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E46 M3 SMG II Owner Observations

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by Sam Cameron-Berko with 1 month(s) experience. Wednesday, December 05th, 2001 - 17:52 CET [1]
Had SMG I in E36 M3. This one is a world apart.

Auto Mode
I actually do use this from time to time. Get a lot of traffic in London and sometimes constant 1st 2nd 1st changes become a chore - even if all you are doing is pullin gon a paddle.

For open road driving though, I'll have to concur with previous observations that there doesn't really sem to any use for the first three modes as they change gear way too slowly and the last two hold gears for much too long!!

Havnig said that, I'm sure that there'll be many who will beg to differ and BMW must be commended in providing a system that will meet the needs of many if not all. More choice is better then none!

I have used only S5 really. Tried the first 4 but once you've done S5, the first four really seem pointless. Whether pottering around or screaming at the higher rev range, the fast changes of S5 are just too addictive. Passengers have all commented at the speed at which it changes. Very experienced friends (driving) have all commented that they could never change up as fast as S6 and just rave at the down shifts!!

I have dabbled into S6 mode one or twice but to be honest wasn't going anywhere fast enough to invoke the .8 second change!! I'll leave that for the track!!

Launch control is also soemthing I haven't tried .. yet!!

Paddles and Knob
To be honest, before the SMG II, I was a 'one had' driver!! i have now had to change my style of driving totally... and for the better.

I use the knob only for 1st to 2nd changes where the car has to turn such that the paddles are out of reach.

I've read isseus with the size of the paddles and how various sizes should be available. Though I can not disagree - I personallything the size/position is about perfect. It would be noce if the +/- decals were illuminated ;o).

Yes there are some minor issues, main one I guess being 'is SMG better then stick?'. That a bit akin to the M3 v C32 debate that rears up it's head from time to time on thediscussion boards. At the end of the day, I think that there is more than enough room for both. If you are attracted to SMG you will soon find it a wicked system that has the best of both worlds.

I'm one of those who long ago became dissilusioned with stick cars in the modern stop/start city traffic. I just love the freedom that SMG II allows.

More to follow!
by Andrew BW Colfelt with 0 month(s) experience. Monday, December 17th, 2001 - 10:10 CET [2]
Webmasters note: This review was compiled from test driving SMG II.


This is an INSANELY long article. Enjoy!

If you just want the bottom line here, without all of the story behind it, scroll down to the heading called "THE FINAL ANALYSIS". For me, that's the bottom line on SMG II, and everything between here and there is the untold story.

I am fundamentally opposed to automation coming between me and my driving experience, but, according to everything I've read, SMG II has the potential to add more to the driving experience than it takes away from it. At the risk of sounding immodest, I am already adept at performing all of the gearbox-related tasks that SMG II takes over: double-declutching, heel/toe, etc.; performing these tasks myself is central to my enjoyment of driving, and indeed they are essential for my racing. But there's no way I could possibly do those things with as much speed AND precision as SMG II does. Therefore, my article discusses the human side of the SMG II interface from the perspective of someone who would not ordinarily need or want it, if it were not for the promise of reaching a totally new plateau in driving experience and technique.

When it comes to driving, I'm a certified, licensed Enthusiast. I also tend to be something of a purist. In the context of SMG II, then, you should know that, for me, the prospect of this technology simultaneously represents Good and Evil. On the Good side, the idea that my everyday driving experience can become more like that of my idols is tantalizing. On the Evil side, the idea that I will be somewhat more physically disconnected from one of the most intimate elements of the driving experience is frightening.

At long last, my 18-month wait has come to an end, but how does the driver's driver decide whether to give up the stick? Certainly not based solely on someone else's opinion! In the following discussion, I hope to provide what is perhaps a fresh perspective on SMG II, certainly one that I have not read about elsewhere, and one which perhaps you have not either. I had been reading everything I could get my hands on about SMG II for the last few months, and then I took a couple of test drives. The test drives really surprised me, with both Good AND Evil, but very few of the expected Evils were Evil, and some of the expected Goods were not all that Good. There were even a few new surprises and some take-home lessons for further thought. All will be revealed in good time, but not before the story is told properly...

The way I view this decision is this: if SMG II adds more to the experience of driving than it takes away from it, I'll be overjoyed. If not, I'll be miserable, and looking for a way to unload $XX,000-worth of marketing hype. But BMW is a smart company, and it has not been until now, with revision II of the SMG, that they have actually stuck their necks out to push this technology. If SMG II is as slick as BMW say it is, then I should have no problem giving up my stick. If the "II" implementation of SMG is as good as I think it SHOULD be in order to justify giving up my stick, then piloting an automobile will then have truly changed as of the 21st century. What a fabulous time to be alive!

Ordinarily, a quick test drive would provide many answers, but in the U.S. this is impossible because there simply are no SMG II cars to drive. SMG II has not been a U.S. option on the M3 until November production, so those of us with an interest in SMG II and an order slot in November, December, and January have come to a rather awkward realization: that our 18-month wait for the opportunity to order this car has been blessed with the opportunity also to order SMG II, but without the ability to test drive it first...

Depending on whether you approach driving as an activity or an art, your initial reaction to this dilemma might be any of the following:

"Who cares?"

"SMG II sounds cool to me! Just order it and be happy!"

"Hey, this will give me an opportunity to become more involved in the shifting process!"

"If BMW says it's great, then it must be. Don't complicate it!"

"I have so much money and so much time on my hands that, heck, if I order SMG II and it's not right for me, then I'll just sell the pig and wait another 2-3 years for another opportunity to buy another one with a stick."

If your first reaction to this dilemma is any of these, then you shouldn't even bother reading this article; I didn't write it for you. On the other hand, if your position resembles mine, then you already have the notion that SMG II could be unbelievably fantastic, but you are deeply concerned that, if it's not implemented 'just-so', the whole car could be ruined by it.

So how does a driver's driver decide whether to give up the stick? Certainly not by listening to someone else's opinion!

How many (U.S.) BMW dealers do YOU know of that actually employ *drivers*?

How many $60K decisions have you made in your life, based SOLELY on marketing literature?

How many times have you tried to squeeze out those last few drops of information by going to the source, only to find that you already know way more about the subject than the employed 'experts'?

These questions, and many more like them, are the source of considerable frustration for me on a regular basis, and not just with BMW cars. So I bought a cheap ticket to London and test-drove a couple M3s with SMG II, to find my own answers to questions nobody else seemed to be asking or answering.

My central question was: is SMG II better, worse, or just *different* from a conventional gearbox?, and what are some of the things that could be really annoying for the skilled stick purist?

- Does SMG II reduce the driver's level of involvement with the car? Is there a "disconnectedness" about it?

- Does SMG II add anything new to the driver's level of involvement with the car?
(Probably true for Joe Automatic; possibly true for the average guy sitting on the fence between automatic and manual; probably a whole new frontier for the just-getting-by stickshift driver; but what's in it for someone who REALLY prefers a stick, but who might be open to a truly Formula One-style alternative, as long as it's as well-implemented as the marketing folks claim?)

Before I reveal the results of my testing, here's the Cliff Notes version of my driving background. This should give you a better sense of "where I'm coming from," so that you can judge whether or not my impressions from the test drive are likely to mirror yours, or even whether my expectations and impressions are at all relevant to you. (They may not be.)

I've been attending BMW Club driving schools on and off for the last 14 years or so, I've been through the Skip Barber 3-day Racing School (Laguna Seca). I raced last year as an amateur in two race weekends in the Skip Barber Amateur Racing Series (Western Division, both weekends at Laguna Seca). I take my own car ('99 328i Sport) out to a local track (Colorado) a couple of times a year. I get the odd speeding ticket, but never get into accidents. And despite my appetite for regular doses of elevated G-forces, I only rarely draw protest from lambs with whom I politely share the road (somehow these people got through the U.S. Driver's Licensing system). In other words, in the Grand Prix of Everyday Life, I keep a pretty low profile but usually end up 'in the Points.'

Overall, I expected shifts to be FAST, as in Formula One "fast," 80ms "fast," "fast" like a clutchless upshift on a motorcycle. I expected that when I requested a shift, it would performed instantaneously; that the tactile response of the paddle/stick and the resulting shift would be connected as if they were one in the same action. This is the way it is in the race car, and this is the way I presume it is in a Formula One car, based on what Formula One cars sound like. However, this was *not* the way it felt, and this surprised me. Many people have stated that SMG II shifts faster with higher RPM, but, without knowing what 0.08 seconds really feels like, it's hard to imagine what "something-less-than-80ms" feels like, and how that compares to the subjective perception of "instantaneous".

What DID it feel like? Well, of course, that depends on the Drivelogic mode (A or S) and what the driver is doing at the time. Before I describe those various feelings, I need to lay some more of the foundation:

There are essentially four ingredients to any manual shift: clutch work, throttle work, stick work, and brake work (downshifting, heel/toe, etc.). Each of these pieces has a beginning and an end (in some cases, several of both), but the beginnings and endings are so intertwined and overlapping that it is difficult to intellectualize the flow with words. Thankfully, with practice, our blessed nervous system manages all the sequencing and timing with such fluidity that we, the drivers, simply experience the process as a fluid maneuver, and we celebrate the results when it is executed to perfection. What begins as a horribly awkward, complicated process, eventually resolves into a brilliantly choreographed sequence.

There's Good News, and there's Bad News. First, the Bad News:

Driving SMG II for the first time made me feel like a complete novice behind the wheel. Gone were the smooth, flowing transistions between gears, which I had been practicing for the last 17 years. In their place instead were these awful, awkward lurches when shifting, the kind that make your forehead bang the dashboard during gear changes. And although I was the driver in the driver's seat, I might as well have been the passenger riding with a crudely skilled driver; my head and neck utterly unable to anticipate when the shift would be complete, ostensibly because they did not know.

