1998 BMW M3 Sedan 3.2L Straight 6

Summary:

Lives up to the title of the "Ultimate Driving Machine"

Faults:

Tear in leather on the rear seat, some wear on the driver's seat.

Sunroof motor conked out.

Rear passenger side door will not lock/unlock while using the electronic locking system/key fob.

SRS light is continuously lit (apparently a common problem on these cars)... just haven't bothered to get it inspected/reset.

Shift lever has a "loose" feel, especially when engaging 5th.

Some rattling from shift knob or some part of the centre console while cruising in top gear.

Minor, slow oil leak.

Wheels went out of balance, resulting in violent shaking in the steering wheel.

Right front brake stuck for several kilometers before returning to normal.

Rear speaker blown (heavy "farting"/rattling under bass load)

I suspect the cigarette lighter may have failed.

General Comments:

BMW geeks will know this car means business, but the average Joe on the road sees another German luxury sedan. This is such an awesome sleeper car with a Jekyll & Hyde personality: it can be very civilized and palpable while short-shifting around town, but open the throttle wide and boy does she ever move!

It is way, way too easy to get this car up to illegal speeds, and there have been more than a few occasions where I've inadvertently doubled the speed limit while moderately running through the gears.

Weight distribution is legendary BMW perfect - so much so that when doing a grocery run, those extra 20 or 30 pounds in the trunk become noticeable! The car corners on rails, and the fat rear tires do a plenty good job of hugging the road while accelerating in corners. Steering is very direct as well - enter a decreasing radius turn and all you have to do is dial in more wheel lock! Highway cruising is also exceptional with a very smooth, confident ride and the short top gear - while not the greatest for fuel economy - means you rarely need to downshift to overtake slower traffic.

The interior is very minimalistic luxury with stiff, notchy controls and very firm seats, which can get uncomfortable on long trips (I've often had to take breaks every hour or so to give my lower back and right leg a bit of time to regroup).

While that is a very minor inconvenience, my real gripe in the ergonomics lies in the climate controls - it simply takes too long and too much of my attention away from the road to set the desired temperature (s) with a bunch of buttons. A dial (or dials) would effectively eliminate that problem.

The finish is a little cheap, and not what I would call luxurious: all the panels, handles, switches and dash are made of *hard* plastic, and all surfaces covered in leather are far from being supple. Sound deadening seems to have taken a backseat, and the low-profile runflats are not unobtrusive at any speed.

Fuel economy could be a little better (I get about 550 clicks on a 62L tank of gas), and I suspect with a 6th gear this could be improved, but hey this is an M3, so who cares, right?

As for overall driveability, my only complaint about owning this car is this: it really does feel at home cruising at high speeds and taking wide sweeping turns at speeds that would leave most others lagging far behind. In Canada, however, this translates into hefty traffic tickets and reckless driving charges! This also means it is easy to get frustrated at drivers for taking turns at what seem like ridiculously cautious speeds.

I haven't owned the car long enough to know what long-term running costs are like, but I shudder to think what the high-performance and differently-sized front and rear tires will cost to replace. Fuel economy is reasonable for this level of performance, but Premium fuel requirements mean fill-ups are not cheap (about $1.20/L). At just over 203K on the odometer, this M3 is still running strong and honestly feels like it's just being broken in. The only exception being the shifter, which feels very worn and seems to have a tendency to gravitate towards 5th gear while in Neutral, and as such, needs to be gently coaxed over to the left before slamming straight ahead into 3rd.

I've driven a Matrix, a couple generations of Altimas, a Tacoma, a Highlander, a Civic, a 944, an E90 328i, and all in all, this has by far been my favourite car to drive - a truly intoxicating sports car ride in a neat sleeper package. Yes, this well lives up to the title of the Ultimate Driving Machine!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 30th October, 2010

30th Oct 2010, 06:56

Always makes me laugh when Americans complain about the price of fuel!

Try filling up here in England. Oh, and just out of curiosity, what do you call premium fuel? In the UK premium is anywhere between 97-99 RON; standard unleaded is 95 RON.

