The BMW M3 SMG Vs. The MINI Cooper/S

I've often heard of people trading in BMW, Audis, etc for MINIs but every once in a while I'll hear of someone doing the seemingly unthinkable and going from an M3 to an MCS. With that in mind I recently had a chance to put an M3 SMG through it's paces and found some interesting observations when comparing to the MCS and the MC.

First off the M3 is almost stupid fast. If you aren't careful you easily get yourself into loads of trouble in no time. There are of course some areas that the M3 (and most BMWs for that matter) naturally excel in comparison to the MINI. General comfort is one. Even with 19″ wheels the M3 has a more compliant ride than the current MINI with runflats. The M3 exudes a certain comfort and refinement that the MINI seemingly will never have.

Another area the M3 naturally bests the MINI in is balance. The chassis is much better sorted in terms of balance and generally gives the driver an inspiring confidence while pushing the car. With the 50/50 weight distribution also helps the M3 easily outclasses the MINI when it comes to handling at the limit. That being said it can also be a little less forgiving in the hands of a novice. The back-end will come around on you in a heartbeat with the DSC turned off. You have to be ready to opposite lock the wheel quickly where as in the MINI it's much more point and shoot. I personally miss this little bit of excitement in my MINI and it's one of the reasons that I'll probably always want at least an older rear wheel drive BMW around to scare passengers from time to time.

I was also quite excited to get behind the wheel of an M3 with the much acclaimed SMG semi-automatic transmission. The SMG is one of the best semi-automatic transmissions out there today and takes much of it's technology from the F1 race track .

However before I go on and on about SMG it's important to remember that it's not an automatic with manual controls but a real clutchless manual transmission similar to what's in the BMW/Williams F1 car. It's a transmission that at once can shift faster than any human yet when in regular automatic mode can go almost unnoticed in daily operation.

Upon sitting down next to the SMG for the first time I have to admit I wasn't entirely sure how to get the thing going. It can be a bit tricky without some explanation at first. The default mode on the SMG is actually automatic but a quick flip of the wrist gets it in manual mode. To change gears there are two paddles just behind the wheel – one to upshift and another to downshift. My first thought was it's like playing Grand Tourismo with the best feedback controller in the world. My second thought was “oh my God this is for real”

One of the keys to fast acceleration in the SMG is switching the sport mode on and turning the shift mode to S5 (as high as it normally goes). If you want to really impress someone you can turn on the somewhat hidden S6 shift mode and enjoy some of the qiuckest and most neck snapping shifts you'll ever feel. Once more, when you downshift the engine it will automatically blimp the throttle to the optimal rpm. The sound is so addicting that you find yourself slowing down and speeding up just to hear it. These upshifts combined with the melodic inline six and the amazing factory exhaust make you want to forget about the radio or CD player. Let's hope this option makes it's way onto at least the next generation MCS.

Interestingly while pushing the car into hard corners the M3 almost seemed to have more body roll than the MCS or an MC with SS+. That is of course until I realized that I was going 20mph faster than I would have been in a MINI around the same corner. This is really one of the best aspects about the M3. Granted there is the advantage of 333 HP where the MCs only has 163 on tap but it's really the feeling of immense stability at speed and at the limit that is so thrilling. Simply put you feel like you can do about anything in this car. Yes the MINI is exceptional in this area but it simply can't overcome the fact that it's wheel base is short (by M3 standards), it's track isn't as wide, and it's a front wheel drive car with an unequal weight distribution.

All said the MINI makes a good showing in this comparison. Despite going up against a huge difference in power and sophistication there are few cars that feel more like a small version of the current M3 than even a base Cooper with SS+. Going from the M3 to my SS+ Cooper I was struck by how similar the two felt at low and midrange speeds in terms of handling. As long as you don't push the MINI beyond a certain point it's handling can be very balanced and confident. In fact the MINI actually had a sharper initial turn-in than the M3!

Beyond that my Cooper is generally more toss-able and in many ways more fun to whip around corners. It's not near as fast and not near as refined but I believe on many levels it's actually more fun.

At the end of the day I came away reaffirmed that the MINI remains an unbelievable value compared with what else is out there in it's price range. And for sheer driving fun there are simply few cars out there that can rival it.

  • GJR

    I agree Gabe, and so does the U.K.'s “Car” magazine.

    They have a feature in the back of the magazine ranking their 100 favorite new cars to drive regardless of price…the Porsche 911 Turbo was #1, the Cooper S #2 (“there's no better car to drive day in and day out than the Cooper S,” is what they said), and the Ferrari Enzo #3!

    That's pretty good company if you ask me…

  • ZAKdog

    Great write-up. One of my neighbor's sons has an M3 and now I'm thinking that the interest in the MCS might coax him into a friendly test drive of each other's cars…sounds like a win-win to me!

  • Interesting comparison. And the price of the M3 SMG is…? Two S's? Two S's and a Cooper?