So what was happening here? SMG II is supposed to be smooth, much more so than its predecessor, and nobody on the Internet or in the media has uttered a word about lurching shifts. My homework explicitly prepared me NOT to expect the smoothness of a torque converter, but I also did not expect so much deceleration between shifts. This was not at all what I expected, certainly not "instantaneous", and not even close to what Formula One cars would appear to feel like. How dare BMW even ATTEMPT such a comparison! Even in S6, shifts at lower RPM were too slow and lurchy.

So what's the deal?

This was not simply a matter of choosing the wrong mode, S1 or S2 or S5 or S6. Nor was this a matter of any problem with the car or the SMG. Rather, this was purely a matter of expectations (mine) and the information on which they were based.

I hadn't yet uncovered the secret to SMG II.

It was also a function of engine RPM and throttle position.

We've all read that SMG shifts faster at high RPM. What we haven't read is HOW DARN SLOW it shifts at lower RPM. Or so it would seem...

(But wait! There's more!...)

Before I go further, I should take a moment to make one thing very clear: there is NO SUBSTITUTE for an SMG II-actuated shift at redline, no matter what gear you choose. It is positively one of the coolest elements of the experience. As you approach max RPM, the shift lights begin their little dance, so you command an upshift. The instant you do this, the nose of the car dips by what feels like an inch, and then immediately rears back up to claw its way back to redline. All of this happens with a tiny tug on the paddle, or a snickety ratchet of the shifter knob. In this case, Leo and Andreas are spot-on: you DO NOT lift in this situation.

It is here where the mechanical dynamics of the engine are such that 80ms shifts are possible. Near redline, revs fall quickly enough that the clutch only need be disengaged very briefly, so briefly that the perception of lurch is replaced by one of Formula One-like spontaneity, producing an almost-continuous application of full power across multiple gear changes. Simply awesome.

But how many of us A) jump into a Dealer's demo car and wind-out every gear like this, and B) how many of us do this in our OWN cars every time we go somewhere?! In 'real-life', we spend the bulk of our time obeying the laws of physics, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the laws of the road. In other words, it is a realistic possibility that you will be driving at something LESS THAN full throttle, and, if not, it is realistic to think that you might shift at something LESS THAN redline! (Through all of this, I take for granted that it is every enthusiast's goal to be smooth.) It is under these specific circumstances where I ABSOLUTELY REFUTE the notion that it is not necessary to lift; You simply CANNOT be smooth with SMG II under these circumstances unless you do.


Going back to the earlier description of shifting choreography, driver's take for granted the timings of various events during the shifting process, ones which, to further the point, their passengers cannot. The driver knows exactly when the throttle will be lifted and the clutch depressed, and so the muscles in his/her neck react with the precise timing required to balance the inevitable deceleration that accompanies every shift. And the smoother the driver does all of this, the less the neck has to work. This goes double for the passenger, whose neck is not connected to the driver's brain, and thus not privvy to the same timing cues.

And there's the rub: with SMG II, the driver's brain is not connected to the one doing the shifting. I imagine that with time, the driver can become accustomed to the timing of things, a little like one does with a regular automatic with torque converter, but to consider simply "getting used to it" as the answer is missing the point. Simply "getting used to it" serves only to satisfy the *driver's* feeling of smoothness while driving, to say nothing of the passenger's while being driven. No amount of practice by the driver in learning the timings between (driver) action and reaction (by SMG II) alone will help smooth the ride for the passenger, at least not unless the driver learns how and when to lift.

To master SMG II, in addition to learning the new timings of action and reaction, the driver is, in my opinion, well advised to take a deeper look at one critical component of the shifting process: the bleeding of throttle as the shift point approaches. This is the single most important thing I learned during my test drives in London, so it bears restating: CONTRARY TO WHAT HAS (or conspicuously has not) BEEN WRITTEN ON THE 'NET, ALTHOUGH IT IS *NOT A REQUIREMENT* THAT YOU LIFT THE THROTTLE FOR EACH UPSHIFT, IF YOUR GOAL IS TO BE AS SMOOTH AND AS BALANCED AS A SKILLED STICK DRIVER CAN BE, THEN IT IS ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY! (The exception here is at max RPM, discussed earlier.)

To explain what's going on here, you only need consider what's going on in a conventional manual gearbox as a shift ocurrs. For the purpose of this discussion, the only part that matters is the bleeding of the throttle as the shift point approaches. Bleeding the throttle in this case comes naturally as part of the shifting sequence. It's one of those elements that develops naturally over time with practice, and it is one of those techniques which are conspicuously underdeveloped in new stick drivers, who tend to be quite jerky to ride with. I'm willing to bet that you already employ this technique every time you shift in a manual car, you just don't realize it. If, after a quick assessment of your own habits, you find that you don't, I would encourage you to experiment with it as a possible addition to your repertoire. You'll be a smoother driver for it.

But, somehow, for the driver, the presence of an automated clutch and shift actuation system like SMG II causes even the well-trained brain forget the throttle-bleeding step. This is probably so because the sequence of activities and their pathways have totally changed. The driver's left foot is no longer involved in the process at all, and so none of the cues and triggers that depend on it function normally. To make matters worse, if you use the paddles instead of the stick, your shifting hand is involved in a completely different way than you've rehearsed all your life. What you're left with is a whole new frontier to explore: the interplay and timing cues for throttle pedal and shifter.


80ms shifts at max RPM are quite the opposite. So why doesn't SMG II shift at 80ms in S6 no matter where you are in the rev range? Why is it only at the extreme RPM range that 80ms shifts are possible?

I don't pretend to have any special engineering data from BMW, or any expert testimony in the mechanical dynamics of spinning componentry, but I have a few educated guesses. First, revs fall more quickly at high RPM, so the amount of time the SMG must wait before reapplying the clutch and throttle is brief. At lower RPM, there is more time to kill, so SMG has to wait longer before reapplying power. But this itself doesn't fully explain the lurching I described earlier. I think it is the fluid dynamics of throttle response which does...

If the driver does not lift as the shift point approaches (as a conventional stick driver would), then the SMG has quite a lot of lifting to do IN ADVANCE of disengaging the clutch and selecting the next gear. Since the driver is not consciously commanding this lift, the driver's mind does not anticipate it, resulting in the perception of a long shifting delay and a rather uncomfortable lurch.

Consider the following 2nd-to-3rd gear upshifting scenarios:
- gentle acceleration through 2nd to 4500RPM, upshift to 3rd, gentle acceleration in 3rd
- gentle acceleration through 2nd to 4500RPM, upshift to 3rd, hard acceleration in 3rd
- hard acceleration through 2nd to 4500RPM, upshift to 3rd, hard acceleration in 3rd

In the first scenario, SMG II is gloriously smooth, ostensibly because there is very little lifting to do. The transition between gears is almost impercetible.

In the second, SMG II shines because gentle acceleration requires only a slight lift before the upchange, and the sudden subsequent acceleration is expected, given the explicit driver input (mashed throttle during the upshift, with no over-rev and no clutch slippage).

The third scenario is the one around which this whole discussion is centered.

For a vividly graphic example of what I'm talking about here, see this video clip on Leo's site:
Video clip (1.32 MB)

Pay special attention to the shake of the camera as the shifts are executed, and to the key fob dangling from the ignition. These elements give the only visual cues to the abrupt lurch during the upshift. Admittedly, I don't know the RPM at which these shifts were executed, but as I do not see shift lights, I think it's safe to say that they were executed at something less than max RPM. And, even if we are indeed watching those fantastic high-rpm shifts I mentioned earlier, the video clip still serves a purpose in visualizing the lurch I describing at lower RPM, regardless.

That basically concludes THE BAD NEWS section, and it's really not bad news at all. Everything else SMG II does is very intuitive and well executed. If there were any other unexpected surprises during my brief experience with SMG II, they were ALL related to the management of throttle and shifter, so I consider those as being covered by The Bad News.

Wow! Talk about COOL! SMG II is going to offer so many things to so many people, I don't know where to start!

For people who have never been able to free themselves from the slushbox for lack of training, experience, too much traffic, whatever, but who have wanted to enjoy the sport of a manual nevertheless, SMG II is for them! They already possess the training necessary to make it work, but must now be aware that the torque converter is now located in the right foot, and not under the chassis.

For people who already like to drive a stick, but who have never had the opportunity to learn heel/toe, double-clutching, throttle blipping, etc., never mind all that crap! BMW have come out with an instant fix called SMG II. You're there, and in style, baby, because you can now do it better than the vast majority of drivers out there, and faster than ANY human ever will with a clutch pedal!

For the driver's driver, the "purist", if you like, the decision about SMG II is far less clear-cut. I consider myself a member of this group, and the decision to order my car with SMG II was excruciating. In fact, if I were required to base my decision 100% on my test drives, I don't think I would have ordered it; I wasn't totally sold on it.

But the reason I did order it was (you're not going to believe this) ultimately based on someone else's opinion! Actually, that's not entirely true. A digression is in order...

After my second day of test drives I still wasn't convinced that SMG II was all that BMW promises, at least not for my taste. It was all a little bit weird: It was really cool in a lot of ways, but I was definitely not able to totally shake that disconnected feeling. One of the senior salespeople at the dealership walked onto the lot and asked me what I thought (he knew that I had flown over from the U.S. just to drive this car, so there was an elevated sense of suspense, I guess ("crazy Yank?")).

