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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

When I sold my 2001 e39 m5 a few months back, and departed the forum, a few members who I respect asked me to come back and provide a detailed review of the 2015 f80 m3 after I took delivery.

I'm coming back to do that now.





A few important disclosures:

I elected to go from an e39 m5 to a 2015 m3. So I inhererently must feel it was "Better" for me; therefore my comments are naturally going to align that way. I just signed off on an enormous amount of money. So I'm biased here. That being said, I'll try to be honest and critical. I have driven this car at, maybe, 7/10ths so far. Or what I think is 7/10ths of it's ability. I'm not sure, and won't be for awhile.

My e39 m5 was owned for 2 years and ~25k miles or so. It had an evolve alpha-N tune, dinan stage 2 suspension, and short shifter. It was in excellent mechanical shape including new tires/alignment/front suspension when it was sold.

I'm going to assume people who read this know some core stuff about the F80 2015 m3 (I'll use F80 alot), but here's a few specs:

- ~3500 pounds
- 425 rated hp, 426 rated torque. 0-60 in 3.9-4.1 seconds and quarter mile in ~12.1-12.3 @ 116-120mph (these are published times so far)
- The m3 redline is 7600 rpms but the big deal is that it makes max power of 425 hp from 5500-7300 rpms. This is important to note - when shifting, you have the SAME peak hp at the start of the next shift as when you just left the previous lower gear at the top of the powerband.
- The m3 gearing is notably shorter
- 17mpg city, 26mpg highway rated. Some owners are reporting 28mpg pure highway cruising 70-80mph. I can see that happening, but haven't gotten that far yet.
- 6MT or DCT transmissions. The 6MT features rev-matching up and down shifting. More on that.
- M rear differential taken from the new m5/m6. Pretty bad-*** diff.
- Carbon fiber driveshaft, carbon fiber roof, ridiculous levels of chassis bracing including an aluminum belly pan that's integral and a carbon fiber strut tower brace that ties into the radiator support.

Overall Comparison

The f80 m3 and e39 m5 are a more natural compare now as the new m3 is almost the same size as the e39 m5. The wheelbases are damn near identical, the interior space is very similar, the m3 is about 3 inches wider. In addition, the power ratings and torquey natures are now more closely aligned

The m3 uses a chassis ~15-16 years newer and technology accordingly. It was focused on a lower weight platform and, though I haven't weighed mine yet (tomorrow?), it should be about 450 pounds lighter.

I mention this because in almost all instances, the F80 m3 is a more "racecar" oriented vehicle. It's more agile, responds much faster, feels more balanced, and is better suited stock to go hit a track. However, it's never as relaxed as the e39 m5 can be. It's louder and rougher than my well-trod dinan stage 2 suspension model. The e39 m5 will always be a better touring car....a better highway vehicle. It's interior is also more comfortable in terms of seating softness/comfort and the materials are of a far higher grade overall, though you can now opt for a full leather interior on the m3. Little seen things like the covers for the seat rails are of better quality in the m5 than in the new m3.

Engine & Acceleration

As much as the S62 is amazing, the S55 in the f80 m3 is even more my cup of tea. It's smoother, rev-happier....but the big thing is this thing has SO MUCH POWER at 2000-3000 rpms. It is a torque monster. Let me put it this way: I get more satisfaction going WOT from 2000 rpms and shifting at 3000-3500 rpms in the m3 than I did shifting at 5000 rpms in the m5 in terms of thrust.

The difference in gearing is substantial. Full torque is available at 1800 rpms. And of course it weighs ~450 pounds less. It also has less sound deadening and is quite "loud". So this all comes together to a much more visceral acceleration experience.

I don't know how to describe this exactly, but the engine feels more agile. It jumps around more happily, feels lighter, and wants to be revved out more eagerly. The S62 also has these characteristics just to a lesser degree. Heavier flywheel? Heavier drivetrain? Maybe all of the above. No idea how things like the carbon fiber driveshaft impact this stuff, ya know?

