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RX-8 R3 to E90 M3, 1 month in

Old 12-10-2018, 08:35 PM
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RX-8 R3 to E90 M3, 1 month in

So as some of you know, my R3 is gone and I've replaced it with an '08 M3. With the crash still fresh in my mind, a bunch of drama around the purchase (dealership incompetence), and having to swap to winter tires almost immediately afterward, it's been hard to come to grips with the M3 -- especially given my particular tastes in cars. But I think I'm slowly forming some opinions I can trust. Here they are, for whatever they're worth.


I have to say this really isn't the kind of car I thought I'd be driving. Too heavy, too serious all the time. I don't particularly like the sound of a cross-plane crank V8. The car is informative enough to the driver, and fairly agile, but not really alive-feeling in the way I'd prefer.

It's not all that great at just loafing around, either. The suspension is firm, the engine is constantly growling at you, and there's no escaping the heavy-machinery feeling. It kind of feels like a very agile freight train.

The gauge cluster sucks *** compared to the S2 RX-8's, by which I mean it's decent whereas the S2's is basically perfect. The voice commands and the stereo are also downgrades from the R3's. Especially the stereo. S2 Bose kind of sucks, but it’s almost hi-fi compared to the base BMW Professional crap.

Meanwhile, I kind of feel like a lot of the M3's talents are wasted on me. I like the power, the interior, and the status, but they're far down my list of priorities. I'd rather have the RX-8's responsiveness and exploitability, which can't really be replicated with this kind of power and weight.


That said...


There's a depth of engineering in this car that the RX-8 could barely gesture at. And most importantly, I don't think there's a stock 4-door car out there that I'd rather have.

One of the things I struggled to admit to myself about the R3 was how stressful it was to drive. The M3 is no S-Class, but it’s a damn sight better than the R3. The NVH is so much more tolerable, and the power makes it less annoying to lose ground in traffic because there’s no doubt you’ll be able to make up ground when things open up.

As far as I've pushed it, the M3 handles a lot like a large, heavy RX-8. It's less eager-feeling but its behavior and responses are surprisingly similar in most situations. As little as I've driven it near its limits, I suspect that's where the biggest differences are. The M3 seems to have a lot more traction, and doesn't seem to want to yaw as much with wheelspin. It also seems less surgical, less delicately precise. Overall, though, it's almost more impressive in a way. I think the RX-8 owes its talents mainly to the soundness of its fundamentals: low, light, rigid, compact powertrain, really nice suspension geometry. The M3 feels like its engineers started with a worse foundation (handling-wise) but did a better job. I think both cars are probably comparably forgiving and flexible, just in slightly different ways. And stock vs. stock, they're definitely comparably capable by the numbers.

The steering is missing a little bit of feedback vs. the RX-8’s, which kind of sucks because the RX-8 already left a little to be desired in this department. Fortunately it still gives you what you need to drive it fast. Where it wins is in feedback and response just off center. Both cars have relatively quick ratios with a lot of gain just off center, but the M3 somehow feels much less nervous. The difference is small, but it does a lot to make the M3 less tiring to drive.

The engine is WAY better to use than the Renesis, and not just because of the power. The throttle response is much faster (ITBs vs. the RX-8's long intake tract I'm guessing) and infinitely smoother. The RX-8 liked to jerk and buck with throttle modulation, especially at low throttle. The M3's throttle is almost electric-motor linear by comparison.

You already know how much faster the M3 is, so I'm not going to waste any time describing that. The main thing I like about the power is its delivery: a flat torque curve with all the power way up top, safely tucked away for when I want to commit -- just like the RX-8's. I never asked for this much speed, and I don't think I'd go out of my way to have it in the future -- but if I'm going to have it, this is how I want it. Below 5k RPM, it’s a quick-enough sports sedan; above that, it’s a monster.

Not having to worry about carbon buildup is a game changer. I had forgotten what it was like to be able to drive however I want without worrying about ruining the engine.

Shifter feel isn't as nice as the RX-8's, but it's somehow much easier to downshift into 2nd without grinding. Not sure how that works, but I'll take it.

The community support is a HUGE upgrade. There are tons more E9x M3s on the road than there are S2s, let alone R3s. And the proportion of owners with both money and discernment is... much, much higher. There are so many more good parts available, and it's so much easier to find useful info on them.

At the same time, because this car is a slicktop sedan with a manual transmission and no iDrive or electronic dampers, I still get to feel like I’m driving something unique.

Being able to order parts from FCP Euro is almost enough on its own to make owning a BMW worth it. Some of you will know what I mean.