I told him that what I thought I really needed was more time in the car. He said I probably needed about 1000 miles, which he of course couldn't offer. Instead, he offered to take me for a ride and show me what he'd found over his months with SMG II. Off we went.

The first item on his agenda was essentially the treatise I've given here about lifting the throttle pedal. We established a rapport between our driving styles, and I was easily convinced that his driving priorities were similar to mine. Within 5 minutes I was able to see how smoothly he was able to drive, and how fluently he was able to communicate with the car. This was the first time the SMG II felt natural to me in anything but pedal-to-the-metal situations.

Having quieted my fears about lurching, I also brought up another issue I had with SMG during my short experience: when coming to a roundabout, downshifting from 5th to 4th was smooth, and from 4th to 3rd was smooth, but when whenever I downshifted to 2nd, I always felt like the clutch was reengaging too late, causing a little bit more engine drag than was necessary. He was able to duplicate the situation and solved it on the spot with a little feathering of the throttle at just the right moment. (Ah-hah! Heel/toe is NOT dead with SMG II!)

So, for the first time in this whole process, I got a clear indication of what was possible with SMG II, and how my initial objections could be overcome with some small adaptations. I ordered my car with SMG II because a) I believe I will learn to communicate with it as fluently as I do with my current manual car, b) when I do, my car and I will communicate on a level we have never done before, and c) I will use this communication style to learn new driving techniques that have, until SMG II, been either impractical or impossible.

In everyday driving, it is common to use a lot of throttle for brisk acceleration, coupled with a mid-rev-range shift point for good road manners. Drivers of manual gearboxes who manage to do this smoothly do so by progressively bleeding throttle as the shift point approaches, such that the amount of throttle pedal travel and rearward G-loading are gradually minimized up to and including the moment of upchange. SMG II presents a new interface and an entirely new set of rules in this regard because the penalty for NOT lifting is never assessed. In other words, if you drove a stick in the above scenario WITHOUT lifting, the engine would rev UP as the clutch was depressed, instead of RPMs falling as they should to accept the next higher gear. SMG makes it impossible to make this mistake, and instead corrects it without the driver's explicit instruction. This sort of behind-the-scenes correction is EXACTLY the kind of thing that the purists would point out as being a fundamental reason for NOT ordering SMG II.

I beg to differ. SMG II is the next level, not a gimick. It's different from what we're used to, and many techniques that skilled drivers have worked long and hard to perfect do not necessarily apply without alteration. To dismiss SMG II on the basis that it disconnects the driver from the experience is to deny one's own responsibility for learning new skills. Only after a given dissident purist has actually taken the time to (re-)learn how to drive with SMG II would I even consider their opinion that rowing a gearbox manually is more fun. After all, what purist WOULDN'T want to be able to left-foot-brake AND heel/toe at the same time? (Ok, maybe we need to separate track-going purists from street-only purists...) This, and some other advantages SMG II has over a traditional 6-speed are discussed next.

For the week or so before my test drives, I began driving my own car with special attention to how SMG II might change things. A recent article in the Roundel described SMG II as being effortless and nimble through traffic, instantaneous for overtaking. I began to notice really how much time it takes to shift a car manually. Of course, you don't mind all this time when driving a manual transmission because you are completely immersed in the various stages of the task. The car makes a perfectly smooth transition from one gear to the next, through a process that begins and ends with the throttle, all of which seems to take almost no time at all.

The naturally-ocurring trade-off between speed and precision naturally tends toward fast, sloppy shifts, or precise slow ones, but humans don't execute fast, precise shifts, 100% of the time. I began to conceive of how SMG II could put all of this under my control with less effort, and with both more speed AND precision. I began to realize how much more time I would have left over to concentrate on other elements of driving, elements which perhaps have remained underdeveloped for lack of available 'cycles' to invest in their rehearsal.

A prime example of this is threshold braking from a high rate of speed to slow for a 90-degree 2nd gear corner...

(This portion of the discussion makes the most sense when considered in a racetrack environment, where threshold physics are regularly involved; it obviously breaks down in the context of normal street driving (YMMV).

Take a moment to consider all the stuff that's going on for the driver during such a maneuver:
- braking at the threshold of lockup
- downshifting
- double de-clutching
- throttle blipping
- maintaining directional control
- judging changes in distance and speed
- deciding when to turn-in
- conclude braking and downshifting
- transitioning to throttle through the corner

With a traditional gearbox, the driver's most significant challenge is to balance the braking with everything else. The huge difference in physical effort required to carry out braking, as compared to everything else in the process, is, I think, what makes it so challenging. Today's Formula One driver spends the bulk of his attention managing the steering wheel and the brake pedal. Can you imagine how much more precise you could be with your braking, turning, and throttle pick-up routines if you didn't have to dance over so many pedals with such widely various pressures? And don't forget your hands dancing from wheel to stick, either!

And, as if the point were not already made strongly enough, consider this: a Formula One car's threshold of lockup under braking changes as the car slows and aerodynamic downforce is decreased. Imagine adding THAT balancing act to your repertoire; it must be like juggling dinner plates with one hand, and feathers with the other!

OK, if you're with me so far, your powers of visualization are giving you a glimpse of how much more precise your car control could be if SMG II really delivers on the promise to reduce the number of things you have to juggle, especially under pressure:
- Your brake foot will never again slip-off a wet brake pedal during heel/toe
- You can absolutely focus on threshold braking, without interference from heel/toe
- Left foot braking is now practical
- Seeing and following the correct line are now more probable on any given attempt
- Clutch wear is dramatically reduced
- ... others not yet realized? ...

(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT advocate left-foot braking on the street! In fact, I don't even mean to suggest that you try it next time you get out to the track. Your clutch foot is accustomed to pressures which, if applied to the brake pedal, will do nothing but get you into trouble. Much as it takes a GREAT DEAL of practice to learn to double-(de)clutch, so too it is with re-educating your left foot. Driver beware!)

Returning to the concept of time, one of the best street-driving examples of how much time it really takes to shift a manual gearbox is given by the following example:

Imagine you are cruising along a three-lane {roadway|highway|freeway|motorway|autobahn}, with all three lanes going in the same direction. You are travelling in the middle lane and approaching a car ahead. You make the decision to overtake that car, so you check your mirrors to make sure the overtaking lane is clear. But in your mirror you find another car approaching, so you have to make a go/no-go decision.

You calculate that you have a very small window of opportunity (admittedly, most drivers in the US are idiots and forego this calculation), during which there is still time to execute the "go" decision. But will you be in the correct gear in time to overtake without snubbing the approaching driver?

During the week before my SMG II test drive, I took note of several times when I had to abstain from some of these types of overtaking opportunities becuase there simply wasn't enough time to dip the clutch, go to neutral, engage the clutch, blip the throttle, dip the clutch, downshift, engage the clutch, and tromp the throttle without also welcoming the upcoming car up my backside. I realized that this was probably another place where SMG II would shine.

In the final analysis, then, my decision to order SMG II was not a reflection of my attitudes about the manual gearbox. I hate automatic transmissions because they don't shift when and how *I* want them to. They shift according to some very basic variables, which rarely coincide with my intent, so they frustrate me. But that is not to say that a manual gearbox is any more fundamentally "correct", it just gives me the element of control I demand. Plus, since I've been doing it for so long, subjectively it doesn't take any more effort to drive than with an automatic.

But I do not derive any particular sense of pleasure from pushing a clutch pedal, and I'm not sure ANY purist really does either. A clutch pedal is simply an interface between the driver and the system. I also don't find the act of pulling or pushing a lever through 8 inches of travel particularly fulfilling either. BUT NEITHER OF THESE STATEMENTS IS MEANT TO SUGGEST THAT I AM AMBIVILENT ABOUT SHIFTING! To the contrary, these words are meant to strip the MEANING we apply to interacting with these devices from the physical acts of manipulating them. Think about it: rowing a shifter is not driving, and neither is pushing a clutch pedal. If you mounted these devices to your desk and acted like you were driving, would that give you any pleasure? Show me a 'Real Man's Purist' for whom this would be pleasureable and I'll suggest psychotherapy.

Rather than interpreting the physical acts of manipulating these devices as being the Purist's true source of pleasure, I hasten to suggest that it is in fact the FLUENCY these devices afford the driver in the act of communicating with the transmission, which provides the true sense of pleasure.

My conclusion is, therefore, that even the most vigorously "pure" 'driving artiste' has more to gain from SMG than they have to lose from giving up their stick, as long as they are prepared to shelve their egos for long enough to make some additions to their driving repertoire. Once they do, they will enjoy a style of communication with their car that has never before been possible, leading to a driving experience FAR MORE PLEASUREABLE AND INVOLVING than the 'more traditional' way of doing things.

In fact, I'm so sure of this that I'm betting my long-awaited dream car on it.

Andrew BW Colfelt
by ME with 0 month(s) experience. Sunday, December 23rd, 2001 - 18:49 CET [3]
I found this very nice description in a newsgroup.


You won't believe this car until you drive it.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the sensations of being a passenger in a manual transmission car. The unexpected shifts and resulting head-bobs, the second guessing of slipping the clutch, shifting style and points

Imagine those thoughts and sensations occurring while your -driving the car instead of being a passenger.

The new M3 gives the impression of sharing the driving with someone else. You are steering and braking while another is clutching and shifting for you. It's completely unique!

The thing has a motorcycle style sequential manual transmission with a conventional clutch, but is all electronically operated.

So all it has is the + - paddles on the wheel and a small slapstick, forward for downshifts, and slap it back for upshifts. No clutch pedal.