It races to redline, but after 5500 rpms it feels "flat" because the torque trails off as the RPMs continue to rise. The result is max power available for ~2000 rpms but it's not increasing power. I think some don't love the way that feels - they want to feel power building till a crescendo until it's time to shift. I love it because I'm not the perfectionist professional race car driver everyone else appears to be, and thus the powerband is incredibly user friendly for me. I literally can't shift too early, cause there's buckets o' power everywhere.

Clutch, shifter, and transmission

I'm someone who prefers a light, easy-going shifter with little notchiness between gears and a light progressive and intuitive clutch pedal action that provides an easy engagement zone.

The f80 provides this, in spades. I've driven a fair number of stock BMWs, and quite simply the 2015 m3 offers one of the best manual transmissions in the world in terms of shifting joy. It loves to be shifted, the clutch is light and intuitive and friendly (once broken in a bit), and the shifter is just the right height/throw and chunkiness to be fun but not heavy.

A special note: The clutch is a dual-plate clutch holding a very large volume of torque even at low RPMs. I have no idea how BMW made this thing so easy to use, easy to modulate, and lightweight - yet still instantly grab once you have it engaged.

I never experienced rev-matching before in another vehicle. I have heard some love it, some hate it.

I'm blown away by it. Blown away. I can go from 5th to 2nd at 40mph and let the clutch out as fast as my foot will move. And it will be perfectly smooth, every single time, with absolutely no drivetrain shock or clutch slip.

Similarly, if I want ultra-smooth driving I can go from 3rd to 4th, let the revs drop to the exact right level, and clutch out as quickly as possible and it will be velvet smooth shift. Every time.

I still retain absolute control over gear selection. I can de-activate this mode if I want. But the bottom line is this offers a wonderful opportunity when shifting a manual transmission to maintain the engagement and joy while eliminating alot of jerkiness, estimation, or "pause" while you ensure you have rev-matched as closely as possible to the right point. It will also reduce clutch wear over time; to what extent I don't know.

Chassis

As much as the motor and shifter have been stars, the real star of this m3 is the chassis. If you've driven a 2012+ 3-series sedan, you know the f30 chassis is amazing.

They took that and significantly increased rigidity and "feel". The rear diff is solid mounted to the chassis - no rubber bushings. The underneath of the car looks like a race-car with all the bracing.

The chassis speaks to you. I'll get to the steering in a moment, but put that aside for a second. You can feel the road through the car, rather than the steering wheel. You know what's going on. You can feel the amount of resistance being felt at the rear end as you power through a turn.

At the same time, there's no harshness. There's no flex in the chassis. It's a long wheelbase vehicle, yet it drives very small. It drives much smaller than the e39 m5. I don't know how that's possible.

Steering

Some love the e39 m5 steering, some do not. I liked it when I was on the highway, and I liked it when I was cruising around. But I didn't like it in aggressive driving. I didn't feel the ratio was fast enough and I did feel it was lacking in feedback.

The f80 m3 is better, though it is electric power steering. The ratio is much faster, feedback is still filtered and there's no harshness, but there is more feedback here. This is not the BMW steering of yore, of an e36 or e30 m3. It's the steering of a well tuned grand tourer.

This is more of my type of steering than the e39 m5 was as it's a further balance between a track car and a daily driver. However, it could still use more feedback in my opinion.

Braking

I had euro floating rotors and some OEM-type aggressive pad compound on my e39 m5, running SS lines and clean fluid. It was a wonderful braking system.

The new m3 is better in terms of initial bite & pedal modulation, but just slightly. A long-term racer who goes by the handle Karrussell did a full day of hot laps at the 'ring with Sabine the ring taxi driver and said these brakes held up with no cooling down to lap after lap. I have no other experience that's worth mentioning. I thought the e39 m5 brakes were great, and these are great too. If anything, these might be better simply by needing to slow down 450 pounds less and thus initial feedback is better when you just start to initiate friction.

Interior noise and comfort

The e39 m5 has better noise control and is a more serene environment. It's seats are notably more comfortable.

The f80 m3 has what I would consider to be closer to racing seats. It's thigh bolsters are very aggressive - to the point where I'm almost uncomfortable in them at 5'10 and 190 pounds. Almost, but not quite. If I put on 10 pounds, I think I would be.

The side-back bolsters are adjustable and very nice. There is no thigh extension on this car, which I do miss. I've done a number of ~45-50 minute road trips and felt fine getting out.

