This once religiously-held belief states that the ultimate driving machine must match a few key components. It must be driven by the rear wheels; have a naturally aspirated unit under the bonnet; fill up using the green coloured pump; and have a manual gearbox. Driving the SEAT diesel touring car last year started me off on a bit of a rethink, but the PH fleet M3 is changing the manual gearbox requirement, too.
previous report, the M3 is fitted with BMW's new M dual-clutch transmission which, as a £2,535 option is not the cheapest tick box to select, but the tick is well worth it. The gearbox has two oil-cooled wet clutches and uses the first clutch for the odd numbered gears and the other clutch for the even gears. So when on the move one of the clutches is always open and the other closed ready for the next gear.
Combined with the transmission is the BMW Drivelogic system. This allows for five different shift modes while in automatic, and six while in manual - including a launch control system. I have to admit I haven't used all eleven modes since getting the car, as I either spend my time in manual super-fast shift mode or stuck in city traffic with the auto non-reactive mode selected. So why is this gearbox so good?
Another thing the M3 allows you to do is hit the rev limiter. Cleverly as the car warms up the rev counter slowly rotates the limit to match the heat of the engine and in turn saves you from chattering the pistons into an explosive frenzy under the bonnet. But the fact the gearbox allows you to bounce all day off the rev-limiter makes you feel you still have control over what this transmission is doing.
OK, it isn't all plain sailing (or should I say changing) with this gearbox as there are still certain situations where you do wish you had a manual. In snowy conditions of the sort we've recently experienced, taking an M3 out on its regular tyres is probably not the best choice (even if it is the fun one!) and the gearbox does not help.
The other issue is when manoeuvring at slow speeds. Having no clutch means you have to play with the throttle to get the car to creep forward for a little bit. Reversing into a tight parallel park requires a deft touch of the controls and a blip to get it to creep a little, so you do miss the clutch for those situations.