Review: BMW M3

Review: BMW M3
Review: BMW M3

The 2018 model year upgrades are small, but are they significant?

BMW has announced the changes to the M3 and they don’t amount to much. But what’s interesting is what the company hasn’t announced. Because, forgive us for being engineering bores, but we’re pretty sure adding smoked glass to the LED lights isn’t the cause of the noticeable improvement in the handling.

You may recall that the BMW M3 in its recent iterations has done a fairly good job of occasionally alarming the person behind the wheel. The body control could be an intimidating thing to wrestle with to put it mildly. Things have got better recently, but somehow this new model has made them notably better still.

We’re testing the Competition Pack version, a £3,000 package that includes its own suspension settings along with a small power increase and some styling upgrades. Put the car into Comfort mode and it deals with bumps and dips so much smoother than it ever did. You feel the car is on your side now, rather than very much being on its own.

BMW M3

BMW M3 Competition Pack

Price: £61,580
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, in line, twin-turbocharged petrol
Power: 444bhp
Torque: 406lb ft
Gearbox: Seven-speed twin-clutch
Kerbweight: 1560kg
0-60mph: 4.0sec
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 31.0mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 209g/km

If you up it to M Dynamic Mode then the car feels considerably more controlled, reined in, much less likely to snap and whip like it used to. The back wheels tend to do as they’re told more, but even in Comfort mode you can get the rears fired up surprisingly easily. That’s not always a good idea if you’re not ready for it and don’t want to burn expensive rubber. But at least it seems to do it less often and gentler than it used to.

Part of that rubber smell is of course the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six petrol engine, kicking out 444bhp and 406lb ft of torque. That all keeps the seven-speed twin-clutch auto transmission working hard but working very smoothly and efficiently. The engine and transmission package may not sound that amazing but it certainly works amazingly well together.

In the cabin what was always amazing is now slightly improved, if that were possible. The iDrive infotainment system is really the best there is in any car, and now there are new graphics and menu system. If you can’t work this easily and without distraction, and if you don’t think it’s superb in every way then we’re not sure what would please you.

BMW M3

The rest of the cabin is almost as good, with enough elements like carbon fibre trim and two-tone leather, to remind you that you’re in an M3. This is a seriously sporty car, no question, but we’d still like to have some lumbar support in those Competition seats, since long distances remind you of its absence.

But whining about comfort in a car like this is like complaining about the lack of a roof in a Caterham. As a sports saloon, the M3 has few peers, and we’re heartened to find that the handling and ride, which could be extremely tricky, have now been tamed at least to some degree. The M3 is right up there with cars like the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio and the Mercedes AMG C63 S. It’s up there, but it’s not above them, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for some more of those unheralded upgrades in the future.

BMW M3

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