An Owners Actually Honest Review – E92 M3
Not perfect but perfectly flawed
Like many, I have often dreamed of owning a supercar. The dream however, is not a Chiron or Koenigsegg, in fact, as much as I am often in owe with these machines, for me they lack that sense of being a hero, they are almost too exclusive to be perceived as even real by a lot of us. Despite the sheer wonder I’m sure they invigorate for those lucky enough to even be a passenger in one, they are ultimately not for me. What is for me, is a 997.2 GT3 RS, a car that is worryingly hyped by motoring journalist the world over. So much so, that if I'm ever lucky enough to drive one, I have an overwhelming sense that all I’ll be thinking of is; is this a case of “don’t meet your heroes”? Though, I doubt it.
This is by no means my only dream car, equally nor are my dream cars £100,000 plus supercars. As a self-proclaimed ‘proper’ petrol head, I lust after a plethora of vehicles; from Japanese Icons to big American Muscle Cars and everything in between. With one of those ‘in between’ being the E92 M3, also known as ‘the one with a V8’. At the beginning of last year, during the early stages of a well-known global pandemic, I was fortunate enough to fulfil one of my many motoring bucket lists and buy one. Since then, it’s safe to say my view on cars and motoring has continued to change, not least due to my ownership experience.
My definition of a hero car
Prior to this I have owned a small range of cars; from the classic first car s**t box to more recently, (in my opinion) some pretty good cars, but nothing too special; two Fiesta ST’s (don’t ask what happened to the first) and a BMW M140i. This I admit, isn’t a vast array of cars. I have been fortunate enough to drive a handful of other people’s great cars, but not to the extent that I am now an authority on what is good and what isn’t. Therefore, I maintain I probably don’t know what I’m talking about so you’d be wise to ignore me. With that being said, too often I have read ‘an owners review’ that is hugely biased and with a pretence that their car is damn near perfect. The truth is most cars aren’t, and most owners’ reviews are in my opinion, an attempt at making their own cars more valuable. Something I don’t disagree with and completely understand.
But as I have no intention of selling mine anytime soon (you can trust me…), I feel a sense of duty to explain that it’s not always as glamorous as it may seem owning (one of) your dream cars and it can beg the question, is this a case of don’t meet your heroes?
Trying to justify buying a car to myself is easy, it takes me less time to decide I want a new car than it does to decide between toast or cereal on a morning. It is not however, easy to justify to my other half. At times I feel sorry for her, as it must be difficult living with someone who only seemingly talks about one thing, someone who would rather spend their time washing a car than washing the dishes. But to counter that, Jay Leno once said - "you would rather your man come home reeking of transmission fuel than cheap perfume" or in my case reeking of polish and carnauba wax. So, liking cars isn’t an issue. What is an issue is when liking cars costs money, which is often, as well as considerably more expensive than my other half’s usual outgoings on trips to B&M and The Range.
On my first attempt to justify this purchase, I presented my idea with nothing more than a childish grin and my appalling charm, as in my mind it all made perfect sense to me. Needless to say, this didn’t work. So, armed with the knowledge that I’ll need more than a silver tongue to persuade the Mrs, it was back to the drawing board. My second attempt should be likened to that of a boardroom meeting for a merger between Amazon and Apple, as it took many hours and my entire arsenal of spreadsheets and presentations. Thus, concluding that not only could we afford a second car but that it would actually be cheaper than the previous car I had just gotten rid of, which made sense… sort of. To my surprise (and my other half's come to think of it) it worked, although she may have just gotten fed up of hearing about it... but we'll go with the former and take confidence in my genius instead.
With that, a few weeks later I had my new (old) M3 sat on the drive and I couldn’t have been happier. It remains and I imagine will remain for a very long time, one of the best days of my life.
The pinch yourself moment
Aside from the odd mark or niggle that the rose-tinted spectacles blind you to during the purchasing stage, the car looked in great condition. It had covered 80 odd thousand miles and had a full-service history with plenty of invoices proving this. However, the issue I later found with older cars, is that the honeymoon period can end, rather abruptly and rather costly. I had read many forums detailing a combination of horror stories due to actuators and rod bearings, countered by owners with well over 100,000 miles and smooth sailing. Of course, those horror stories are just that, horror stories. So you can imagine my surprise 6 months later when the throttle actuators decided to take it upon themselves to disintegrate, because why not? This was the first of a number of issues that I later found wrong with the car, resulting in a total cost of £3,000 in repairs (so far). Couple this with the infamous ‘M Tax’ and a frankly non-existent fuel economy (honestly, it’s like having Hunter S Thompson in the fuel tank), it has since transpired that my calculations relating to cost were vastly wrong.
But, I reiterate, I am a “true” petrol head, the cars omnipresent relevance during financial discussions are irrelevant, all that really matters it how it drives and how it makes you feel, right? I’m not going to wax lyrical about how balanced the car feels, or how the engine beyond 4,500-8,300rpm sings like an angry baboon (or whatever animal you like). Tiff Needell, Chris Harris, Richard Meaden etc. can all do a much better job than I can at all of that. What I can report is; it feels fast and handles well. But it is by no means, the fastest or the best handling car in the world and anyone who tells you that is lying.
The truth is, even I can tell the car is too heavy. Any slight air and the feeling isn’t elation, it’s more of a cringe as the front undertray gets more scratches than a crotch with jock itch. The brakes are pretty subpar as well. That’s not to say they don’t stop, but whoever decided to put single piston callipers on a performance coupe with over 400bhp (claimed 414 but I’m not so sure) and that weighs not far of 1.7tonnes, is frankly an idiot. An RS4 of the same era will stop much better. The speed is no doubt great; it is not a slow car by any standard, in fact at times it feels like it’s never going to stop revving. But the reality is, these days a fast hot hatch is just as, if not quicker. I maintain that my previous 140i was a quicker car day to day, this is mainly down to the amount of torque it produced (369lb·ft vs 295Ib·ft), but also down to the gearbox. The slightly notchy manual gearbox in the M3 is great for driving but slow compared to any new auto box. This is fine, if not a bit demoralizing when a small hatch back gets the jump on a V8 M3. However, on the right day on the right road (and in the right gear) I have no doubt the E92 M3 would show a lot of cars a hard time, but don’t buy one thinking you’re the fastest thing out there, because you will soon realise you aren’t.
Not ideal driving conditions but still a lot of fun
It all makes sense now
My purpose here is not to slate my own car, that wouldn’t make much sense. At the end of the day, it’s a great car and in my opinion more than worthy of the M3 badge. The engine sings and the steering feel is miles ahead of anything with an electric rack (unless Porsche would like to lend me a 911 GT3 to change my mind). Equally, despite my own experience... the horror stories relating to reliability are mostly rare, albeit, not impossible. But bear in mind the costs are and will always be considerably higher than what you convince yourself they will be.
Whichever way you cut it, a 14-year-old car, cannot and will not be the fastest thing out on the road so please don’t pretend it is. What the E92 M3 offers is something different, it offers a slightly old school and intuitive driving experience. For under £20k, the headline price is tempting, if not misleading when factoring in other costs, so do think ahead. The E92 M3 is far from perfect then, but in its own perfectly flawed way I still love it and if you can get over these… minor inconveniences, what lay beneath is one of the last hurrahs of analogue driving. To summarise, is it a case of don’t meet you heroes? No, but what do I know?