My Comparison of the 991 C2S to the F80 M3


by Matt Moreman May 03, 2015

I’ve hit the 1,500 mile mark on my new F80, so I guess it’s time to type out some of my thoughts on the car.  I decided to follow the proper break in procedure and have kept the car below 5,500 RPMs, other than hitting the dyno for a baseline run just before doing have the first service done.

Unlike my E92 where I had a dozen parts waiting on the car for install, this time I decided to keep the car stock for a month or so before doing any modifications.  I wanted to enjoy the process rather than feel the pressure to be in the garage for 5 straight days putting every part on the car. My OCD tendencies won’t allow me to rest until every last detail is done, so this time I learned to take it slowly.

I thought I’d approach my comments as more of a comparison rather than just copy what others have said about the car.  I am fortunate enough to have both a 2014 “991” 911 and 2015 F80 M3 in my garage at the same time.  The 911 is the benchmark for which I have set my standards, so I thought it useful to compare my new M3 to it.  I will say I was a bit afraid the M3 would make me regret spending so much more on the 911.  Let’s analyze my opinions to determine whether the 911 is worth it at nearly one and three-quarter times the cost.

For comparison sake, here are the two specs:

  • 2015 M3 Sedan: $62,000
  • Mineral White Metallic: $550
  • Sakhir Orange/Black Extended Merino Leather: $950
  • Lighting Package: $1,900
  • 19″ Black Light-Alloy Wheel Double-SpokeStyle 437M: $1,200
  • Adaptive M Suspension: $1,000
  • M Carbon Cermaic Brakes: $8,150
  • Manual Transmission: $0
  • Harman Kardon Surround Sound System: $875
  • Destination & Handling: $925
  • Total MSRP as Built: $77,550
  • I received $2,000 off MSRP: $75,550

  • 911 Carrera S: $98,900
  • Burmester Audio Package: $5,290
  • White: $0
  • Leather Interior in Black: $3,690
  • Carrera S X51 Powerkit:  $17,600
  • SportDesign Side Mirrors: $600
  • Model Designation “911”: $0
  • Sport Design Front Fascia: $2,990
  • Bi-Xenon Headlights in Black incl. PDLS: $1,485
  • Headlight Cleaning System Cover Painted in Exterior Color: $295
  • PASM Sport Suspension: $890
  • 7-speed Manual Transmission: $0
  • 20-inch Carrera S Wheels: $0
  • Wheels Painted Platinum Satin: $950
  • Instrument Dials in Black: $0
  • Luggage Net in Passenger Footwell: $0
  • Smoking Package: $0
  • Sport Seats Plus (4-way): $440
  • Sport Design Steering Wheel: $250
  • Destination: $995
  • Vehicle MSRP: $134,575 (I got 6% off that sticker.)

Exterior
I was a little surprised that the M3 doesn’t look as big as I thought it would.  I purposely hadn’t seen one in person prior to heading to the Performance Center to pick mine up.  After looking at the measurements, I thought it would look and feel large.  I must say though, parked next to the Porsche in the garage, it looks smaller than I expected.  I think that’s a good thing.

I am very pleased with the contrast of the two opposite exterior designs of the cars.  The angular dimensions, aggressive fenders, and carbon fiber roof of the M3 differs greatly from the smooth curves and carefully crafted layout of the 911.  The cars are different enough that they cover enough of a design spectrum to appeal to my personality.  This may sound insane, but I really feel like the look of these two cars fit me as a person.  Whatever that means…
The paint is really, really good on the M3.  Dare I say it is almost as good as the Porsche?  There is more orange peel, but the Mineral White is one of my favorite things about the car.  My Le Mans Blue E92 paint was not great.  It would scratch super easily, was prone to water etching, and generally gave me nothing but headaches.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the blue, but I think this Mineral White is something special.  I’ve never been so excited about paint before.

As I tend to do, I was obsessing about how good a job the Performance Center was going do at prepping the car.  Most dealerships totally massacre the paint, adding tons of scratches and swirls.  Well, they did a really great job.  All I needed to do was a finishing polish and wax, and the paint was jeweled and flawless.

Chrome!  Call me new school, but I hate chrome.  It is cheap and, frankly, makes the car look old.  The only piece of chrome on the 911 was the badge.  Why in the world would BMW do black trim all over the car and then put chrome grills/gills on this thing?  Oh well, easy (rather expensive) fix.

