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BMW M3

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Years Represented: 2004``````````````Host: GT4

Type: Sport Coupe````````````````````````Country: Germany


Price: 75,560 

Construction: unit steel
Length: 176.85" // Width: 70.1" Height: 54.5"
Wheelbase: 107.5"
Overhang: @5 feet 9 inches
Track: 59.4" [F] 60.0" [R]
Ground Clearance: 4.7"
Weight: 3,460 pounds
Steering: power-assisted rack & pinion
Layout: Front Engine/Rear-Drive
Tires: 225/45ZR-18 [F], 255/40ZR-18
F. Suspension: dual-pivot struts, lower L-arms, coils, tube shox, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: 4-link, coils, anti-roll bar, tube shox,
Brakes: cross-drilled vented discs + ABS

Engine: 3.2 liter DOHC inline-6
Construction: cast-iron block & head
Aspiration: natural
Fuel System: electronic sequential injector
Valves/Cyl: 4
Bore x STroke: 3.43 x 3.58"
Compression: 11.5:1
Final BHP: 356 @ 7,900 rpm
Fnl Torque: 282 @ 4,900 rpm

Credits per HP: 209.43
Pounds per HP: 9.72
HP per Liter: 109.7
Idle: 1,000 // Redline: 8,000 // RPM Limit: 8,500

Transmisssion: 6-speed manual
Differential: limited-slip

tested completely stock on S2 tires with no oil change

0-60 mph: 5.500 seconds
0-100mph: 12.383 seconds
0-150mph: @ 29.5 seconds
 
1/4 Mile: 13.935 @ 107 mph
1 Kilom: 24.755 @ 139 mph

 
Test Track Lap: 2:09.197

100-zero mph: 3.56 seconds
Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,300

Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 37 mph
2nd: 66 mph
3rd: 101 mph
4th: 138 mph
5th: 170 mph
6th: 183.01 mph @ 7,200 rpm

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--------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY-------------

One of the most highly-rated (some say overrated) cars on the roads today is the BMW M3, and for good reason. Every car magazine or online journal I have read which has featured an M3 article generally has praised it, and it seems many car-makers (Mercedes, Lexus, Jaguar, Infiniti, Audi, etc.) could only aspire to produce something as road-worthy. 

The M has become the benchmark for other expensive rear-drive sport coupes & sedans to compare to, the way a Civic Type R or a Golf GTi sets the standard for front-drives. On the other hand, lots of people who seem to value horsepower-only (rather than handling, fit & finish, ride, and other variables) don't like the M-series, calling it over-hyped, cheesy, and/or too sophisticated. Which group is correct?

Whatever your opinion, here is certainly one of those cars that should have been in GT2 and GT3, but the M3 doesn't appear till GT4. We have several M3s in this game including a base 3.2L, the CSL, and the GTR. The first two are rather expensive, and the GTR can only be won as a prize. Are any of them worth it? Or is this just a bunch of nonsense & hype?

Let's look at the car's exterior. Created by egomaniac and BMW chief designer Chris Bangle, any of the latest BMWs have a look that either turns you on or off. Personally, it's not my favorite design, or even close to favorite. And I cannot give an accurate reason why, either. Sure, it's immediately identifiable as a Bimmer, but something about it bothers me. Too pretentious? Too pretty? Too sculpted?...can't really put a finger on it. And I'm contradicting myself, because I'm usually the guy who's complaining that too many cars on the roads today are too ordinary. One thing for sure, the M-series car's looks are not ordinary. Too popular? Yes. These cars are as present on our roads as Camrys, Accords, and Tauruses. But that's not BMW's fault. People buy them in droves, and for good reason.

To be fair, the M3 doesn't bother me as much as some others. It's not a horrible design by any means, I just don't prefer it. Many others share my opinions too, but it doesn't matter; for people like me seem to be a minority. Most folk dig the M3 and BMWs in general. No points lost in their book right?

Then there's weight. I have a small criticism here. When it's considered that earlier BMWs of all kinds used a lack of pounds to acheive some of their prowess, this car's weight of 3,460 pounds seems excessive. But it's really a matter of luxury. As the years have rolled on, BMWs have become more luxurious (and therefore heavier) while Benzes have become more road-worthy with upgrades in handling & maneuverability (sometimes via electronic means). For the most part, the M3 has suspension technology and great tires that keep this car nimble, but eventually its weight does become an issue. 