But the thing -drives just like someone is using a clutch pedal and manual shifter. At slow speeds you can feel the clutch slip/engage/disengage as needed just as you would in any manual car. In downshifts it releases the clutch, blurps the throttle just right, slides it into the lower gear and so on.

The more you press on the pedal the faster the shifts are, from very lazy smooth shifts (manual style shifts) when just puttin', to millisecond shifts under hard throttle. It'll chirp (loudly) the tires in every gear if you want it to. It should be impossible to blow the engine either over-revving or missing a downshift.

In a slow shift you feel the clutch release, a pause while the gear is gently being changed, then the throttle comes up and the clutch slips again to engage. Just like you would've normally shifted a manual car.

It's freaky!

You can select fully auto mode, manual or sport mode with a potentiometer that adjusts the aggressiveness of the shifts. You can shift it either from the wheel paddles or the slapstick, or just steer and brake.

Anyone that drives one is just gonna die to own one. Except for me, I fix 'em so I can't quite afford one yet.

I swear! It's just an unbelievable car. The first time you go to drive off in the thing the disorientation and seeming 'mind of it's own' is a bit scary.

You swear the passenger's got a clutch pedal over there and is messing with ya! Even if no one's there!

But you soon learn to trust the software of the ~ co-driver, 'cause he's better at it.

by Bubba Jones with 0 month(s) experience. Sunday, December 30th, 2001 - 20:23 CET [4]
(Originally posted to the roadfly E46M3 message board on 29dec01.)

I picked up my IR/IR SMG coupe this morning, and managed to put about 120 miles on it today.

The first time I had ever driven an M3 was when I pulled away from the dealer this morning. Since the SMG was totally foreign to me, I decided that I'd be better off to put it in auto mode until I could get to some open road. This, in hindsight, was a mistake. I started out in A3, in moderate traffic, and it was really awkward. As others have posted before, it felt like riding with someone who was trying to drive a stick for the first time. This was not a good start to a long and beautiful relationship. Quickly, I switched to S5, and used the stick for shifting (rather than the paddles). Driving in this manner felt quite similar to driving a standard transmission, and I felt comfortable right away. For any first-time SMG users, I recommend starting out this way.

Soon, I got to my freeway on-ramp. By coincidence, I found myself merging onto the freeway right next to a BMW delivery truck ("delivering somebody's baby"). A quick squirt of the throttle, and I easily merged in front of him. That's when I glanced down at the speedo and saw that I was doing 85 mph. Whoa, gotta watch that. Once cruising on the freeway, I began to experiment with the paddles, shifting between 5th and sixth, just to get the feel of them. But once I got off the freeway and back in traffic, I went back to my comfort zone of using the stick.

Next up was to go exploring some of the many windy 2-lanes that criss-cross this part of Maryland. Now I really started to use the paddles in earnest. Effortlessly upshifting and downshifting on these winding roads was a joy -- clearly, SMG was in its environment here. I tried S4 briefly, but went back to S5. As others have also concluded, I think I will probably just leave it in S5 permanently. I didn't try sport mode yet.

I also revisited the auto modes, S3, S4 and S5. On the winding 2-lanes, they really weren't that bad. In fact, at one point, my wife phoned, so I simply bumped the lever over into auto, and then had one hand free to answer the phone. When I was done with the call, I bumped it back to S5. Sweet.

The clutch action of the SMG is fantastic. It's uncanny how well the system is able to operate the clutch. Slow parking-type maneuvers are a piece of cake. I also tried some 2nd gear starts -- there didn't appear to be excessive clutch slipping.

One thing that I noticed that hasn't been written about too much: the speed of the SMG shifts is not only dependent on RPM, but also on throttle position. At small throttle openings, the shifts are fairly slow, even with RPM up around 4500. In contrast, if you are at a mid-throttle position (i.e, accelerating harder), the shifts are much quicker and crisper. Unfortunately, when you are in traffic, small throttle openings and low RPMs are mostly what you have -- in this circumstance, SMG just feels like a caged tiger, pacing back and forth, itching to be unleashed.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. I can hardly believe that this beast is finally in my garage.

by Chris Bee with 1 month(s) experience. Tuesday, January 08th, 2002 - 00:20 CET [5]
So here’s my long – two cents worth – well two Euros.

I put my name down for the new M3 Convertible about 2 years ago. When the time came to order the salesman suggested SMG – there was, of course, no demo, but then I was to get the first M3 so there was no 6 speed either. He said he had been driven by a BMW driver on a track day, and the SMG was amazing. Well I figured I had ordered everything else, and if you were to believe the hype then a manual would not stand up well in terms of residual against the SMG…if the SMG worked. So ordering blind I added it to my order.

The car arrived and sat in my garage for 6 weeks ( I was not going to register it until January – because that’s when our registration year starts here in the Jersey (UK)). So I played around with bits for 6 weeks, flattened the battery from sitting there pushing buttons!

2nd January the car was on the road, 4th January the car was on the boat to France, 5th January the car was back here and we were 500 miles up.

Those of you who have not driven SMG cannot comment. Sure pour over the specs, watch the video, do everything that we all did before we drove it. But until you are used to it I think you might be disappointed (the guy who did some work on it who is an experienced service tech. Said it reminded him of the constantly variable transmission on a DAF or VOLVO!). It is a new way to drive, there is Auto, there is Manual and now there is SMG – a test drive or your first drive from the dealer to home will not start to get you into it. I have to say that I am sure there is another major benefit from post run in service driving because this thing is born to scream…but….

There is just too much good stuff to take in – the grip and chassis are so far beyond my old E36 M3 Convertible, so many other things happening!! So once you’re settled in and can concentrate the first thing you notice is how it isn’t as quick – the whole car I mean – that’s just because you are stuck to 5500…but up to that point it shows it’s potential – hit the sports button and things are even better. Next off – getting your timing right on the gear changes takes a while. No doubt the gear changes are crisp – ain’t many people going to double declutch a change that fast. But it takes a good few changes before you can ‘feel’ what the car is going to do.

So – the engine – sweet as a nut. SMG – a whole new driving experience and puts the car on a higher plain that the manual – some of you will be true die hard stick guys – ok…but like I say, jump in a have a test drive – will probably confirm your love of the stick, get used to SMG and there is no question, it is superior – by far.

‘A’ Mode – well I agree – it’s ok – it isn’t the slickest thing on the planet, but it’s pretty bloody good and I am happy to drive in it from A3 upwards, depending on what is going on.

Clunk – no sign – although at the moment I am a little concerned about the ferocity of the 1st – 2nd change …. Could just be the amount of power being put down, but under proper acceleration it is a big jolt.

Built quality – magnificent, no rattles

Trunk space – MASSIVE improvement

H.K. – mmm – well I went for the Phone, Nav, TV cd multi changer and HK option, around £4000. I have got to say….disappointed. The screen is great. Everything else is not as good as it should be. The software is slow. The cd disc name does not come up on the screen – so you have to remember what is in slots 1 – 6. The phone quality is great - but it is an out of date phone. No A/V input for DVD, and even if you do fit one (www.nav-tv.com) it is only in mono thanks to BMW. A tape deck – come on. For around £2000 I could have put in better hardware (excluding speakers and amps) for £4000 – there wouldn’t even be a comparison. BMW if you are listening – it is not good enough, in fact when you see better systems in much cheaper cars you have got to wonder…ok the widescreen is an improvement, but BMW is supposed to be ahead of the pack, not running with it, or behind.

The sound – well under a light load, I have to say, a little rattly, but once you are out of 1st very nice. And as many others have said, the change downs are perfection, and boy do they get people looking.

So what would have made me the happiest camper on the block? Not much really – stupid little grips, a roof that works from remote, A/V inputs, a DVD or even CD behind the screen. An operating system that could be better controlled from the steering wheel. An operating system that did not expect you to have a degree in espionage to change the settings. (i.e. speed sensor volume). At some point I know I am going to kill for a space saver spare. Memory on the passenger seat. There must be more BMW’s in Jersey (UK) than any other car and they see fit not to have a map available so I am constantly driving in the sea!

Little unexpected pleasures:- The orange glow at night from under the mirror that lights up the gear stick. How comfortable the seats are. How good the tape slot is for digisette (www.digisette.com). The dashboard distance count down from the Nav to the next junction.