When I sold my e39 m5, they had brand new continental UHP summer tires on it. It has very little tire noise and very little wind noise even at 80-90mph.

The f80 m3 has moderate tire noise at 70mph and well controlled wind noise there too. It's fine to have a phone call or conversation. However, at 80+ mph wind and road noise increases substantially. This car will literally decrease my commuting speed by 10mph simply to lessen interior volume when I'm not deliberately speeding.

Suspension

There's a few ways to review suspension, so let me break this down a bit. I have the adaptive suspension as well.

Comfort: I was expecting the f80 to ride more comfortably than the e39 m5 with dinan stage 2. I'd say I had it backwards. The f80 is slightly firmer riding than the dinan stage 2 e39.

There is less harshness in the f80. It simply seems to have better travel and progressive damping/spring rates for absorbing harsh stuff. However, it's a bit bouncier. Minor movements come through move. It's still quite comfortable, but it feels more "race car".

Handling: There is no real body roll. Ever. It corners flat. Part of this is the adaptive suspension, which will modify damping to eliminate body roll. The limits of the suspension are surreal. The car rides on 18" wheels rocking 255/40/18 michelin PSS in the front and 275/35/18 michelin PSS in the rear.

The big thing here is turn-in and responsiveness. The m3 is agile in a way I wouldn't have used to define my '99 boxster. It responds instantly, have to change direction. It never feels like it's weight has transitioned to one side, whereas by comparison the limits of my e39 m5 felt quite high but it felt like it wanted long sweepers where it could transition it's weight to one side of the vehicle and then carry it there. It didn't feel like it wanted to slalom, whereas the m3 does - it feels like it remains on the "balls of it's feet" ready to change direction even when you've got it loaded up on one side.

...

I think I've hit all the major points. I chose to go from an e39 m5 to this car because I wanted something that was the same relative size for family and job purposes, but was faster and more agile. I gave up some comfort in the process, but gained alot of visceral satisfaction in the way it handles, steers, accelerates, and definitely in the shifting department.

The technology is also nice, but mainly I'm marveling over how it drives. The new m3 has really taken the e39 vision to a new level in terms of a full size sports sedan with loads of torque, exceptional handling, but daily driveability too. It has sacrificed some comfort in return for a greater degree focus on the driving experience, I think.

Hope you enjoyed this perspective. I'll try to comment some more on any immediate responses/questions.
 

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Thanks! We appreciate you taking the time to provide all that info and feedback. I must admit, I might be a little bit lustful.
 

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Great review. Do you know the widths of the M3 wheels? I'm guessing 18x9 and 18x10 F/R. The engineers overshot the tires on the E39 M5 and it shows. It is great they pulled ~450lbs compared to the E39 chassis, that can afford you some quality sound dampening material which would make for a more comfortable drive. Last question, what oil? hiha
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Great review. Do you know the widths of the M3 wheels? I'm guessing 18x9 and 18x10 F/R. The engineers overshot the tires on the E39 M5 and it shows. It is great they pulled ~450lbs compared to the E39 chassis, that can afford you some quality sound dampening material which would make for a more comfortable drive. Last question, what oil? hiha
What oil? Why any oil BMW approves of course! :) Seriously though it's 5w30 or 0w40 BMW LL oil, as well as of course a whole host of various companies oils they already confirmed meet their specs (whatever those are)

The wheels are as follows (note that 18" or 19" offers the same width wheel and tire)

Summer wheels

- 9x18 (ET29) +10x18 (ET40), Style 513M

- 9x19 (ET29) +10x19 (ET40), Style 437M

It's funny, alot of the test drives talk about how easy it is to lose traction or engage DSC in the m3. For example, in 3rd gear the car is putting out ~2,163 torque after gear multiplication from 1,800-5,000 rpms compared to 1,883 in the e39 m5 from 3,800 rpms.

Yet after the m5, I don't find that to be the case at all in the M3. Maybe I roll on the throttle more easily, or something else, but I find this tire & wheel on this car provides great traction.
 