It's also nice not to have to explain my car choice to anyone. I still feel way off the mainstream, but at least I don't have to deal with people thinking I drive a faux-sporty shitbox.

And of course being a legit sedan, the M3 is WAY more practical than the RX-8. Again, I don't think that needs elaboration. With a growing toddler and one more on the way, this is going to make a bigger difference with time.


So yeah. I'd prefer something a lot lighter, and I'd prefer 6 cylinders to 8. But overall, this seems to have been the best call for my needs and wants right now -- just as the R3 was when I got it. The more I drive the M3, the more upsides I find, and the less strongly I feel about the downsides. Looking forward to seeing how I feel in a year or two. Hopefully there'll be some weight reduction between now and then!
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Old 12-12-2018, 12:28 AM
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Thanks for sharing! The E92 M3 is on a short list of cars Iíd consider replacing the RX-8 with. Almost test drove a blue, 2012 6MT on Saturday, but somebody bought it just before I could get that arranged. That car sold 3 days after being listed 😲.
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Old 12-12-2018, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Jastreb View Post
Thanks for sharing! The E92 M3 is on a short list of cars I’d consider replacing the RX-8 with. Almost test drove a blue, 2012 6MT on Saturday, but somebody bought it just before I could get that arranged. That car sold 3 days after being listed ��.


If you still like your RX-8, I wouldn't hurry. But if you have to get something bigger/nicer, without compromising too much on what makes the RX-8 good, it doesn't get much better than this.
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Old 12-12-2018, 11:16 PM
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I too made the change, except I went to an e92 m3 instead of an e90. (2 door vs 4 door.)

The car in alot of ways just feels like a bigger, heavier rx8, but with significantly more power. The engine makes power pretty linearly like the rx8 engine. 8300RPM redline, similar to a rotary but has 414 naturally aspirated hp. The car is heavy, but manages it's weight better than you could ever expect it to. It was the same impression I first had of the rx8 compared to my old rx7s weight wise.

The steering is interesting. I like the steering on the rx8 more at low to mid speeds, but I like the m3 steering better at mid to high speeds. The rx8's steering feels more responsive at low speeds, but ever so slightly twitchier at high speeds compared to the m3.

The fact that the m3's engine doesn't have a dipstick is insane. The oil level sensor can take 15 minutes or more to register the oil level. The engine must be running while the oil level is being measured. As a result once you change the oil on the motor, you had better pray there was the correct amount of oil in the motor, because you wouldn't know for sure until 15 minutes later. Far too long. There is a company that makes one.

Since you have a 2008, you have lead copper bearings. This is good in the sense that bearing wear can be easily tracked through oil analysis. In 2011, they switched to a different compound bearing which isn't easily tracked through oil analysis. Obviously, go get your oil tested, as I'm sure you've read about the rod bearing problems in this car by now.

Overall, the car feels like an upgrade in every way, and the engine is just glorious. This car is also interesting in the sense, that nobody will ever make a car like the e90 or e92 m3 ever again (stickshift german high rpm N/A v8). I'm certain people will look back 20 or 30 years later and call it one of the all time greats.

Despite this, I miss the rx8, and am planning to buy one as a third car. They are cheap now, and I think it would be something fun to drive my daughter around in. The m3's interior is too nice, I couldn't stand to put car seat in it; I plan to keep the car forever. I'd rather do the rx8. Its an interesting proposition with 4 doors and them being so cheap right now. I get to have a rotary back in my life.
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Old 12-13-2018, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by hornbm View Post
Since you have a 2008, you have lead copper bearings. This is good in the sense that bearing wear can be easily tracked through oil analysis. In 2011, they switched to a different compound bearing which isn't easily tracked through oil analysis. Obviously, go get your oil tested, as I'm sure you've read about the rod bearing problems in this car by now.
Not bothering with oil analysis just yet because I'm just going to have to have the rod bearings changed preventatively very soon. After that, I'll be doing oil analysis at each change.

I wouldn't be surprised if the new style bearings make it more difficult to track wear with one-off or infrequent oil analysis. But the way you're really supposed to use oil analysis to track wear is to sample frequently and regularly to establish a trend, and then watch for deviations from the baseline. One-off or infrequent analyses aren't fully reliable even with the lead/copper bearings, which is the main reason I opted to just have them replaced instead of trying to guess their condition. However, frequent sampling should be just fine to detect wear no matter what the alloy is.

Originally Posted by hornbm View Post
Overall, the car feels like an upgrade in every way, and the engine is just glorious.
I think I know what you mean, and I think I agree -- but I have to say handling is the one respect in which this car is a downgrade, at least vs. the R3. It can hit the same kinds of numbers all day, but it doesn't have the feel.
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