Interior
This is a little tougher to compare.  You have the practical, “family” Sedan versus the pure-bread sports car, so I’ll approach this more from a form standpoint rather than function.  Although, my three year-old son can sit in the back of the 911, it won’t be long before he’s too big.  The M3 wins the function part hands down.  I’m 6’2” and was pleasantly surprised that I can sit behind my driver’s seat that is positioned properly for me and my knees barely touch the back of the seat.

The first thought that came to mind when I started thinking about comparing the two interiors was that the 911 feels very 2011 and the M3 has the technology that makes it much more current.  This makes sense as the 991 was designed several years ago.  I’m not saying it’s bad.  It just gives the aura of an ever so slightly out-dated look.  Being newly designed, the M3 obviously wins in this department.  Dare I say, I actually use the Nav in the M3 where the 911 I break out the iPhone.

Since we are on the subject of Technology, let’s talk Burmester versus HK.  Now you may think this would be laughable, and it pretty much is.  But, I’m an audio junkie and have found the HK to be surprising good in comparison.  The Burmester is much better, but the HK holds isn’t bad.  I was surprised by this one.  I thought I would hate the HK system.  Having metal dome tweeters, I assumed it would be harsh sounding.  Again, it’s not great, but it’s good enough.  I won’t be upgrading the system in the M3.  I thought I would have wanted to do so.
The seats and seating position are really no comparison.  I’ve read how great the new seats are in the M3, but the Porsche seats are worlds better.  In looking at the design of the two, I’m guessing the 911 seats are a crap load lighter as well.  The leather is also much better in the Porsche.  I opted for full leather in the 911, but only chose Extended in the M3.  The reason I decided against doing full leather again is that I hardly notice it in the Porsche.  I thought to myself that I’ve never had a leather dash before, and I’ve been okay.  So no full leather in the M3, and I’m not disappointed.  I was stressing about this while waiting for my car to show-up, but I’m glad I didn’t check the box.  I wouldn’t order full leather again on a 911.

I am pleased with the nice touches like deviated stitching on the door panels at no extra cost in the M3.  Porsche charges about $4K to do something similar.  Like I said the 911 leather is nicer and the fit and finish it a little better, but I think that would be expected at its price point.  I certainly feel good about both interiors.  I think I’d have to give the M3 a slight edge overall, but they are both very nice.

6MT Versus 7MT
I’m still a row through the gears kind of guy.  I won’t be tracking either car, so being connected to the car by a manual transmission is more important to me than being a few tenths of a second faster.  I’m a Honda raised car guy, and the S2000 has spoiled me.  The 6MT in the F80 is much improved over the E92, but it still pretty much sucks.  It just doesn’t suck enough to make me complain about it every time I drive the car.  This car doesn’t rev nearly as fast as its NA V8 predecessor, so this makes it much easier to handle the car at redline than before.  That, and it is has a much shorter, more direct gate to 2nd gear.  Also, I don’t detect any notchiness.  It is rather smooth but is just a bit numb for my liking.

The gearbox in comparison to the 911 is really no contest.  The Porsche is smoother, yet provides a more mechanical feel; has shorter, faster throws; and is better positioned in the car.  The only knock on the 911 is that the shifter does block the A/C and radio controls, but I don’t care.  It is in the right spot for the best shifting position.

Brakes

Carbon Ceramics, “Oh how I love thee, let me count the ways!”  I’m sure all of you are going to give me a hard-time over the following comment.  I ordered the CCBs on the M3 primarily due to the cleanliness of them.  There is no rust, basically no dust, and they look awesome.   So call me ridiculous, but the detail freak in me will never be able to get normal rotors again.  As far as how they work, the braking exercise at the Performance Center to teach how to turn while ABS is engaged was a waste of time.  The brakes were so good that we were stopping twenty feet before the turn.  The M5s were rolling almost into the grass.  I’ve had a few little squeaks while lightly braking and turning the wheel, but they have been silent otherwise.  They make me smile every time I walk up to the car.  Washing my wheels is a dream!

To compare the two cars, the CCBs on the M3 are great, but braking is where you really notice the size and weight difference of the two cars.  Being 400ish lb. lighter, the 911 seems to stop more effortlessly.  Even though the 911 may outperform, I much prefer the look and feel of the M3 brakes.  The 911 steel brakes make a bunch of noise, squeaking, and squealing.  I will be ordering CCBs on any future car despite the cost.  If you are on the fence like I was, spend the money.  You won’t be sorry.  I promise.

The Experience
I’m a sucker for the experience.  Whether it is at a hotel stay or buying a computer, I want to feel a connection.  I want to desire to behind the wheel.  I’m not sure I have the words to describe the difference in experience between the two cars, but I’m going to try.