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:applause:

Thanks for the write-up. While I don't have an F8X yet, I'm expecting to agree with everything you wrote! At this point, the only thing that will keep me from buying a F80 is the upcoming M2 (which likely won't get to the states until early 2016:crying2:).

Congratulations again.
 

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Excellent write up!
It really gives you an idea of how things compare.

I found that your explanation of the rev matching manual on the M5 really makes a difference. It sounds sort of disconnected as far as control and feel, but as you say you change the gears and press/release the pedal, so the core of shifting through gears keeps you tied in.

This new M3 is really one of the cars that has caught my interest as a car that could suit my wants from a car a few years from now. The e60 M5, while I love the v10, doesnt do it for me, and I do not want to spend top dollar for an F10 M5.

Thank you for you time involved with your write up! Im sure many members will enjoy it as I did.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Excellent write up!
It really gives you an idea of how things compare.

I found that your explanation of the rev matching manual on the M5 really makes a difference. It sounds sort of disconnected as far as control and feel, but as you say you change the gears and press/release the pedal, so the core of shifting through gears keeps you tied in.

This new M3 is really one of the cars that has caught my interest as a car that could suit my wants from a car a few years from now. The e60 M5, while I love the v10, doesnt do it for me, and I do not want to spend top dollar for an F10 M5.

Thank you for you time involved with your write up! Im sure many members will enjoy it as I did.
I have a buddy who is a pretty diehard old BMW guy...2002s, e21s were his favorite and he'd go as far as e30s....

Anyway, he drove my m3 and could not get over how he could be rolling down the road at 50mph and select any gear, toss it into gear, release the clutch as fast as possible, and there was never any jerk or drivetrain lash or anything. As a passenger, I literally couldn't feel the gear change and that was with him AGGRESSIVELY releasing the clutch pedal.

As a driver, it smooths you out. I'm actually looking forward to tracking it a bit because I wouldn't be worried about shifting going into a corner and messing up weight transfer, because there would be no jerk.

The best analogy I can think of is this is ABS for your clutch pedal/throttle input during shifts. You still control the braking, and the degree of braking, but in a very particular instance (wheel lock-up/engine speed match with wheels) the computer smooths it out and provides a better performance than you most likely could have on your own.
 

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Thanks Joe. Your review is just making my wait more painful. :rofl:
 

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Congrats! Thanks for the writeup! She's a beauty..need more pictures!!
 

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Fantastic write-up Joe. Seriously contemplating the same move, and your review makes the decision much easier now. :cheers:
 

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I have a buddy who is a pretty diehard old BMW guy...2002s, e21s were his favorite and he'd go as far as e30s....

Anyway, he drove my m3 and could not get over how he could be rolling down the road at 50mph and select any gear, toss it into gear, release the clutch as fast as possible, and there was never any jerk or drivetrain lash or anything. As a passenger, I literally couldn't feel the gear change and that was with him AGGRESSIVELY releasing the clutch pedal.

As a driver, it smooths you out. I'm actually looking forward to tracking it a bit because I wouldn't be worried about shifting going into a corner and messing up weight transfer, because there would be no jerk.

The best analogy I can think of is this is ABS for your clutch pedal/throttle input during shifts. You still control the braking, and the degree of braking, but in a very particular instance (wheel lock-up/engine speed match with wheels) the computer smooths it out and provides a better performance than you most likely could have on your own.
I would love to drive one and get a feel for shifting through the gears and back. Sound very interesting. There are many cars out there that have auto rev-matching these days, but as far as the clutch being smooth no matter how fast or hard you kick it in and out not causing any driveline shock intrigues me. How does the clutch work? Does pressing the clutch pedal and releasing simply initiate a series of events that the car handles on its own? Or are you saying that the rev matching smooths things out so the clutch, no matter how fast or slow you engage/disengage it, does not create any driveline shock?

Cool nonetheless, but it would take some getting used to not using heel-toe braking on downshifts.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
To be very simplistic: Drivetrain shock during clutch re-engagement comes from the differential in speed between the clutch (spinning at the speed of the wheels) and the flywheel (spinning at the speed of the engine).

During an auto rev match, which occurs in both up and down shifting, the engine senses what gear you are shifting to and holds the revs at the precise match for engine and wheel speed to match for that gear. So there's no speed differential to be smoothed out with the clutch, therefore there's no jerk.

