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Review: 2011 BMW M3

by: Mike Ginsca

As the new F80 generation BMW M3 starts its production, the prices for the previous generation E92 M3 are starting to fall and become more affordable for more people. But is it worth spending your hard earned money on a used car that is now 7 years old? In short, yes but read on to find out why.

2011 BMW M3 M-DCT White-13Performance – This E92 generation is the first time that BMW put a V8 engine in the M3. Before this, it was a smooth inline-6 that produced 333hp. This new V8 displaces 4.0L and produces 420hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. But just because it now has a V8 don’t think that it’s been “Americanized” because this is not like any American muscle V8. The peak torque figure is on the low side but regardless of the engine’s rpms, it always feels like it has just enough to get the 1580kg body moving. From a stop to 100km/h, the M3 can now complete the test in 4.4 seconds and go on to an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. The acceleration and power delivery of the engine is not explosive but rather linear and gradual. The traction control system rarely has to interfere and cut engine power because through corners, the gradual power delivery does not overwhelm the grip of the tires.

2011 BMW M3 M-DCT White-14Speaking of cornering, this particular M3 does not have the optional EDC (Electronic Damping Control) system which allows the driver to set the suspension in 3 different modes; Comfort, Normal, or Sport. Having said that, the suspension still provides adequate comfort around potholed city streets but also the superb handling capabilities that all BMW M models are known for. To be honest, 95% of those who purchase an M3 without EDC will not miss the feature because it only makes a difference, albeit small difference, on a race track and not on city streets where most BMW M3s will stay.

2011 BMW M3 M-DCT White-20While most will probably opt for a manual transmission, this particular M3 comes equipped with BMW’s 7-speed dual clutch transmission called M-DCT. This new transmission reduces shift times to just one tenth of a second and shortens the 0-100km/h time by 0.2 seconds when compared with the manual. It is also light years better than the old SMG transmission found in the BMW M5 or M6. Unlike the old SMG, this M-DCT actually shifts smoothly during normal driving and is very responsive to driver inputs. In sport mode however (or when shift ferocity is set to fastest), the up shifts feel a bit harsh but the downshifts are buttery smooth thanks to the ECU blipping the engine. This transmission is not quite as good as Porsche’s PDK or Audi’s DSG but it is a very good effort for BMW’s first attempt at a dual clutch transmission.

2011 BMW M3 M-DCT White-4Comfort – As mentioned before, the EDC option would make the M3 feel like a GT car in comfort mode but this non-EDC version with the standard suspension is good enough for most people’s liking. The ride quality is not overly stiff but it does let you know that you’re in a sport car when you go over very deep potholes. The seats of the M3 are particularly impressive because they are supportive when driving fast around corners but also supportive to your back and bum when you’re stuck in rush hour traffic. There is also a decent amount of room in the back seats for children and the trunk is much larger than one would expect from a sports car.

2011 BMW M3 M-DCT White-3The interior fit and finish is traditional BMW. High quality leather on the seats and steering wheel, aluminum trim, and M badges everywhere you look. The design of the dash is a bit simplistic and boring but the controls for creature comforts such as climate control are easy to understand and use. The iDrive system still has a bit of a learning curve amongst those that have never used it before but to make things simpler, BMW has fitted physical buttons for quick access to the satellite navigation, radio, and menu.

2011 BMW M3 M-DCT White-18Odds and Ends – The styling has not changed much since its introduction in 2007 and it doesn’t look particularly different than any other BMW coupe of the same generation. Sure it has vents on the side and in the hood and a larger chin spoiler and a carbon fiber roof but it doesn’t shout “Hey look at me, I’m different!!” Only BMW enthusiasts and gear heads will notice the subtle exterior differences and differentiate it from all of the other non-M BMWs on the streets. There is one way, however, that this BMW “shouts” for attention and that is with it’s exhaust. This M3 is fitted with the aftermarket Megan Racing exhaust that lets other motorists that this M3 has a powerful V8 under the hood.

All in all, this is about the closest thing that you can get to a perfect sports car. An award winning engine, sublime handling characteristics, everyday comfort and practicality, and now a more affordable price.

Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the car.


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