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2009 BMW M3: Best Car in the World

m3 blog3.jpg

Disagree with the title? You haven't driven one enough. I know I hadn't when I disagreed.

I guess a little back-story on me: I've never been a big BMW fanboi. Give me the keys for a weekend and I'll head for the canyons, sure, but if we're talking my money, my preferences, I'd prefer a more tank-like Mercedes, especially if it's an AMG Mercedes.

BMW's, the M3 in particular, has always felt fragile to me. They're light and twitchy and hyper-responsive. If you've ever held a small bird in your hands, it's kind of like that. You just expect the whole thing to up and die from hypertension at any moment.  AMG cars are like dogs. Bid dogs. They're sort of lazy until something sparks their interest (Squirrel!) and then it's GO GO GO until it decides to change course.

The 2009 BMW M3 sedan, though, is different.

What you're about to read are real, raw impressions. Copies of text messages to-and-from co-workers dating to the first time I took our 2009 BMW M3 home. (And yes, we all have full-keyboard phones which makes this whole thing much more readable.)

Friday, 18:30 to Sadlier: "Drove M3 home. Not impressed. Lousy clutch. Would rather 335d + cash. Nice wheel."

Friday, 18:31 to Riswick: "M3 thoughts? I'm not sold. Much rather C63. Think even prefer 335d."

Friday, 18:35 from Sadlier: "You're off your meds again, aren't you?"

Friday, 18:35 to Sadlier: "No torque. Long shifts. Engine @ idle sounds like a dryer full of buttons. Appears to get 11mpg."

Friday, 18:37 from Sadlier: "Come trade me for SX4 then."

Friday, 18:40 to Sadlier: "No."

Friday, 18:41 from Riswick: "No."

Satuday, 08:45 to Riswick: "Just drove canyons. Wow. What a car. Stupid-high limits."

Saturday, 08:47 to Sadlier: "Yowsah. Steering. Brakes. Steering. Shifter. Clutch great at 7/10ths. Scary fast w/o being scary."

Saturday, 08:51 from Riswick: "Still want that 335?"

Saturday, 08:52 to Riswick: "They still make that car? M-mode = Mike's mode."

Saturday, 10:12 from Sadlier: "Yeah?"

Saturday, 10:23 to Sadlier: "Yeah. Could be the best car I've ever driven."

Saturday, 10:25 to Chris Walton (chief road test Editor): "Can you think of a car any car with better steering/brakes/engine/trans/clutch? Short of 911gt3?"

Saturday, 11:40 from Chris Walton: Uh huh...you're getting' it.

Saturday, 11:51 to Chris Walton: "This is the best most complete car in the world. It's actually a bargain for what you get. Wow."

I spent the rest of the weekend driving and not texting, but my brain was thinking essentially the same things over and over again.

 1) This car is far too fast for normal people to drive every day (see for example, the kid who smoked Lutz and his CTS-V last week.)
 2) With all of the performance things this can do, combined with all of the lux/tech features, this car is as close to perfect as is currently available.
 3) As good as it is, it's still a little sterile, a little surgical. This is a better car, but I still want a C63. 

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

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43 Comments

roman_r56coop says:

12:53 PM, 11/ 7/09

I wish I had a M3, I have a 09 JCW cooper, but in the end I really wanted a M3, being 20 years old and having a M3 though, usually isnt plauseable.

bimmerjay says:

01:00 PM, 11/ 7/09

"1) This car is far too fast for normal people to drive every day (see for example, the kid who smoked Lutz and his CTS-V last week.)

2) With all of the performance things this can do, combined with all of the lux/tech features, this car is as close to perfect as is currently available.

3) As good as it is, it's still a little sterile, a little surgical. This is a better car, but I still want a C63. "

Agreed. I'd love a C63 as well. No thanks on the CTS-V.

altimadude00 says:

02:11 PM, 11/ 7/09

I don't live near any interesting driving destinations, so it's talents would be wasted here.

cah11705 says:

02:16 PM, 11/ 7/09

Based on what i've read, i'd prefer a c63. It just seems to have the insane ability to make you grin everytime you start it. I've heard it, i know, theres nothing like the noise of that 6.2...

hybris says:

02:34 PM, 11/ 7/09

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the C65 AMG or is that too far into super car zones?

huyracing says:

03:31 PM, 11/ 7/09

I dunno... I've always said the GTI is the best. The fact that its something people can afford helps. It also does it all well, so it has wide appeal to anyone. I value the fact its common and not too expensive... so I can replace/ repair it easily. I can leave it unattended and not have nightmares of something happening to it.