So to sum up – very happy – but don’t knock SMG until you know it – it is better than you think.
by Elliot Paterson with 1 month(s) experience. Friday, January 11th, 2002 - 17:04 CET [6]
I will not receive my new M3 (SMGII) until mid-Feb. I ordered the M3 when it was first announced and said then that I would have an SMG (and it hadn't even been announced as an option then) and would wait until it was available. Like I said, I don't yet have mine but have spent a short time driving a demonstrator at my local dealer. I have to say I am very impressed with it, I'm glad I ordered it and wouldn't have it any other way, BUT I must say to "SMG newcomers" it's a system that you have to get used to- it's no good giving it a quick blast round the block and hoping to develop a proper understanding.
I have driven an M3 E36 SMG for the last three years and when I first got it BMW were saying it takes between 500 and 1000 miles to really get in tune with it- and they are right. I find the original SMG to be very good, especially when blasting round the lanes under full throttle- and this is a system that is NOWHERE NEAR as sophisticated as it's replacement (for a start the E36 has no fly-by-wire throttle, it's all done with strings!). The SMGII is a million times better and therefore superb - but do yourself a favour and allow yourself the time to learn it properly (500-1000 miles) and you won't be disappointed.

by Red with 1 month(s) experience. Tuesday, January 22nd, 2002 - 07:44 CET [7]
I picked up my SMG M3 in Belgium a week ago. I've taken plenty out of your web site over the last few months (subjecting myself to the daily torture of reading other new owners joy!) so I thought it only fair to put a little input back into the system. Here are my first impressions:

1) So glad I took the SMG option - it is so much fun, even in London. I can't wait to get out and put some miles on it.
2) Yes second to first is a little slow if you rely on the car to change for you but you can force it into first and this soon becomes second nature.
3) What were they thinking of, making you press 'Sport' each time? Simply daft....and a total waste of time!
4) ....A bit like the automatic mode - unless you don't have a hands free phone! A3 is OK I guess, but 4 and 5 rev too high in town and why would you want them out of town? I tried to make myself drive all the way home in automatic last week but I hated it - I felt like my Dad!
5) Boy does it shift! I am being very good at keeping the rev's within the recommended limits but oh it wants to go...! Stuffed the first of many Porsches last week and looking forward to a few more and got a Z8 on the way in this morning - he wasn't happy!
6) Corners - must remember I am not driving four wheel drive now - made myself look a bit average yesterday morning!
7) The gear indicator - what's it doing down there? I have been cornering a couple of times and unsure exactly which gear I was in; the currant indicator location is obscured by a turned steering wheel yet the screen area above remains free with the wheel in any position - doh! Move it please BMW!
8) Harmon Kardon - seems OK but there is no CD description and the radio feels a little 'cheap'. Tape - pleeeeeease! Where's the 8-track!
9) TV - waste of money - I can't believe they haven't put an AV input on it - that's outrageous for the money and I didn't see it mentioned in the literature. Do we have to check air-con. comes with a filter next? Naughty BMW! Has anyone found a way round it yet and can you 'chip' the hand-brake control switch?
10) One of my retractable mirrors hasn't worked since picking the car up - that's poor.
11) No rear wiper - it has always amazed me that you BM drivers don't have rear wipers - now I am one and it is a pain. Hey, it rains in London!
12) Where's the beverage holder?
13) Seats are great.
14) Sat Nav is fun.
15) The window buttons could have been better thought out. There are two small extendible windows in the back - why? We have air con. and if I needed more I'd open the sun-roof. Do you really think we care about passengers? I digress; you pull up to a garage or toll, fumble for the window button, drive home, park, get out of the car and (if your lucky) notice you've clipped one of the rear window buttons and left your window 2mm open - back you go! Does anyone know if these can be locked shut?

Conclusion: fantastic car, so much fun even in just the first week. It looks like BMW have taken notice of the pilfering that plagued owners of the previous models as everything on this one looks solid and secure - I hope I haven't spoken too soon! I look forward to getting some serious miles on it and I'll report back if I discover anything else but the grumbles above are very minor in relation to such a great car and it will take a lot more than them to knock the huge cheesy grin off my face that has been there for the last week.

Finally, if you are waiting for your car:

1) It's agony isn't it? Sorry if I haven't made it any easier!

2) Keep waiting - it's worth it.....

by A.Christopher with 1 month(s) experience. Sunday, January 27th, 2002 - 03:26 CET [8]
Today I got to Drive Scott's 02' M3... Impressed!!

Today Scott and I measured 0-60mph with a G-Tech Pro performance meter. It ran an average of 5.2 and a best of 4.9sec, which is very impressive. I also filmed these runs and they can be viewed at www.leo.nutz.de . After this, we were bored and he offered to let me take his car for a spin. He asked me before if I wanted to drive it but I was leary to drive a car like this and especially since it had less than 1500 miles on it. However, today I said what the heck let’s go. First impressions mean the most and BMW definitely had this in mind. Just the feel of the car is so at home and comfortable, from the seats to the nicely sized steering wheel, it just feels natural. The SMG (sequential 6spd trans) was tough for me to at 1st, made me feel uncoordinated stepping for a clutch that wasn’t there and letting off the gas to shift- a little different than bangin’ the gears in the Babyblue EGT. However, once I got used to it, one word… amazing. Then he told me to get on it to get the feel of the car. I just could not resist it, I gave it a few strong third gear pulls to about 100mph and it has a very smooth powerband that just does not stop pulling. So, he tells me to take it to the twisties… like I was going to say no!?? This car would not give in, what ever I pushed it to it would take it. From luxury to performance, the ‘Balance’ of this car is unreal. If I had to describe this car in one word- Perfect.
by Jamie Thornton with 0 month(s) experience. Tuesday, January 29th, 2002 - 21:23 CET [9]
Just got my car last Wednsday. Man it was very strange at first. I drove it from Kentucky to Florida which is about 1200 miles. I figured this would be a great break-in. I pretty much picked up the car and got right on the highway. I will say this transmission is the most amazing thing I have ever scene. Cray-Fast Shifts!! I do not see how it possible in a manual to change gears that fast, even if you speed shift. I unleshed S6 last night, O'my God!! People if you did not order this systems, you are missing out!

A Mode is very simple to discribe for me. Imagine you are driving a manual car, and someone else is changing the gears and engaging the clutch for you, you fell that motion. In S & A mode you feel the clutch engage just like a normal manual. It make the car feel just like you are pushing the cluch in, it does the motion so to speek(the car itself) the modes are exactly as stated by Andreas & Leo. S1 or A1 slow calm comfortable gear changes. Example: If you were drinking coffie and driving you would take it easy so you dolnt spill it. S5 or A5 is if you are just having fun driving(you are focused on what you are doing) S6 is the extreme, having a S--t load of fun or the DO YOU WANNA RACE mode. This is the coolest transmission I have ever seen.

PS. I think once everyone figures out SMG II, you will see that SMG II will out perform the manual. I do not care how good of a driver you are, even speed shifting cant be done that fast. Think about a full arm stroke compared to a click. There just ain't no way!! The SMG II clutch is furiously fast. I live in South Florida (Boca Raton) There are Super Cars everywhere. I would put my M3 against any of them, and take there money. Because mainley (MAINLEY!) they are very uneducated drivers. They have really no idea how to race or effectivly run throught the gears. Even a Lamborgini Diablo would be a close race with an ordinary driver. That how much of an advantage I think it gives the driver. This is just my opinion so please do not email me arguing my opinions, they are just that (OPINIONS)

by Jonathan (Chins) with 2 month(s) experience. Friday, February 01st, 2002 - 20:05 CET [10]
Ive now had my M3 for over 2 months and 2000 miles. Life has not been without its troubles as I had an SMG failure which took the car off the road for 2 weeks. A soleniod apparently failed in the hydraulic unit. Mine obviously is not a one off as the part was back ordered, and the replacement modified from the original.

The SMG now seems smoother than before.


Keep trying it, but find it only good for those mobile phone moments. Modes 1&2 change to early, 3,4 &5 too late when you are not hammering it, but want reasonable pace.
Borrowed a Tiptronic 530 whilst my M3 was knackered. This illustrated to me how bad an impression of an Auto the M3 is.


Yes when its icey I see the point in Mode 1, letting the car start off in 2nd. 2,3 & 4 why bother ?. Lets get the change out of the way, and continue with some forward motion. Mode 5 seem the smoothest anyway.

Like a lot of people have reported, it does need a slight lift off the throttle to make shifts smooth when at a medium throttle and low to medium revs.

Other things Ive found is that I sometimes forget what gear I'm in or how many downshifts Ive made. This has left me either accelerating too slowly, or have some serious engine braking on occasions !!. Living in England the steering wheel is never straight, and you cant see the number of the dash.

Not tried Mode 6 yet. Need a bit of dry weather and a drag strip !!

Like other have said as well this box is designed for the track not the street IMHO. Took it on the track and enjoyed shifting near max revs. Great fun.

Am I glad I went for SMG ?. Not sure. Glad I can say Ive owned a car with it. Next M3 might be manual though.

by loki with 1 month(s) experience. Thursday, February 07th, 2002 - 16:16 CET [11]
Welp, for what it's worth here's the review of my M3 which I picked up just over 2 weeks ago...

It was a long wait (as many board regulars know) but after 1.5years on the waiting list, I placed an order for 2002 M3... bypassing several 6-spd manual allocations earlier in 2001 as I patiently awaited for a SMGII allocation. My car was assigned the first SMG week build (#45/November) and after many delays at the port and VPC, I picked it up in the first week of January at Palm Springs, happy happy joy joy! My car (Scarlett) was build to the following specs: SMGII transmission, Cold Weather Package, Premium Package, Power-Adjustable Lumbar, NAV, Harmon-Kardon, Bi-Xenon.

Did it live up to the wait and expectations? Simply put, yes. SMGII is an amazing piece of technology and doesn't detract from the driving experience whatsoever. If you can swallow your macho-purist-ness you'll find SMGII to be just as rewarding a driving experience as a traditional manual transmission. Sure, I'll admit that I find (and sometimes miss) enjoyment I get in rowing the gears, nailing a good heel-toe and doing all the things associated with a manual... but what you get in exchange with SMGII is a higher sensibility to your interaction with the car and the road. By freeing your mind of shifting tasks, it enhances all the other visceral aspects of driving. It may not be for some but I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Sounds like the best thing since sliced bread but there are some things to take note about. First, it takes getting use to... You'll quickly learn that this is no "automatic" car. Stepping on the gas in first won't equate to a smooth start... like a manual you'll have to feed the gas to pull away smoothly, in fact playing with throttle with shifting in either S or A modes really makes a difference on how it shifts. The different driving modes may be useful for some but I found I use 2 modes the most, S5 and on the rare occasion, A5. Make note that the automatic tranny isn't as smooth as your traditional auto with torque converter. I find it rather abrupt with a tendency to shift at rather low RPMs but I'm glad it's there as a backup option. Because of this I drive 99% of the time in S5 where I can shift when *I* want to, plus it seems to be the smoothest option for day-to-day driving (YMMV) and is just plain FUN!!! S6 is something I'll reserve for special occasions (), upshifts are VERY quick and the downshifts, well, that's the best damn part of SMGII and everyone who's been in the car agrees! Flicking the "-" paddle ensues a throttle blip as the engine rev matches and engages the lower gear... what a great sound and it's ooooohhhhh soooooo smoooooth. There is no one this side of a professional race driver that can do it this smoothly time and time and time again... simply amazing. Launch Control? Yup, it's on the US version... dropping the clutch at 1800rpm instead of europe's 3500rpm, it's a rather uneventful with lots of wheelspin and fast acceleration. Something I don't see using much at all but a neat gizmo that's good for drags I guess.

