For the BMW M-car faithful, the turbocharged transition was met with scepticism, even anger, as many a purist couldn’t imagine an M-car without a sonorous naturally aspirated motor until the likes of the famed 1M, current M5/M6 and indeed the M3/M4 siblings came along.
Despite what everyone thinks of the current M3/M4, there is no doubting that the S55 motor lurking under its domed bonnet has taken these cars to near supercar levels of performance.
Taming the beast
I remember when I first had the opportunity to drive the new M3; it was late 2014 when a Yas Marina Blue example was dropped off at the Autodealer office.
Being cocky and considering myself a hot-shot driver, I climbed in and proceeded to drive home. It wasn’t until I defeated the horrific Johannesburg traffic and opened the car up that I realised I was dealing with a whole new ball game in terms of accelerative violence and underpants-shredding oversteer versus the previous M3.
After a day or so with the car, I had the courage to turn off all of the electronic aids and try control it myself. It was at this point that I discovered how often and indeed how quickly these cars want to murder you. There was so much torque that the rear wheels felt overwhelmed most of the time.
Once I learnt how to control the beast, I managed to find a happy medium but still, what an animal, I wanted one. Then when I heard a more powerful 331kW/550Nm version called the Competition Pack (CP) was available, I knew I had to drive it, which I was privileged enough to accomplish recently.
Look and feel the CP
A Competition Pack arrived at the office, looking resplendent in Sakhir Orange and wearing 20-inch 666 M wheels. I immediately had to take it for a drive. Stepping inside, I spotted the new lightweight sport seats and seatbelts complete with the M stripe stitching. Other than these items, the interior is a pretty standard M3 affair with leather, carbon fibre and the iDrive system dominating the cockpit.
I started the car up and was surprised by the improved tone provided by the M sports exhaust system versus the standard unit, which I felt didn’t give that raw M-car sound fans wanted to hear. The exhaust, along with the badges, grille, window surrounds and side gills are all finished in gloss black on the CP. It is wonderful to see BMW executing the Shadowline treatment on their exteriors so well.
Driving the CP
There were a few things that became immediately apparent once I set off. The changes made to the Adaptive M Suspension, which include new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars as well as tweaks made to the Active M Differential, have made the Competition Pack a stiffer, more controllable and ultimately faster car in all scenarios.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I am more accustomed to these powerful cars now, but I did find that getting to explore the performance of the CP was an easier task than in previous M3/M4s. It felt more planted and less willing to slide at a moment’s notice.
I was thankful for that because it makes the task of driving the car in anger a far more rewarding experience. I was in my element, even in the rain, the adjustability and precise nature of the CP shone through.
You’ll still manage a 0-100km/h time of around 4.0 seconds and a claimed top speed of 280km/h. The performance is honestly excessive, in the best possible way. The same can be said for the Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63S as well as the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV, which I simply cannot wait to drive back-to-back with the M3.
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