Does it ever feel like a cheap car? NOPE! I'd rather drive a GTI over anything out there if its about getting from A to B... even if canyons are involved. Do I want more??? I'm not so sure as I mod the car more...

Fact is, I have a weekend car, but its been staying inside on the weekends as of late because I'd rather drive the GTI.

chavis10 says:

04:17 PM, 11/ 7/09

") This car is far too fast for normal people to drive every day (see for example, the kid who smoked Lutz and his CTS-V last week.)"

Hmm, let's see- take a 21 year old who's just taken racing lesson against 77 year old man who's reaction times likely mimic a sloth. Yeah, that's a fair barometer. I bet the M3 would've went faster in the CTS-V. I'm 99% sure the CTS-V driven by the same driver will be faster around the track than the M3.

sgude says:

05:04 PM, 11/ 7/09

I have been a fan of every iteration of the M3 and for its dynamics' accessibility to the trained (and untrained) driver, it is the best car in the world. Of course, that includes its practicality.
And Magrath, it doesn't feel dainty to me.
I dunno -- as much as I love the M3, I think Mercedes has equalled its fun factor with that uproarious C63. That engine note is to die for, and the car's dynamic capabilities exceed the talents of probably 95% of its drivers. It is a damn fun car.
Other cars close to that mythical "best" car in the world title include the Corvette, C63, E63, RS4 and CTS-V.
Or a used E46 M3.

zcalvert says:

05:07 PM, 11/ 7/09

@huyracing:

i love my GTI too. tremendously fun to drive in nearly all situations and feels like a more expensive car than it is. but let's not get crazy - i wouldn't shed a tear if that white M3 should magically replace my white GTI.

@chavis10:

Bob Lutz might spout out some crazy sh!t now and then, but the guy was a marine pilot who still flies military jets. he's not your typical 77 year old miami resident just barely peeking over the wheel.

Now, as far as best car in the world, my vote would go toward the F430 Scuderia... but that's just my personal taste (and personally i'd rather have the "other" white M3 in the photo).

roadburner says:

06:02 PM, 11/ 7/09

I HAVE to get another M car; my two greatest mistakes in life were selling my E24 M6 back in 1995 and buying a 263 hp FWD econobox in 2007.

huyracing says:

06:38 PM, 11/ 7/09

zcalvert:

unfortunately, i live in a world where people have to pay for cars... and i would shed a tear because the M3 is a less ideal car for my situation and it would cost more in every way. if i wanted to drive such a car every day, then i would have bought one instead.

vt8919 says:

06:47 PM, 11/ 7/09

From a Vermonter's standpoint: An M3 here would be like wearing high heels in the snow.

Not that I know what it's like to wear high heels, but you get the point.

bimmerjay says:

08:17 PM, 11/ 7/09

"Hmm, let's see- take a 21 year old who's just taken racing lesson against 77 year old man who's reaction times likely mimic a sloth. Yeah, that's a fair barometer. I bet the M3 would've went faster in the CTS-V. I'm 99% sure the CTS-V driven by the same driver will be faster around the track than the M3."

The kid also beat the journalists driving CTS-V's. Were they also 77? Lutz has a lifetime of driving experience as a car enthusiast versus this kid's 4-5 years, that can make up (some) for reaction time. Given his background I'm sure Big Mouth Bob has also been to driving school. Unless we saw them back-to-back in the same cars I wouldn't assume anything. Also, the CTS-V is harder to push to its limits. I can almost definitely drive an M3 faster than I can a CTS-V - having driven both on a track - much of it due to my greater familiarity with BMW's handling traits.

And how is comparing a 21 y/o driver to a 77 y/o driver any more unfair than comparing an amateur to professional racing drivers?

zcalvert says:

08:40 PM, 11/ 7/09

huyracing:

relax man, i'm not attacking you. why the dig about paying for your own car (which i did)?
generally i agree with everything you said.

DCuerpoJr says:

09:38 PM, 11/ 7/09

My only complaint with the 2009 M3 is the torque. 295lbs isn't impressive for a V-8 these days.

Other than that, it's one of the performance cars under $100k.