Okay, okay... so what about the rest of the car? It's no doubt that the S54 engine is the near the end of it's life but what a wonderful inline-6 it is. Finally after eyeing the folks in Europe that had the 321hp M3, we get the same toy albeit slightly detuned for emissions. The engine is effortlessly fast and sings when it's approaching redline... I'm a fan of the unique "rasp" the M3 produces and love hearing it as I goose the throttle. The car itself is a deceptively quick. I find it so smooth it's hard to believe I'm soon cruising at 90mph while commuting to work... the car BEGS to be driven fast and mocks you to go faster as triple digits build. Handling, you'll quickly forget this is a 3500lb car as the stock suspension and steering does a great job with feedback and input. This was one area I was afraid of missing coming from the rather lithe S2000, but it hasn't been a concern since I've had it. Steering can use improvement however and I plan to put in some negative camber to reduce the tendency for the car to understeer when pushed. That and replacements for the stock Continentals (blech!) I'm sure will help corner manners immensely.

So what about all this crazy extras you got, are they worth the price of admission? Ooooooo, lots of opinions here. NAV unit, love it. I'm a gizmo-holic so getting it was a no-brainer... but I didn't know *how* useful it would actually be until I picked up the car in SoCA and used it extensively visiting friends down there, what a life-saver! Simply input the address and the unit led me to every location without getting lost in L.A.'s crazy freeway system. While still CD based, it is one option that I wholeheartedly recommend. Harman-Kardon sound system tho? Thumbs down. I've not only got the bass rattle that's plagued this e46 system since inception, I've got buzzing in the rear LH tweeter and the front RH speaker and dash... a warranty trip to the dealership is definitely in order. CWP is pretty unnecessary in CA but passengers always seem to like the heated seats. Bi-Xenons, while not as "blue" as the normal Xenons, they're still a "must" option in my book for great nighttime driving. I'm digging the IR/IR combo, it gets alot of positive comments.

There's been a few "mods" I've done to the car that's worth mentioning while I'm at it. I added Euro cross drilled rotors and Pagid Blue-S pads in the first week. They feel and look great, and overall shaves about 7lbs over the stock US rotors. It's hard to tell since it's been raining so much but while the Pagids may not be dusting as much as the OEM pads, the drilled pattern in the rotors is probably countering that, I'll reserve judgement until dryer days. I bought these with painted reflectors from evosport.com... the painted reflectors are OEM units and fit perfectly, plus the look sharp.

Next, Eisenmann exhaust. I bought a used one with 2000mis on it and 76mm tips... what a sound! Lighter than the OEM exhaust, the 76mm tips really enhance the rear end and fill out the bumper cutouts nicely. Of course there's no real HP gains that I can feel but what a sound! A nice low burble from idle to about 4.5k which then builds and disappears into the M3's high-end scream. 2nd gear pulloffs are probably when it's loudest and it doesn't drone too much (for me) at freeway speeds, I barely notice it. I wouldn't want it any louder than this though that's for sure.

Guess that's it... if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Hope to see y'all on the backroads, meets or track events in the future!

by M3Too with 1 month(s) experience. Thursday, February 28th, 2002 - 08:03 CET [12]
After all the time research and obsessing I have put into getting this car I felt a detailed report was warranted.


2002 BMW M3
Titanium Silver
Xenon Headlights
HK Stereo
Black Leather
Manual Seats
Delete Sunroof
Delete Spoiler

Total miles on delivery: 7.1

The Driver:

6' 3"
29yrs old

Total miles driven: 250

Previous Vehicles :
1978 Alfa Romeo Spider
1965 Mustang V8
1978 Datsun 280Z
1991 Toyota Supra Turbo
1997 Honda Prelude Vtech
1995 BMW 540

Bottom Line:
THIS CAR IS AMAZING. I have been reading this board and listening to all the talk of clunks, rattles, and differential failure so when my car came I was paranoid. Who has time to think about such things when driving this car. Words cannot describe the rush you get from piloting this vehicle.

The Background:
I have been been an avid reader of car magazines for 15 years and have longed for o'so many of the performance cars that have graced their covers. I can remember the first time I saw the M3 in one of the major mags. The car looked like a muscular angular cat ready to pounce. When I opened the magazine and saw the 333hp I was in love. I was considering buying one when in 2001 but decided to wait. I have 60 mile a day commute from Redondo Beach to Malibu. This commute commonly involves stop and go traffic, eating or talking on the cell phone so the manual was just not practical. When 2002 rolled around, and the SMG II was offered, I was sold. My next task was finding a car.

The Search:
My first stop was the BMW website. Hear I built my car as described above. Printed it out, and started calling dealers all over Los Angeles. The wait to have one custom built was 6 months at best and involved ~3 – 7 k over MSRP. Almost everyone had 1 or 2 on the lot that they were selling for similar mark-up. While considering what to do next I was reading this board. I saw a post from someone wanting to not take delivery on their already built but not yet delivered M3. I immediately posted a response. It turned out that the car he had built was exactly the car I had designed on the BMW site. After a couple weeks of emails and calls the car was mine. In the end I ended paying him 750 bucks. He tried to talk me out of taking the car for 20 minutes the day we were to close the deal, but at this point I was salivating and had to have the car. He held to his original word and transferred the delivery to me. The car was to arrive 1 week later.

The Purchase:
Though I told BMWNA otherwise the dealer I bought the car from was awful. Their service to me sucked!! They would have much preferred to sell the car to the original buyer or another local. This way they would make more money on servicing the car and cultivating repeat customers. With me they decided {Buyer in California=Extra Work} and treated me accordingly. It is amazing that in the current economy the buyer of a 60k car is treated this way. I guess it speaks volumes to the demand for the car. I financed the Car through BMW Finance. In order to close the deal the dealer insisted I be there in person to sign the papers. After a week of fighting this, which included calls to BMWNA, I bought a plane ticket to NY. My plane left Los Angeles at 10:00 PM on a Thursday night. My plane landed at JFK airport at 7:00AM . I Drove to Long Island, inspected the car, signed the papers, was back on a plane by 11:00AM, and home by 2:00PM.

The Wait:
You can’t imagine the mental anguish involved with waiting to get this car. I compulsively read every article, website, and message board I could find. I can honestly say, I have read almost everything there is to say, think or feel about this car. I became a blabbering idiot at work and spent all my time as stated above. All told it took 3 weeks to ship my car from NY to CA. No matter what anyone tells you shipping a car is A PAIN IN THE A**! If you read the contracts almost none of the car movers guarantee a delivery date. The company I paid to ship the car, contracted the shipping to another company, who contracted the shipping to a third company. At one point the first company told me the car had been stolen. But then yesterday I finally got it.

My Car:
The first thing I noticed when getting into my car was how nervous I felt, partly because the car is new and you are not used to the size, and ground clearance, but mostly because of the SMG. Up to this point I had not driven an SMG car. The only one I could get anyone to let me test drive was a manual. I had read extensively about using the transmission, but reading about it and using it to control your 3400-pound rocket are 2 different things. I had a strange awkward feeling, I hadn’t felt when driving a car since I was 16. This feeling passed within 10 minutes and I was on my way.

The SMG transmission is an exiting challenge that I have embraced and am learning to control more and more with every drive. The thing that stands out to me is how important proper throttle control is. The throttle in the car is extremely sensitive, and I have found that the transmission responds differently based on subtle inputs. When I am driving it I am very touch with what the computer is doing with the clutch. The first couple times I drove it, it was not so smooth. Now after 2 weeks would say I drive as good as I did with any manual, but there definitely still a lot to learn. I understand that all the shift programs could be useful, but always use S4 or S5 and use throttle to determine how fast it shifts.

The Engine
WOW. I cannot see how an engine could be any better than this. It is so fast and so smooth I can hardly believe it.. In neutral and first gear, it revs like it is weightless. The 5500 break in rev limit is dangerous because the engine gets there REAL FAST. I have never driven or been in a car with such amazing throttle response. The smallest change in pressure on the gas pedal the causes exactly the expected response from the engine. The only thing I don’t like about it is 1200 mi break in period. It is torture to short shift every time, the engine is just getting going at 5000. Due to this I am going to save my full comments until later when I can taste 7900

If you want a luxury car ride, do not buy an M3. That said I think the handling is epic; Stiff yes, but oh so worth it when you head into an S-Curve at twice the posted limit. Over smooth pavement the car has an amazingly smooth ride(smoother than my 1995 540) Speed is very deceiving I find it a test of willpower to keep it under 80. Rough pavement is a different story. Certain types of bumps are jarring and others that should be just as bad go almost unnoticed. It really depends on the surface. For me I would tolerate a 10 times rougher ride for the performance I get. When you start to do some aggressive corner and use the paddles you truly feel like you are in a racecar.

Build Quality
My car is flawless!

HK Radio
It does rattle if you play music with deep base at loud volumes. Outside of this it is excellent. If the rattle does happen, you can just adjust the bass down a couple notches.

The Clunk
There is some drivetrain noise directly proportional to how you drive the car, but it’s worth it.

I have babbled my self out for now, and have wasted much driving time. So unfortunately (fortunately) I must get back to the car.

by Bob Cowart with 1 month(s) experience. Thursday, April 18th, 2002 - 04:41 CET [13]
I owned a 2001 M3 cab.6 speed for 9 months and was having the car serviced when the sales manager of the dealership pulled up in a 2002 M3 Coupe with the SMG II. The person who had ordered the car was unable to fulfill his commitment. He had called 2 hours earlier to cancel. I asked the sales manager if he wouldn't mind taking me for a spin. Within minutes I was behind the wheel and was completely blown away by what I experienced. By the time we had returned to the dealership I had negotiated a trade. The next morning I was driving home in my brand new Imola Red 2002 M3 w/SMG. I have now owned the car for a month. Here are my impressions:
1.Contrary to what some are saying, you don't have to learn how to drive all over again. The smg II is very intuitive to drive and based on the 6 different drive logic modes will mimic anybody's driving habits.
2.I live outside of Denver and have had a chance to experience the car on mountain roads. In S4 and S5 it drives like I would have in my 6 speed. The big difference is that it downshifts perfectly, thereby allowing me to enter the corner at a faster speed and nail the accelerator coming out of the apex. This is done perfectly every single time. Now I can concentrate on my driving and setting up the car for the next corner.
3.Otherwise, you drive the car as you normally would in a 6 speed. Except now instead of downshifting while double clutching, heel and towing, the paddles do all that for you. It's not a completely different driving experience. What it is, is a much more efficient driving experience. (Leave it to the Germans)!
4.The build quality of the 2002 is better. The car feels more robust eventhough it weighs some 370 lbs, less than my cab.It certainly pulls like stink.
5.Launch control is a reality here in the states. It works beautifully, time after time.
6.I prefer the smg to the 6 speed and it is every bit as involving as the 6 speed. This debate will rage on forever, but for those who really like exploring the limits of their car you need only look to Formula 1 racing, where this technology has been used for approximately 10 years. They didn't go from a manual gear shift to the sequential gear shift for looks!
7. Can the smg post better acceleration times? For 99% of us it will. For the car testers who have no regard for the transmission of the cars they test, they might do better, but we'll have to see about that.
8. Finally, improved technology is good, but change can be difficult for some of us. Enjoy, you'll never look back. _ Bob
by Gary Hartmann with 2 month(s) experience. Thursday, May 02nd, 2002 - 16:32 CET [14]
I'll start off with my conclusion - after 6000+ miles (in only 6 weeks), I think going from a stick to SMG is like going from an electric typewriter to a computer. It is that much better.

I didn't feel that way initially. If I had based my decision on a test drive only, I likely would have opted for a stick. The shifting is so easy - no timed pedal push and precisely directed stick throw - that it seemed, well, almost wimpy. It was immediately clear that it would be more convenient in traffic since I hate the constant in-and-out on the clutch. The first time I took it out on twisty mountain roads, it was clear that it is even more fun to snap up- and down-shifts than a manual. IMO, it's safer and faster, too, since both hands remain on the wheel. Still, I thought for regular driving, the manual might be the way to go. I don't think that anymore. The more experience I have with this, the more archaic the stick seems. Think of it this way - if SMG was the original transmission, and a new system was introduced wherein a pedal had to be pushed while simultaneously shifting a lever across different directions, buying that would seem ridiculous. In the same way, going back now from SMG seems crazy.

I enjoy SMG more and more as the miles go by. Many people say that you can't go wrong either way. I disagree. After having some initial disappointment with SMG (again, because of its incredible ease), I've concluded that going with a stick is archaic. Then again, there are still authors who swear by their electric typewriters.
by Andreas U. with 1 month(s) experience. Thursday, May 23rd, 2002 - 22:22 CET [15]
Got my Sterling grey /Imola red M3 SMG II one week ago after waiting long 8 month's. Took me only a weekend to drive the first 1000km all over Switzerland. Lucky enough no need to "brake in" as I ordered it as a demo car with 6000km at delivery day.
Had to trust the dealer about careful "break in"...let's see

By today I can say, it takes you a little time to get to know how to work together with SMG II. By "together" I mean how to "team up" with the system's "drive logic" in order get all the potential out of it.
My experience is, that this is far more quicker and easier with S (S5) mode then it is with A (A1-3) mode, since the behaviour of A mode, in some situations acts otherwise then you would expect a smooth (logic) clutch + gear "behaviour", especially in slow downtown traffic.

BUT, the reasons why I opted for SMG II: The "ultimate driving experience" which open's new dimensions to super sports car driving have been fulfilled by 150% - it's an entire new experience you simply cannot describe without having experienced it yourself
The gear changes in S5 mode, either with nailed pedal or quick lift (if you have someone sitting on the co-pilot seat) are each time like a double dose of Adrenaline.
Combined with that aggressive and superb sound of the engine and exhaust when it
passes the 4500 rpm level....unbelievable.

Forget all you have heard about differences in acceleration between stick shift and SMG II, just forget the 150 years "existence" of the "third pedal", and even more, don't even think about comparing SMG II with anything like Tiptronic, Steptronic or whatsoever - Go to the nearest dealer and experience it yourself, preferable in S5 mode! Hard not to be convinced I guess. - Andreas -

by John Crissey with 1 month(s) experience. Thursday, June 06th, 2002 - 17:21 CET [16]
Three days ago, I picked up a 2002 silver M3 as a kind of (gulp) impluse buy. Options: SMG II, 19" wheels, upgraded sound system/ headlights/ seats, universal garage remote. A week before, I had negotiated a purchase for my dad of a 330i sedan and traded in my 2001 Corvette (auto trans) on that purchase. Before that, I had never given a thought to owning a BMW. When I went back to the dealer 3 days ago to have an adjustment made on my dad's car, I spent my waiting time looking at, and being impressed by, an M5 they had in the showroom. The M5 price and manual-only trans, however, made the car too impractical for me here in Southern California - land of traffic jams. Still waiting for dad's car, I read BMW's M Series brochure, and about the M3's SMG II trans. That was the first I knew about it. Since the dealer had 3 M3's on the lot (2 sold & awaiting pickup), I opted for a test drive and that was it. 2 hours later I drove the thing away for $1,500 over sticker (best I could do after much negotiating & being ready to walk away).

Unlike the other owner posts here, I was interested in the SMG mostly for its auto mode programs. I know this makes me a non-purist, but as I said, traffic tie-ups are so frequent that that's why I had an automatic in the Corvette. I've now got 350 miles logged, including 2 trips up though the local mountain passes, several intermediate distance freeway trips, and a fair amount of around-town driving. Here are my impressions. First, I agree with the many who have indicated that this is not an automatic transmission that you can shift. It's different, and does require a learning curve. I'm getting better at fooling my passenger into thinking it's an automatic, but I figure I'll need at least a couple more weeks of practice. As a beginner, the differences are most apparent when at a stop, and in the first-to-second gear shift. With an automatic, when you're stopped on a slight incline you can take your foot off the brake without rolling backword - not so with this one. It's just like having a manual and taking your foot off the break with the clutch in - you roll. More pronounced is the learning/adjustment required for the first to second shift. There is a pronounced lag of, it seems, one-half to one second when it shifts to 2nd (10-20 mph, depending on how fast you accelerate). If you don't back off the throttle a little just before the shift, the sudden cessation of the car's forward momentum followed by the acceleration after the shift causes a lurch similar to that made by a driver who is just learning to shift a manual transmission. This seems to be the case no matter which of the auto programs 2-5 that you use (auto program 1 starts in 2nd gear, so it's not an issue there). The lurches also aren't as pronounced in the higher gears or when accelerating very conservatively.

Can someone (e.g. wife, significant other) who's rarely going to drive the vehicle and is expecting an automatic adapt? Last night, I explained the concept to my girlfriend. "It's not an automatic you can shift, it's a manual with an automatic/hydraulic clutch." We went for a drive, she did great, and liked the car. I think the fact that she can drive a manual helped her absorb the concept.

Beyond the SMG, I love the car. Build quality and handling are fabulous, and it feels as nimble and grippy as the Corvette. And while the ride is much smoother than the vette was on bumps and road rivets, you won't mistake this car for my dad's 330i and its luxurious but still nimble ride.

As an M Series beginner, the thing is still a notch too extreme for my capabilities, but I'm learning and having a lot of fun.
by Eric B with 0 month(s) experience. Tuesday, June 25th, 2002 - 21:25 CET [17]
I have been racing Porsches' for 12 years and driving stick for 30+, two weeks ago I took delivery of my 2002 Titanium/Imola M3 w/SMGII. It is different. Initially it's exciting then the "downside" issues pop up i.e. lurching shifts, early downshifts and a general feeling that the novelty is wearing off and it may not have been a wise purchase. I then came to realize that driving stick was completely intuitive after 30 years and SMG is the future and worthy of some effort on my part. As I started to think about the system and try out different methods, such as lifting during upshifts and not being afraid to try all the modes, it started to come together. My wife says now I am infinitely smoother with my SMG M3 than I have ever been with any stick car in the past (not to mention a hell of a lot faster too). In summary, this is an incredible system but you need to be patient and work to learn it. It took me two weeks but I am not giving it back.
by Afzal with 1 month(s) experience. Wednesday, June 26th, 2002 - 15:59 CET [18]
Day 1:

Finally, after 15 months wait, I picked up my Phoenix/Kiwi SMGII M3 (why's everyone looking at me like that? It's a terrific colour scheme).

Following the advice of many here, I went straight into S mode. At first it took some getting used to. I got a mix of automatic reactions from prior experiences - my left foot hunting for something to do and my left hand hunting down where the hood release is trying to find the brake release (I can only put this one down to the reflex from starting up in my Mercedes).

Then it started to click. This is great, but yes, let up a bit on the accelerator on those upshifts. I'm sure the clutch will thank you later on.

Being in the run-in period is frustrating. You can feel that the car has so much (and thanks to the double vanos, a lot of it is there even so) but you're not allowed to use it. I think a trip from Geneva to Lugano is called for .

The two red and one yellow shift lght being constantly lit up is strange to me, cause those two lights keep starring me in the face. *shrug*

I've also tried out the A mode, and in heavy traffic I can understand why it's useful.

My biggest gripe so far. I which that the shift paddles where on the colum and not the wheel (life in the Ferrari). I find myself using the stick shifter a lot in corners. Hmmm, maybe I need to adjust to being in the right gear going in.

by Arjen with 12 month(s) experience. Friday, July 26th, 2002 - 15:45 CET [19]
Hi all M3 fans out there,

1st of all I want to give my compliments on this great site; lots of information that cannot easily be found anywere else.

Since March 2002 I drive a titan-silver, full optioned M3 coupe SMGII... and... I love it! Next to that I have a Estoril Blue '97 M3 convertible (321HP) that my girlfriend is driving most. Needless to say that there are enormous differences between these 2 M3's. The E46 has improved incredibly on almost every aspect: faster, smoother, more solid and more luxurious.

I bought the E46 M3 last March. It was a 7months young 2nd hand. So no long delivery times! What will be interesting to read for other SMG fans (and non-believers) is that by now my M3 has already done 60.000km and you cannot notice any changes on the drive-train. It still feels like new. So I can tell people questioning the durability of the SMGII system that this is rock-solid genuine race equipment.

If the roads are dry I personally drive mostly in S6 mode and push engine and car quite far. I find gear-changing best in S6 mode and the balance between over/understeer can be controlled much better with DSC turned off. DSC comes in to early to really push the car, especially in short turns. On wet/slippery roads I mostly drive in S5 mode with DSC turned on, then it's even difficult to get the tail out if you try because the DSC and M-differential control and correct all movements very well. I never use the Automatic modes.. the M3 is a real sports car and personally I think that in real sport cars the gears need to be controlled by the driver and not the car. To me the timing of gear changes in Automatic mode are a bit unnatural, but that's off course just my personal thought.

I have also driven a F355 Spider F1 on a UK racetrack and I can say that SMGII feels a bit faster and smoother than the Ferrari system. So thumbs up for the M division of BMW!

It's almost end of the working day and start of the weekend now.. which means.. I am getting close to another rush of M POWER!!!

Regards from Holland,
by Hornsch with 0 month(s) experience. Monday, September 16th, 2002 - 23:15 CET [20]
I have driven the 6-speed E46 M3. Ever since then I knew I was going to order a M3. However, if I was going to purchase a $50K+ car, I wanted to make sure to consider ALL options. I have seen most colors in person and have talked to many people about NAV, HK upgrade, Stongard, Xenons, 19” wheels, etc, etc, etc. But probably the most important choice (IMO) when purchasing the new M3 is whether or not to get SMG.

I was very fortunate to be able to test drive a fellow board member’s broken in 2002 Cab. SMG.

Wow!!! Now I know what all the hype is about!

I am on a list and will be ordering a M3 in January, SMGII no doubt!

Before yesterday I was sure I was going to get the 6-speed. I have always had a clutch pedal and felt like nothing else can compare as far as ‘driving’ a car. I was wrong. With SMG I found myself shifting at times when I would never think of with a stick. Why? It is fun, easy, amazing, etc.

The owner of the car was very professional and took his time explaining how the SMG worked, the different settings, and how they affected the performance of the car. Similar to many board members, this guy has participated in numerous driving schools and events.

Before he let me drive the car he showed me its capabilities. It was a wet and so far disappointing afternoon (Bengals lost, again). First he showed me A mode. He explained to me how he uses this in situations such as when his grandparents are in the car, etc.

Next he switched to S. He went right to S5 and off we were, FAST! I was blasted back in the seat. Hearing the ‘rasp’ from the exhaust was music to my ears, but I was paying more attention to the road ahead plus watching him go through the gears, switching at 7000+ RPM. I was surprised at how quiet the cab was with the top up.

We drove to a huge parking lot and he went to S6, showed me how to launch. D@MN!!!
The car felt so balanced!!! I felt like I was watching Motortrend but we were the ones going in and out of the cones at indescribable speed! I was so impressed with the acceleration and control (I can’t imagine the coupe with no passengers, this day we had 3 people in the cab, 550+ lbs.). The rev. matching during downshifting was awesome!

Then he let me test drive. All I can say is: UNBELIEVABLE!!! MAKE SURE YOU DRIVE A SMG BEFORE ORDERING!!! I was using the paddles as well as the center stick, shifting from 4th to 2nd, 5th to 3rd, never letting off of the gas, weaving back and forth, stopping hard then starting quick! What an experience!! Then the owner hit the SPORT button and HOLY SH!T!! I know this does not make the car faster but it FELT much FASTER!! Not only was the owner knowledgeable, but he was full of energy, yelling instructions, “Downshift twice! Take it to 7800! Slam on the breaks!…” AMAZING, it was hard for me to keep in mind this was a manual transmission, the car rolls back if you let off the brake!

I want to thank the owner and let all M3 owners know how lucky they are to have one of the best production cars on the face of the earth!!!! I can’t imagine another car comparing with the M3 considering (or in a lot of cases not considering) the purchase price!

Thanks for reading and enjoy your M3s because I sure will!!!

by FRANK SCHROEDER with 1 month(s) experience. Wednesday, March 12th, 2003 - 20:40 CET [21]
by Gary Hartmann with 28 month(s) experience. Sunday, July 06th, 2003 - 18:46 CET [22]
This is a follow-up to a post I made in May 2002. After well over a year and 24,000 miles, the car and the transmission are still an absolute pleasure.

No regrets at all about choosing SMG.
by Jeremy Lai with 20 month(s) experience. Thursday, December 16th, 2004 - 10:34 CET [23]
I've had a 2003 M3 convertible SMG II and now I have an 04 M3 coupe SMG II. I've upgraded the software (conforti shark injector 91 Octane), installed a carbon fiber cold air intake (carbonio), and threw on an Active Autowerke exhaust. Altogether I'm supposed to have about 360 Horses now. I believe it. The biggest differences I have noticed are with the software and exhaust. They compliment the SMG II wonderfully. To be honest with you all, I didn't even know Launch Control existed until recently!! Yeah I know, I was in the dark, ignorant. But I've been working on the best start possible. Because of my upgrades I think I end up burning my tires a lot more off the start but here's what I've come up with.

1. s6 (dsc off) LC mode foot to the floor 1800 rpms

2. Release. Now, if you have upgrades your M3 will do a little more than chirp on the get go. Because the tires are spinning, your tach lights will prematurely flash high yellow and red.

3. If you shift at this point, you will end up going much slower than anticipated.

4. I have found that it's best to let the rev limiter knock the needle down 1 or 2 times and then shift to 2nd.

5. This time when you see high yellow/red you can shift normally.

6. I'm usually chirping from 2nd to 3rd, I don't remember it doing that stock.

The SMG II is a great invention but takes a while to master. Reving the engine on the downshift is also fun but you have to get used to the timing of it all. When you're coming to a stop and down shifting you can hit the gas and rev your engine between gears. You have to get a good feel for when it's briefly in neutral but it makes it sound like you're driving a standard. I've also found that S6 will facilitate 180 degree turns.

1. Remove heavy passengers
2. S6
3. Turn wheels to the far left
4. Floor it baby.
5. Make sure you get on that brake to keep from overspinning

I recently used this technique to turn around in a tight spot, it works if you can perfect it.

If anyone has anymore launching tips or useful experience, please post it.

by Army Chief with 24 month(s) experience. Friday, October 06th, 2006 - 13:30 CET [24]
SMG versus 6MT debate

I parted company with a previous generation M5 in order to get the M3, and my main reason for doing so was to experience the SMG II technology. Knowing what I know now two years hence, I would still do the same. There will always be a case to make for "rowing your own," especially once you've mastered the footwork and balance requirements of performance driving, but SMG opens up entirely new possibilities, even as it adds everyday convenience and utility.

I'd put it this way: SMG II excels in two rather disparate modes of driving; (a) when you're going very fast, on a demanding track circuit, for example, and (b) when you're going very slow, as you might when you're stuck in stop and go traffic.

If you plan to spend a lot of time in either, or both, of those situations, SMG II will reinvent your appreciation for the sports coupe. It allows you to do things that simply weren't possible before, and the added benefit of losing the clutch pedal is that you can master left foot braking. Once you've honed your skills, it's almost like driving a 300+ hp go kart with the whole world as your own personal driving course.

If, on the other hand, you don't really deal with either extreme (very fast or very slow) much, and you prefer the simplicity and control afforded by a more conventional arrangement, there is great satisfaction in perfecting the time-honored techniques that every competent driver in history has had to know. The connection here between man and machine is unmistakeable.

Fortunately, this is one of those rare situations in life where, regardless of your decision, the outcome is going to be win-win. No worries.

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