My local dealership invited me to their event and I chose two cars to test, for the allotted 30 minutes each. The route mixes out town A roads with motorway and b-roads.
A Black 62 plate M135i, 3 door, sports auto with the standard steering and suspension.
A white 62 plate E92 M3 with the dual clutch gearbox. Not sure if it had EDC.
In black, my favourite colour, I thought it was a nice looking hatch. But nothing special. It had a good driving position. The sport seats were supportive and the standard suspension (sport, I'm told) I found very comfortable on all the roads. The sound of that straight six, though, was the highlight! It didn't sound artificial, from the cabin, as some had said. However, it was the only aspect which reminded me this is car capable of exceptional performance. The steering, whilst intuitive, felt very light and I didn't get any sense of feel, or feedback through the wheels. Power delivery was very efficient, from what I would say is a great (sports) auto, but somehow even though I surged forward, it was just not that exciting. I was covering ground, but I wasn't having a real (and raw) driving experience. Overall, it was a sporty hatch; I don't doubt probably the fastest in class, and I enjoyed my drive, but when I got out, I wasn't blow away. I chose it to test because I've had a 'weather eye' on the more attractive M235i for a while; but it's got to be different, and a lot better, to get a sniff of my money. The M135i is a very capable car, but somehow a little sterile. I was disappointed. I thought it would be more raw and exciting.
Much better looking, and having seen a neighbour's 335i just before, the M is just so much sexier; it looks not only sportier, but has a better stance and is more aggressive; it looks smaller, more compact too. The seats (a reddish brown leather) are the best sport seats I have ever sat in. They really are a different league, more than just supportive: my whole body seemed to mould into them. The steering wheel is the perfect size, with great grip and feel to it. And It didn't feel light like the M135i. I felt at one with it. Like I was racing. I'm not that technical, so I don't really understand the DCT, but in layman's terms it does not feel like a normal auto; even the sporty one I'd just driven. It feels like I have an "invisible racing driver" co-driving with me who does every gear change with perfect precision. I wish I had the ability to explain it better. I was in awe. I think I could give up a manual gearbox for this. The V8 sounded better than the six of the M135i too. It sounded more real, more organic, so I'm wondering if I'd driven it first would I have been as impressed with the six in the M135i? It sounded like a wild beast under the bonnet. And this is key, for me, going fast, felt like I was going F****ng fast. The M3 feels like a high performance car. I felt I was going faster than I was, but that I could go on even faster. I appreciate that the statistics might be similar between these two cars, but this is the only one which feels like a proper high performance car. The poise at high speed is brilliant, and there is so much more assurance when taking tight corners; almost like M means magic and the roads just conform to what it wants. This car is exceptional. The M235i is going to have to be out of this world to get my money, come next May.