Test Driven in March 2011
Text by Cheryl Tay
When I told Lester Wong, director of leading local workshop Garage R and also a racing driver himself with titles to his belt to boast about, that I was test driving the BMW M3 coupe, he said to me, “You will definitely have fun on that one.”
Indeed, he could not have said it any better.
This is my first time driving a BMW M Series car courtesy of Munich Automobiles, as previously there was an age limit on the M Series test drive units by the former distributors, thanks to a senior journalist who caused a total loss on an M5 during the earlier days of his career.
I was given the choice to test drive the coupe or the sedan version and I chose the former option – why? I have always been a fan of coupes and since this is my first M car drive I want to make it as perfect as possible. Already, the M badging on the car has increased the car’s value sky high and getting in behind the wheel to drive it would be the best I can ask for.
Clearly, the M3 coupe did not disappoint.
Looking a tad sedate in its dark blue shade sitting in the car park next to its sedan counterpart, the car did not look daunting or intimidating at all. But push the key into its slot and bring the car to life with the Engine Start button and its immediate growl indicates the amount of potential within the bonnet, waiting to be released.
This test car comes with the BMW dual-clutch transmission which is ideal for city driving in Singapore. Sure, a manual might be more engaging, but with the kind of traffic congestions and horrible parking conditions we deal with nowadays, I think the dual-clutch transmission makes a much better choice.
It pulls away from stops quickly and handles slow speeds (especially in times of traffic jams) relatively decent. Shifting gears with the paddle shifts is fantastic as the transmission reacts on the spot, and you can control how close or far you want the shifts.
The gear lever in the M3 is unique and quite unlike the traditional shifter. It does not move straight up or down like a typical gear lever, it does not move in a zigzag manner either, but you have to nudge it into the mode you want and then it will return to a central position. It sounds easy and effortless, but I tend to forget that it pops back into Neutral sometimes.
Driving the M3 is an absolute pleasure – with a firm grip on the steering wheel and a comfortable seat position, I gain a sense of confidence in corners or tight turns. Feedback from the ground is sharp and the M3 helps you to read its feet well so as to take the line better. The Siglap exit on East Coast Parkway expressway is a reducing-radius turn that starts out gentle before turning in tighter and I had spinning experiences there before in other cars I shall not name. With the M3 however, it took this turn the way it should and gave me no heart rush when I hit the tight part of the corner.
This M3 Competition Package includes the Electronic Damper Control (EDC) which allows you to choose between Normal, Comfort and Sport modes. The Sport setting has a lower suspension from before, which gave the car slightly improved handling. Needless to say, the Comfort mode will give you the softest settings but I preferred the Sport mode most and despite the stiffer and bumpier ride, the car’s performance within feel and control of my hands at the wheel was awesome.
I wish I had more time with the M3, covering just under 100km with it during the day test drive I was given. Nonetheless, my first M experience was as expected and I think the M3 can and does make a good ride for ladies. Parking was non-problematic and visibility all around was clear. Next, the 420bhp of power plus 400Nm of torque is not too mind-blowing for a pair of petite female hands to handle. No one is asking you to go flat out with the 3,999cc V8 engine and hit its stated 4.6 seconds from zero to 100km/h.
Driving the M3 might be a bit of a pain during traffic jams, but if you leave it in automatic mode here and not use the paddle shifts, you should manage fine. The M3 is capable of being monstrous, menacing and merciless, but it can also be reassuring, relaxing and really reliable in the right hands.
BMW M3 Coupe with Competition Package
Engine: 3,999cc V8
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters
Max Power: 420bhp at 8,300rpm
Max Torque: 400Nm at 3,900rpm
0-100km/h: 4.6 secs
Top speed: 250km/h (electronically limited)
Price: $394,800 with COE
Distributor: Munich Automobiles
*This was first published in 9tro magazine.