First Drive of a Future Icon: 2001 BMW M3

From the December 2001 problem of Automotive and Driver.

Up to now 25 years, America has had solely two Olympic gold-medal decathletes, Bruce Jenner and Dan O’Brien. Most individuals think about the winner of the Olympic decathlon to be the world’s greatest athlete, as a result of it includes competing in 10 broadly differing occasions, from pole vaulting to operating to leaping. When Jenner received in ’76, America fell in love with him, and he appeared in commercials, made appearances in dangerous sitcoms, and smiled at us from Wheaties bins.

In an analogous approach, BMW’s M3—the motorsports model of the 3-series—has been universally coveted since 1994 when the second-generation M3 appeared with a easy, broad-shouldered 240-hp in-line six. Like a decathlete, the M3 did all of it: It may carry 4 adults and their baggage in consolation, and within the course of the automotive may whip by means of turns with an agility and crispness normally reserved for hard-core sports activities vehicles. Till not too long ago, the M3 was undefeated in our comparability assessments—the five-year-old M3 did place second (C/D, September 1999) to the brand-new Audi S4 Quattro. The M3 earned a spot on our annual 10Best record 5 years in a row—1995 by means of ’99. In 1997, it defeated eight vehicles, together with the Acura NSX-T and Ferrari F355, to win our best-handling-car shootout.

Nonetheless, we have been annoyed to know that BMW offered a greater, extra highly effective M3 elsewhere on this planet. BMW stated this supreme M3, with 77 extra horsepower, was too expensive for the U.S. market.

Maybe BMW had some extent, because the M3 offered right here accounted for greater than half of all M3s produced from 1995 by means of 1999. In a single significantly good 12 months, 1998, 4 of 5 M3s offered have been the 240-hp U.S. model priced at roughly $40,000. The extra highly effective M3 price about $55,000 in Germany.

For the brand new M3, primarily based on the present 3-series two-door, BMW selected two issues: (1) People have been most likely keen to spend just a little extra for the opposite engine, and (2) making all M3s with the identical engine would most likely decrease the fee sufficient to make everybody blissful. We not too long ago drove the brand new automotive in Jerez, Spain, and even obtained an opportunity to show some laps on the Jerez circuit.

Beautiful red-leather seats have adjustable torso bolsters to maintain drivers in place.


The engine is an absolute gem. This ferocious, screaming motor hurtles the M3 down the street with an urgency that now rivals the world’s greatest sports activities vehicles from Porsche and Chevrolet. BMW estimates the M3 will hit 60 mph in simply 4.8 seconds and can eat up a quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds—on a par with the 911 Carrera and Corvette—and we expect these numbers are correct.

Greater than the engine distinguishes the M3 from the 3-series vehicles. For one, the M3 rides by itself distinctive suspension. The essential design and format are shared with the 323 and 330, however almost each part—together with the hubs and spindles—was modified, modified, or strengthened for crisper dealing with and extra driver suggestions. The entrance monitor was elevated 1.5 inches and the rear by 1.8 inches to accommodate huge 225/45ZR-18 entrance tires and 255/40ZR-18 rears. As well as, a 0.1-inch-thick aluminum stiffening plate is bolted to the underside of the entrance body rails, and the steering rack makes use of a turning ratio that’s seven % faster than the bottom automotive’s.

The brand new M3 retains its knife-edged turn-in and flat cornering perspective, but it surely has picked up a few dangerous habits. The primary is a journey that is extra punishing than the final mannequin’s, which managed to really feel each agency and compliant. It is not uncomfortable, however we sense that the brand new automotive bounds round greater than the earlier mannequin. Second, the brand new automotive retains the rear finish so effectively planted that solely the entrance tires slide within the turns. Yep, it understeers—badly. Contemplating how a lot we beloved the previous automotive’s impartial dealing with—you possibly can name up under- or oversteer at will—the conclusion of this trait virtually introduced tears to our eyes, however the reality stays that with out some main driver heroics, the M3’s rear finish stays emphatically put. Our check automotive was a European mannequin with 19-inch tires that won’t be accessible stateside, so maybe the U.S. mannequin with 18-inch tires will really feel completely different. Understeer is a protected, if unexciting dealing with trait, and the brand new automotive masks its velocity in addition to the previous.

On the street, the place comers are taken at considerably slower speeds than on a race­monitor, the story is markedly completely different. The M3 feels heroic as soon as once more. From the motive force’s seat, you’d by no means know you have been piloting a passenger automotive; the texture i pure sports activities automotive, with an agility and crispness that belies its sensible talents.

BMW says the brand new automotive will price about $46,000, roughly $5000 greater than the final M3 offered right here, the 1999 mannequin. (A Ferrari Fl-style guide gearbox with automated shifting i due in 2002.) Contemplating the quantity of additional suds within the engine bay, we expect that worth is a cut price. And in contrast to Bruce Jenner, who received the gold at just one Olympic competitors, we wager the brand new M3 will proceed the previous automotive’s successful methods.

A Nearer Have a look at BMW’s Torquey 333-hp Engine

There are solely two naturally aspirated engines on the market within the land that may high the 103-horsepower-per-liter efficiency of BMWs new six: a tremendous 120-horsepower-per-liter-four-cylinder Honda discovered within the S2000 roadster and the outstanding 110-horse­power-per-liter V-8 of the Ferrari 360 Modena. Just like the Honda and Ferrari, the BMW powerplant which has 333 horsepower, doesn’t arrive with any earth­ shattering new know-how. Fairly, the engines obtain their excellent outputs by means of a cautious, methodical strategy of lightening the engine internals and enhancing the respiration.

To lighten the valvetrain, BMW used hole camshafts (with VANOS infinitely vari­in a position timing methods on the consumption and exhaust cams) and finger followers to function the valves. BMW says finger followers provide two major benefits over typical valve tappets: Friction is 30 % decrease with the followers, and valvetrain mass is 30 % much less.

2001 bmw m3 engine

Automotive and Driver

With the engine internals able to spinning at 8000 rpm, BMW subsequent ensured that the engine may breathe at that velocity. On the consumption aspect, six particular person tubes home electronically managed butterfly valves. BMW says the person throttle valves, that are positioned a lot nearer to the consumption ports than in a standard single throttle physique, enhance throttle response. On the exhaust attractive equal-length header tubes expel the spent air.

Regardless of the M3’s new aluminum hood and its middle bulge, the engine nonetheless needed to be mounted at a 30-degree record to suit. Tilting the engine required modifying the oil pan to clear the entrance crossmember. This created oil-scavenging issues, particularly throughout lengthy comers, which BMW solved through the use of one giant sump on the rear of the engine and a smaller sump up entrance. There are two oil pumps, one to pump oil from the entrance sump to the rear and one other to pump oil from the rear sump by means of the engine.

One distinctive function of the M3’s engine is the driver-selected, dual-mode throttle-­response swap, which adjustments the way in which the consumption butterfly valve responds to the gasoline pedal. When the engine’s not within the sport mode, the butterflies open slowly at first to make sure easy driving; in sport mode, the valves open way more rapidly, lessening response time.

Though BMW was third to Honda and Ferrari on this horsepower-per-liter con­check, the Simmer engine does boast extra torque per liter (81 pound-feet per liter vs. 77 for the Honda and Ferrari). The result’s an engine that is remarkably sturdy each­the place within the rev vary and pulls like mad proper as much as its 8000-rpm redline. —Larry Webster


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