Test Drive Ann Limited: M3 Adventures

e46 m3 convertible

I showed up in the Charger about an hour or so before closing time, went up to the first sales person I found and told him I wanted to drive the little blue M3 convertible. He was totally clueless about cars and acknowledged my gearhead superiority. He had zero f***ks to give and was all like, “Yeah! Let’s go have some fun in an M car!”


The one thing I didn’t love was the auto stick “sequential manual gearbox” thing. I just wanted it to pick one. Be an auto or a stick! Maybe you get used to it, but it was just weird for me.

But everything else was quite awesome. I have never actually driven a car that was set up for handling and RWD. (I’ve driven one or the other- muscle cars and Integras and stuff.) Having both is DAMN FUN. The sales dude totally let me drive it like I stole it. There was a 90 degree turn in an intersection where I didn’t have to stop, and the sales guy says, “This one is really fun! You don’t even have to slow down!” So I took the turn at 30 mph and hit the apex and floored it and laughed like a madwoman. And it was A-MAZ-ING.

e46 m3 convertible

The car feels FAST and it sounds good and the ride is nice and firm without feeling totally rattly. I would love to try a non-convertible and see if I notice a difference. I get why these cars have such a devoted following and people love to drive them.

The interior is just like any other 3 Series and probably has more bells and whistles than I care about. The back seat is really just for emergency use only – no one can sit behind me since I’m tall, so this car could realistically seat 3 adults if I needed it to. It’s cute from the outside and the blue is pretty.

Anyway, 8/10, would DD and get lots of speeding tickets!

Up Next: 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe, 2013 Scion FR-S, and a 2011 Mustang GT

Ann Morey isn’t an automotive journalist, but she’s probably doing a better job of it than most of us. She’s a mid career marketing manager who only recently learned how to drive a manual transmission. She’s got a classic Charger in the garage and a boring Accord in need of replacement, so she’s out to test drive every mid-20-thousands dollar sports car out there.

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37 responses to “Test Drive Ann Limited: M3 Adventures”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    I want to see it do some donuts.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    How much did the dealer want for this M3?

    1. Ann Avatar

      Their website still has it listed at $18,496.

  3. MVEilenstein Avatar

    "So I took the turn at 30 mph and hit the apex and floored it and laughed like a madwoman."
    You're going to fit in around here just fine.

  4. CornerHugger Avatar

    There better be a WRX in this lineup somewhere.

    1. Ann Avatar

      Don't you worry. I drove an STI a few days ago!

  5. david42 Avatar

    My brother has a coupe with the SMG. He's had it for a while (about a year, I think) as his daily driver, and he still isn't a big fan of the transmission. It was cutting-edge back in the day, but modern plain-automatic transmissions are as good or better.
    Having said that, he LOVES everything else about the car.

  6. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar

    My favourite type of transmission! I'm not kidding. Try lifting the throttle a bit when up-shifting. They need to be driven more of less like manuals to work properly, but they still won't be as smooth as a real automatic or as fast as a DCT. I seem to be in a minority of one, but I find seamless and lightning-quick shifts boring.

  7. Eric Rood Avatar

    No mention of 0-60 times or skidpad results or "infotainment stacks," whatever the hell that is?
    <img src="http://funnycatwallpapers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/grumpy-cat-good-1.jpg&quot; width="300">
    Strong work.

    1. HTWHLS Avatar

      No…no more "grumpy cat"…ever.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar

        Someone sounds a bit…dare I say…grumpy?

  8. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar

    Welcome, Ann! This should be a fun series to watch.
    As an owner of an E46, I can highly recommend leaving a few thousand in your budget for repairs during the first 3 months of ownership… Also, if you pick one, make absolutely certain the rear subframe has been inspected and hopefully repaired/reinforced! There's a lot of info about this well-documented issue, but this link sums it up pretty concisely: http://www.turnermotorsport.com/t-gallery-e46-sub
    If there is anything currently wrong with the cooling system, run away.
    Btw, exactly how tall are you? I'm 6'4", and there's still physical room for someone behind me in my coupe, albeit not comfortable space…

    1. Ann Avatar

      Thanks!
      Everyone tells me this. And "Set aside at least $1k a year for maintenance."
      I'm 5'11" with a 35" inseam. I don't think I drove this one with the seat all the way back, though.