  • This particular one was about two MCS's and an old 325i winter beater 🙂

  • Frank

    I haven driven the BMW M3, yet, but after a short 3 hour drive on a '03 BMW 325i sedan I fully came to the realization of how nice these cars really are…smooth, powerful, comfortable (Not so much in the back seat where there is a gross shortage of legroom and shoulder room)and very responsive handling.

    That said, the MINI is a fantastic car and it is the “BMW” of small cars. Today I am driving a loaner '03 Toyota Echo sedan while our Cooper CVT is in service (I am also picking up a brand new '04 MCS tonight, can't wait!) and while the Echo is a generally well made and solid Japanese Econocar, the steering and handling are similar to that of a shopping cart, the engine runs out of steam past 70MPH….in sort it really makes you appreciate how incredible sophisticated the MINI is for the money.

  • Steve Rosenblum

    All I have to say is WOW!
    I have never been in a car that throws me back into the seat that hard on acceleration and braking before. The growl of the engine is incredible, as is the sound and feeling of banging full throttle upshifts through the paddles on the steering wheel. I am still having flashbacks..

  • Sorry if I threw you around a little too much Steve 🙂


    Sorry, but my ex girlfriend had a 2003 M3, and that car beats the pants off any MINI. You TAP the gas and your head is through the back of the headrest. The thing FLIES. Also it handles like a dream. Its just an amazing car to drive. Granted her car payments were 1K a month, but if I had the money Id get one too.

  • Nothing to be sorry about – the M3 is amazing. It's much faster than the MCS no question. I just think that the MCS/MC is a great half to one third price alternative.

  • Frank

    I would love to see her insurance payments on that M3. So let me see, $1K per month car payment plus gas (Add $100 to $150 a month) and then $300 a month in insurance?

    Wow! for that kind of money I can get myself a very nice new Condo in an upscale section of the city.

    No question the M3 is the “Ultimate Driving Machine” but at $50K it is too rich for the blood of many here.

    The MCS is the “M3” of the poor. LOL

  • Ellen

    Gabe — As usual a great descriptive piece. That coupled with the whine of the F1s still in my ears from Sunday's race, I'm off for a two hour drive. Steve's reaction was priceless, too. Until I read this piece, my attitude toward the parent company's BMW products has been hesitant. Now, my head is starting to turn.

  • At a recent dealer event, me and one of my MINI buddies took a Z Roadster out for a test drive (yes, it's no M3, but it's still an uber-expensive BMW..). It was fun, yes, but when you consider the price, I'd take a handfull of MINIs over one anyday.

  • Steve, I'll certainly agree that riding as passenger (shotgun or worse, backseat) in the M3 is a much, much worse experience than being “navigator” in a MINI. My brother-in-law, who drives Formula Fords at Sears Point for fun, has an M3 for “around town” excursions. I've begun to think he lives in SF exclusively to catch monster air at every intersection in that thing. 🙂

  • Steve Rosenblum

    I totally enjoyed every minute of the test drive, and have complete confidence in Gabe's driving ability, even in the parts when the car was not pointing in the same direction as the road..

  • I think what we would really like is a “MS”, although BMW is very unlikely to do that. (I'm assuming that “M'ing” an S would involve much more than “Works'ing” does. Maybe the grill opening would be kidney-bean shaped?)

  • When I was given a loaner M3 while the “other” car was in service… I was tempted to never give it back! The M series are great rides and worth the tag.

    Tap the gas and you're Begging for a ticket… Of course, with it being a loaner…”drove it like I stole it” and it handles as well if not better than many a MINI.
    And the M3 wraps your entire ego in luxury.

  • Maxwell H.

    Now I've been thinking about MINI comparisons, and I'm trying to think of any other car that I would love as much as I do my trusty MCS. I've considered Bimmers, but I'm not totally sold. I decided Porsche would be the way to go. Any Porsche drivers out there care to compare the two?

  • Jeremy Bernauer

    Gabe, you mentioned the hidden S6 program… how is it hidden? I have seen the SMG video on and it is very impressive. Does the US car eliminate the launch control or simply “disable” it? Thanks for the awesome article… next time take me with you too!

  • Although it is a nice review I am disapointed that the video files have been linked from my web page with out permission.

    For all that are interested in SMG may visit my FAQ on the subject.


  • Sorry Leo – the links have been removed per your request. I had thought I sent an email to you asking about this but I obviously forgot to do that or it never got to you. I would encourage anyone interested in knowing more about the M3 or those who want to see the videos to visit Leo's website.

  • Michael

    I actually have a 2001 M3 and a Porsche Boxster–the new MCS is “awaiting transport”. While the M3 is a great car in many ways, it has some serious flaws that make it less fun to drive: the driveline has too much slop, the steering is way over assisted and way too slow (driving twisty road requires turning the wheel too far), the center of gravity is too high (feels like driving an SUV when I come from my Boxster), the brakes are over-assisted and non-linear (it's easy to scrub off too much speed when trail braking), and though the car sounds great when the windows are closed, with them open, the tinney resonance from the exhaust is exhausting. So, I'm keeping the Boxster (for my wife) and trading the M3 for an MCS. Just love that lightning quick steering and flat cornering…great go-cart!

