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M3 to Model S?

OK, the Tesla bug has bitten me. I am the very happy owner of the current generation V8 M3 and up until recently my next car was going to be the next model M3 when it comes out in about a year. About a month ago my 15 year old son mentioned to me that his band teacher had a Tesla and he was giving kids rides (and doing burnouts!). I immediately volunteered to pick him up from his next band practice since my wife usually does it. I was expecting to see a Tesla Roadster and I drove all over the parking lot looking looking for it. I finally gave up and drove to the front of the school where I did a double take on a gorgeous white car with a "T" on the back. I had never seen a Model S in person before. At first glance I thought it was a Jag. Beautiful yet subtle lines. I talked with the owner for a while and kiddingly challenged him to a drag race whereupon he replied "I'll kick your butt" (I don't think he would have, he didn't have the performance model - but I liked his attitude). Since then I have been gleaning the Internet for articles and videos on anything to do with the Model S. Sound familiar? I love my M3, it is a multi award winning car - but when I see the looks on peoples' faces when they drive the Model S and hit the accelerator I am hooked. My car will do nearly 180 mph - so what? I have often thought that this top-end speed is totally wasted, only good for bragging rights and big numbers on the speedometer. I don't really care about anything in excess of 100 mph. That's one of the reasons I am so intrigued by the Tesla, seemingly incredible real-world usable acceleration in a totally family friendly and practical vehicle. My car also has the automated manual double clutch transmission which is truly a mechanical wonder. Now after researching the Tesla that mechanical wonder just seems clunky, inefficient and unnecessary (The M3 forum would string me up if they read this). So, have any of you gone from an M3 or other comparable performance car to a Model S? I would love to hear some comparisons. By the way, I have a test drive in the Model S scheduled for next Sunday in Menlo Park. Am I a goner?

If the M3, or any other car, has to use launch control to match the MS from a standstill, the MS will crush it in regular driving accelerations. In other words, you are in traffic, going 30, and decide you want a quick lane change and acceleration. Until you test drive a MS, you can not understand how instantaneous the torque is. No transmission to downshift, no turbos to spool, etc. It snaps your neck the second you floor the accelerator, and the M3 will be half a second to a second behind instantly. Also, there will not by any perceptible loss of acceleration with less charge. When I took delivery of my car, I had less than 60 miles of range, and after I floored it, I still had to wait for my eyeballs to catch back up....

@astroguy: The MS' battery capacity will slightly decline over many years (the standard battery warranty is 8 years), but the output voltage should not. The comment about the MS getting slower as the battery discharges is not exactly true. At lower battery levels (i.e., when the car is approaching "empty"), the on-board software will limit how fast you can accelerate in order to help you avoid draining the battery completely and being stranded (i.e., saving you from yourself). But, given the range is nearly 300 miles on a full 85kWh battery, you will have a looong time before you notice any change to the car's instantaneous acceleration.

Go drive one. Well, on the other hand, don't...because your mind will pretty much be made up at that point. Just make sure you drive a Performance version.

We still have our M3. It's a 2004 model ragtop in British racing green and it's a sentimental favorite. That said, it feels like riding in the back of a flatbed truck compared to the MS. BMW equates harsh ride to "feel of the road" and if you buy that, well then good.

I'm at the point in my life where I want to get in the car, drive and get out not feeling like I've been through an endurance event. With my M3, I spend a lot more energy fussing around with the shifting, the stiff steering, and noticing every tiny bump in the road. Still, it gets admiring looks everywhere it goes which, if it floats your boat, is a good thing.

The Model S, by contrast, is the most relaxing car I've ever driven. I sold one Lexus when I got my MS, and still have another. They are typically very comfortable, relaxing cars. The MS seats are stiffer than the Lexus but not the M3. However, I find myself completely focused on driving in the MS whereas I'm always fussing with things in the M3. The Lexus is a way to get to the beach. Point A to point B when I need an SUV.

If you are going to test drive a Model S, make sure they have a P85 available. It's more like the M3 than the non-performance version. However, I think both are insanely fun to drive. Also be prepared with your checkbook because you've already made your decision -- you're just waiting for the excuse to write the check :)

Unlike @GLO, I probably won't sell my M3, just because I have a sentimental attachment. But I don't look forward to driving it. At all.

You're keeping a sentimental favorite that you don't look forward to driving, at all? The logic escapes me.