To fill a 62 litre tank here at £1.20/litre, you're talking £75, which in today's exchange rate works out at $120. Do you still think it's expensive to run?

1st Nov 2010, 13:00

Well that puts our prices a little in perspective! Regular fuel has an octane rating of 87 while Premium has 91 (though 94 is now offered at select gas stations).

But you have to remember over here we drive a lot of full-size SUVs and trucks and it is not uncommon for one person to own a couple of vehicles. Also, the vast sizes of our provinces means we do a lot of lengthy commutes!

2nd Nov 2010, 10:37

I drive a Honda Integra Type R 1.8 litre engine in a very light car.

I work about 12 miles away from where I live, but average about 1000 miles a month which works out at about £160 a month in fuel, think that's about $260-280 a month in fuel.

Honestly, it's getting harder and harder to run anything here that is not an eco friendly diesel doing 60 MPG.

24th Jun 2011, 06:23

Except that the distances that Americans have to typically travel to get places as opposed to your country are a lot greater. We have states bigger than your entire country. People travel 40 and 50 miles to get to work. Now, with that said, I wish gas here were as expensive as it is there. Perhaps it would encourage better zoning regulations and people to live closer to their work. But, we have to work with what we have.

1998 BMW M3 coupe

Summary:

The best car I've ever owned

Faults:

The CD changer shorted out and reads "error" and will not eject to return my CDs. There have been minor electrical problems, including burnt out bulbs in the odometer and the right bulb in the instrument cluster. Like all BMWs, this one lips brake rotors, but I found an inexpensive conversion to slotted rotors that fixed the problem completely, costing me only $410.00 for rotors, pads and sensors.

General Comments:

This car is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It actually took me a little while to get used to the power band, which starts off relatively tame, but kicks hard around 3000. It feels somewhat similar to a turbo setup. The handling is incrdibly balanced and with the brake mod, stopping is excellent. Actually, stopping is excellent on the stock brakes, you just have to replace them as they get lipped. Operating costs are not that bad at around 26MPG highway and the real time fuel consumption meter under the tach really lets you know how the gas goes when you turn the car loose. All in all, this is probably one of the most reliable and inexpensive sports cars to own and maintain. It's also forgiving enough to accept novice drivers; I've taught more than one person to drive stick in it and they had no problems. The only real drawback is that parts are not cheap, or at least M3 SPECIFIC parts are not cheap. Many of the systems are shared with the standard 3 series allowing you to interchange parts as you find them.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 17th March, 2006

21st Dec 2006, 10:52

I am looking for an M3 and yesterday I found one. It is a rebuild title. It was hit in the back, but the car looks very good. They asking $5k, do you think it's worth it?

21st Dec 2006, 18:27

How old is the car and is it repaired properly? I don't know how good a deal $5k is as I live in the UK.

21st Dec 2006, 22:40

5K for a 98 M3 is a steal. As long as the car's frame was not damaged I would recommend it as I see 98 M3's selling for much more than that.

22nd Dec 2006, 10:26

I would have the car checked thoroughly and then rechecked. This price is way too low for an M3, even for one with the "faults" listed. The engine alone I believe would cost something like $5K or more to replace.

That said, there are always bargains in this world, and it may be the sellers simply don't realize the value of the car.

If it checks out okay, you've got one of the best deals I've ever heard of!

22nd Dec 2006, 12:07

I firmly believe in the old saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and when it comes to cars, it almost always is.

Nobody would sell an M3 without knowing what it was, or what it was worth. If it's "unbelievably" cheap, there's a reason for it.

25th Feb 2007, 03:46

Way too low. Mangled ones go for 5k.

5th Feb 2008, 18:40

I found one for $9800 at 110k. In the description the seller writes: "This car was a theft recovery and has a salvage-marked title. A lot of work's been put into it, but it still has a few loose odds and ends, nearly all of which are cosmetic."

If I take it to a mechanic and it checks out is this a good deal for the mileage?