  • Gilbert Cabral

    You are right, the defference is the price and size.but,M3 can't drive at the alley.

  • Thanks for the magazine-quality review (I love this site). I just had to comment on the fact that I could buy 1 John Cooper Challenge equipped MC for racing purpuses + 1 MCS for a daily driver, both for about the same cost as 1 M3. Of course the M3 is going to be crazy better in many ways than any MINI, and it should be for the $. The last paragraph was the article's best.

  • Vmpyrdavid

    Great article. I don't get here much, but when I do make it, I am always impressed with the quality of content on you site.

    I completely agree, and can't think of a better phrase to describe the M3-SMG. “It's Stupid Fast”

    I had a chance to drive the M3-SMG at BMW's Performance Center in Greer, SC. It is definately a great ride. Your review is right on the money. I imagine if I had the cash, I'd definately have this car in the garage. Autocross my MCS and Club Race the M3…..

    Hey, I can dream can't I?


  • Ron

    drove an M3 last week…come on my MCS is a fun little car, but let's not get crazy and compare it in anyway to a M3, laugh….the only reason not to have a M3 of course is the money factor…lol ! Now if you want to compare an MCS to an RX8, then that seems fair, but the M3, forgetaboutit 🙂

  • blake

    My dad had an M3 with SMG and wow that car was amazing….until my brother totaled it. Now I'm about to get a car. So he's getting a Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works, and then giving it to me. I think it's the perfect car. It's one of the most fun cars to drive, and has plenty of power yet not enough to get myself in trouble as much if I had an M3. I think it's time to motor.

  • Dirk

    Gabe, I actually made the switch from a 2001 M3 to a 2003 MCS when we moved from Southern California to Hawaii. I originally made the decision because I didn't think there were enough places to actually “drive” the M3 in Hawaii but I don't regret it as much as I thought. Everytime I see an M3 here in Hawaii I miss the old car but it really was “stupid fast” and get me into too much trouble out here. Neat write-up Gabe. My 2001 was non-SMG (not available when I bought the car) so my experience with these cars has been on the 6-speed Getrags and I can say they both need S.S. mods. Unless I really have the 'need for speed', the MINI (especially the MCS) is plenty fun for my motoring needs.

  • Michael


    What is the maximum size rear seat passenger in a MCS? I'm fishing for a daily driver, the rear seat in my Porsche 968 has gotten too small for the teenagers… I was thinking 325/330ci but maybe MCS would be more fun in the city, and save the wallet too?

  • AlanB

    I started driving as a teenager in a Morris 850! We had to make sure we did not have too much pocket change because it would slow our 0-40 mph times! I am now on my 4th Mini (2002 MCS) “It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.”

  • Tom Disy

    Have just moved from a '91 325iC to a '04 MCS. I loved my bimmer, putting 160,000 hard miles on it. I do not miss it, however. I am sooooo happy in my S. It's just a fun car to drive. My brother-in-law has the Honda S2000 and though it's faster, it's not more fun. I'm going to get more out of my S with upcoming mods and have even more fun!

    For the guy looking for rear leg room in a S, probably need to look elsewhere.

  • Giles

    Nice write up, I have been driving my Modified MCS for just on a year now and have had this car on many Race Tracks in Australia. I have been going BMW sponsored track days and 9 times out of 10 my mildy modified MSC ( Pulley, chip, exhaust, intake) 210hp will absolutly slaughter M3's around most race tracks. Unless there is a huge straight to use the M3 Power the Mini can easily outbrake and outhandle a M3. If your not drifting the rear of your MCS around corners then your not going fast enough.

  • wantamini

    i am excited. i work with cooper “S”s all day…… except for tommorow embark on a seventy mile one way journey with the extreme 2003 SMG DINAN supercharged M3…. thanks for the insperation!

  • IanF

    My experience is comparing an E36 M3 to a MCS and I'd say the decision would be difficult. Especially considering a used E36 M3 and a new MCS are roughly the same price. The torque and general driving “feel” of the M3 is intoxicating.

    Oddly enough, despite being a much smaller car, the MINI feels bigger to me. I feel like I'm floating around in the bottom of a box in the MCS whereas I feel like I'm “wearing” the M3. In the MCS's defense, it's not my car and I would probably set up the driving position differently… but the M3 isn't my car either…

    If there is a deciding factor to ME personally on which car I'd buy, the MCS wins because of the people I've met through the car. A much nicer and down to earth crowd, whereas the E36 M3 is basically the German equivalent of a Honda Prelude or Mitsubishi Eclipse, if you know what I mean…

  • Joe

    Just three comments:

    1) Fantastic write-up. 2) The E46 M3 is a great beast, but, the MCS still handles better and shifts nicer. Also, it is a lot more fun to drive in an everday situation. 3) Careful about the E36 M3 comments, I have one and there is no rice anywhere near that car!