What's amazing though is it is SO precise that you can literally, for example, be going 50 mph in 5th, clutch in, slam it into 2nd gear, and remove your foot from the clutch as fast as possible....and there will be no jerk or lash or even really any sensation of gear change besides the higher pitch of the engine.

Off the top of my head, I know the current Porsche 911, Nissan 370z, and of course new m3/m4 offer auto rev matching. I'm sure others do too. But yeah, it's newer.

P.s. Yes it takes some getting used to. It's also defeatable in a certain mode.
 
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To be very simplistic: Drivetrain shock during clutch re-engagement comes from the differential in speed between the clutch (spinning at the speed of the wheels) and the flywheel (spinning at the speed of the engine).

During an auto rev match, which occurs in both up and down shifting, the engine senses what gear you are shifting to and holds the revs at the precise match for engine and wheel speed to match for that gear. So there's no speed differential to be smoothed out with the clutch, therefore there's no jerk.

What's amazing though is it is SO precise that you can literally, for example, be going 50 mph in 5th, clutch in, slam it into 2nd gear, and remove your foot from the clutch as fast as possible....and there will be no jerk or lash or even really any sensation of gear change besides the higher pitch of the engine.

Off the top of my head, I know the current Porsche 911, Nissan 370z, and of course new m3/m4 offer auto rev matching. I'm sure others do too. But yeah, it's newer.

P.s. Yes it takes some getting used to. It's also defeatable in a certain mode.
Sorry, but I must repeat...

Squirt....squirt-squirt

Joe, I dont mean to divert from your awesome write-up, but prior to it, I would have thought automatic would have been the way to go, period. The rev-matching feature plus $2,400 (+/-) difference in price makes a differnece in my mind, and makes the 6-speed manual a viable option again.

That being said, I would have no visions( no disrespect intended) that the manual can out accelerate the double-clutch-new-fangled thing

Thanks again or sharing :cheers:
 

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Fantastic writeup! Thank you for coming back and sharing with us. :)

I will have to admit, I do quite like the looks of the new M4/M3. I just saw a F80 M3 in black on the highway over the weekend, it is one sharp car.
 

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Sorry, but I must repeat...

Squirt....squirt-squirt

Joe, I dont mean to divert from your awesome write-up, but prior to it, I would have thought automatic would have been the way to go, period. The rev-matching feature plus $2,900 difference in price makes a differnece in my mind, and makes the 6-speed manual a viable option again.

That being said, I would have no visions( no disrespect intended) that the manual can out accelerate the double-clutch-new-fangled thing

Thanks again or sharing :cheers:
Fixed. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Sorry, but I must repeat...

Squirt....squirt-squirt

Joe, I dont mean to divert from your awesome write-up, but prior to it, I would have thought automatic would have been the way to go, period. The rev-matching feature plus $2,400 (+/-) difference in price makes a differnece in my mind, and makes the 6-speed manual a viable option again.

That being said, I would have no visions( no disrespect intended) that the manual can out accelerate the double-clutch-new-fangled thing

Thanks again or sharing :cheers:
I love this board. It's my honor to contribute anything to this community which contributed so much to me. Do you know how many headaches I could've prevented in my e39 ownership if I had simply listened to this board from the get go? :)

The manual can not out-accelerate the Dual Clutch Transmission in a straight line when DCT uses launch control. However, "Top Men" are having serious discussions about whether the manual can out accelerate the DCT on a track. Gear changes take longer, without doubt, but in the new F80 m3 there is less need for a dead-on gear change. There's so broad a plateau of max HP (rather than max torque), you can get pretty darn close and be right in the meat of the power.

But moreso, the weight difference between manual and DCT is greater than ever. Per BMW, it's about a 90 pound difference. On top of that, the DCT has more parasitic drivetrain loss.

You can't shift faster than it, absolutely. And it's launch control is outstanding. But outside of a drag strip where a driver has 8.75 seconds to punch all the buttons necessary to activate launch control, it's not such a clear advantage in performance.*

Joe

* Please note: All of my statements assume you are a bad-arse shift machine who powershifts in 3.14159265359 deci-seconds everytime.
 
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