But like I said, this isn't a huge problem. Just remove some of it! The M3 all a sudden feels so much better, and even more nimble than it usually is, with a weight reduction or two. However, none of this is mandatory. Not to blow a load too early, but this car handles itself great, even with full poundage + some ballast. There is a list of several races in which the M3 will cream others (Club M, Schwarzwäld Liga B, NA Tune & Clubman Cup) if its weight is removed, even with power lowish & near-stock.

It also has well-polished and thought-out aerodynamics. What the wind-tunnel testers call a "slippery" shape. Lots of assets so far...


---------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------


Here we have one of the latest versions of BMW's famous straight-6. So many words have been written about it, I'm not going into heavy detail, in an effort to keep this review nice and short for a change.

Let's take notice of the torque band by going into the parts & settings menu and pushing "start". See how the green band (torque) peaks in the middle? That peak apexes at 4,900 rpms. In reality, this is a bit of an illusion. You will find that at ANY place above 3,000, we have useful torque from this amazingly flexible power-giver. The power-band in this car is therefore extremely wide, and easy to work with, as those revs just zing right up to peak power--located just 100 rpms below redline. If there is one criticism, it's the fact that I wish there were more redline area. 600 rpms past peak just isn't enough, although I gotta give credit for the amazing area before redline.

Hmm. Well, okay...two criticisms. We can't bolt a turbo in these cars. It seems odd that in GT2 and GT3, we could put turbos in a 3-series and now we can't. But I don't fault Polyphony Digital here, nor do I think this is entirely a bad thing. I have a feeling they've done their research well, and turbos aren't available from BMW's performance shop for '04 M3s like they may had been for '99 3-series racing cars. I'm not sure, I'm just speculating.  

Not that any of this matters much. At best, a base M3 packs 486 horses and 371 foot-pounds with a Stage 3 power kit. Doesn't sound like tops, but fortunately, this power can take us a long, long way. So far, I haven't found a race in which I've needed anything stronger than a Stage 1 kit (413 horses), tho I'm sure stronger power comes in handy at some point. If you need more, just win the GTR from the Club "M" races. It's got a larger V8 under the hood, and accepts near 600 horsepower.

The 6-speed transmission is rather tall, clearly this car is autobahn-worthy. We feel this tallishness while the car is near-stock, but it doesn't affect acceleration much. Notice: this car is GOOOOOD at accelerating...real good...in a straight line or out-of-corners. It gets to work. Before you know it, some magic numbers have been made. Matter of fact, I've found myself getting better zero-to-60 mph runs in a totally stock M3 than I have in a lightly modified one, mostly because this car's rear tires won't slip at all till just a bit more power is added. 

There is a close gearbox, but not a super-close one. The close box is great. It's perfect for many tracks like Suzuka and Apricot Hill, all 6 gears finding some use. Never have I found myself needing to swap the close box for the stock one, or needing to buy a full-custom box. If there's one thing here to dock a couple points from, it's the fact that those gear-throws seem a tad too long till at least a twin-clutch & lighter flywheel are in place.

......Don't mind me, I'm just finding stuff to criticize since so many others don't!

....And in fact, so far every criticism noted above isn't necessarily a reason not to buy an M3 or race one. Since the early '70s, BMW has been a trackmeisster in the handling department. So how does their newest representation of art & machinery makes its way around GT4 travels? 
  

 

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---------------CHASSIS / HANDLING--------------------

This will be another short section, but don't take it personally...there is LOTS to say about this car and its behavior at various tracks, and I promise to try and pack it all into just a few neat paragraphs. 

First, we have tossability. In GT2 and 3, the 3-series Beemers drove with what I called a "chameleon-like" ride, often danced a fine dance between drifting vs. grip-style racing; pedestrian-friendly vs. all-out sports/extremeness. Oversteer versus understeer. While the M3 in GT4 certainly has chameleon-like moments, it isn't as fun to drive as, say....a 3-series in GT2 or GT3 can be.