  • Adam

    What about the MCS vs the 318ti? They weights are almost identical, but the 318ti has better weight distribution and RWD while the MCS has more power. I've never seen a comparison between the two.

  • Jim

    Similiar to what Giles noted it would be interesting to compare a slightly modded MCS to the M3. With an intake, chip, 15% pulley and a 22mm sway bar I was regularly besting E36 M3s at the track. The E46 M3s however could still easily have their way with me, just an amazing car. That said, my humble MCS was much more competetive than stock and for a paltry $1500 over base, so you could still afford two of mine for one of theirs.

    Of course I'm just jealous and would take an M3 if money wasn't a relevant concern. 🙂


  • Paul

    John Cooper probably summed it up best when he stated: “I drive alot of motorcars, but when I want to have fun, I drive a Mini.”

  • Bernard

    Spot on analysis. Realize you are comparing apples to oranges when you compare these 2 rides. I guess I could see the MCS as a poor man's M3 but it's a stretch. I own an 04 MCS and an 03 M3 and I would never seriosly compare the 2 in the first place.

  • Alvan Lichtenstein

    can anyone out there tell about any problems they may of had with MCS.I Ordered a MSC Cab

  • michael Boice

    I won't complain, my 05 S-Works with BBS RG-R wheels is a company car for me…a daily runner. The S-Works is pefectly suited to this position; a great combination of handling traits, braking, fuel economy, and cost. That said, while driving a friends 04 M3, I rounded a long and very fast ramp onto a local highway. My friend suggested that I hammer it thru this section. I'm a very willing partner so I did. The rear end of the M3 came un-glued in what is the longest, near side-ways, tires smoking entry onto a highway this driver has ever experienced. I looked over at my friend Bob and said, “turn the traction control on next time.” He replied, “it was on.” Wow!

  • mike p

    I switched from M3 to Mini Cooper S when I moved from Maui to mainland. The MCS is simply more FUN. Sure it lacks refinement and comfort but the M3 felt heavy and cumbersome to me in comparrison.

  • michael Boice

    And hey, in reality the S moves thru the slalom and skid pad pretty darn well…better than the M3 depending upon the magazine and test venue. So it doesn't matter if you're understeering your way thru an .850g-.900g corner, if you're going faster, you're faster. Understeer is just tedious and wears on front tires during track work. No big deal on the street.

  • Mini is a unique car. All I got to say.

  • Kaitain

    All that is well and good, and the Mini S is a great little car, but if someone said, “You can have a fully loaded Mini S or a fully Loaded M3 for free.” Which would you honestly take? Yeah, I thought so. 😉

  • I think that you're missing the point of the review.

  • GEC

    Great article, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I have to say that I've driven pretty much every BMW built since 1972, including the much-lauded and never quite equalled 2002ti and tii and with the single exception of a Z8. The e46 M3 is brilliant, and arguably one of the quickest cars on the planet that can be used as a daily driver. I agree that it is ridiculous amounts of power, but in the hands of a capable driver, that's never been a particularly bad thing. I actually preferred the old e36 (1995 to 1999) M3 better, as it was incredibly well powered but also very go-kart like in terms of steering response. I put one into an opposite lock tail out slide at around 90 one day and the grin on my face took days to fade.

    That said, the new M3 is completely wasted in the US unless you live in Nevada or the midwest where you can hammer it out to 100+. I've got a '97 540i that I had in Germany for four years, and it's almost boring to drive on the east coast – I mean the thing is pulling around 1500 rpm at 60.

    The Cooper S is an altogether different beast. For the price, it's probably the most fun you can have in something with 4 wheels. No, it cannot match the M3 in terms of sheer power, refinement, or luxury, but for our American roads it's a much more appropriate vehicle and you can enjoy it at 8/10ths on some twisty back roads. I drove one a few months ago and the poor chap from the dealership almost had a stroke when I rotated it through a hairpin. If you're looking for a ball of a ride for less than 25 grand, buy an MCS. If you're looking for something to drive on your 60 mile commute to work, haul a kid or two, and do the grocery shopping whilst still being able to track it on the weekends, buy an M3. I personally prefer the standard 6-speed over the SMG II as there's nothing more fun than a properly executed second-to-third double clutch! I know the SMG is quicker than I can be, but it takes the skill out of the equation, doesn't it?


  • mcsdan

    I owned an E46 M3 SMG and MCS Works at the same time. I eventually got rid of the M3 since compared to the MCS Works the M3 steering was vague, brakes faded quickly and the M3 felt too heavy. Sure in a straight line the M3 is very fast but cornering and in gear acceleration there is not much in it. However this is a Works MCS. I had a stock MCS for 3 months before the works pack put on and the MCS just lacked something. Works pack on. Big smile on. Bye Bye M3.

