Today, I met one of my heroes. This wasn’t a planned, anticipated meeting. It transpired in a Carmax parking lot on an overcast Friday morning in an upper-middle-class suburb of Los Angeles, California. Let’s rewind a few hours.

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My A3 needs brake pads and lines that don’t suck, so I stopped in to my favorite performance shop (Pacific German, they’re great guys, take your Volkswagen/Audi to them, I swear this isn’t a commercial, they only paid me $5 to write this.) After a lengthy discussion which ended with me coming to the sad realization that my stock brake rotors are roughly the size of milk bottle tops, I found a nearby shopping center and consumed an unhealthy amount of Jamba Juice.

As I sipped my genetically modified and puree’d strawberries, I perused the Carmax mobile site for unreliable German sports cars as I am wont to do at times of boredom. And then, I saw it. Three miles away. The two cars I’ve dreamed about owning as my next car are the Porsche Cayman and the E92 M3, and I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to see how I liked one of them. A few minutes and some minor smoothie-induced stomachache later, I was walking through the blue-and-yellow automatic doors of corporate used-car America.

I was immediately greeted by a very helpful and friendly gentleman. When I told him I was here to look at an M3, his eyes lit up. Turns out he’d worked at the BMW test track in South Carolina before relocating here. We set out down a seemingly endless line of cars, and eventually found BMW Land. 528s, 335s, and every sort of X-contraption, outstretched across the tarmac. But no sign of a 2008 M3 with 86k miles (that YOU can buy for less than a new Accord - Tavarish.)

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Eventually, we found it nestled between an Audi A7 and a dumpster (or maybe it was an X6, I couldn’t tell.) I unlocked the doors and slipped into the contoured black bucket seat. It fit me like a glove. After adjusting it to a low, close, and upright position, it felt nearly perfect. My hands found the nine and three positions on the thick-rimmed, small-diameter wheel with excitement.

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I eased the car out of the lot, appreciating the tight, heavy steering and feeling the dual-clutch let out smoothly as I smoothly pressed the accelerator. My new friend pointed me through a fun loop which consisted of a gently curving, lightly trafficed four-lane byway, a fun freeway onramp, and a highway stretch. I couldn’t keep a smile off my face as I rolled onto the gas in third and heard the V8 absolutely scream. The steering was magnificently telepathic, and the car felt like it was brand new, not approaching 87,000 miles. My only gripe was that the M-DCT was slow to downshift upon a press of the paddle, and I now realize that I probably didn’t have the transmission in its most aggressive setting. In any case, that could easily be fixed by purchasing the three-pedaled version. After a few miles and a lot of fun, I ended up where I’d began. It was over too soon, and I was back at Carmax.

That was when I noticed the black button by my knee. “Sir,” I asked, “What’s the function of this button?” I gestured inquisitively towards the rectangle which read “Power.” “Well,” the sales associate responded, “I could go inside and wait for someone to look at a minivan, or we could take another lap and find out just what that power button’s all about.” I think you can guess what I chose.

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I’ve ogled the E92 M3 ever since its release. It’s always been one of those magical “someday” cars for me, and now it’s nearly within reach. I will almost certainly own one in the future (with a Carmax warranty), and driving one motivated me to work hard to get there. They say not to meet your heroes unless you’re prepared for disappointment, but the M3 was everything I expected it to be and more. No, officer, I don’t know how fast I was going.

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What I loved:

- fantastic driving position and nice simple BMW interior

- high-revving, beautiful-sounding naturally aspirated V8

- razor-sharp, perfectly weighted steering

- the price ($29k!)

- I instantly felt comfortable behind the wheel

What I didn’t:

- M-DCT can be slow to react

- Sumitomo tires

- Abysmal MPG

- That I didn’t have more time in it

The Verdict: I met my celebrity crush, and she’s every bit as hot in person.

- Maddox

Edit: If a fellow Oppo wants to give a good car a good home, here is the link.

http://www.carmax.com/enus/view-car/…