Driven - Sep 2020

Driven: BMW E90 M3- Bavarhian Muscle…Works!

Being a motoring scribe sometimes proves to be an exciting gig; the sea of mom inspired crossovers does grow cumbersome, with the copy-paste rhetoric of This is better than That, ISOFIX and CarplaySometimes this fades away, and you get to drive the cars you properly enjoy, driver-focused thoroughbred designed for the petrolhead at heart. So after a week of careful work-from-home solace, a drive in one of these would be much welcomed. Thankfully an exciting call from what I later learned was an utter manic allowed for such bliss. 

The Subject – A present-day rarity a 2010 Manual M3 E90 Sedan fitted with some Mastercard sponsored choice mods that are eye wateringly expansive. The European influence of BMW modifications apparent through, Eventuri Carbon Fiber Plenum with the optional Carbon Intake and Airbox Lid, a Supersprint Catback exhaust and a stage 1 EvolveUK tune. Sitting on a set of 20-inch Vossen HF-5 forged alloys wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber. A pristine example and merely loved and enjoyed by its now second owner, sitting at a 120k on the clocks. Having driven to the prescribed meeting point in a borrowed ‘daily diesel’ C250d Merc. I cherished the fact that not only would I have three pedals to sample for the first time in the E9x- Series M3 combination but also, easily one of the memorable reviews I’ve conducted.

Arriving in the parking lot and after a quick phone call to declare arrival, I began forgettingly filling the air Joe Crocker – ‘Woman to woman’ lyric that echoed in the parking basement. It utterly enveloped my mood and brought a grin to my face slowly turned to an ear-to-ear smile as I saw her. Finished in Interlagos Blue with the Tan Nappa Leather option and rather obviously polished and spit-shined for the occasion. Climbing inside the older generation BMW interior, it offers little frills and electronics almost to remind of the car’s age. But this is not the focus of the review, and after sorting out seating and A/C, the owner climbed in and handed me the Key fob which after slotting into the dash and stabbing the Push-Start button, it was now a gruff roar to life that echoed as the owner expressed he wanted me to “Hit” the car, in a crude translation. Unsure of what this meant, he proceeded to clarify as he turned the DSC past MDM and fully off and instructed to engage “M” mode.

Driving him out of the Westrand and towards to open roads and allowing the car to warm up the induction noise sends chills down your neck even at low speeds, the gear shift if notchy and fells a bit wooden but with some engagement allows for rapid shifts up the ratios. The ‘get in and be quick‘ feeling takes over your body as the rev’s climb, and once the S65 warms up it becomes somewhat fruity and once you open up the throttle, snarls at you as it comes onto the Double-VANOS, cam profile. The constant reminder to “Hit” the car meant the games were over and the first opportunity to begin the trashing had dawned. 

Driving impressions 

Holding the RPM steady at 3000Rpm, and dumping the clutch with minimal mechanical sympathy, and the rear tyres light up, wheels scrabbling for grip and the rear in a controlled tank slapper, The tach rapidly increasing, and on past four, five, six up to the raised 8500Rpm rev limit. The wide-open 1-2-3-4 pull, only ended when I bounced off the limiter at the top of forth and remembered the speed infringement tier that JMPD would classify this mischief, and that I would be in the news later that evening like our Audi friend. The combination of raw snarling induction noise and this visceral grunty flat-plane V8 at high RPM’s is just addictive, and the manual box makes the experience immersive. The constant battle of keeping it sane back hard and the caution become a distant memory.

This thing responds well to aggression responding with restraint yet still feeling ferocious. Heal-toe into corners and the balance and precision of the front end dives in the direction you ditch it. At the base of the corner, you can feel and play with balance the car by feathering the loud pedal. Throwing it at the apexes, mashing the throttle and letting the rev’s climb to 5000Rpm; your bum communicates the rear pivoting with the most predictable communicative grace. As you increase the angle, squeezing the thick wheel and throttle on towards the redline as you gain wheel speed and dance in huge powerslides -This is what M cars should feel like. For the first time, my passenger got off his phone and began to shout me on into each corner. Entry speeds began to increase, as you wonder in amazement at the levels of grip, and how quickly you can turn that all into full-on tongue out funny faced drifts like you know what you are doing. 

The Standard car makes 309kWs at 8300Rpm and 400Nm at 3900Nm, but this car with the few mods pulls like a train from around 3500 to redline and with snap shifts its like you sit in power, and it keeps screaming more. It’s just amazing how it’s so much more alive and seems to have so much mid-range punch, with an estimated 340-350Kws now. The acceleration is more of an unrelenting shove into the seat that an outright blast like the new F30 M3. With a draggy handling timing, I managed a few sub-5second launches which were impressive. Little finesse is needed to pull off in a blaze of glory, its more straightforward to launch than the new car that seems to be very tricky even with very light throttle inputs simply more orthodox, less delicate and when you kick it in the teeth its shows a bloody smile and asks for more. 

Stupidly the conclusion of drifts and slides was the trip back, and on the freeway onramp, the lack of caution and lunatic in the passenger seat that only responded in thrill (much like his car) to very uncivilised behaviour resulted in the 50odd seconds of my life. I should apologise to my partner, but well it just was, because after joining the freeway flat-out and only backing off when the very top of sixth @ 8000Rpm. This thing is one of the best drivers cars that I’ve driven and it being an M3 reminds of what Bimmer can do when they apply themselves. The DCT just doesn’t feel this good, and with a few choice mods, this is a proper weapon. Raw and free from nonsense.

BMW E9x M3 in South Africa

E9x generation M3’s start pricing at around the R300k mark with clean models climbing up into the high R600’s for low milers. The Frozen edition will likely cost a bit more but isn’t the one to buy really.
-Watch out for the lengthy list of things that can go wrong with the famed rod bearing engine killer topping the list, throttle body actuators, Idle control valves and ignition coils being the most problematic. Smaller issues like high oil consumption and leaks are common so finding an example with a good history and extensive service records is enough to ensure your garage is kept warm for a very long time, by something with a heart rather than an engine.

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