Welcome to the $82,470 “small” BMW.
I suppose it’s not that outrageous; correct the $34,810 MSRP of the original 1988 M3 to modern Bernankified pesos, and it’s just over seventy grand for a car that had less than half the power of this 2016 M3 Competition/Executive Package and absolutely none of the luxury accoutrements.
But here’s the crazy part: for Brayden, the car’s owner, this is the cheaper of the two 2016 M3s that he just bought.
His name’s not Brayden, but it rhymes with Brayden, and that’s good enough. He’s also asked me to blur his face in the photographs.
“Too many people on the Internet get angry at the idea that a 19-year-old has a new car at all, much less two new M3s. But compared to a lot of my friends, who have already moved onto supercars, this feels like I’m being responsible. And I paid for the cars myself.”
Six years ago, when Brayden was a teenager, he became fascinated with the “darknet” and with the emerging technology known as Bitcoin.
“I just asked for a thousand Bitcoins for Christmas, and I said I didn’t want anything else.”
Brayden’s father, a square-jawed, silver-haired man who accompanied Brayden to our meeting at Mid-Ohio because, in his words, “I’m not a helicopter dad … well, maybe a little,” has worked in finance for 35 years. He thought the gift would teach Brayden about the fragility of get-rich-quick schemes. The two of them then sat back and watched a wild market ride that at one point gave Brayden’s $2,180 Christmas gift a paper value of nearly two and a half million dollars.
Brayden held onto his Bitcoins through thick and thin and thick again. It didn’t hurt that his parents leased him two new BMW coupes in a row, on his 16th and 18th birthdays. But with his 20th approaching, Brayden sat down with his parents and decided to convert 530 bitcoins to cold hard cash. It was a harder process than they imagined, taking nearly a month to make the transactions with reputable parties who would pay in USD, and they “overpaid” the taxes to mollify a Federal government that has been notoriously suspicious of transactions in blockchain currency. When all was said and done, they had about $200,000 to play with. Brayden bought himself a new M3 with every possible option, including a special BMW Individual paint shade, at a cost of just over $100,000.
“The problem,” Brayden explains, “is that I didn’t want to track the car. It was literally too nice. So I bought a track rat.” That “track rat” is the $82,000 DCT M3 before me, with Competition and Executive Packages but no Individual options.
“This is the bitch, man. We don’t treat her with respect. Gonna let the paint get scratched a little. Let’s spank this bitch,” Brayden says, and he hops into the passenger seat. We’re running in the Instructor group of the local BMWCCA. It’s a very well-run event and the organizers have, thankfully, limited the number of cars on-track. They’ve also fully staffed the flag stations. For any long-standing veteran of half-ass trackdays, such as your humble author, it’s heaven.
So what makes an M3 a Comp Package? Well, to begin with, there’s a modest power bump to 444 horses. But the M3 didn’t need any more power. You might argue that it needed less power. The turbocharged straight-six can be both unsubtle and unexpected in its torque delivery, particularly when rolling the throttle through fast corners. But BMW’s owner base expects a direct MSRP-to-dyno correlation, so there you go.
It has lightweight seats sourced from the new M4 GTS; they’re comfortable both for Brayden’s slight frame and my overfed one. There’s custom stitching on the seat belt that will no doubt be copied, badly, by Chinese factories in 10 years when people start building Comp Package “replicas” from thoroughly worn-out 320i sedans. There’s a set of 20-inch dub wheels and a loud exhaust.
The rest of the package is “tuning” to the steering and suspension. The official media line on the M3 Comp Package is, “It’s purer and closer to what the M3 should have been from the beginning,” according to BMWBlog. I don’t know about that. This is still a massive tank of a “compact” sedan, wide and comfortable inside, and oddly reminiscent of my father’s 733i. It’s a big car. And, it must be said, a fast one. For its first trick, performed 10 seconds after Brayden and I leave the pits, the M3 effortlessly demolishes a C5 Z06 in a straight line. It’s not close. Though we had entered the the track a full car length behind the Chevrolet and we were moving slower to boot, by the time we get to the chicane that’s part of Mid-Ohio’s “Club” configuration, the Vette is entirely visible in the rearview.
