1998 BMW M3 Sedan 3.2L Straight 6 from North America

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 Evo 3.2 Straight 6 from UK and Ireland

Summary:

Good whilst it lasted

Faults:

The passenger electric heated developed an electrical fault, caught fire and totally burned out the car.

General Comments:

Only owned the car 6 weeks.

Had covered 100,000 but was still an excellent car to drive, plenty of power, brakes good and steering very precise, excellent cornering.

Terribly heavy on fuel, even when driven slowly.

The dash I found to be not so good on this car; not very special considering it's an M3.

The radio/cassette/cd changer was also dreadful; very poor sound, even with upgraded speakers.

Passenger heated seat burned out the car, and after searching the web I am no the first owner to suffer this problem... not what you expect from BMW.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 28th February, 2008

5th Sep 2008, 18:02

When driven @ 80mph in top gear, you get just over 30mpg - that's good for a 3.2 engine, especially a high performance model. What with the seat problem & the poor Mpg, it sounds as though you bought a lemon.

10th Sep 2008, 15:06

Well it least when it went wrong, it did so in style! Shame though.

11th Jan 2010, 22:57

LPG would be worth considering or buy a 318is LOL.

Poor M3 though, never hear of Saxos catching fire or clapped out Kenwood blasting Corsas!!

Wheres the justice?