      1. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar

        So…
        <img src="http://i.imgur.com/4N04SKx.jpg&quot; width="150">
        Btw, good luck testing the FR-S… Last I heard, they still won't allow test drives…
        Other cars that would be fun to check out; 04-06 GTO or a 1st gen CTS-V.

        1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar

          How is not allowing test drives even possible?
          Person McSalesperson: Gimme your monies!
          Buyer person: I'd like to take a short test drive before handing you this bag of money.
          Person McSalesperson: <img src="http://i1.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/007/423/untitle.JPG&quot; width="300" </img>

          1. OA5599 Avatar

            The first time I saw a Plymouth Prowler on the street was in a fast food parking lot. I had just finished eating as the other guy pulled in, and we chatted a bit. His purchase experience pretty much matched the scenario above, except he said the car was also behind velvet ropes so he never got within 3 feet of the driver's seat until his ink was on the papers.
            I heard from a few people with New Beetles in 98 or whenever they came out, who tell the same tale.

            1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar

              I guess they know they will sell all the cars they can get anyway so why bother with customer service..

              1. Vairship Avatar

                Plus now you know that anyone who currently owns an FR-S is gullible enough to buy a car without even heaving driven it, or one just like it.
                Hey FR-S owner, I have a Boeing 747 for sale, real cheap! Lets go to the airport and you can look at it from the terminal, but you can't see it up close until you give me all your money and I run away before you find out I didn't even own the plane. Sound like a deal to you?

        2. RWB Avatar

          Where did you hear that? I test drove both FRS and BRZ from separate dealers on separate days, and I certainly don't come off as anything special.

          1. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar

            I'm sure it depends on dealership. When I went a few months ago, they said they wouldn't let me behind the wheel without at least a credit check, even though I pulled up in a car worth 60% of their asking price. Doing a brief Google search (not going to spend too much time on this) people are having mixed results, but here's a couple examples from last year:
            Couldn't drive an FRS: http://www.ft86club.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9
            Couldn't drive a BRZ, but could drive an FRS: http://www.subarubrzforum.com/9-subaru-brz-genera

          2. Number_Six Avatar

            I was denied a test drive in a Focus ST, despite being middle-aged and well-dressed. High comedy.

        3. Ann Avatar

          No spoilers, but they let me drive an FR-S. Depending on how often TestDriveANNLimited runs, it will be a little behind here because I drive about 3-5 cars a week. It's kind of like a reality show in that way!

  9. zombienixon Avatar

    Looking for some suggestions? I did something like this a few summers back, although really with no intent to buy, I just wanted to drive some fun cars. I went around and got to drive a Civic Si Coupe ('10 model, I think), a last-gen MR2, an NA Miata, and an AP2 S2000.
    The MR2 and Miata were both fantastic to drive, although I'd give the nod to the MR2 for its sweet shifting transmission. The S2000 was a bit of a let-down for me. The C/D reviews I read of it praised its steering, but I didn't like it at all. I can't recall if it had a real lack of feel, but the way it was weighted reminded me of driving my Mom's Saturn.
    So if two-seaters are okay I'd definitely try and scope out an MR2 or Miata.

    1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar

      A 3.0 Z4 Coupe might also be a viable alternative if back seats are not mandatory. It's an actual sports car and from what I've read the 3.0 NA I6 is one of the more reliable modern BMW engines. It has a practical and usable boot and they are pretty affordable.

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        I had one for a couple of months. Loved it, but really wanted my soft-top back. Just to hear that crackle on the over-run.

        1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar

          Can you think of a new affordable car on sale today that sounds great? I can't.

          1. Kogashiwa Avatar

            Having trouble enough thinking of any that sound at all.