    Only complaint with MCS is under heavy braking it feels a bit light so watch the back end. Complaints with M3 were the SMG downshift was too slow and often snatched, and the exhaust note that sounded like a bag of spanners especially when cold, as well as the vague steering and bad brakes already mentioned.

    M3 still a superb car. MCS Works better everyday car. On the track I'd take an Elise.

  • Joe

    I have a '95 M3 and a stock MC40, and I have to say that the mini is much more fun if you're going to slide turns at 30-50mph, or if you otherwise get your thrills more from breaking (that sums it up for me). And my wife and two year old daughter like it more. Otherwise, this comparison just seems silly.

    The initial acceleration of the mini is very poor, bordering on unacceptable, with a severe hiccup unless you totally ride the clutch through first gear, and its handling is also very poor at high speeds (over, say 80 mph) – not much different from my minivan.

    With the M3, throttle response, high speed driving, and overall feel are in a completely different class. Don't get me wrong, I'm selling the M3 and keeping the mini, but it's just heresy to put the M3 in this comparison.

  • David Lee

    Has anyone driven the new Mercedes SLK 350 and compared it to a MCS. The merc is quicker off the mark than the bimmer but not as much fun as a JCW mini. Here in Australia the bimmer costs $149,000.00, the SLK is $112,900.00 and the mini with the works is $51,000.00.

  • Paul Elwyn

    We're trading our 04 BMW 330Ci coupe in two weeks for an 05 MCS. The BMW has the Sport/Premium packages, 6 speed and 18″ wheel option. I've driven two MCS demos, and both came closer than the BMW to capturing the fun of our last Porsche, an 85 Carerra coupe with 62k. The 330Ci is lovely, competent and satisfying, but too refined, too quiet. The MCS, of course, isn't as fast as the 3.2 Carerra or the 330Ci, but on the narrow, kinky roads I seek on my Guzzi V11 LeMans and BMW Boxers, the MCS is at home in the same way the Carerra is.

  • splif

    i loved the experince of driving a bmw csl expecially when u have one. i wake up every morning and look at my bossted up 650bhp bmw with a kit parked up.

  • minimc

    I’ll preface my comments with the fact that I own a very tuned (for street) MCS & know my opinion is obviously biased. 😉

    I've driven an 04 M3; its definitely more car, bigger, well balanced, refined & quite fast. …And the M3 is not THAT much faster or better balanced than my MCS (as a few playful M3 owners I’ve met can attest). IMO certainly not 100% more $ worth than what I’ve put into my 03 MCS.

    Performance wise I figure I’m quite capable of getting into plenty of trouble with the power and handling now own – thank you!

    The MCS definitely has its limits – in handling, ride quality and in acceleration – esp. at above legal speeds. The MINI pulls well, but begins to give up when M3's and 6 cyl Porsches keep going. Would we expect and different?

    I recently had a fun-in with an M3 on the local Interstate – nothing maniacal, just a quick burst of acceleration. …We both exited at the same street & stopped at a traffic light… my exhaust burbling nicely. The late 20 something M3 owner rolled up & commented how shocked and impressed he was by the MINI. His parting comment was 'sick ride’. I interpreted this as positive 😉

    IMO at this level we’re talking individual preference… differences in ultimate performance and style. …Lets also not forget that neither is a pure sports car – although both will handily dispatch with any number of so-called vehicles – performance wise.

    It feels very good each time I get behind the wheel of my MINI. How many cars have you owned or driven that gave you so much pleasure and performance for so little?

  • BMW4ever

    I used to have a '02 M3 SMG and nowadays I drive a '02 MCS. Though the MCS is fun to drive, I still miss the power, the superb brakes and also the sound of the M3! The M3 is a car to fall in love with and to be addicted to, the MCS is more like a good friend, fun to be with but your heart won't speed up as soon as you see or feel it!

  • Bondurant 00

    Being new to the world of the 4-cyl engine, I am now a proud owner of a MC40 edition Cooper S (soon to get the JCW pkg). I drive this car to the limits daily, in all weather, and without mercy. It's really a remarkable car. Time will tell if it can hold up to my continued abuse over the next few years.

    I have raced against many M3's, M5's, AMG's, etc. in my 00 Saleen SC (w/extra mods) always coming out safely victorious. Ditto for my 02 Lightning F150(slightly moded) but on open, non-demanding roads.

    The Mini is simply more fun than all my past toys. True, 450 torque is handy in some situations, but for the daily grind and mountain racing, forget it. Out-of-the box, the Mini is one clever tool. This holds true even going against WRX STI and yes EVO MR (a second WRX STI race was won, me with a passenger!)

    True there are far better drivers out there, but they are rarer than getting in to it with a Challenge Stradale.

    For your Mini: keep your revs high, plan your shifts, size up your competition accurately, and stay in control… The car will do the rest.

    …and don't forget you can easily put 4 Dell Workstations & 4 17″ monitors in the back w/keyboards, speakers, etc, and 2 HP LJ1300s… and still have an open passenger seat. Sick.