@brianh: Not everything is logical. Consider it very expensive garage decoration. There are other factors surrounding my ownership of the M3 that make it difficult to part with.

From an insurance, registration and usage perspective it's senseless. I know that. The MS is the one that's going to get the miles though.

The M3's trunk is where @sxross keeps the body. ;-)

rdalcanto, I never said anything about the M3 vs MS. I'm pretty sure the MS would be quicker than my M3 because the convertibles are about 450 lbs heavier than the coupes. The vert only does mid to high 4's 0-60.

I was mentioning launch control with respect to the video of the M5 vs MS, I think that the M5 would have won 0-60 against the MS every time had launch control been used. It only takes a few seconds to engage but the sequence to enable it is not something someone without lots of experience with an M5 would know how to do.

That said, there is something visceral about the sound and feel of my M3 with the top down with the dual clutch transmission shifting in a millisecond and rev-blipping when down shifting. It's very exciting and very much the opposite of "relaxing", and I mean that in a good way. It brings a thrilling grin to my face every time I drive it.

The E90/92/93 M3 is very different from the last generation of M3's. It is better in every way, including drive-ability. The suspension, transmission, engine throttle, shifting aggressiveness can all be programmed separately through m-drive (an advanced i-drive). You can define one button on the steering wheel (M Mode) to any configuration you want. This can transform the car from one with the temperament of the average daily commuter to a ferocious lion. The programability of the car really is awesome, as is the roar it makes when "in action" in M mode.

I just wonder if I will miss that for the jerk of the MS's acceleration ("jerk" is the technical term for the derivative, or rate of change, of acceleration). A non-zero jerk value is probably what you are feeling when stepping on the pedal of the MS. The jerk value is high as supposed to the lower jerk value, but longer acceleration, of a similar performance ICE.

The ICE does not have a longer acceleration. It hits redline and keeps having to shift. When you test drive the MS, you realize that this incredible, roller coaster type acceleration never ends. I know all about double clutch transmissions. My 2012 911S (new 991 chassis) probably had the best in the world. Pay attention to what your M3 is doing in traffic when you want to hit it. Then go drive the MS. You will probably start hating the shifts in the ICE. Many of us have come from driving high performance cars at the race track. I used to love the sound of my Porsche as it screamed towards redline and then did the fastest shift known to man. Now, you couldn't pay me to drive another Porsche, BMW, etc.. My next true sports car will be the next Tesla Roadster.

P.S. - In the end, if you like the ICE better, that's cool. Different strokes.... The MS is a lot bigger than the M3. But...
To add to what I said above - the first time I test drove the MS, it was a regular P85. The handling was not as good as I wanted coming from the 911. But the coaster acceleration seed had been planted in my brain, and it started to grow. 2 weeks later, I had to have an MS, and ordered the + version to get the better handling I needed. I have sold the Porsche, and couldn't be happier!

rdalcanto, the downshifts for passing in the M3 depend on the mode you have it programmed in. For stop and go traffic I set the mode to "D1" which deadens throttle response perfectly for that situation. Then, with one push of the M button on the M3's steering wheel, which I have programmed for "D5", will put the car into its most aggressive automatic mode. Then, even a slight press of the pedal downshifts the DCT a gear or two to put the engine into its broad torque band and away it goes (very quickly!). It is very satisfying and requires very little work to do. I can say the M3 allows most drivers to drive faster/better than they actually are capable of in some other cars. Most 911s, for instance, are known to be more difficult to drive at the limits so I'm not too surprised with what you say about your 911 compared to the MS.

And, yes, about the EV vs ICE acceleration, my point was that the feel of the EV is its instantaneous (rather than smooth) application of power which results in a pulse wave dynamic impulse to the car's drive train. This is what I think causes a rapid change in acceleration (jerk) that I think people are talking about so excitedly when speaking about the MS's performance.

Interestingly, since performance is limited by traction I think that the MS's excessive weight actually helps acceleration because the weight helps keep the tires from breaking loose compared to if the car was much lighter. I think a future AWD model could be much quicker.

BTW, usually an AWD vehicle has a big advantage over a 2WD. For instance some of the AWD BMW's have equal or possibly better 0-60 times than the much higher performance 2WD M-models. Of course, once the higher HP cars get going they pull ahead quickly because traction is no longer an issue.

