Last summer, I wrote several Safety Third columns about a 2011 Interlagos Blue over Bamboo leather M3 Competition Package sedan that I was quite smitten with. Then, just when I finally had it sorted the way I wanted it, I went and sold it. It was a rare spec, and depressingly, I had written off finding another similar example. But, just as my depression was waning, another even rarer 2011 M3 Competition Package showed up at my doorstep. This one was also blue—Lemans Blue—and inside, it had a Speed Anthracite cloth and leather interior. A blue over black cloth competition M3 sedan? I’m in!
What made it even better was that, unlike my previous M3, this one was a slick-top (no sunroof), “single hump” (no iDrive), with manual seats. The latter had power adjustable side bolsters (standard comp package kit), and they were heated.
Do you know what chaps my ass? Cold leather seats on a winter morning.
Heated cloth seats on a brisk winter morning are as welcoming as a warm fire in a mountain cabin. Other than the bun toasters, other options included M drive, parking distance control, ambient lighting, adaptive xenon headlights, and the M-DCT dual-clutch transmission. (As much as I like rowing my own gears, the M-DCT truly is better.)
Somehow, this M3 had been living in the local BMW community for several years, tucked away in a good friend’s garage during the COVID-19 pandemic. My friend searched for several years before finding it and purchasing it from the original owner right before the pandemic. The original owner ordered it to spec, then picked it up with a Euro delivery. I never met him, but his taste was impeccable; if you are out there and this column finds you—thank you, sir!
I picked the M3 up just in time to enjoy some glorious autumn motoring, then set about sorting it. With just over 60,000 miles on the odometer, it was time to put rod bearings on the radar. Fortunately, my friend included a set of VAC Motorsport coated bearings and ARP connecting rod bolts, which we had local specialists Bimmerhaus install. The old rod bearings turned out to be in great shape, but replacing them is one of those preventative measures that gives peace of mind as the miles tick up on the S65 engine.
After that, I turned it over to another specialist, Tyler White of Simply Clean Detail Studio, to perform paint correction, and install Xpel Ultimate Plus protection film. Until recently, Colorado mainly used sand instead of salt on the roads during winter, and this M3 was too nice to expose to rock chipping. I opted for the single sheet on the hood and all leading edges from the A-pillars forward. This makes the film nearly indistinguishable while offering the highest degree of protection. My mission for this car was to use and enjoy it, but also to maintain its condition, so it had to be protected.
This M3 was perfect just the way it was; there was no need to go modifying it. All I wanted was to turn up the volume slightly, and in my opinion, the best option was the BMW M Performance exhaust. Constructed of Inconel, an extremely heat-resistant chrome-nickel alloy, the M Performance exhaust is considerably lighter than the factory exhaust, and the sound is just right—loud enough, but not obtrusive. The problem is the price, which we won’t mention, but this M3 was worth it. After a few phone calls, I was able to source one of the last E90 M3 sedan-specific M Performance exhausts in the country.
It took a few months to finish everything, but the end result was a masterpiece. I say it every time I wax poetic about the E9X M3, but its S65 V8 engine was the last of the old-school high-revving naturally-aspirated M car recipe. Revving to its 8,000 RPM redline is theatric, which was made better in this car by a slightly louder exhaust note. The balance of intake and exhaust was perfect! The body lines of the M3 sedan are more brutish than the M3 coupe, and more practical, thanks to a usable back seat. And that is what makes the M3 sedan so wonderful; it is the sports car that you can drive every day and bring your friends (or dogs) along as well. I relished the opportunity to drive it, hastily volunteering for errands, and I even looked forward to early morning flying trips—nothing gets the blood going like an open toll road and the perfect M3!
Then—and this is where I would usually say, I made it perfect and then sold it—the course of my life took an unexpected turn. I took a new position at my airline, changing from a line pilot to an instructor pilot. This would mean that rather than one or two pampered-pavement commutes a week on the toll road, I would be driving into the heart of Denver on I-25 almost daily. The 50-mile round trip commute would offer ample seat time to enjoy the M3, but the route was terrible. I would be battling the slog of rush hour traffic on I-25, then the minefield of pocked pavement on I-270 through Commerce City, and into some of the worst roads in Denver. I was torn, but in the end, as much as I loved the M3, it just wouldn’t be right to subject it to such an abusive commute.
So, after just a few short months, I sold the M3 to another friend. I’ve got first dibs if he ever decides to sell it, but I reckon it’s a perfect fit. It is his first M car, and he will enjoy it with our local BMW CCA chapter. I’ll get to see and drive it on occasion, and will have spared it the rigors of my new commute. It stung, but it was the right thing to do. It was the perfect M3, and I had no business ruining it in a rush-hour commute.
Coincidentally, just as the M3 left, another E90 sedan showed up at my door. This one was presentable enough to be proud of, but was guilt-free, thanks to a lifetime of commuting duty. It’s not an M3, but at Colorado altitudes, it feels nearly as fast—and it’ll get 30 miles per gallon because it’s a diesel. Despite being rear-wheel drive, with snow tires, it does great in the snow. I still miss the perfect M3, but with my new commute, the 335d will be the right car for the mission.—Alex McCulloch