    The Saleen is now up for sale. Proceeds will pay for more Mini and Lightning mods. One quick plug – put a CG-Lock on your safety belt so you can better operate your Mini at its limits.

    Happy Motoring

  • TGK 77

    I have 1000 miles on my new ’05 MCS. In the past 63 months I have owned and driven thousands of miles across the USA in: ’00 Audi S4, ’01 BMW M3, ’99 Carrera C4, “03 Boxster S, “04 911 C4S, ’05 911 S, cylcles & suv’s. The Cooper rocks! Compared to the other vehicles, there are obvious advantages for the different machines, but I am enjoying the MCS in inner big city driving more than any other machine I’ve driven. At this juncture in my car enjoyment, it’s the ultimate go-kart ride that puts Mini at the top of the fun chart. Looking forward to JCW!

    TGK 77

  • Yes. M3’s beat me in a flat-out drag race. But on real roads, and after 19 months with my JCW Mini (granted, not the same car described here)The M3’s wind up a good bit behind me EVERY TIME. When they finally DO pull up to me, they invariably ask “what the hell do you have under the hood, anyway?” I just smile and drive off. Actually, Suburu WRX STi’s give me more trouble. A sad commentary on the M3, yes?

  • simon english

    God I dislike the Suburu WRX it’s fast, but ugly and poor quality in comparison to the M3, also you’ll find more WRX STI owners feel like they have something to prove ! where the M3 owner knows what he has and is less likely to beat on it for a race he knows he will win. For you guys out there that compare car’s with mods to stock M3’s lets understand that a M3 with Dinan mod’s can get well over 400 hp and will smoke a poorly made Mustang that shames it’s name sake it’s been given (in quality and style)…I drove a fun truck last year that smoked a Cayenne turbo ! 03 X5 4.6 with a complete Dinan stage 3 kit ! 480 hp and 14 inch Brembo brakes off the Enzo…it was bloody amazing ..and a naturally aspirated 6cyl M3 against a mod V8 is comparing apples to oranges..all fruit but different Mate !

  • pat r.

    Those of you who think the M3 steering is too vague and the car is too refined you should drive an e30 ///M3. even though the e30 is probably slower than many MCS’s the handling is far superior. having driven all cars mentioned the E30 ///M3 is definately 10x more fun to drive than the JCW MCS i drove.

    the opinion of mose bimmer guys is that the only “true M3” is the E30, neither the E36 or E46 M3’s live up to that name because the E30 is the only homologated race car.

    and to say that e46 m3’s cant hang on the track is probably true but an E30 would eat any MCS,

    dont get me wrong though i like mini’s alot…i cant wait til i can sell my car for an AWD, turbo MCS 🙂

  • Nic

    Just took delivery of my E46 M3. Having driven it for 4 days only, I have to say, it is the best thing I’ve ever been in and I’ve driven a lot of cars. The M3 is simply the best driving experience in the world. No question.

  • ToplessRed

    I just gave up my 2004 M3 Convertible for a MINI Cooper Convertible. Yeah the M3 has the absolutely crazy acceleration. But otherwise …shrug… don’t miss it at all.

  • ToplessRed

    And I definitely don’t miss the $1K per month car payment and the pretty obscene insurance payments. Just too many people totalling M3s giving other M3 owners black marks.

  • minimcoupe

    My daily driver is an 05 cooper SVT. On nice days, my 2002 Z3 M-Coupe comes out to play. (I know it is not an M-3) One or two days a week in the summer, the M-Coupe is great to go really blasting around in and will test anyone’s driving skills.

    For a daily driver year round, you can’t beat a Mini. I will never give up my rocket ship, rare M-Coupe but in 06, I will be ordering the MCS auto with the paddle shifters. I have already driven one and am very impressed. (have to stay with the auto for my better half)

    I have also had both on longer trips and again, my nod goes to the Mini. By far, highest fun factor of any daily driver I have ever owned. (over 100 cars)

    Any M-Coupe drivers out there that have compared the MCS? They are a little closer in size & weight than the M-3.

  • kevin klayman

    just took delivery of a 05 m3 cabrio… its awsome!!!!! My brother-in-law has a totally worked mini S. While great in its own right, there is no comparison. If you can spare the green, the M3 cabrio is the way to go. PS thus far my driving record has been excellent. I review too many imaging studies of people who f-up behind the wheel and come into the hospital as traumas. Drive carefully and have fun!

  • Neil

    Sold my E46 convertible M3 SMG back in October 2003 after 7 months. Rattled like hell! It trully is “stupid fast”. Bought an MCS, and loved every minute. Just ordered MCS auto convertible.

    Don’t miss the M3 at all. People smile and wave at you in a mini, as opposed to making other gestures when you drive an M3.

