After an awful lot of pondering and indecision I finally took the plunge and bough myself a toy. It may well be a mid-life crisis thing, but I like to think of it as a positive step in starting to actually enjoy life, rather than worrying about things that never happen.
So with (scarily) few mouse clicks a bank loan was sorted out and with my shopping list looking like this…
Manual (or maybe SMG, not sure)
… I went shopping.
A few weeks later I finally found one which turned out to be owned by a guy living just down the road! It ended up being pretty much a perfect example of what I was looking for and on a handshake I became the new owner.
Being a techie I obviously spent hours pouring over M3 forums and scaring myself to death with all the things that can go wrong with these cars. But one thing I did notice was an above average number of positive posts. Generally people don't tend to post when things are going well but I have noticed quite a few posts praising their cars and generally enthusing which can only be a good sign.
All M3 forums have a thread about SMG vs Manual gears. For those who haven't spent hours reading up (which is most sane people) SMG is BMW's version of the F1 style flappy-paddle gears. In effect it's an automatic clutch as it uses the exact same gearbox as the manual cars but with a lot of engineering and software taking the place of the driver's left foot. In the end I decided to go for a manual one for a number of reasons. Firstly, there's something very satisfying about the act of changing gear using both hands and feet. Secondly, I know I'm a born worrier and given the complex nature of the SMG kit, I know I'd be for ever waiting for the orange 'cog' warning light to appear.
It's a little light on gadget-y options, but I'm not really fussed. No electric rear sun blind or upgraded stereo for example, but to be honest a 'no options' M3 still has way more toys than I'm used to. The more I read up on it, the more I'm impressed. Things like the way it automatically swivels all the air-con vents when it starts to stop them getting stuck. And the way it tilts the passenger side mirror down when put into reverse so you can see the curb. Or the way it has lights around the rev counter that move as the car warms up showing you the increasing safe rev range. Or the way it auto levels the headlights when you turn them on. And so on.
I've owned the car for about a month now and every time I drive it and give it some beans it invokes the 'acceleration grin'. The combination of raw acceleration, the sound of the 6 cylinder engine at 7k rpm and rear wheel drive is something I doubt I'll ever get bored of. One thing that has become apparent though is that I need to take this car on a racetrack. Without sounding overdramatic, it's too fast to play with properly on the road. (The previous owner confessed that although it's limited to 155mph, the limiter only seems to work in 6th gear, and it 'apparently' does 170mph in 5th. Officer.) The current plan is to attend a Brands Hatch track day next month.
So what are the downsides? Well, only one really. Cost.
£70 of petrol will get you 260 miles and of course it has to run on the super expensive high octane stuff. The onboard dohicky is currently reporting 22 miles per gallon and it really needs a new set of rear tyres, which will set me back over £400.
But I knew all this before I bought it, and as a 3rd car (yes, yes I know) I'm lucky enough to not really need the car as a daily driver, so repairs and maintenance can be budgeted and saved for.
Besides, mid life crisis purchases aren't supposed to be sensible!