Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Other M3

If you’re a purist, you’ll shoot me because to you there is only one M3.  Well, this may be right but there is another car that I will put up against an M3 anytime and I’ll bet I’ll also have more fun owning it.  It’s not an Audi or a Mercedes or a Porsche.  It’s another BMW and it’s less expensive than the M3.

A couple of weeks ago, the guys at eCarOne gave me a 2011 BMW 335is for a week.  Yes, it’s just a 3-series coupe so how can I say it rivals the almighty M3?  Well, it’s a 3-series coupe outfitted with a stiffer suspension, fatter tires, and a bad-ass twin turbo six-cylinder that pumps out over 300 HP and about the same torque.  Ok, that’s 100 less than the M3 so I’m still blowing smoke…

It’s a smaller engine so yes, out of the box it is rated at roughly 100HP lower than the M3.  However it's twin turbocharged and this means there are many more options to getting more power than the non-turbo V8 that comes with the M3.  Here is my case in point.

About 3 years ago, I purchased a 2007 BMW 335i coupe from eCarOne which is essentially the same as the 2011 model I drove except the 335is comes with stiffer suspension, more aggressive body styling, and bigger tires.  But if you read anything about my history, you’d know what’s coming next.  Immediately after buying the 15,000 miles 335i from eCarOne, I took it to a local performance shop and added a free flowing exhaust, upgraded engine software, a short-throw shifter, bigger tires and wheels, lowering springs, and more aggressive front and rear bumpers.  All in all, it cost me roughly $5,000 in parts and labor on top of the $33ish I paid for the car so I was all-in under $40k.  We put the car on a DynoJet chassis dyno and it made close to 370HP at the wheels.  This translates to roughly 450HP at the engine, which is the number you see published.  More importantly, it made 350 lb-ft of torque at the wheels which translates to 440 at the engine.

What does all this mean?  It means that car would blow the doors off the stock M3 any day.  It also blows the doors off most Porsche 911s and the like.  Ok, why not modify the M3?  Because it’s a naturally aspirated V8 and short of spending $20k to supercharge it, there is not much more you can do to get any decent increase in output.  The moral of the story is that I think BMW will hurt M3 sales by offering the 335is because anyone who knows about turbocharged cars will always take the 335 and spend some money on it and have a car that is better than the M3 in many ways.

In my opinion, this is why the M3 sedan always suffered in the US market.  The sedan buyer has a practical side and hence is more influenced by cost than the coupe buyer.  Someone who’s buying an M3 sedan may not necessary want an M3 but is rather looking for a fast, good handling car that will fit into his family lifestyle.  Since BMW has a 335i sedan that is very fast and very capable of any twisty road you venture upon, the M3 then becomes a non-rational decision.  A guy buying a 4-door always has a logical side and will always think about money.  To me, I’d take a 335i sedan and spend $5k in aftermarket parts and end up having a car that is every bit an M3 for $10,000 to $15,000 less.  Plus, I get better fuel consumption.  What more do I want?

If you want an excellent road car that has been named Car and Driver top 10 for as many years as I can remember, you need to do yourself a favor and go drive this 2011 335is at eCarOne.  You’ll know what I’m talking about after you drive it.

Good luck and happy driving.

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