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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
March 27, 2002
Vehicle Overview The high-performance BMW M3 coupe and convertible went on sale in spring 2001. Both models come packed with a Getrag six-speed-manual transmission and a 333-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine thats about 100 hp more than the regular BMW 3 Series engine delivers.
For 2002, the M3 models get optional bi-xenon headlights that work with both low and high beams; the previous headlights employed low beams only. An in-dash CD player is now standard, and automatic headlight control is a new option. Radio-station presets are now included in the Vehicle and Key Memory system, which allows a person to customize electronic convenience and security features. Titan Shadow interior trim is new, and the optional navigation system gets a bigger video screen.
Later in the 2002 model year, a sequentially shifting manual transmission will become available. Building upon the technology used in Formula One racing, it offers hydraulic sequential shifting of the six-speed gearbox, which can be automatically controlled or driver-controlled, according to DriveLogic electronic programs. Other M3 extras include 18-inch tires, a sport suspension and aerodynamic body trim.
Even though BMW is well known for its automobile performance, a select group of shoppers have craved something even more thrilling. For years, the German company has offered those folks the M editions of its 3 Series, 5 Series and most recently, the smaller Z3 models.
Prior to 2001, the last M3 models were sold in 1999, offshoots of the prior 3 Series generation. The M3 editions sold since 2001 reflect the latest styling of the 3 Series. BMW claims the soft-top M3 is the only true high-performance, full four-seat convertible in its market segment.
Exterior Although they are similar in dimensions and appearance to the regular BMW 330Ci coupe and convertible, the M editions have some unique differences, including a distinctive bumper and spoiler ensemble, a cross-hatch center air intake and elliptical fog lights. A unique aluminum hood has subtle power dome accenting and allows space for the M engine below. Wheel openings are flared outward by an extra 20 millimeters to accommodate the wide tires. Gills behind the front wheel openings display an M3 emblem, and side mirrors have a distinct aero shape.
A subtle decklid spoiler is installed at the rear, above a special M bumper/apron design. The M3 has a wider front and rear track than its less-potent BMW mates and also features unique suspension and underbody components.
Third-generation M3 coupes and convertibles are identical from the front end to the A-pillar. A rising belt line imparts a visually lower stance on the convertible. M3 models ride a 107.5-inch wheelbase, measure 176.9 inches long overall and stand 54 inches tall. At 70.1 inches wide, the M3 is nearly an inch wider than the 330Ci coupe.
As on regular BMW convertibles, the fabric top folds into a variable stowage compartment that offers increased storage capacity when the top is raised. Both M3 models have 18-inch tires for the front and rear and cast-alloy wheels. A tire-pressure monitor alerts the driver if serious pressure loss occurs.
Interior Both the coupe and convertible seat four occupants on black M cloth and Nappa leather upholstery. Three types of sport seats are available in the M3 coupe: standard 10-way manual, eight-way power in a Luxury Package or unique M sport seats as a separate option. The M sport seats have 14-way power adjustment and adjustable backrest side bolsters. The convertible has standard power front seats. An easy-entry feature makes it simpler to gain access to the backseat. Cargo capacity is 9.5 cubic feet for the coupe and 7.7 cubic feet for the convertible.
Standard equipment includes power windows, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry and automatic climate control. A heated glass rear window is standard in the convertible, which also has a power-operated top. One push of a button initiates the entire top-down operation, which unlatches at the windshield header, lowers the side windows slightly, raises a rigid magnesium cover and then closes it. Options on the convertible include a wind deflector, navigation system, removable aluminum hardtop, roof rack and BMWs Park Distance Control system, which warns of objects to the rear while the vehicle is backing up. In addition to these features, the coupe model adds a moonroof.
Under the Hood While the regular BMW 330Ci coupe and convertible carry a 225-hp engine, the M editions get a 333-hp, 3.2-liter inline-six-cylinder with stepless (or continuous) variable valve timing. This engine produces 93 hp more than the M model of the prior generation. A Getrag Type D six-speed-manual transmission is used, while an M Variable Differential Lock enhances handling and traction on slippery surfaces.
BMWs electronic stability system, called Dynamic Stability Control, combines all-speed traction control and cornering-stability enhancement. BMW claims a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 5.4 seconds for the convertible, while the coupe should reach 60 mph in a mere 4.8 seconds. To help keep the driver from over-revving a cold engine, a warning zone on the tachometer changes as the engine warms up, until it reaches the full 8,000-rpm redline limit.
Safety Dual front airbags, seat-integrated side-impact airbags and all-disc antilock brakes are standard. A Rollover Protection System in the convertible automatically deploys stabilizer bars behind the rear seats if it detects an impending rollover. Daytime running lights are installed, and rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional.