Nürnberg, 19th August 2001
I had a wonderful chance of test drive a BMW M3 SMG II and would like to try to express my impressions behind the wheel of this magnificent automobile.
For those that are not familiar with this system here some techs notes:
The amazing new 6-speed transmission designated SMG II system in the M3 allows you to change gears just like the drivers in Formula 1. BMW's six-speed SMG gearbox is an achievement resulting from the experience of there involvement in Formula 1. Using hydraulic and electronic devices to operate the clutch and select gears, it is essentially the same shift system currently used by the BMW Williams F1 car.
In addition to the F1 system, SMG II allows you to do a lot more. You can change the speed of the shift depending on conditions your faced with.
By pressing the button in the central console, you can change the gears slowly (S1 mode) for smooth and relaxed driving up to S6 mode where hydraulics switch through the gears in only 0.08 seconds!
For those that are really lazy you have the option of setting the gears to full automatic mode (A1-A5).
Before I start I'd like to thank Andreas for giving me the opportunity on spending a great afternoon in Switzerland while driving in his beautiful M3.
As you can see in the pictures below the weather was very hot with blue skies all day.
Unfortunately the experience made me not realize that the sun was burning my arms so I got an extremely bad sun burn :-(
Please click on the image for a larger picture.
I think everyone would agree that the combination of Steel Gray, Imalo Red leather interior coupled with Titan Shadow interior is one awesome looking beast! As I haven't seen Imolared before I had thought it would be a lighter red than it actually was, very nice. (I'm still going to stick with my Cinnamon tho ;-)
The Work VS-MX wheels look exceptional on his car in my opinion.
OK, so I get in the car and we drive from the parking lot on to the road. The first thing that immediately caught me of guard was the exhaust note. WOW, what a monster of a sound!
For me the Eisenmann (Daehler) exhaust makes one thunderous sound (if I where still 20 years old that is ;-) but since I'm an old goat I just think it's a bit too loud for my taste and I felt a little embarrassed when we where driving thru those beautiful little Swiss towns as pedestrians where staring at me eeemm... us ;-)
[ Here ] is a sound bit with the Eisenmann exhaust. Please do yourself a favor and turn up the volume ;-)
As a comparison you can find a sound bit of the original M3 exhaust [ here ].
As soon as we got on some country roads Andreas let her rip. WOOHAA, my head snapped as I was not prepared for the acceleration (darn you Andreas! ;-) 1 2 3, pow pow pow, up the gears. It was flabbergasted. I was expecting fast shifts, no dought, but what I experienced was fast shifts with absolutely no delays. Just head snapping upshifts all the way, well almost because we where fast over the speed limit (on Swiss country roads it's only 80 km/h!) and it all had to end way too soon :-(
While watching Andreas one major advantage was the fact that he never needed to take his hands off the steering wheel. Two small levers mounted just behind the steering wheel act as the shifter control. A small pull on the right lever will result in an upshift while the left lever controls downshifts. The transmission shifts using an electronic clutch which eliminates the need for a clutch pedal.
Andreas also showed me the automatic mode. If you choose to ignore the shift levers, the transmission can operate as an automatic using eleven "Drivelogic" programs that adapt to the driver's personal style. We didn't focus a lot on the "A" modes because in my opinion they are pure luxury and frankly could off been left away.
The only time you need to use the Joystick is for reverse and at times you will be forced to cross your hands while turning into sharp corners. In this case you will not be able to reach the paddle and thus you just tip the Joystick to advance a gear (pull to to go up a gear, push to go down a gear).
We quickly returned back to "S" modes while Andreas went thru some of them. We tried mode 3 and this mode turned out to be a very nice compromise between smooth transition from one gear to the other. I would actually use this mode in the city with stop and go traffic.
As the afternoon went on it became clear that mode 5 is allot of fun and perfect in most cases without going to the extreme mode 6. Mode 5 is most impressive! The gear changes are fenominal! Mode 6 is awesome! Pure adrenalin :-) There is no driver that can change a gear by hand this fast with such precision on every change.
To see what I'm talking about check out the video [ here ]. The video shows 3 gear changes (1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd) from a rolling start in 1st gear with mode 6 and DSC off. Listen to the wheel spin from 1st to 2nd :-)
While I was driving the car I had to get used to some (little) things. Among them was using the accelerator pedal.
While pulling the "+" lever to change gears forward, the driver should keep his foot on the accelerator pedal. Advanced engine electronics interrupt the engine’s tractive power for just milliseconds while the control unit changes the gears electro hydraulically, opening and closing the clutch, all without the clutch pedal. I tended to go off the accelerator pedal while shifting thinking I had to press the clutch. It was kinda weird but after a while you understand the system quiet fast.
As fun as the upshifts are I have to admit that the downshifts are fabulous especially with the sound coming from the Eisenmann exhaust. When downshifting, the engine will automatically double-declutch and the engine will be revved to the optimal rpm when the shift sequence is initiated. The sound when this happens is addictive.
I just couldn't stop downshifting (I guess Andreas wasn't that impressed with me ;-)
[ Here ] is a small sequence of up- and downshifts with SMG II.
The fact that the driver no longer needs to concentrate on gear changing makes for precise, safer and more relaxed driving or agressive depending on the mode your driving in. Full concentration while downshifting going into the corner and then upshifting to push the car to it's full potential makes this combo a great race car.
With the Sequential M Gearbox, it is easier to benefit from the high power reserves of the M3 through selection of the optimum shift point with so-called “shift lights” (LEDs in the cockpit indicating the optimum shift point on the tachometer).
I was so focused on the driving that I never payed attention to the lights. For a newby not a good idea ;-)
After a beautiful afternoon I quickly came to the conclusion that SMG II does it for me. I have driven manuals all my life. I consider myself to be an "aggressive" driver and have always enjoyed driving manuals. But SMG II opens up totally new dimensions when it comes to driving pleasure. I have never felt so involved. My total focus went to the driving aspect without having to concentrate on using the clutch and to change gears via stick. This goes true for overtaking where this can be done extremely fast and with ease.
I will be changing my order from manual to SMG II with no second thoughts whatsoever.
I can only highly recommend everyone get SMG II if possible! You will love it!
In my opinion BMW has come up with a gear system that totally redefines the experience of driving the "Ultimate Driving Machine".
Thanks for reading my review!
If you have any questions on SMG II please look for my 'Frequently Asked Questions' (FAQ) here. Thanks.
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