I promised a comparison of my beloved E39 M5 with my new F80 M3. As background, the E39 M5 has been my daily driver since December 2004, and I have been driving E39s since I ordered my 1999 528, replaced by a 2002 530 (both MT) until I purchased the M5.
The M5 has been the best car I have owned Ė a fantastic and reliable DD. My desire for a new car began basically to retire it to garage queen status at 97K miles. I considered a few cars, but my requirement for a manual transmission eliminated most. I thought about the M2, but wanted to experience European delivery this summer and it didnít look like that could happen with the M2. I had always thought the F80 might be a good DD and the announcement of the competition package sealed the deal. We did Euro delivery 6/3/16 and had blast. For those who are interested, here is my delivery post: European Delivery write up
Below are my very initial impressions after a few weeks of driving the F80.
Power: Well, you know this one. The F80 is nuts (to me), with 444 hp/409 lb/ft. Like all turbos I have driven, including the 1M, turbo lag, while not pronouced, is there and just part of the picture. Itís actually fun, but there is no mistaking this is not an NA engine. Still, basically instant power when you want it. I certainly donít need more power.
Traction: Much has been made of the F80ís inclination to go sideways on full throttle (with traction control off). I live in Tucson, AZ, and thus donít deal too often with wet/cold conditions. The car is like glue on every road I have taken it. The competition package has suspension changes and as well as wider 285/30 PSSs in the back; Iím not sure how much these changes contribute.
Steering: Oh, the horror of electronic steering!
Truthfully, not a big issue for me. My gold standard is the rack in my previous E39 530 and current Z4M coupe, and no BMW has yet measured up, including the recirculating ball steering in the M5. I have no real complaints with the F80 steering. It is (in sport or sport+ mode) fairly similar to the E39 M5, but not as good as a hydraulic rack and pinion set up.
Suspension: Excellent. Depending on the mode, more or as supple as the E39 but controlled Ė despite the 20 inch wheels. Roads in Tucson are pretty good, but there are some rough ones as well.
Sound: I am not an exhaust person. That said to my ear the F80, at least with the competition package, sounds great. I feel like a hooligan in in sport/sport + modes with all the overrun pops and burbles (if the windows are open). I suppose it is a bit juvenile, but you can always leave the throttle in efficient. There is much fuss about ďactive sound,Ē or sound being synthesized for the cabin, but the system appears to have been optimized as I do not notice it at all.
Tech: Well, of course, no contest. I havenít even begun to scratch the surface of all this stuff, and probably wonít ever. That said, there are a few things I really enjoy. The back-up (looking forward to this being mandatory in 2018) and side/top view cameras are great for parking. The Nav and voice control features are great. The HUD is cool, especially with the Nav graphics. None of this is necessary for me. By far, the feature I love the most is the automatic phone pairing and voice control of my iPhone via the steering wheel buttons. I subscribe to Apple Music and the ability to tell Siri through the car what I want to listen to (or who I want to call) is fantastic. I realize this is just updated Bluetooth technology.
Iím not sure about all the driving modes. As many of you know, there are three modes (efficient, sport, sport+) for the throttle response, steering and suspension. Perhaps in 6 months Iíll have had enough time to play with all the settings to determine what I like. Sport seems pretty good for all of them (I think I might like sport + for steering). The manual transmission rev-matches in efficient and sport throttle modes. This feature allowed me to confirm my suspicion that I am not the best at heel-and-toe work, despite much practice. It is pretty cool (and somewhat addicting), although I wish the system was fully optional Ė current programing has rev-match on in efficient and sport throttle modes and off in sport +.
Looks: Subjective of course, but I do love it. My gold standard is the E39 M5, which strikes the perfect Q-ship balance for me. The F80, especially with the competition pack, is more overt. The mineral grey paint helps minimize attention, but people seem to notice the car. On reflection, the same people probably noticed my E39 M5 back in 2004Ö
Is this car a replacement for the E39 M5? For me no. Switching between them, the M5 just feels different. The clutch is much heavier, everything feels more mechanical and more connected. After 12 years I still love it. I have no doubt the F80 will be a great DD, even if I donít end up keeping it long-term (Iím out of garage space!).