What kills the M3 in GT4 is a lack of oversteerish moments. No drifting to be had on sports tires. N tires? The car becomes more understeery for sure, and is still hard to drift, but it's also more possible to get sideways in the hands of an expert if N tires are installed. But it's unfortunate because this doesn't seem realistic.

But that doesn't mean the M3 isn't fun in other ways! The M3 is just about as tossable as a car can be in this game, teasingly dances from grip to off-grip moments, which can be played with this way and that to enhance  cornering... keep us on our toes....keep the excitement level high. The suspension (no surprise) is taut, but not too stiff. Plenty of flexibilty is balanced with plenty of firmness. Once you get to know this car, learn its habits, you may find yourself experimenting and pushing for new limits, new behaviors, and the M3 simply allows one to do so to a point.

And that point? UNDERSTEER. But of course. 

This is GT4, after all. Although it's not "battleship"-style understeer, it's still the one thing that shows up more often than not, sometimes killing the mood. Generally good driving (braking points, cornering lines, etc) will keep the car avoiding understeer 90% of the time. But every so often, you'll get like I did, as I just wanted to see if I could get a screaming power-slide, which melts away late-corner as the BMW regains its composure perfectly and saddles off down the next straight!!!

But then...I remember I'm not in my GT2 days anymore.
 
Instead of the perfect slide, what results is usually understeer. Oh, there are times when I have been able to get some errant behaivor as in earlier games; problem is, it's usually just as the car is about to totally lose control! And only a mean flick of countersteer and some wicked braking saves me from the sand or some grass.

...so in many ways, a great car. A stellar mobile to use in many situations. But the M3 isn't as fun as I was hoping.

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PROS---------------------------------------

1). A very capable automobile. This car let's us do so many great things and lives up to alot of hype. So many of us missed the M3 in earlier GTs, so it's good to have it here in GT4. It will without a doubt appear in GT5.

2). Excellent brakes for track-testing, racing, and lap trials. In some situations, replacing stock brakes with racing parts is simply cheating! 

3). That gutsy straight-6. It's hard to find a single word to say against it. Grunts low with torque, yet zings high with horsepower & revs. Flexibility of a Miata 2.0, endless range of rpms of a Civic. Twisting force of a small block V8, yet horsepower of a big block V8. Again, living up to much hype.

4). Good gearing for many tracks. Tho a bit tall, and close gears ultimately do a better job at shorter tracks, never does this car's stock 6-speed inhibit the M3's power availability & general track prowess. Rarely should any of you need full-customized parts.

5). Exhaust sounds like a BMW should, although in a rather generic way. Sports, semi-racing, and racing parts enhance, rather than ruin, these sounds.

6). Acres of tachometer space. Much of it useful.

7). Lots of grip, rear-end traction, and safety-zone in this car. The M3 sits just 4.7" (120 mm) off the ground when stock. All of this makes it one of the more tossable cars  ever thrown into a corner.

8). Three NA tunes for any M3. With an oil change, a base car will gain 18 horses!

9). A pro in the acceleration department. This car's low-speed acceleration rivals that found in some all-wheel drives.

10). 183+ top speed, stock.

11). One of the best-looking cars (according to some). Identifyable and still sporty, after all these years. This car looks like it means business. There's no goofy smiley-face on the grille.



CONS---------------------------------

1). And for some (like me) this car's looks are bothersome, snobbish, too artsy, too pretentious, too overdone. Whatever.

2). Not enough redline area. Even with the mountain of tach space, there are times when additional redline would be nice.

3). An odd side-effect of this tachometer/redline issue (I'm speculating) is this car's oil has a short half-life. Within literally a few laps, power is being robbed, and it'll need another oil change sooner than it seems a brand-new car should need one.

4). Understeer at the limit, rather than a balance of both under and oversteer as in GT2 and GT3 3-series BMWs. No drifty fun to be had here for the amateur! Slides and drifts are attemptable, but not as easy as they were in earlier games.

5). Pricey.

6). A bit on the heavy side, too.

7). No turbos. And the base M3 only gains about 180 horses over a stock model when all is said and done.

8). A gas-eater.


Published: January 5th, 2009    

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