I'd still buy a CTS-V, especially if they make a coupe version.

super_ongoy says:

10:06 PM, 11/ 7/09

On the latest Consumer Report, CTS was one of the least reliable cars. So much for the new and improved Caddies... Sigh*

I wouldn't call an M3 the best car in the world just because everyone has different purpose and taste. Is this the best car when you have 20 kids and 4 wives? No. Maybe yes... You can either drive the hell away from them or run into a wall really fast and spare yourself. But then again if you want to run into a wall, the Chinese cars maybe the best car. I heard you can hit a pebble in one of those and just blow up.

sherief says:

10:49 PM, 11/ 7/09

I drove an M3, then a C63.

Gettting out of the C63 all I could think of was how much more I liked the M3.

huyracing says:

12:15 AM, 11/ 8/09

zcalvert:

not attacking you either. you talked about an M3 magically replacing your GTI... well this is the real world and you'd have to magically pay for it as well.

huyracing says:

12:28 AM, 11/ 8/09

so this is the best car in the world, yet you won't even SAY you want one... interesting.

scorp76 says:

12:43 AM, 11/ 8/09

A neighbor of mine owns that c63 thing; much like his kid's g37c, when I hear either driveby, I always chuckle at the exhaust note. Amazingly overrated and not appealing to my ears (nor eyes) at ALL.

I'll take the poster's metaphor and put a spin on it: the M is that all-around jock from school that excels at every sport, while the c63 is that fat bully that has no athletism, only brute strength. Over the years, they've both aged and matured, yet the M is still that talented athlete that does everything right, while the c still hasn't learned to train anything other than biceps and pecs, and therefore relies on strength only.

1487 says:

07:30 AM, 11/ 8/09

"Agreed. I'd love a C63 as well. No thanks on the CTS-V."

Agreed, the CTS-V isn't made in Germany and thus it isn't desirable.

"On the latest Consumer Report, CTS was one of the least reliable cars. So much for the new and improved Caddies... Sigh*"

JD Power reliability rankings show a different result. CR provides flawed data for people too lazy or naive to understand the reasons why their data is misleading. Sigh.

Compare the track record of IL's CTS to their GTR. A few phantom noises and a squeaky nav screen are enough to make a car "unreliable" to CR. If you call that "unreliable" I suggest you read up on the history of the GTR and see how many days it was out of service. Then maybe you will understand what unreliable REALLY means. CR is every import fanboy's favorite "proof" of domestic inferiority.

1487 says:

07:32 AM, 11/ 8/09

"The kid also beat the journalists driving CTS-V's. Were they also 77? Lutz has a lifetime of driving experience as a car enthusiast versus this kid's 4-5 years, that can make up (some) for reaction time. Given his background I'm sure Big Mouth Bob has also been to driving school."

I know logical thought isn't your forte but I will point out AGAIN that the CTS-V has beat the M3 around a track with professional drivers. Stop using this kid as proof that the M3 is superior. He was obviously a better driver than the journalists that showed up. He owned a Z06 before and had been trained at a pro driving school. He was not some novice driver who came in off the street. Give it a rest. He beat the journalists but didn't beat GM's engineer who was not a pro racer.

zcalvert says:

08:12 AM, 11/ 8/09

why so many humorless people on a car blog? you'd think people were debating politics here sometimes.

joefrompa says:

08:24 AM, 11/ 8/09

I love the arguments about the M3 vs. CTS-V on the track. It's almost as if, *gasp*, they are equally fast and it's up the driver! Oh no, how will we determine which one is better!

By the way, to the commenter who said "295 torque impressive in a v8 nowadays"...

C'mon. :)

roadburner says:

09:58 AM, 11/ 8/09

"Agreed, the CTS-V isn't made in Germany and thus it isn't desirable."

Precisely!
(bait dangling in water)

1487 says:

11:33 AM, 11/ 8/09

" I can almost definitely drive an M3 faster than I can a CTS-V - having driven both on a track - much of it due to my greater familiarity with BMW's handling traits.

And how is comparing a 21 y/o driver to a 77 y/o driver any more unfair than comparing an amateur to professional racing drivers?"

It would help if you got the facts straight before trying to "prove" anything. He lost to numerous drivers. Only one has any pro racing experience to my knowledge- Heinricy- and he is NOT a pro racer. Why do you keep asserting that the CTS-V was only faster because it was driven by professionals? 3 or 4 people beat the M3's time on that day. The GM engineer who got 2:48 is NOT a pro racer but he has driven on the Nurburgring before.

