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2002 BMW M3 SMG
by Jeremy at 12:01 pm EDT, Jul 20, 2002

"I hope you're not taking a car with a stick shift on vacation." ... "No, It's a new M3 convertible, and there's no clutch."

Technically, I was fibbing. The M3 SMG has a manual transmission and a clutch, although there is no clutch pedal.

This highly sophisticated gearbox should not be confused with the many variations on the Tiptronic theme.

No, BMW's SMG (for sequential manual gearbox) is similar to the Magneti Marelli system used in Ferraris, Maseratis and the Aston Martin Vanquish. But BMW's version has a twist: a Drivelogic button below the shifter lets you select how quick you want the shifts to be, from leisurely to rocket racer (as fast as eight one-hundredths of a second).

At first I found myself missing the clutch pedal, but after rolling up some miles and experimenting with the six available shift programs, I became a convert.

Three young women of college age paused on the patio to comment on the titanium silver car parked top-down across the street. "Isn't it an M3?" one asked. To which a preppy young man at a nearby table, chimed in: "Does it have the SMG transmission? That is just so cool."

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