Monday, April 6, 2020

When Did 55MPH Become So Slow?


I had an interesting experience in my late model BMW the other day.  It is a 2002 E46 M3 that I've owned and daily driven for a few years now (purchased used from a family friend) and I've got to set up the scene for our readers...and then ask a few questions.  It seems like a simple thing, but I had to drive the M3 at 55 MPH for 15 uninterrupted minutes on a SoCal freeway.  It was a excruciating and humbling experience.


First, I can't tell you how much the S52 inline-6 in the E46 loves to be revved -- forget everything you think you know about modern BMW engines and then add another 1000 rpm to the rev range.  This dual-overhead cam 3.2 liter pile of alloy wants to go.  It doesn't like to sit and it doesn't like to be passed by old ladies in minivans...but here I was, driving 55 in 6th gear and getting passed by angry semi drivers hauling loads of rocks. Normally, M3 drivers are passing people on the shoulder and changing lanes with reckless abandon...but I'm here stuck in the post COVID-19 highway, which looked like something out of a Mad Max movie.  Traffic was sparse (normally keeping the car above 55mph in a SoCal freeway would be impossible), but the few cars on the road were in hot pursuit of toilet paper and traffic tickets alike.  Perhaps those tickets would come in handy if you were out of toilet paper. but I wasn't...I was just restricted to 55 mph for 15 minutes if I wanted to drive the car the next day...and I want you guys to tell me why.


At the end of the day I was successful in my errand, but I can't imagine what it would be like to drive a stock Volkswagen Beetle or some other car that doesn't want to maintain 70 mph on a modern highway, because the light traffic of the current Coronapoclypse has driven people to drive like madmen.  Thankfully I'll be able to join them tomorrow and I won't be restricted to 55...but you can guess the reasons in the comments below.  Stay safe, slow down, and wash your wheels.

41 comments:

  1. Were you towing something? With an M3?

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  2. Tailed by a cop?

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  3. Engine oil chem flush or / cooling system flush procedure due to new cams or new cooling system parts ..

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    Replies
    1. No oil/cooling system related flush. This did not involve any new parts.

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  4. Replies
    1. My mother was not involved, but she would have told me to go faster.

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  5. Replies
    1. Speed 2020, starring Keanu Reeves and Jeff Goldblum -- two arch enemies must drive at exactly 55mph in an M3 for 15 minutes or else the world's fragile ecosystem will spiral into a runaway Mercury style greenhouse. No. Good movie, but not that.

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    2. Damn, I was sure I was right!

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    3. I think you mean "runaway Venus style greenhouse"... Mercury has no atmosphere! Glaaaayven

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    4. Venus is definitely the greenhouse, but I was surprised to find out that not only does Mercury have a thin atmosphere with trace amounts of water vapor, but that, combined with its nearly vertical axis, means ice can form inside craters near the pole where there is permanent shade.

      Anyhoo, mention of Venus always reminds me of my favorite ever scientific paper. It is re colonization of Venus, by NASA not some wacko, and mentions Gerard K. O’Neill in the very first sentence! Enjoy.

      https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030022668.pdf

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  6. Replies
    1. No spare of shame. M3 comes with no spare. Just a can of fix-a-flat and a prayer card to St Ignatius, patron saint of tires.

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  7. Something to do with where you were going, and for some reason you had to time exactly when you arrived and not arrive early?

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    1. No, I could have done this 15 mile journey at any time. Just needed to maintain speed. Oh, and keep the revs below 3000 rpm and not mash the gas like a nutter.

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  8. Replies
    1. Yes -- this is on the right track.

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    2. But I didn't have a check engine light and I hadn't disconnected the battery in the past year or so.

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    3. Just to be clear - unknown did get answer the question correctly. I was driving for an emissions cycle -- specifically, I needed to get all of the OBD2 readiness flags to clear in the ECU before it could pass cali smog. Even though the battery hadn't been disconnected in months and the car had pass emissions 2 years ago -- the guys at CARB decided to change the rules and require ALL of the OBD2 readiness checks to be cleared (used to be you could have 1 or 2 not ready) for the car to pass smog. The funny thing is that my ECU had never done its catalyst efficiency check, because to do so requires that you drive for 15 minutes between 45-60 mph and NOT rev above 3000 rpm or hit more than half throttle during the entire drive cycle. Shifting before 3000 rpm is insane in an E46 and not pressing the throttle more than 50% in an S54 is like sous vide cooking a perfectly medium-rare steak and then pouring ketchup on top.

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  9. Clogged fuel filter, clogged catalytic converter or wonky fuel pump?

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  10. You were driving the only M3 diesel and needed to run the self-clean cycle for the DPF?

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    Replies
    1. I usually just hit it with a hammer every few days. So...nope.

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    2. I just want to point out that every diesel BMW I can think of going back to the 80's is capable of capable of at least hitting 100mph. I'm not sure about a 524d, but they never sold those on these shores without a turbo, and those would do 112.

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  11. Corrections: Should be S54 not S52. And an S54 has an iron block, so it's not particularly a pile of alloy.

    I guess you were hypermiling in order to win a bet.

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    1. Derp -- you are correct it is the S54 and lots of cast iron is involved. Not hypermiling.

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  12. Any major service/upgrades recently? I'm thinking you were breaking in some mechanical part.

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    1. Nope -- the answer is now above -- I was trying get to the OBD2 readiness flags to clear so that the car would pass CA smog test.

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  13. Almost out of gas, and adhering to the US government's most economical speed limit? (I Can't Drive 55!)

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    Replies
    1. Its a hybrid, it burns gas and $50/quart fancy-pants oil.

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  14. "Late model"? That car is, um... carry the 1.... NINETEEN model years old.
    Let's count... 02' 03' 04' 05' 06' 07' 08' 09' 10' 11' 12' 13' 14' 15' 16 17' 18' 19' 20'.

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    1. Ummm...I wouldn't call it a classic...so I sorta thought that meant it was a late model. What is a late model...2015 and newer? I sorta assumed that anything newer than about 1993 was a late model...but it might be a sign of getting old.

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    2. I’m with Unknownymous on this one. Respective of the below continuum, which has overlaps and can be argued (possibly in an entirely separate post), let’s call this one “old” or, if we’re honest, “beater”.

      Antique
      Vintage
      Classic
      Modern classic
      Retro
      Beater
      Old
      4th owner
      Off-lease
      Late model
      Warranty remaining
      Nearly new
      Dealer demo
      New
      Built to order
      Bespoke

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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