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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 BMW M3 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 BMW M3 Overview

The Stuff of Legends

When does a car go from being ordinary to extraordinary? What turns the commonplace into legend? If the answer were as easy to create as the words on this page, every car produced would in time become a classic. The truth is no one knows what makes legends, nor can they explain why some cars become cult classics. What we do know is that this car, the BMW M3, has achieved that status; it now stands proudly with other BMW greats like the 2002ti, the 635Csi, and the legendary 507.

Before you even drive the M3, you'll notice how it garners the attention of young and old alike; car buffs know it, kids love it and traffic cops watch it with eagle eyes. The "M" in M3 is the designation for cars that have been modified by BMW's in-house performance division. The M3 begins its life as a regular 3-Series — a pretty impressive performance machine in its own right — and then adds an M-tuned engine, 6-speed manual transmission, sport suspension, 18-inch custom alloy wheels, sport seats and just about every option in the 3-Series lineup. From the outside, the M3 is easily recognizable by its unique ground effects, revised front air dam and rear end. Inside, the only visible clues are the multi adjustable sports seats, the 160-mph speedometer and the M logo that adorns the steering wheel and shift boot.

The low-slung stance of the M3 is unapologetic about its road-hugging intentions. You won't want to hit any big speed bumps or snow drifts with this car — not unless you have a spare front chin spoiler lying around your garage. All the ground effects are intentional, designed to keep air from getting beneath the car and lifting it from the road; the M3 doesn't just hug the curves, it becomes a part of them. You'll soon discover that the M3 can wrap around 90 degree turns as if attached to them by a string, like a tether ball going round and round a pole. The M3 is equipped with traction control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), both of which are designed to intervene should you begin to lose control of the car. The traction control is not very progressive and makes itself known the instant the back end of the car steps out of line. It does so by cutting the fuel and administering the ABS in order to decelerate the vehicle and allow the tires to regain grip. For those times when you want to do a little 4-wheel drifting, both the DSC and traction control can be switched off.

Superior handling is but one of the M3's magical attributes; blistering fast acceleration and equally impressive stopping distances are the others. The M3 gearbox is a wonderfully tight 6-speed manual that requires little more than a flick of the wrist to operate. BMW also offers a sequential shift manual that does not require the use of a clutch pedal. This transmission allows the driver to shift up and down simply by tapping the shift lever or by using the paddle like +/- levers located on the steering wheel. No matter which transmission you opt for, you'll find both are up to the job of handling the M3's 333-horsepower 3.2-liter inline six. This engine produces ample torque making passing maneuvers quite possible without the need to upshift. The M3 moves so quickly that you'll find you've passed most states legal speed limit before shifting out of 3rd gear and when running at full throttle. The sound from under the M3's hood is a symphony of gears, variable valve play and rushing exhaust; it's utterly intoxicating.

The M3 does not sacrifice the trappings of luxury to attain its brilliant performance attributes. The ride is relatively civilized on smooth pavement, though over bumps and potholes you will know this is not a car designed to "float" over imperfections. Standard features include niceties such as one-touch power rear vent windows, automatic temperature control, power windows, cruise control and leather seats. One other feature that is practically priceless is the M3's real, usable back seat. It's hard to think of another car with the M3's muscle that can allow you to take three other full-grown adults along for the ride. Among the few options are a Harman-Kardon audio system, 19-inch alloys, Bi-xenon headlights, Park Distance Control, a power glass moonroof and an onboard navigation system. Some other highlights unique to the M3 include a clever variable redline tachometer that moves the red line lower until the engine warms up, M-style side view mirrors and a lighted shift knob face.

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