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E92 M3 - a track junky sizes one up

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I've read all the reviews of the new M3 and so far nobody has really said much about how they're built. I've driven one now and had a brief look under the front end. I even took a wheel off - the factory 19's are remarkably light!

Here's what I found:

Engine, clutch and gearbox: The engine has a surprising amount of low-speed torque - more than I'd expected. And the gear-driven camshafts make the most wonderful sound. I think BMW has done the same trick on this car as they did on the Z4 3.0 - they put a tube from the intake to the inside of the dashboard to act as a sound duct. The howl from the engine is quite marvelous! It runs smooth as glass when its warm but its a bit lumpy when its cold. The manual says this behavior is normal.

The radiator cooling fan is electric - there's no fan on the engine at all.

The clutch is light and positive - no judder and no slip. The transmission is a breeze to shift, even when its cold. The tach and speedo needles line up in fourth gear on this car - are 5th and 6th overdrive gears? The driveline makes some clunks and rattles when you're busy with it. The manual says this is all normal.

Front Brakes: Yup, they're big. The front rotors are 360mm cross-drilled compound types. It's not clear how the heat cycling on the track will affect them - will they do what Porsche brakes do and just keep on working, or will they crack? The massive front caliper is black painted aluminum with a single piston - it's probably lighter than the corresponding cast-iron part though. With the size, I expect it will be a challenge to find 18" aftermarket rims to fit over the front brakes. Interestingly enough the brake squeal a bit - the manual says this noise is normal.

Front Suspension: The front wheel well is huge - it's like a hangar in there! The front sub-frame is assembled from formed and welded aluminum tubes - it looks hand-built for the M3. One interesting feature of the construction is that virtually every nut and bolt you'll ever have to reach for suspension work is right out in the open and easy to reach.

The front damper is a simple and clever design. The bottom end is clamped in the steering knuckle by a pinch tube like the E39 design. The lower spring perch is an aluminum casting that clamps to the top of the damper body (rather than a tacky-looking stamped steel plate). Everything is aluminum. The brake backing plate is aluminum too and it's "C" shaped - if you have the rotor off, you just unbolt the backing plate and slip it off. You don't have to pull the front wheel hub or destroy the plate to remove it.

Brake Ducts: This is a mystery! Despite the promise of the huge openings under the front bumper, there aren't any! The wheel wells are blanked off and the huge inlets neck down as they go in and then turn up - I don't know where they go from there. But they don't dump cool air into the wheel wells to cool the brakes.

Right front wheel well: there's a finned radiator at the front of the wheel well directly in front of the tire. I'll have to look underneath to see what it's connected to - the engine or the transmission? It looks too small to be the engine oil cooler, but I'm not sure if the gearbox has a cooler or not.

Summary: Underneath the stunning exterior you'll find an easy to work on and modify chassis. It just looks like the designers knew it was going to be taken to the track so they made it easy to work on and they made the parts simple in design - the front damper is only a damper - the spring seat is a separate piece. I'm impressed. People might argue about whether they're quick enough out of the box, but it won't be long before there's wide range of upgrades. They will be very fast indeed!
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