I've heard that if you shut off traction control (at your own peril), the MS will deliver full torque to the wheels all at once and you can do your power slides and donuts. I'm not certain the weight is what's keeping the tires glued to the road -- perhaps it's very clever algorithms that detect the slip almost before it happens and adjusts. Just speculating and rumor-mongering :)

It's much easeier to adjust the output of MS because of the instantaneus torgue response. The feedback loop for ICE cars is much more sluggish and adjustment more tedious. This is another advantage of electric motor.

sxross: turning off the traction control on my 2WD M3 will easily light up the rear tires at full throttle. There is more than enough power in these cars to do that. Weight is absolutely a factor in getting better traction. It's simple physics.

carlk: the feedback loop works very well and fast enough on most ICE cars (certainly on my M3). Again, I don't think that's the issue. I think traction and torque were the biggest issues in the M5 vs MS race. There is something to be said about the instantaneous torque output of the MS being an advantage. That is why I think BMW's launch control would equal out that advantage because launch control revs the motor to 3500 so it is solidly in it's torque band and dumps the clutch when you lift of the brake. Traction control is appropriately applied and maximum acceleration is achieved. The computer optimally shifts the without the driver needing to do anything except keeping the pedal mashed to the floor. In the video it's not clear if the M5 was even in one of the highest performance modes. If it was set in the default mode throttle response is diminished and horsepower cut by 100hp for fuel economy reasons.


Someone just pointed to me this in another thread.

The fifth post by Timo should give you a good explanation of how an electric car can do traction control differently, and better, than ICE cars. The tire smoke in the video is a good indication traction control on the M5 was doing a less than perfect job. That could just be the reason why it got beatten. Even with inferior engine/motor spec the MS can always (within milisecond) deliver maximum power right at the tire limit but ICE car can not do this.

BTW lauch control just automates the "rev and dump" but the traction control part is still the same as if you're doing a manual lauch. All those complicated design and chance of drivetrain demages can not beat a simple pedal to the metal lauch of MS. That's another big advantage of EV over ICE car.

Launch control seems like a total kludge to me, not relevant to performance or usability. A real apples to apples comparison would require adding the setup of said "launch" to the 0-60 time.

carlk: it's a false assumption that maximum acceleration is always achieved with no wheel slip. Among other things wheel slip heats the tires causing increased traction and faster acceleration. There are many complex factors involved but traction is very important. That's why I would like to see an performance AWD compared to the MS. For instance how would the 650ix or a GTR fair off the line against the MS?

BTW, BMW's launch control does more than just automate rev and dump. It shifts the transmission automatically at the exact points to achieve maximum acceleration. Again, the driver just needs to keep the pedal pressed to the floor... it's not very complicated for the user. The hardest part is knowing the sequence to activate it, which I don't think the driver of the M5 in the video knew how to do.

Brian H: Launch control lets a computer calculate the optimum shift points to produce maximum acceleration of a vehicle. You'll find it in many high-end sports cars. If launch control is a kluge then I guess you think traction control or anti-lock brakes are as well. Launch control could be made automatic but its usual purpose is to drag race so IMHO BMW has rightly made the user take deliberate steps to activate it, probably for legal reasons. Not to take anything away from the Tesla's software but probably it is much simpler because there's fewer factors to deal with (like no gears!)

The new 911S (991 chassis) is much easier to drive at the limits. I never found an M3 or M5 that could even come close to keeping up with me at the track.

Anyway, thanks everyone who has responded. I plan to test drive a MS in the next couple months. I have high expectations of th eMS from feedback here. If I remember I'll post my experience and reasons for purchasing one (or not).

I'm talking road course (Miller motorsports track in Utah), not drag strip (never been to a drag strip)

rdalcanto: Do you think a Model S would keep up with your 911S on the track? :)

From Motortrend:

"The fast time for the BMW (like the Porsche) was achieved using launch control. And the procedure to place the M5 into launch control is absolutely the most convoluted process our team has ever encountered. It's supposed to work like this: First, you need to place the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in manual mode. Then, you hit the little button below the shifter joystick twice to put the transmission into the fastest shift mode. Next, you hold the traction control button down for about 10 seconds to turn all the nannies off. Then you touch the brake pedal lightly with your left foot and with your right hand push the stick forward. Next, release the brake. Finally, you simultaneously jam the throttle to the floor (making sure to really jam it, as the BMW, like the Porsche, has a stupid detent about 90 percent of the way down that you have to kick through), and release the stick. Our quarter-mile specialist Scott Mortara told me that, out of 15 attempts, he got the M5's launch control to work twice. I personally had very similar "success." Meanwhile, in the Panamera GTS, the procedure is to tap the Sport Plus button, hold the brake, floor it, and release the brake.

