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2001 BMW M3 Convertible Part 4: Update

Jul 30, 2002
0207_01zoom+2001_BMW_M3_Convertible+Front_Overhead_View Photo 1/1   |   2001 BMW M3 Convertible Part 4: Update

It was Friday, a good day for Thai food, and I knew this great place across town with gorgeous waitresses and Singha on draft. I took a bunch of IT guys to lunch in an effort to shake a new iMac from their budget. Ply 'em with noodles and beer. We piled in the M3 convertible, I punched one button to lower the top, and we hit the freeway. It's a great on-ramp, two lanes, perfectly banked in a classic horseshoe. To do it just right, you start on the inside and gently drift out until you end up around 88 mph in sync with traffic. I did it perfectly.

In all fairness, it's not all that tough in the new M3. It's a stab-it-and-steer kind of performance car. With 333 bhp on tap, it's even easy to position it with a sensitive right foot. This motor is as close to automotive magic as I've experienced, a brilliant blend of snappy low-end torque and high-winding horsepower. And if you do get in over your head, those gigantic brakes are powerful enough to stop the world.

Live with the M3 for a few weeks, and it's like being superman. You can do things normal cars cannot. After a while, you take your superhuman abilities for granted.

I made short work of the drive, practicing my heel-and-toe and trail braking--the pedals are set up just right. I also love the sound of this car, the metallic zing the straight six produces as it spins to 8 grand. BMW should release it on CD. The trip should have taken 20 minutes, but we arrived in 10. The M3 is so involving, I was lost in my own world.

My colleagues, on the other hand, were almost paralyzed with fearful awe. "Jeezus, man...convertibles shouldn't be able to do such things," they cried, stumbling onto the street.

When BMW released the E36 M3 convertible, my first thought was, "How could they?" How could BMW take what is arguably the hottest, purest European sports sedan and bastardize it with a ragtop? There are a few compromises that come with a convertible--primarily the sacrifice of torsional rigidity and increased weight. The new M3 convertible has enough balls to make the weight thing a non-issue, but even a chassis as brilliant as the E46 notices when its roof goes missing.

Our M3 convertible, when it was delivered with 3,000 miles already accrued, was plagued with creaks and moans, made even more noticeable because of heightened expectations: BMWs are supposed to be buttoned down tightly. Chassis flex had something to do with the excessive noise, but not all. A new top gasket, replaced under warranty, solved the problem nicely. Now the convertible rides quietly, without annoying squeaks and rattles. It still flexes more than we'd like and doesn't match the rigidity of two-seater sports cars.

There was also an irritating electrical gremlin, wherein the back-up lights came on when a forward gear was selected. This also was fixed free of charge, but not easily, requiring removal of the gearbox.

I got a ticket in this car, the first (in California) in many years. And I deserved it. The M3 is so good, you find yourself continuously testing its limits. Is it really this fast? Can I take this corner this hard? Will I stop in time?

P.S. To the bastard who stole the M3's wheels and tires. I'll see you in hell, where you'll be driving an '83 Chevy Citation in endless circles, a/c broken and windows shut, the best of Yoko Ono screeching over the radio.

We have since placed high-quality McGard wheel locks on each corner of the replacement set, a cheap form of insurance no BMW should be without.



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