Ask Jack: To M3 Or Not To M3?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask jack to m3 or not to m3

My friend “Edward” is a conservative fellow. He’s smart, and he’s successful, but he’s also not going to be the first person in a group to, say, jump into a lake of unknown temperature. He’d rather let some other idiot take the risk.

In at least two cases, I’ve been that idiot.

When he met my voluptuous Italian housekeeper at my 40th birthday party, he thought she was pretty neat — but he waited to ask her out until I’d confirmed that said housekeeper was both fantastic in bed and unlikely to send him a boiled rabbit in the mail. And once he saw that owning an Audi S5 didn’t mean that I’d be spending every weekend drinking coffee at the service department, he picked up an Audi S4 for a daily driver. In contrast to my lime green six-speed V8 coupe, however, his Audi was a dual-clutch, supercharged-V6, metallic black four-door. Conservative. Just like him.

Edward would like to replace his S4 before winter comes. My advice to him was to take a safer version of my current path: get himself an Accord V6 sedan for the commuting grind and a brand-new Z51 Corvette for the weekends. He can certainly afford to do it, but instead, he’s thinking about upping the ante to a loaded-up M3 with a dual-clutch transmission. However, I had a slightly different idea, as you will see.

I think we can sell Edward’s 85,000-mile S4 pretty easily for seventeen or eighteen grand. Although he crunched the hood and fenders in a low-speed hit a few year ago, the car was fixed correctly and he’s always paid close attention to maintenance and repair, paying the local Audi dealer whatever they wanted for whatever was needed. And the S4 is an easy sale in the late fall; it has all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission.

Two weeks ago, Edward swung by our local BMW dealer to check out their M3 inventory. They have three in stock, two with the DCT. He’d settled on the loaded-up white one. With a couple grand out of pocket, he’d have been looking at just under $1,100 a month for a three-year lease. And he would have left with it, except for the interaction he had with the “numbers guy” at the dealership. Assuming that the sale on the M3 was already closed, the numbers guy started hard-closing him on a $3,000 winter tire package, telling him that the M3 would be dangerous without it in the snow.

I agree with the numbers guy. The M3 is absurdly torquey, often at inopportune moments, and it sits on steamroller summer tires as delivered. Only a fool would drive it on the street once the temperature dips below about forty degrees Fahrenheit. But Edward was put off by the dude’s manner and the way he seemed more interested in selling winter tires than selling the car. In the space of a few minutes, Edward was converted from a sure thing to what car salesmen call a “be-back”: Uh, thanks for your time, I’ll be back.

And back he was this past Saturday, this time with me in tow. But I wasn’t so sure that the M3 was the right car for Edward. It’s not really equivalent to the S4 he’s driving now. Hell, it’s not really equivalent to the RS5 coupe. The current M3 is wicked fast, an eleven-second quarter-mile monster that can reel in a Corvette in a straight line and trouble it around a fast sweeper. And although there was a time in my life where I was making five thousand dollars’ a month worth of car payments, I’m always troubled by the sight of a fourth figure on a lease statement.

So, I suggested that Edward try a 340 xDrive. It’s about as fast as his current S4, and it has all-wheel drive. Best of all, it’s currently offered with the usual BMW subsidized lease at something like $459/month. We went for a test drive. Edward dug the proverbial shit out of it. It was fast enough, handled well enough. But it was a little light on equipment, and he didn’t think it looked aggressive enough.

Luckily for us, the dealership had something slightly different in stock: a 440xi Gran Coupe in white with white leather. BMW’s lineup has proliferated to the point where even I can’t quite keep track of it, but this is a rough guide: A 4-Series is a two-door 3-Series. Except when it’s a 4-Series “Gran Coupe”, which is a four-door 3-Series with a lower roofline — a massive power-operated hatchback! Edward’s big on doing home improvement projects. The minute he saw the hatch open, I figured he was sold. And the lease price was right: $509/month for a 440i AWD with M Sport package.

There was just one little problem: Edward wanted the car fully loaded. His perfect 440i Gran Coupe would be the Buddhist model: one with everything, as they say. So he and the salesman sat down to mock up one to his specs. And when that was done, they ran some approximate numbers. The final lease tab: $820 a month, on the same terms they used for the $1,100-a-month M3.

My response to this: Get the $509/month model… and a Corvette. But Edward is thinking that life is too short to drive a stripped-out car. And if he’s going to spend $820 for a 440i, he might as well spend $1,100 for an M3. I can’t really disagree with this. He should get what he wants. But I don’t see how it’s not better to have a new Corvette and a pretty decent turbocharged hatchback. So, we’re gonna sell the S4, at which point he’ll drive one of my cars until he can make a decision. But what would you say, dear reader? It is better to serve in GranCoupeLand, or reign in an M3?

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2 of 107 comments
  • Jdt65724922 How can a Chrysler E-Class ride better than a Chrysler Fifth Avenue?
  • Lorenzo This series is epic, but I now fear you'll never get to the gigantic Falcon/Dart/Nova comparison.
  • Chris P Bacon Ford and GM have decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Odds are Chrysler/Cerberus/FCA/Stellantis is next to join in. If any of the companies like Electrify America had been even close to Tesla in reliability, we wouldn't be here.
  • Inside Looking Out China will decide which EV charging protocol will become world wide standard.
  • Chris P Bacon I see no reference to Sweden or South Carolina. I hate to assume, but is this thing built in China? I can't help but wonder if EVs would be more affordable to the masses if they weren't all stuffed full of horsepower most drivers will never use. How much could the price be reduced if it had, say, 200hp. Combined with the instant torque of an EV, that really is plenty of power for the daily commuter, which is what this vehicle really is.