Let’s start with steering.  I understand why there are lots of complaints about the transition to electric steering.  I’ve read the articles from BMW about their new system in the F8X platform being the best in the world.  Well in my novice opinion, they are a distant second.  The C2S is much, much better.  The only thing better about the M3 is the diameter of the steering wheel, but I’m not sure the fat wheel would work in the 911.  It would feel too big.  So the 911 wins this hands down.

Now it’s time to talk about the important stuff, throttle response/power delivery.  I not sure which car is faster.  My guess is they will be very close with the M3 slightly winning from a roll.  Off the line, I think it would be much easier to win in the C2S due to weight over the rear wheels.  Throttle response is the part that really gets me in a comparison.  This “Honda Boy” is used to high-revving, wind-it-out motors.  The C2S begs me to do this, and the M3 makes me feel as though I can but don’t need to do so.  If you look at the pattern of car purchases in my past, it would make sense that I much prefer the snappy response of a naturally aspirated engine.  You push the pedal in the M3 and you just don’t get the same reaction from the car.  Don’t get me wrong, the torque of the M3 is way cool, but the car doesn’t respond the same to putting your foot down.  The 911 springs into immediate action, while the M3 eventually breaks your neck.  Both are fast and perform amazingly well, but the C2S easily wins this for me.  Although, I am starting to get used to and really enjoy the flood of torque and whistle of the spooling turbos while in the M car.

The sound these cars make could not be any different.  Both of them have an artificial enhancement to get sound into the cabin, but for some reason I turn my nose up at BMW’s solution and applaud Porsche’s.  The fake sound the M3 is a little offensive.  It offends my sense of intelligence.  It doesn’t sound bad, it just sounds weird.  I think the car sounds okay from the outside, but I only hope an aftermarket exhaust will make it substantially better.  Of the many virtues of the M3 the sounds it makes are not one of them.

In contrast, I think the sound symposer in the 911 is genius and really appreciate it.  I will say coming from the very organized sounding S65, the 911 took some getting used to.  The chaos of backfires and scream at WOT was very different.  I’ve grown to become a huge fan of the sound the C2S makes.  It is very additive to the experience of driving the car versus the M3’s sound being a negative.

Handling is another no contest.  When I picked up the M3 from the Performance Center and spent a day and a half driving through mountain and back roads home to Central Florida, I started to question why anyone would spend so much more on a Porsche.  The car felt so balanced and light on its feet.  I was immediately in love and began to forget what the 911 felt like.

Well my friends, that euphoria was short lived the morning after I got home.  I jumped in the driver’s seat of the C2S, started it up, and immediately knew this was no comparison.  When I first got the 911 I had zero experience with driving the car.  I only took a short test drive before ordering.  Since an early age, I knew I wanted one, but I hadn’t ever actually driven it.  I was shocked at how taught and stiff the car was.  Now I have Sport PASM, but I could imagine most older gentleman that buy these cars would not take kindly to the aggressive factory suspension settings.  That being said, the stiffness is not rough and the overall balance is so wonderful that I can’t put it into words.  The M3 is very good for what it is, but I almost get the sense that BMW engineers artificially made the car ride rougher to instill the sense of a connection with the road.  I really notice this on my neighborhood road.  The C2S provides all the right feedback while the M3 gives me a bit too much while still feeling a bit more numb.  Again, it’s hard to explain.  The M3 is good, but the 911 is epic.

Conclusion

So I’m a huge fan of both cars. I love them both in very different ways.  I wouldn’t want to live without either one.  So is the 911 worth that much more than the M3?  I believe so.  The performance difference doesn’t even come close to warranting the extra cash that needs to be given up, but… THE EXPERIENCE AND VISCERAL CONNECTION ONE GETS FROM THE 911 IS WORTH EVERY EXTRA PENNY!  I almost can’t put a price on the experience the 911 gives me.  I’m really surprised as I thought I would it be a toss-up which car I wanted to drive more.  Again, it’s no contest.

I will certainly say that if someone were to hold up two sets of keys and ask, “Which one?”  I’m taking the P-Car!




Matt Moreman
Matt Moreman

Author

I don't mean to make light of this, but I am medically diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Due to being afflicted, uniquely organized, and highly focused, The Garage tends to become my place of sanity. It is the anchor of my obsession, but I also have a passion for Cars, Finance, and Electronics. Stay tuned as I transplant what is in my head into the Obsessed Blog.



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