Great article on the E46 M3, I enjoyed it a lot. I agree with everything you say about it except regarding the paddle shift.
I bought mine new 14 years ago and have just clicked over 200,000km. I supersprinted it with a BMW club for four years and it still runs beautifully – though it admittedly now needs some cosmetic TLC.
As a fan of the manual ’box, I’ve never regretted choosing the SMG. Sorry, but journalists really need to get over what I see as unjustified bias.
Perhaps the SMG has one idiosyncrasy for the uninitiated – stop, then quick takeoff – but other than that it works fine, on both road and track.
I always drive in mode five and manually shift, ensuring I’m always in the right gear which makes a big difference. Likely just a bit more familiarity with it is required.
We’ll have to agree to disagree, Gordon. In our experience the full-throttle shifts are wince-inducingly brutal and if you smooth them out by lifting the throttle, you might as well have a proper manual! You’re right in that it’s not as bad around town as some would have you believe, but there’s a reason the automated manual has by and large died out. Great car, though.