To make a long story short, I've always wanted basic transportation with a little "oomph" behind it. At the same time, I wanted something I wouldn't feel too bad about driving down a gravel road -- hence my previous car, a Subaru Impreza WRX.
And then my beloved little Soobie got stolen late one night. So, I decided I might as well get something worth stealing, and a little more in line with my income. I never drive on gravel roads anyway...
The grandaddy of all the hot coupes is the M3. If you read car magazines, you know how they all drool over any 3-series BMW, especially the M3. In my opinion, it's about as close to automotive perfection as you're going to get, at least by my standards.
It has perhaps a few too many gadgets for my taste. The navigation system works pretty well, but I've only used it to fiddle with it. Might come in handy at some point, I guess. Park Distance Control? Give me a break, I don't need radar on the rear bumper to park!
But, for the most part, all that technology works seamlessly and transparently. And most of it, with the exception of PDC, seems pretty useful. Traction control. stability control, all that good stuff that has filtered down from racing.
Speaking of which, I got the SMG II transmission. In short, SMG is a manual transmission operated by hydraulics and computers. There's an automatic mode with 5 different shift programs, and a manual mode with 6. In manual mode you shift by flicking paddles behind the wheel, just like F1 drivers.
SMG is a stunning application of technology. There's much more to it than I can go into here. I'd also like to add that SMG is a whole lot better than Ferrari's F1 system, which I have driven and opted against.
So, the big question here is "Do all these driving aid electronics and sequential transmissions take the fun out of driving?" Opinions vary, but most of them come from people without enough experience to judge one way or the other.
My feeling is that driving the M3 with SMG requires a different skill set than other cars. Not quite apples and oranges, but more red apples and yellow apples. The same, only different. Perfect heel-toe downshifts are very gratifying, but so is driving the M3. Albeit for different reasons.
OK, I've rambled on enough!
My general impressions of the M3 are very good. It'll drive you to the store to do all your shopping, take your friends out to dinner, road trip across the country all the normal car stuff. And it'll also lunch up on Corvettes, Porsches, et al. All in superb comfort and safety. Truly a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Running costs are about what you'd expect. Gas mileage is around 20 something most of the time, although the tank is the smallest I've ever encountered (16 gallons!). Insurance isn't too bad for a 27 year old female, although you younger guys might be in for a rude shock. Best of all, scheduled maintenance is free for the length of the warranty. All right!
All the magazines are right -- almost everything about this car is outstanding. Performance, utility, reliability, dealer service, looks, comfort, etc, etc... All outstanding.
The only gripes I have (and they're small ones) are with the exhaust not (a little raspy at high rpm's), the tiny gas tank, and the ride can be just a wee bit rough at times. Not a big deal in my book.
I'd probably be remiss in not mentioning the price. Yes, it's costly. Yes, you can get something faster for less. You can also get something roomier for less. You can get something more luxurious for less. Better mileage, better reliability, better looks, and more gadgets and gizmos can also be had for less. But, can you get something that has a high level of all of that for less? Quite probably not.
OK, now I've really rambled on long enough. I find it hard to put into words just how great I think this car is, at almost everything. Don't take my word for it, or anyone else's. Go grab yourself a test drive! And if you don't quite have the bucks for an M3, give any of the other 3-series a try.