, 01:11 PM   #15
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Perfect tips and that was my progression plan. Start bone stock. I don't even want to mess with camber.

If needed at some point brake fluids > SS brake lines > better pads > dedicated track rims/tires - square? & stock suspension tweaks > BBK

It really depends on how quickly I reach the limits of the car and how much I end up tracking it.
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      04-15-2013, 03:15 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imserious View Post
Perfect tips and that was my progression plan. Start bone stock. I don't even want to mess with camber.

If needed at some point brake fluids > SS brake lines > better pads > dedicated track rims/tires - square? & stock suspension tweaks > BBK

It really depends on how quickly I reach the limits of the car and how much I end up tracking it.
Fwiw, my progression thus far has been brake fluid, then pads, then camber plates (which have yet to arrive, so I can't comment on them). I'm resisting other suspension and other more permanent changes because I feel that would be a bottomless money pit, and at the end of the day I'd rather drive a road car on the track than a track car on the road. The Vorshlag camber plates are adjustable so I can have street and track camber settings, and they also don't alter ride height or harshness or apparently make any noise, so I was ok with that change. But if you want more suspension mods, KW V3 coilovers seem to be very popular here. I'd actually planned to get dedicated wheels+tires before camber plates, but I switched that because a) camber plates are cheaper, and b) I wore the outside edges of my two front tires down to the cords after my most recent track weekend, so I ended up having to junk an otherwise perfectly good pair of PSSes after 7K miles and 6 track days. I'm hoping extra negative camber from these plates will reduce wear on the extreme outer edges of the tires while also giving me more grip on-track.

Dedicated pads would probably be next, certainly will be for me. Then whether to get a full BBK or dedicated wheels+tires will depend partially on your style and probably more on the characteristics of the tracks you drive. For example, I usually run Texas World Speedway, which is relatively light on brakes because it's more of a momentum course, so more grip could make sense before more braking. However, if you get very grippy tires (DOT competition, R compound, slick etc, then you'll probably also need to get a BBK anyway because of all the extra heat they'll be generating due to all the extra stopping power. However, I would avoid those until you become more advanced, and in fact many organizers ban those tires on novice-driven cars because they cover up mistakes and inhibit learning at that stage. They're also super expensive given their lifespan, which is why whenever I get dedicated tires, I'll be sticking with Extreme Summer Performance.

SS brake lines come with most BBKs and I don't think they're terribly important on their own, though they're also not expensive or difficult to install if you really want them. But whenever I get dedicated pads, I'll probably run PFC-08s since they apparently have almost as much stopping power as PFC-01s but with much longer life and less rotor wear. Dedicated wheels will be APEX EC-7s in 10ET25 form. Tires will be a square setup of 265-275/35/18, width depending on whatever model I'm trying (current list is Yoko AD08s, Kumho Ecsta, Bridgestone RE-11, and maybe Nitto NT01s). 275/35/18 on 10" wheels is basically as large as you can go under the front fenders without any rubbing, and apparently they won't protrude beyond the fender much if at all. BBK would definitely be the StopTech ST60 upfront, and I'd probably keep the rears stock since StopTech themselves have an article on their site arguing that if you get a properly designed front brake upgrade, rear brake upgrades are often unnecessary at best and actually a disadvantage at worst. The only reason I'd want the StopTech rear brakes is because pad swaps on that kit are absurdly easy, but that convenience isn't worth what a rear BBK costs IMHO.

Oh, if only I made disposable income as quickly as I made plans for how to spend it.
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Last edited by jphughan; 04-15-2013 at 03:36 PM.
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      04-15-2013, 04:00 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imserious View Post
Thanks guys. I'm still in the honeymoon phase and can't wait to go to work just for the commute.

I went for some late night twisties the other day and realized that to get to know the car I really need to take it to the track. Felt rather like a bull in a china shop. The car is too fast to open up in tight switchbacks. I felt like I was going 50%, tip toeing around so as not to get myself into trouble. It was fun, however, seeing the headlights sweep back and forth over and over. While not a dedicated track car, this car has big boy power, brakes and chassis and is obviously made to shine in higher speed track scenarios.

Time to get a helmet and sign up for a track day soon. If anyone knows of a good way to get introduced I'm all ears. Something for beginners possibly with some instructor time. I'm not looking for side by side anytime soon. Maybe when I'm there, I'll test out the throttle modes under track conditions.
Read some books on high performance driving. It's difficult to get into an accident while sitting in a chair reading a book. I bet your local library has one or two. If not there are many you can buy.
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      04-15-2013, 06:12 PM   #18
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Great write up. Referencing the OP's thoughts on steering, the standard E9x 328i and 335i offer a slightly better steering feel IMO. Those "standard" cars cannot match the M3's precision...obviously. Having said that, you always know what the front wheels on the M3 are doing! Agreed..."connected"
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      04-16-2013, 07:14 AM   #19
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The car has a Brake assist system that tries to detect an emergency stop (rapid throttle closure followed quickly by application of the brakes) and applies extra brake boost.
The brakes are a little quirky but you soon get used to them.
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      04-16-2013, 01:27 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Dct is great. Congrats
lol
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      04-17-2013, 01:19 PM   #21
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Congrats!! and Nice write up
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      04-17-2013, 05:00 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SenorFunkyPants View Post
The car has a Brake assist system that tries to detect an emergency stop (rapid throttle closure followed quickly by application of the brakes) and applies extra brake boost.
The brakes are a little quirky but you soon get used to them.
I've been paying more attention to brake feel and found that it is excellent at speed. Very controllable and predictable. And powerful when needed. It is only when coming to a stop that the brakes sometimes have a bite that I'm not used to, yet. Yes, it is sometimes the DCT downshifting. DCT is a smooth operator, but it does like to be going faster vs. crawling around town.

I think it is reflective of the fact that the drivetrain, brakes, etc. are more sport focused than comfort focused. [People may disagree.] I'm OK with that compromise.

I also find myself thinking the only thing that would make this car even better is not more HP, but less weight. 500 lbs less and this thing would feel so much lighter, more nimble. But where would it come from? Probably would have to sacrifice some of the basic creature comforts that I've come to enjoy. I suppose I'm OK with that compromise as well.

Watch out for the next M3 though. More torque and less weight? That's a good idea.
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