Should you ever suddenly want to drag race anyone, you'll never get the M5 into launch control mode before the light goes green. Real-world advantage: Porsche."

Read more:

I was a big M5 fan--am I remembering correctly that you void the warranty after a certain numbers of "launches"?

Not a chance. The 911S pulls over 1G on street tires, the MS is less than 0.9. An M3 will out corner a MS at the track too. The MS is too heavy, and the tires aren't wide enough. But in city driving, the MS is faster than the 911S, unless you have the 911S constantly in sport plus mode, with the engine always about 4,500rpm. Then it will be close, but the Porsche engine won't last very long at constant high rpms, the noise would drive me crazy, and fuel economy would suck. Same problem with the M3. If you aren't always driving in D5 mode, by the time you push the button to change it, the MS is already gone. And I bet that even in D5 mode, if you are at a constant speed between 10-60 mph (so the gearing is such that you aren't in the perfect power band of the engine), and floor it at the same time as the MS driver, the MS will win (for the first little while anyway).

P.S. - but I would love to hear what you think after your test drive astroguy!

@Bighorn That could very well be true. I was told (by the dealer) Porsche may not honor engine warranty if it has recorded too many times that the redline limiter is activated.

Car and Driver has said few owner will want to subject their car to the kind of abuse that is needed to get the best 0-60 time, launch control or otherwise. That's why they are using 5-60 instead. MS drivers can safely lauch their cars any time and as many time as they want. In the rare case they lose a race they can always challenge to race again a few more times to destroy the enemy. ;-)

rdalcanto - I completely agree with your assessment. I had the previous 911s with sport suspension (2009) and a 2011 M3 sedan w/competition package and sold them after test driving the P85. For daily driving, there is no comparison at all. The MS will destroy those cars and do it without making noise (unless noise is your thing and at this time, I find it ludicrous).

astroboy - Drive the MS. I had both a 911s and the 2011 M3 sedan with comp package (planned to keep this one long term but the MS changed all that).

I have a e92 M3 DCT lightly modded with Dinan to about 450 crank HP. I also have a S85. They are totally different cars as you know. The MS is huge and con comfortable hold my famils as out daily driver. The S85 is also quicker than the M3. on the roll it is much faster. The M3 sounds WAY cool with the V8 exhaust but I have to say the DCT trans is clunky compared to the MS and we are keeping it til the Gen 3 comes out.

EMDoc: astroboy? I am into astronomy and develop astronomy software as a side business, thus my handle. Geez, I was hoping I wouldn't find immature people like you seem to be on this forum like I've seen on most other car forums.

Bighorn: once someone becomes experienced with launch control it is much easier to use than it sounds. You can even program the "M" mode button to put you into "S6" mode (skipping half the steps you mentioned). Then it's just a matter of putting pushing the shifter forward and pressing both brake and gas pedals. Lift off the brake and the car goes.

Also, BMW puts a time interval between allowable launches to let the clutch disks and engine oil to cool, should they need that. This is probably why MT couldn't get it to work all the time. There is no limit on the number of LC uses that would cause warranty to expire on the latest model M3/M5.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to comparing the MS to the 650ix. I will also be considering the features available in the BMW that cannot be found in the MS and vice versa.

john@brownsells: Wow! You think the DCT is clunky? How so? I find that in almost every case mine shifts smoother than any automatic transmission I've been in. Upshifts and downshifts are rev-matched perfectly so I would really like to know what you mean by clunky.


I had a 2013 GT-R Black Edition which I decided to sell when I purchased my Tesla Model S P85+, my main reason was I wanted a car that was more practical but I didn't want anything that was slow. All I can tell you is that I am really happy with my choice, I love this car. Its a great balance between performance and practicality, plus having such a interactive car is a huge plus. Everyone that i take for a drive are surprised by this car cause its not what they expected from an electric car. I think once you drive it then that should be a good indication on how you feel about the car, I am sure you won't regret it. I was not a big fan of 4-door cars but the way this car looks and feels you really don't think about it.

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