Ride & Handling
The steering is pinpoint accurate and gives you a great sense of confidence when approaching hairpin turns or broad sweepers. Our test car had optional 19-inch wheels, and, as you’d expect, they did affect the ride.
The car was fine in the Comfort setting — I felt bumps in the road and large potholes, but overall the ride was very good given the rough conditions of Chicago’s roads.
BMW says the M3 shares only the doors and trunklid with the regular 3 Series. To me, it looks like BMW has taken a clean, conservative BMW 3 Series and added some clean, conservative styling effects. It’s not blown-out and garish-looking, as some performance cars can be, and the M3 is a better car for it.
My favorite bit is the unpainted carbon fiber roof, which is exclusive to the M3. The carbon fiber material lowers the center of gravity, but the genius bit is leaving it unpainted. It looks really cool, even in contrast with the deep blue of our test car.
If there’s one thing BMW doesn’t get enough praise for, it’s the fact that its cars provide comfortable, safe driving positions. Also, when driving some performance cars it’s either hard to see out the car or it’s hard to judge exactly where the front or sides are. You want that if you intend to drive fast.
If you’re the sort who likes to be isolated from a car, the M3 isn’t for you.
There’s M-Drive, Drivelogic, EDC and so on.
The basics are that you can customize the car for a firmer ride, a more aggressive transmission shift program, a less intrusive electronic stability system and many other settings. After you’ve done that, the settings are saved and any time you want, you can press the M-Drive button on the steering wheel and they’ll pop into place.
When it comes time to go home, you simply dial everything back down to the civilized settings at the push of a single button and putter home like a good little boy.
Safety, Reliability & Mileage
The 2011 M3 has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the 2010 BMW 3 Series has been, and its results should carry over when 2011 ratings are released. BMW 3 Series with active head restraints also received a Good rating in the Institute’s rear crash protection and head-restraint tests.