M-Series (M1, M3, M5, M6)General M-Series Discussion - If it does not fit into a more specific M Category above, please place it in here. In addition, previously archived M-Series discussion is located in this section.
Hi, I am test driving a 1999 E36 M3 with the SMG box in a couple of days. I have heard and read a wide variety of stories none too many favourable. I've heard they're strange to drive but you get used to them after an hour or so. Is there anybody out there who owns/has owned one please? I would like you opinion as to how they drive, how expensive they are to keep etc. Normally I would be buying the manual but my knees are stuffed and wife can only drive auto's so hoping the SMG is good compromise.
Appreciate any information you can offer.
The SMG transmission is the standard Getrag six-speed gearbox plus electro-hydraulic clutch action. It's operation is controlled by hydraulics & solenoid valves. The system operates under huge pressure (up to 85 bar), which allows quick gearchanges. As each gear is selected a solenoid opens allowing hydraulic fluid into the clutch master cylinder disengaging the clutch. Three hydraulic cylinders activated by solenoids in the shift actuator carry out the gearchange by positioning the main selector shaft in the appropriate slot.
In the E36 the gearlever is in the usual location. To upshift pull the lever back once for each gear. To downshift push it forwards. A digital indicator in the bottom of the Rev Counter shows which gear is selected.
The E36 SMG also has fully automatic modes... Normal, Sport & Winter. To engage the automatic modes slide the gearlever to the right across the gate. Repeatedly pressing the SMG button on the dash cycles the automatic mode from Normal to Sport to Winter then back to Normal & so on. The Gearlever, SMG button & Selector Lever Position indicator are visible in the photo above. The photo below shows the E36 M3 SMG transmission. The components in the foreground occupy the space in the engine bay usually taken by the windscreen washer fluid reservoir.
The E46 SMG has not only the usual gearlever but also two paddles that are fixed to & turn with the steering wheel. To upshift pull the right hand paddle. To downshift push the left hand paddle. The transmission has six manual modes & five automatic modes... from the soft, smooth changes of A1 to the fiercely fast changes of S6.
What makes the system work so well in the E46 M3 is the MSS54 engine management's drive by wire throttle. The SMG & engine management control units talk to each other so the ECM can cut power momentarily during upchanges, or blip the throttle for seamless downchanges.
The entbout eight kilograms & does away with the clutch pedal altogether. Maximum shift speed is 0.08 seconds. Below is an illustration of the E46 SMG II components.
For maximum standing start acceleration the E36 & E46 SMG transmissions have a 'launch control' system:
push the gearlever forwards & hold it there (E36 & E46)
with the E46 SMG mash the accelerator pedal hard into the firewall. The ECM will hold the engine at the 3,500rpm launch optimum. Then release the gearlever & keep the throttle floored
with the E36 SMG hold the accelerator pedal steady at approx 4,000rpm. Then simultaneously release the gearlever & mash the accelerator pedal hard into the firewall
the M3 will now execute a near-perfect wheelspin launch, screaming to 30mph in just 1.9 seconds (E36)
there's no need to ease-up on the throttle on upchanges... for maximum acceleration keep the 'pedal to the metal'.
Below is an article about the E36 M3 SMG which was published in the March 1998 issue of UK magazine TopGear. It explains the practicalities of the SMG transmission very well...
tion: When is an automatic not an automatic? Answer: when it's an SMG. And what, pray tell, is SMG? It's a new gearchange system now available in the UK as a GBP 1,735 option on BMW M3s.
Apart from submachine gun, SMG stands for Sequential M Gearbox. The 'M' is for Motorsport, the BMW subsidiary which, in close cooperation with Getrag and Fichtel and Sachs, designed and developed the system.
And what's special about it? Well, under the carpet there's a six-speed manual gearbox very much like that on current M3s, but rather than the conventional H pattern, the SMG gearstick, in Sport mode, moves backwards for upchanges and forwards for downchanges. Unlike the Audi/Porsche Tiptronic system and BMW's own Steptronic auto, this method feels much more natural.
There's also a self-select, or E, mode when the manual gearbox changes gear automatically. There are only two pedals, brake and throttle. Operation of the twin-plate dry clutch is automatic. In practice you select 'E' (for easy, efficiency, and first gear is automatically engaged. But the car doesn't then creep forward like an ordinary auto; it only moves away when throttle is applied. From there it changes up and down through the box automatically, taking into account your speed and driving style.
If you wish to change up earlier than the computer has calculated (the most powerful in any passenger car, capable of processing 20 million instructions per second) the SMG can be coaxed into doing so by lightly lifting off the throttle. If you need to overtake while in 'E' mode there's a kickdown. And like the auto 'boxes on many modern executive/luxury cars, there's also a 'winter' mode which starts off in second and changes gears more delicately.
But what benefits does the SMG manual provide over a conventional auto? Answer: A lot. As manual 'boxes do, it absorbs less horsepower, provides better fuel efficiency, is lighter, less bulky, less complex and cheaper.
Plus, with the SMG in 'manual' mode you can't select the wrong echanism always gets it right. It won't graunch the gears either, and because each shift is perfect there's less wear and tear on the mechanicals. If you want to change either up or down more than one gear, say from sixth to second, simply move the lever forwards four times as fast as you like it's spring-loaded and returns to centre with every change. But here's the really clever bit; if you've misjudged it by downchanging so there's a risk of over-revving the engine when the clutch re-engages, the system will recognise the error and only drop to the gear the rev limit will allow.
But it doesn't stop there. If the sensors detect a loss of traction, by downchanging to too low a gear for your speed or lifting off the accelerator while cornering on the limit, the clutch automatically disengages, preventing the rear wheels from 'dragging' which can provoke a hard-to-control tailslide. But if you keep the power on and get oversteer, you're on your own. Like a normal M3, there's no tr 10mph, SMG will automatically select second and ultimately first if you've forgotten to do it.