I’ve left the M3 in “MDM,” or M Dynamic Mode, at the request of Brayden’s father. Doing so curbs the worst of the Bimmer’s torquey excesses as we hammer out of the Keyhole and into the long back straight. It’s also probably costing us some corner exit speed, because the engine is completely on vacation until I have the steering wheel fully unwound. Yet the M3 leaps easily to over 140 mph before I brake like a sissy at the 500 mark for The Esses. That turns out to have been a good decision. Even with performance pads and fluid, this car in no way feels over-braked. In that respect, at least, it’s a classic BMW. There’s plenty of pedal travel from the first corner.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that the Competition Package changes make a huge difference. I really can’t say that. Compared to the pre-production M3 that I drove here two years ago, this car is short on brakes and long on grip. The former is because it’s missing the $8,150 carbon-ceramic option. Deliberately so; Brayden expects to replace brakes a lot on his track rat, so he chose the steel brakes even though he has the M Ceramics on his street M3.
The extra grip is likely because Brayden has a policy, established since his first BMWCCA weekend last year, of buying new tires for every track-day weekend. Even this one; although the car’s still on a temp tag, Brayden swapped out the rubber because “you don’t know how much grip you lose when the car’s on a boat, exposed to all that weather, no reason to be cheap about it.” My attempts to buy his old tires at a discount were unsuccessful. Regardless, the car sticks very well. It steers … pretty okay. You never have the sense of an immediate connection between wheel and tire, and you’re always aware of all the weight just waiting to start working on the camber-challenged outside edges of the staggered (front: 265/30 R20, rear: 285/30 R20) Michelins. It’s an unfortunate situation that the M3 absolutely needs wider rear tires to get out of any corner without looping under full power, but when you get to the start of the next corner, the car just isn’t as neutral as it could be. Not that you can’t adjust it with the throttle — but MDM will stop you cold with those kind of hijinks.
Brayden expresses surprise and a little dismay that I’ve just left the double-clutch transmission in “D” for my first few laps, so I start making manual shifts to pacify him. The truth is that you could drive around Mid-Ohio using only fourth gear and you’d still catch nearly everything on wheels ahead of you. I’m staying in third for the slow sections, shifting into fourth before the blind right-hander into “Thunder Valley” to settle the car and keep the MDM from pulling the fuse on my fun. Fifth gear is required for the back straight — that’s all.
Never in the session are we passed. In fact, the first time I see another car anywhere near our back bumper is during the cool-down lap, when a 997 GT3 Cup Car nonchalantly blows by us in the Carousel. This M3 is the proverbial gun in a knife-fight Instructor session full of E36 and E46 M3s and the occasional Porsche. Everything else out here is operating in slow motion.
We have enough time left for me to take Danger Girl out for a quick ride. She’s completely unimpressed. “I like the Lexus (RC-F) so much better,” is her verdict. “This doesn’t sound very good, it seems slow-witted in corners.” But she has to admit that the engine puts up big numbers and pulls hard. They don’t call it the Bavarian Motor Werke or whatever for nothing.
Given Brayden’s level of funding, I’d probably get a Viper ACR, an American Iron NASA racer, and an Accord Touring to cover his list of needs. But I can’t blame the kid for being passionate about BMW. There was a time I felt that way, too.
At the end of the day, we load the M3 back into the trailer and Brayden laughs at all the rock chips on his brand-new car. His father is pleased that nobody crashed; I’m pleased that I didn’t chew up the property of a very nice young man who just wanted to share his enthusiasm with the Best & Brightest. After we shake hands and prepare to part ways, he looks at Danger Girl’s Fiesta and a thoughtful look passes across his countenance.
“Don’t give up on your dreams,” he says. “That’s what my dad always told me, and he was right. It was a tough ride with those Bitcoins, but I made it through. Someday you’ll be where I am — waking up every day with two cars that you love.” And before I can get my helmet packed, his twenty-four-foot Haulmark is gone, trailing Dad’s champagne LX570, sailing out the exit gate and on to the next adventure.