  • Ted

    I’ve always liked the new Mini ever since it came out. I have yet to drive one though. I own an E36 M3 and 330iZHP and have driven the E46 M3. I have to agree with the previous comments about the 330/E46 M3 being almost too capable, powerful, quiet, luxurious.

    I wouldn’t even have really thought of getting out of my E36 M3, but I’ve since driven a few Boxster Ss and fell in love with it (both 986 and 987). The mid-engine feel is just unbelievable. I actually liked it better than the 996 Carrera I test drove because of the handling, even though it wasn’t as fast.

    I worry about the Mini FWD aspect, but everyone raves about the handling. I just can’t spend $60K on a Boxster right now. Can’t wait to try a MCS on for size. I agree that power isn’t everything, but it is addictive!

  • Scott Schaefer

    I’ve had a 2003 E46 M3 Coupe with 6 speed manual for about two years now. I’ve owned many cool cars over the years but nothing tops the M for its balance of speed, refinement, and practicality for what its performance level. Just last week, I place an order for an ’06 MCS with factory JCW. Won’t be replacing the M3, I’ll be complementing it.

  • yasin limbada

    i have owned bmw’s all my life i currently drive the bmw m3 smg model, i recently got married and bought my wife a mini cooper s works i drove it and i loved it i hardly ever drive my bmw now, saving loads on fuel…….

  • Megz

    I currently have a 2003 BMW MY SMG model. Talk about a badass car! Picking up guys in this car is pretty easy too! HAHA! It is crazy fast, and has really good handeling.

    The only down side to the car is the 17MPG gas tank. the gas mileage is only this low though because of the acceleration in this car. I have two racing chips in my engine so it makes the ride THAT MUCH MORE enjoyable. Talk about G-force!

    I had to invest in a really good radar detector after getting this car!

    I haven’t driven the MINI yet, and I don’t know if I ever will…is there an upgrade from the M3? …

  • Mike

    OK what sane person wrote this? Not one who has pushed the M3 deeper in a turn than a Porsche Turbo. Has smokeed several P-Cars with the M3’s amazing torque. Yes a mini might be fun but let’s get really. You will never ever get at the limit of a M3 in a mini. How can you compare a car that will get you around a corner in triple digits vs a car that 30 mph is scary fast.

    Ok, so I have an Dinan S2-M3 that is wickely fast than stock 😉

  • Mike – no offense but did you even read the article? I loved the M3… and think I was pretty straight forward about it being a much faster car.

    And if you think a MINI Cooper S feels scary cast and 30mph it sounds like you need to take one on a test drive.

  • Mark

    Personnal give I would much rather take a heavily modified MCS, just because any rich fart can go out a buy a M3 off the showroom floor. Correctly modifying and MCS is hard work and when its done the result, is a personnalized one of a kind master peice. I have $5,000 in my MC, I know it sounds stupid but I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of when one time i rolled up next to a MCS at stop light and cooked it, the guy never saw it comin.

  • Arman

    I happen to be a huge fan of the JCW MCS. Im certain removing the air filtration system that makes the car pretty much choke will add a good 20-30 horses. With such a light weight car, and the fact that it does have better handling at the lower speeds, couldnt the MCS give an M3 a run for its money, on a track with a lot of bends and twists, where the amazing M3 speed is taken out of the equation.

    Yes in a drag race im sure the M3 will be pretty much be out of sight in a few seconds, but from what i hear The new JCW kit has the tires the suspension and the power to out preform an M3 on a track. Especially since and i quote “The back-end will come around on you in a heartbeat” trying to make turn at the speed M3 boasts about.

  • wils

    MCS’s already beat M3s around the track – have witnessed it myself more than once! 🙂

    anyway, having driven both, and currently owning a MINI i can say they are both wonderful cars to drive but i don’t think the point of the article is to say that a MINI is a faster or better handling car to the M3 it’s saying that both are wonderful and very capable cars but that the Cooper S is just as fun and just as good to drive for the money as we all know it’s abt a third of the price of an M3…

  • Dan

    I own a 2004 M3 Convertible SMG that I have driven for about 12,000 miles.. I also just test drove the Mini Cooper S today in Automatic but used the Paddle Shifters.. I’d have to say that the Mini was indead more fun.. It’s probably because it’s a new feel and I’m used to the M3, but the Mini is so tiny that it feels very go-cart like and really wants to take the turns to the extreme.. I took it around tight turns and punched the pedal and overall I’d be tempted to buy a Mini now and drive it more then my M3…

    I have driven my M3 to the limit a bunch of times, but I think the Mini’s excitment will always be comperable because it’s a very tiny, very fast and very nimble car..

    It’s a tough choice over all but for me paying for my M3 new at around 65K, the Mini sounds like a steal!! Plus it’s got kayak racks for my kayaks, lol!! I’ll probably buy one but would like to take for a spin the new “Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice Turbo” first… The Posche Caymen S is pretty sweet too.. But I’d say Mini all the way.. Plus the

  • Dan

    continued—- I just wanted to add that I am speed freak and the JCW kit really isn’t needed for I think the S has plenty of pep.. But what the hey I’ll probaly get it anyways, hehe..