But what about really quick getaways or racing starts? If there's no clutch pedal, then how can the clutch be dropped at high enough revs to scorch from 0-62 in 5.5 seconds the same as the manual M3? Simple; just select first, hold the lever forward, build the revs to 4,000 and the SMG automatically 'drops' the clutch. Be ready for the orange 'change up' light in the main instrument binnacle, (in 'S' mode it won't change up automatically) then, while holding full throttle, hit second and you're pretty much there. Brilliant.
Full-throttle SMG gearchanges take just 250 milliseconds about the same as a racing change by an expert driver but, remember, clutch take-up and gearchanges are not subject to human inadequacies. In an unofficial experiment the M people discovered that 17 out of 20 expert drivers were quicker with SMG than a manual.
But what about blt? Yes you can. The SMG blips the throttle for you, ensuring a fluid downchange.
And, in case the SMG owner suffers from brain fade there's a host of idiot-proof safety systems. For example, if a driver leaves it in first with the engine running and then gets out of the car, SMG will automatically select neutral after four seconds. Or if there's someone in the driver's seat, the engine's running, it's in first and the bonnet's open, SMG will select neutral so that the car can't drive off while somebody's poking around the engine bay
But the real fun is in the driving. Imagine this; you're approaching the infamous Paddock Hill bend at Brands Hatch at well over 100mph in fourth. All you have to do is brake, flick the gear lever forward, ease off the brakes, turn in, power down the hill and then nudge the lever back again for fourth. Because you don't even have to think about heel and toeing, matching revs and finding the right gear, every driver is going to systems are prevalent in F1, Touring Cars, World Rally Cars and GT1 sports car racing.
So are there any downsides? Not to my knowledge, although anyone expecting the almost imperceptible changes of a modern automatic gearbox like the Steptronic will probably find the SMG a little jerky.
Like any manual, you can really feel the changing process but, also in common with a manual, there are techniques which you probably won't master after a ten-minute test drive. A few hours is useful that's what I had and I sometimes felt a short delay between hitting the lever and the change actually taking place. But my BMW instructor reckoned you need about a week with SMG before everything really falls into place.
It's been available for a while in some left-hand-drive markets and up till now 53 per cent of M3 customers have taken the SMG option.
BMW GB expect a similar demand over here, but I reckon that figure shouldhnophobic purists. So long as you don't mistake it for an
Wow thanks for all your responses. Especially the long article, really appreciate the bit about launching as I had forgotten that from reading similar 5 years ago or so.
Well the test drive was fun, would have been more if I could have found more empty roads, but all things considered this things a beast. I see how it's possible to go through rear tyres as mashing the accelerator from rest has the wheels spinning and going nowhere, I think I would be a bit scared using this weapon in the wet.
Unfortunately though the dealer is trying to give me nothing for my trade in so it looks like I'm going to have to try to sell my current car privately first.
At least I had the test car to myself without the dealer telling me how fantastic the radio is. I highly recommend driving an SMG box for at least an hour to get used to it. As soon as the finances can afford there will be one in the garage and racing with the local BMW club on the track.
For those on the forum lucky enough to have a M3 with a SMG transmission I have a couple questions, (I am considering purchasing a M3 with a SMG tranny).
1. Will a test drive allow enough time to tell if it is the way to go? I ask this because if it takes a bit of getting used to the test drive may not be a long enough period to really make a valid determination on whether or not to purchase the M3 with an SMG.
2. Are they reliable? Sometimes more parts means more headaches. Does BMW have the SMG down pat or is it prone to failures?
3. Any hidden downside such as fancy maintenance or adjusting that has to be done frequently?
Pardon my ignorance but the best way to make a determination is to talk to those who walk the walk. Thanks in advance...
I just bought an E46 SMGII about a month ago, so I can give you an initial buyer's perspective:
When I test drove the SMG, I didn't like it at first. The drive-by-wire is very tricky to get used to in the beginning, especially if you have it in the Sport mode. Because of my experience, I decided at the time that I would get the standard 6-speed manual. A friend of mine bought an M3 Cic a week later and raved about the SMG after he had it about a week. I decided, after hearing a friend's personal advice, to buy one w/ SMG.
All I can say after one month is that it's a lot of fun and convenient too. I still have moments (especially driving through bumpy roads in downtown San Francisco) that I start jerking around because of the sensitivity of the accelerator, but overall, I'm very happy with my decision.
As far as mechanical/maintenance implications, I defer to the others on this forum who have had theirs longer.
i still prefer operating my own clutch, so what if i dont have heel and toe down to a tee, and i dont need to shift faster than Micheal, cause i dont have the pleasure of driving that fast so whats the point.
Yeah, SMG2 is quite convenient if you just wanna drive it like an automatic car (like my wife
The jerky motion takes some getting used to. I found that 2 things really helped. Either give it some more gas (and the jerkiness goes away), or start in 2nd gear if you don't have to make a getaway. Gets more jerky in sport mode but I've noticed that the car can be jerky in 1st gear when sport is OFF, whereas, the jerkiness tends to be in 2nd gear with sport mode ON.
I made my decision on the first test drive (which took about 45 minutes to an hour). Takes a little getting used to. Mind you, I was babying the car too, cause I had never been in an M3 before, and was driving a used '02 with SMG2. When I took delivery of the '04 SMG2, it seemed like second nature within about a week or two.
I don't think there's a difference in the regular maintenance intervals for SMG2 versus manual with the latest gen M3s.
Make sure you take it on a LONG test drive before you get SMG. I don't think you'll regret having either, but some people are manual die-hards. If this sounds like you, then get the manual.
Good luck and happy test-driving.
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