Long-term wrapup: 2015 BMW M3



Our M3 shows why BMW has always been a distance-covering hero

BMWs are really good at long hauls, so when the mission was to cart 400 pounds of books from One Autoweek Tower in the Motor City 1,000 miles to the authors’ row at the 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida, in one day, the staff concluded that our Yas Marina blue-metallic four-door M3 was the tool to best do the job.

There are serious reasons for the staff’s conclusions: We went to Amelia to hang out with BMW clubbers who drove thousands of miles to the concours to honor the men who made heroes out of BMW cars by scoring a win at Sebring’s brutal endurance contest in 1975, setting into motion years of some of the world’s most tense production-car endurance racing.

Our quick M3 helped us see what these folks already know: Forty years ago, the little-known German marque was already a long-haul favorite. At Amelia, racers Bill Auberlen, Brian Redman, Sam Posey and Hans Stuck all related how hauling race cars to tracks across the U.S. helped them for long track days. Redman drove seven hours of the ’75 12 Hours of Sebring enduro in the winning 3.0 CSL, which made our relaxing 814-mile cruise home in the 425-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-powered M3 from Walterboro, South Carolina, in 11 hours seem wimpy.

Photo: Long-term 2015 BMW M3 Photo 6

Long-term 2015 BMW M3 Photo by Josh Scott

Maybe just as important, the voyage marked the beginning of our long-termer’s last quarter in our fleet, and it only seemed fitting that we take it on one last, long trip.

The blue paint gets noticed. In North Carolina, a hot-rodded new Ford Mustang wanted to race. Tempting. In Florida, occupants in an older E46 (third-generation) M3 gave thumbs up and waved when they saw our (fifth-gen) car. Finally, at the Ritz in Amelia, one formally dressed lady said she loved the interior, and this was while it was next to a horde of Lamborghinis. People also noticed the M3’s Pirelli Sottozero snow tires—an unusual thing in Florida—and the car’s raspy exhaust noise.

Our best overall impression of the M3 is that even in lane-squeezed construction on I-77 south of Charleston, West Virginia, we loafed along while the speedo needle waved at 80 mph (tach at just 2,200 in seventh gear), and average fuel economy stuck steadfastly at 27.4 mpg. Out of pocket, the trip to Amelia cost $83.57 one way in gas, yet returned priceless impressions of how gradual the pre-spring East Coast warms and becomes fragrant in a single day riding downhill 6,000 feet from the Appalachians to the sandy shore of north Florida. Moving a person and those pristine volumes in the backseat with this much confidence that cheaply is quite impressive. 

Photo: Long-term 2015 BMW M3 Photo 3

Long-term 2015 BMW M3 Photo by Phil Berg

On our Amelia drive, we checked our long-term M3’s oil ourselves, because we liked when our heroes Posey, Redman, Stuck and Auberlen did the same in 1975. And on our return from those southern climes, we finally peeled off those Sottozeros and had the proper Michelin Pilot Super Sports put in their place. The only other maintenance required of our BMW for the duration involved a new set of windshield wipers.

By the time we had to turn in the keys, our blue Bimmer tallied a respectable 20,658.5 miles, while consistently returning over 20 mpg, finally settling at 21.7 on the year. Considering the car’s official EPA combined mileage is 19 mpg, color us impressed—especially due to how, ahem, generous we are with the right pedal.

Photo: Long-term 2015 BMW M3 Photo 7

Long-term 2015 BMW M3 Photo by Josh Scott

While we’re sad to see our M3 leave the garage, we’re delighted we could fete it one final time while celebrating the marque with a like-minded group.

Driving a ’37 BMW 328 on a tour was restoration fanatic Lothar Schüttler, a former winner of the BMW Clubs International Council’s Prof. Dr. Gerhard Knöchlein award. The honor singles out owners who keep their older BMWs near-perfect and allow the public access to them. He drove 7,400 miles one month in a Z8, from D.C. to Washington state, to participate in a rally in British Columbia and toured 1,200 miles through Germany in 2003 in a 1956 502 convertible.

Not bad company to keep for our long-term BMW M3’s last hurrah.



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