When I heard that BMW’s iconic M3 badge would be associated with turbocharging I was distraught. The old V8 was a symphonic and dynamic masterpiece, but after a week with the new one, I couldn’t care less that it has two snails attached to its 3.0-litre straight-six lump.
From a looks perspective, you’re going to have to make up your own mind but I’m totally smitten with it. It looks so purposeful and aggressive and yet it’s still toned down enough to be recognisable as a 3 Series variant. Inside is a similar story. The “M” badge appears in certain areas such as the gorgeous seats, gear lever and steering wheel, but other than that, you could be in a 3 Series with an M Sport pack and there’s something inherently cool about that.
The new car is an animal - there’s no other word for it. I was expecting to drive a juiced-up 335i and was happy to eat that slice of humble pie the first time I put the car into its most aggressive mode. I should’ve known better than to doubt those engineers at the M division; they always seem to find a way to make the M3 appeal perfectly to the generation for which the car has been built.
Yes, we’re all downsizing but the M3 reminds us that there’s still so much fun to be had. I won’t lie… the new car won’t be for everyone. The way in which it delivers its power is more AMG than M-car. For instance, M3’s of yesteryear were renowned for their traction and grip; the new one will break traction and slide with the slightest provocation.
The figures are astonishing: 317kW/550Nm which makes it good for a 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds with the launch control system. The acceleration is brutal as the car snakes across the road until it gets traction. Epic fun. I asked myself whether the new car would have benefited from less torque; I then slapped myself for asking silly rhetorical questions. Watch the video below.
The car defies all the rules for a turbo vehicle. There is little to no lag, the throttle response is very urgent, the engine revs to 7 600rpm and it sounds like nothing else on the road. The M3 is like a light switch, a prod of the loud pedal sends it into tyre-shredding mode. I was mesmerised by the way it accelerated, then stunned at how well it stopped and then stumped at the level of mechanical grip, although the engine makes it hard to drive the car smoothly so track time might prove a bit of a challenge.
If this car were a person it would defiantly be bi-polar. On the one hand, you have settings that make it as meek as a lamb and on the other side of the spectrum you can set it to DEFCON 1 where the car starts snarling and sliding at every opportunity. In meek lamb mode I managed to achieve fuel returns of 10.3 litres/100km thanks to features like Auto Start/Stop (8.3 litres/100km claimed) and let’s just say in DEFCON 1 it was quite a bit higher.
There were two features on my test unit that I was very grateful for: The Active M Differential (electronic not mechanical), which helps when coming out of the corners and aids with traction, and the carbon ceramic brakes, which feel fantastic and are fade-free even though they are quite noisy with the windows down.
The M Servotronic does a fine job of adjusting to speed and driver setting though and makes it a very good electronic system.
The gearbox is really very good; my test unit had the M dual-clutch transmission with Drivelogic. It’s a seven-speed box and in its quickest setting provides barely perceptible breaks in acceleration and a reassuring jerk for good measure. The gearbox does well from a dynamic perspective but can feel clumsy at low speed even though it has the Low Speed Assistance function.
I was expecting to be impressed with the M3 but ended up being totally astonished at the level of performance it offers.
The BMW M3 comes with a Motorplan, which is valid for five years or 100 000km.