  • Marko

    I JUST did it! I got a 2003 MCS, and I’m selling my 2003 M3 w/SMG. The M3 is an awesome car, amazing car! But it doesn’t have much soul right now, it’s a bit too refined. One thing, it’s been in the shop so many times. The SMG is a huge pain in the butt for dependability. I’ve never raced the car or tracked it, or even blown it around on a weekend! Seriously babied this thing , and I’m afraid it’s a bit dissapointing on ownership, but def a great car to drive (when it’s not being towed AGAIN to the dealer!).

    We’ll see how the Cooper-S holds up, but it’s got the fun factor. I bought it fully loaded, all the features and navigation! I’m 35 now, so I don’t know if this will be a ‘grown-up’ car, but it’ll fun to own for a while!

  • Randel

    My wife drives a 2003 6-speed M3, and I drive a 2005 M5. While “Stupid Fast” is truly an accurate description of the M3, I continue to search for a catch phrase for the M5. Pudden-head fast? Dopey fast? Doppelganger Schnell?

    Where the M3 winds its way through the twistys like a scared deer, the M5 is more like a rabid bear.

    But sadly, Connecticut doesn’t have an autobahn. We grow weary of driving like grandma.

    Both cars are now for sale, and we are picking up a MCS today!

  • Norma

    I have a 2003 MCS Love it………… cant compare between the two. but the mini is absolutetly an awsome car….

  • Georgios

    I am from Greece and I own a 2005 MCS twincharged (supercharger + turbocharger) 400+ hp and 54 kilograms torque. Concerning the handling, my MINI’s Bilstein racing suspension PSS9 and the Brembo brakes helps it to turn like a train. Here in Greece there isn’t an M3 that can keep up with me. 0-100 km/h:4.4 which is 0-60 m/h and 275 km/h

  • Alex

    I’m a Huge BMW Fan and this is why i have a MCS.. when looking at used 3series after 2000 and under 35k i realized i couldnt get anything i wanted in a BMW and was told that if wanted outragous handeling (which i did) that i should walk 50ft down the hall into the Mini showroom and take a good look at “the BMW Mini) .. just hearing the words BMW Mini made me like it more. anyway two weeks later i was driving a little 05, Black and white CooperS and less than 2 months after that it had a Dinan Stage 3 suspention air intake/exhaust and software. i must say for under 30k i have no idea what compairs to my car and i honestly dont think i couldve driven any car on “the Tale of the Dragon” with as much confidence and comfort as i did for 4 days straight on the “Mini’s on the Dragon” rally… Anyway… M3 Rocks … M-Coupe is much cooler, but the mini coop IS THE SHIT ! and i pay less than 300 a month 🙂

  • Steven


  • John

    You can’t really compare an M3 SMG to a MINI Cooper or a Cooper S. The M3 SMG is obviously a suped up version of a BMW. And a rather expensive one. You would have to put it against a JCW (suped up version). Speaking of JCW’s you could buy about three fulled equipped JCW’s for the price of one of the SMG. Which would put a bigger smile on my face than an SMG ever would

  • Curt Bengtson

    I own a 2006 M3 SMG whith all the fixings and I must say wow. I haven’t drivin the mini yet but I will never sell this car.

  • Michael B

    I used to own a MCS, but sold it and bought an e46 m3. wow. the m3 is quite an astounding car. but, don’t get me wrong, the S is quite amazing itself, especially for the price. and it’s pretty darn fun too.

  • Scotty

    I have a 2006 M3 and have driven a friends 2004 Mini cooper S (manual) and the M3 handels much better, is much faster< it is just the better car, the cooper is cheap for a reason.

  • Neil

    I just sold my 6spd ’05 MCS and own a ’05 M3 SMG. While i loved the mini and great daily driver, super fun and wounderful year round car….there is no comparison between these two vehicles. The M3 is in a completely different league. I have a SCCA liscence and raced GT2 up in canada. From a drivers perspetive there is no comparision M3 hands down rules. from a cost vs. fun standpoint the MCS is probably a better buy

  • gerrit

    i have never owned either one but i have driven both because im a valet. the m3 was a lot more exciting. and i love the smg gearbox. i finally figured out how to get it in s6 mode and just about broke my neck with a second to third shift. this is the only transmission that i would prefer over a manual

  • hemisedan

    Well, why wouldn’t the M-3, or for that matter the upcoming M-1 be a betteer handler, faster than a Mini base with SS, or ever the MCS? My new JCW handles just fine for me in everyday driving, has no dead spots and is is a blast to drive. I’ve never driven a BMW M-3, or any of the M cars, mainly on account of the fact that $50K up is just not in my price category. I’ve been very impressed with my new 2011 JCW, it’s performance as well as its fuel mileage. Would I consider an M-1 or 3? Hell yes, but not for the asking prices.