Also, saying that you (a BMW owner) could drive the M3 easier than the CTS-V because you are intimately familiar with the handling of BMWs doesn't really mean much.

roadburner says:

12:02 PM, 11/ 8/09

bimmerjay
;)

bimmerjay says:

01:33 PM, 11/ 8/09

@roadburner,

Haha, I'm shocked at 1487's response, aren't you!?? Anyway, I would try responding but I'm not intelligent enough to form logical arguments. How dare I form my own opinion after having track time in both cars!

"Agreed, the CTS-V isn't made in Germany and thus it isn't desirable. "

LOL

roadburner says:

01:48 PM, 11/ 8/09

"I would try responding but I'm not intelligent enough to form logical arguments. How dare I form my own opinion after having track time in both cars!"

Don't feel bad, I'm in the same boat. Track experience counts for nothing. Our opinions would be much more credible if they were based on articles in car magazines and/or the number of cars we sat in at the auto show.

zcalvert says:

03:22 PM, 11/ 8/09

@bimmerjay & roadburner:

what a relief! i'm so happy to learn that i'm not the only one who realizes he is simply to stupid and ignorant to dare to disagree with 1487.

i mean, what's the point of living when you're not as smart as him?

now where did i put my laminated motor trend articles?

firewired says:

04:12 PM, 11/ 8/09

I have been fortunate enough to have owned several E46 M3s, a 911, and recently sold my RS4 prior to picking up my 2010 E90 M3. In truth what led me back to another M3 was that I really regretted in hindsight selling my RS4. All I can say is now in my short time of ownership is that I delighted in how well balanced this car is. It has well surpassed in what I had expected. The stick shift may have been more polished on the RS4 and the exhaust note was something to bring tears to your eyes, but at the extremes you would be reminded that you had a big engine way out front, in front of the front axle that was trying to understeer despite the sophisticated quattro AWD system. The RS4 felt like a muscular bull lunging forward and the M3 has more of a muscular jaguar ready to pirouette and turn on a dime feel. I haven't had time to really get to know the car at it's extremes yet, but it is definitely a world class car that in terms of what it offers seems a relative bargain to me.

mercedesfan says:

04:38 PM, 11/ 8/09

I don't think I'd say the M3 is the best car in the world, but as far as small-sport sedans go it would certainly be my choice. Don't get me wrong the C63's engine is a lot more satisfying and its a better-built car overall, but the M3 is so good at everything its just astonishing. I do still think the E46 was better, though. The new M3 is just a little too digit-ized for me, the E46 was more honest.

@scorp76- I agree with your senitments exactly if you are talking about the old C55. The new C63, however, is actually really impressive when you push it and can really dance through the corners. It's a lot more balanced and poised than the C55 and can easily keep pace with an M3. It's just more of a handful because it has so much torque and lacks the forgiving (and superior) suspension tuning of the M3.

super_ongoy says:

05:05 PM, 11/ 8/09

@1469: What a retard! Sigh* No where in the post it was said that only German made cars are desirable. If I were to say I don't want to spend a lovely evening with Rosy O'Donelle because she is fat and ugly, you would accuse me of attacking lesbians and female, calling me homophobe and a misogynist. No retard. What next? You'll call me a nazi party member next? Oh yeah and CR just based their whole thing after reading IL's posts. Yeah, that's convincing, you penis.

And how does GTR even enter into all this. You started talking about this German fanboism and start talking about GTR? No turd, the Germans and Japanese are quiet different, although both were on the wrong side during the world war.

sabastian says:

06:49 PM, 11/ 8/09

As a resident of the frigid north of Pennsylvania, I will disagree that the M3 is the best car in the world. For me, the best car in the world needs to work during all four seasons (California only has two seasons: rain and sun.). Now, I'm not going to go on a thousand-word soliloquy about Subaru, but AWD (or FWD) is a must for my "best car in the world." The world's best car not only needs to be sporty but also comfortable, reasonably economical, and practical. With that in mind, I would probably put forth the S4, 335xi, and GTI as nominations, and then disqualify the BMW and Audi for being too expensive.

worthyofed says:

07:45 PM, 11/ 8/09

Well, I don't have track experience, laminated motor trend pages, or time in a BMW at all yet, so I'm sure my opinions mean even LESS to 1487, but what the hell....

I've heard that the M3 is just fine in the frigid north (try Alberta, Canada, compared to Pennsylvania!). Just slap on a good set of winter tires, drive carefully (like you should in the winter, no matter what car you're in), and you'll be fine.