  10. engineerd Avatar

    Honest first impression reporting without buff book lingo and the dryness that comes after driving every car under the sun for 10+ years? If this is wrong, then we don't want to be right. Good job.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar

      That's exactly why I wanted to run these.
      When we ("Automotive Journalists" – hahahah) write things up there's this implied need to sound like we know what we're talking about and comparing it against an expansive catalog of vehicles. For most of us, that's pretty much a fallacy. Usually by the time you can do that, you're so tenured at a glossy mag that you're either jaded or lazy.
      These are an honest exploration of the field by someone mature enough to admit she's not an expert on everything.

  11. HTWHLS Avatar

    Here's a question…did you get to "drive it like you stole it" because you're a woman and he was letting you have your way (hint: flirting)?
    I'm not making this sexist but every time I've test-driven a car, they wouldn't let me go more 2 miles and I rarely hit the speed limit or did any kind of "real world" moves, let along something hoon-ish.
    It doesn't matter how I'm dressed or if I roll up in the PT Cruiser or the Corvette…I get the stink-eye and every time I try an emergency-lane change manuever, they freak or want me to head back.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I think it largely depends on who you get – I'd imagine if you find a bored looking salesguy in his mid-20s, he'll be happy just to get out and screw around a little.
      For what it's worth, several years back, I test drove a supercharged V6 Mustang (dealer-built), and the sales guy had no problem with me getting copious blower whine out of it. Likewise, a couple years after that, I made a terrible attempt at selling cars, and took a guy out in a Challenger SRT-8. Since the dealer was close to our city docks, he got in some moderate hooning

    2. Ann Avatar

      I honestly have no way of knowing. I've driven several cars now, and some salespeople let me go all out (including a woman my age) and some of them don't. I do know that if you want me to fall in love with a performance car, you need to let me see what it can do.

    3. Tim Odell Avatar

      When my wife and I test-drove our WRXagon, the guy just chucked us the keys and said "we close at 8, don't get arrested".
      When we showed up with a kid and wanted to drive a Mazda5 minivan, the guy insisted on coming along.
      c'est la vie

  12. Manic_King Avatar

    I've actually driven SMG M3 like I've stolen it, in California, nearly 10 years ago. Friend's coupe. Automatic mode was complete crap (esp. in hilly areas), so only way to fully enjoy the car was to use flappy paddles. Photo below is taken when we organized friendly 20 mile race on 101 near Solvang with some complete strangers in Mustang and Passat, top speed was about 130 mph IIRC. Now, after reading US based car blogs for years I've come to conclusion that this was quite a bad thing to do. I guess had cops seen this, prison time would've been real possibility.
    <img src="http://www.upload.ee/image/3516201/IMG_1146.JPG"&gt;

  13. RichardKopf Avatar

    What, no Buick Reatta?

    1. dr zero Avatar

      Not everyone has good taste like Antti.

  14. RSDeuce Avatar

    Not sure if you are still watching the comments, but I missed this post the first time around.
    6 year e46 M3 owner here…
    Yes, put money away as was already mentioned. They can be reliable if taken care (and garaged!) but will be expensive to repair when they break.
    Plenty of room for 4 full sized (6'2+) in the rear seats. I have done multiple road trips with buddies in the car, and I am talking about 13-48 hour stints back and forth across the country in all directions.
    Don't dismiss the interior comforts. The infotainment in these is old. There is an easy way to add an AUX port, but not one stock. The old NAV is OLD, and I hate it. If you ever decided to upgrade a stock system, you will quickly find out that the speakers, voltages, and connectors are specifically designed to prevent easy in-place upgrades. You will end up buying an entire new system.
    As I found out last week, the seats contain a very small plastic gear in them that WILL eventually break. BMW does not sell that gear, but they will helpfully sell the entire motor unit it sits in for $700! See what I mean about putting money away?
    Lastly, get the regular 6 Speed. Go ask someone who has tried to replace the clutch unit on the SMG… Not worth and the classic manual is WAY better.

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