But that's just what I hear. I have no first hand experience whatsoever.

eswalls says:

07:54 PM, 11/ 8/09

@huyracing,

The GTI is flawed from an enthusiast and engineering standpoint being front wheel drive. Sorry sir, that car isn't anywhere near the same league as the M3...or any purpose built RWD/AWD performance car. It's a poseur, in the sense that it's marketed as a performance vehicle, but will never perform like one. There's just no way it's going to handle that canyon road putting power and steering out of the same wheels.

Great buy for the money, I agree. But if you have more money...

super_ongoy says:

10:34 PM, 11/ 8/09

1487 You dirty penis!

chavis10 says:

06:10 AM, 11/ 9/09

Driven by professionals, the CTS-V is FASTER than the M3 and M5, period. Get over it. This M3 driver drove HIS car (implying he's familiar with how it behaves) around a track faster than Bob Lutz in a larger heavier car who probabably doesn't race much. If you want an apples to apples comparison, take BMW's best race driver and put him against Caddy's best race driver and the Cadillac will win (road and Track did that with the V and the M5). Besides that, the M3 is much smaller in dimension and lighter. The CTS-V's main competition are the M5, E63 and XF5 which are of equal mass and similar in size and it's faster than those cars as well.

sabastian says:

07:55 AM, 11/ 9/09

eswalls: I will agree that rear-drive is the preferred layout for a performance car, but the title "best car in the world" sums up much more than just at-the-limit performance. Yes, the M3 is a great car, but in my mind, it gets disqualified based on price and fuel economy (as does almost every other V8 car). Money no object, I'd have the M3, but when all things are considered, I think the GTI makes a better case for "world's best car."

hondacura4 says:

10:23 AM, 11/ 9/09

"They're light and twitchy and hyper-responsive. If you've ever held a small bird in your hands, it's kind of like that. You just expect the whole thing to up and die from hypertension at any moment."

Yes.....yes and YES! This is the type of driving experience I crave where every component and system of the car is always willing or wanting to play. Every driver input is immediately met with a reaction which happens to fast it's almost as if the car is telepathic. The car simply begs you to test your limits and its limits. You don't have to awaken or summon vehicles like these as it's already fully aware of your intentions. I call it the "hummingbird effect".

"Cars with the hummingbird effect"

- BMW M5
- BMW M3
- Honda S2000
- Honda NSX Type R
- Honda Integra Type R
- Honda Civic Type R
- Honda Civic Si (to an extent)
- Ferrari F50
- Ferrari 355 Challenge
- Ferrari F360 Challenge Stradale
- Ferrari F430 Scuderia
- Porsche GT3/GT3RS/GT3RSR

fuhteng says:

11:18 AM, 11/ 9/09

Really? People someone wants a turbo-charged electrical-fault over an M3? Yikes.

The M3 and F430 (until the 458), along with the 997 GT3 are probably the greatest cars on sale today. The only one I could ever afford is the M3, but it is also more useful than the other two (I don't think the GT3 has a backseat). So yeah, I can understand that the M3 is perhaps the best car in the world. Good for BMW.

operators says:

12:28 PM, 11/ 9/09

ive read quite a few comments from 1487, and for the most part they are well thought out and logical. this one however: not even close.

didn't those gm engineer guys lap cobalts around tracks faster than evos? they're insanely good drivers compared to that kid. what he did is very impressive, partially because hes such a great talent at such a young age but also because the m3 is (seemingly) so easy to drive fast.

anyway, i had a question for 1487 that has nothing to do with this post, just a random question. what kind of car do you drive? what cars do you own now & what have you owned in the past? just curious.

lets all be honest here, when anyone claims anything is the "best" its a recipe for an internet-brawl-o-thon. ;)

aurakr says:

03:09 PM, 11/ 9/09

operators:

Actually the Cobalt SS is a pretty good performing vehicle with handling that tends to surprise people. The interior needs help, no doubt about it, but bang for buck it is impressive. The GM engineer guys are probably pretty good drivers, but it might be that, maybe, just maybe, GM can also build vehicles that are great performers, not just Porsche, BMW, etc.

I would really like to know the background of the M3 driver. You are right of course, any claims to be the best cause an internet-brawl-o-thon :)


In my household are the following vehicles

2000 Chevrolet Venture LT
2007 Saturn Aura XR

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