Beemers which gain this hallow badge come with big expectations … and this pair don’t disappoint KEL & GRANT EDWARDS
Competition can dictate popularity in the prestige arena. There’s an element of keeping up with the Joneses and projecting an aura of success. Wearing the propeller badge on the bonnet can be enough for many chasing luxury and status, yet the hallow ‘M’ designation is a whole new proposition. For those seeking sporting distinction, this red and blue logo is as good as it gets – and the Competition version squeezes a little more from the most hardcore of BMW variants.
Long the darling of BMW’s 3-Series range, the M3 sedan and M4 coupe showcase everything that is special about the sporting brand.
This pairing arrived in March for those with a penchant for reaching the speed limit in rapid fashion and deep pockets. Depending on options, you wouldn’t escape the showroom without parting with about $169,000 for the M3 – or an extra $5k for the M4.
KEL: When it comes to ‘wow factor’, they don’t come much better than the M4.
GRANT: Our test car was no shrieking violet and finished in the new paulo yellow, while the M3 was in more subdued metallic blue. But the M4 was definitely a crowd favourite – four boys hung over the fence at school drop-off each day demanding engine revs. Another woman gave it the Italian fingertip kiss.
KEL: If the colour and looks didn’t attract attention, it was the engine. Push that red start button and it certainly makes its presence felt. GRANT: Hairy-chested all the way. Those bonnet bulges aren’t just for show, there’s a twin-turbo V6 under the skin.
KEL: Sometimes it attracted too much attention and I felt like a hoon.
GRANT: I may have had the exhaust setting defaulted to the loudest possible. This pair can sprint from 0100km/h in less than four seconds, people deserve to know it’s on the road.
THE LIVING SPACE
KEL: Exciting to look at, that translates inside. Those seats are interesting, looking like they have come directly from the pit garage.
GRANT: Those are the carbon bucket seats which are race chairs that reduce weight by 9.6kg but add $7500 to the bottom line. While maintaining a heating function, these are for those who want to regularly hit the track.
KEL: Surprisingly I found them comfortable once you were seated, just getting over that notch in between your legs could be challenging – especially with a skirt.
GRANT: The interior fit and finish meets the standards required for a car in this price range. Double stitched leather, one of the best stereos you will find from Harman/Kardon, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as an array of carbon fibre finishes across the dash and console. Taking pride of place in the middle of the dash is a 10.25-inch touchscreen display which can also be controlled via a rotary knob, while the driver has a slick 12.3-inch digital display.
KEL: I did like the clarity of both screens. Those steering wheel paddles and ‘M’ levers also look pretty impressive.
GRANT: They are among the exclusive inclusions for this model, with the red buttons offering quick access to an array of preset vehicle modes.
KEL: Plant your foot and they seriously haul. Certainly among the fastest cars I have driven. GRANT: You have to grip that chunky steering wheel and hang on, the pair are insanely quick off the line and you regularly have to exercise restraint.
KEL: I found the M4 distinctly firm and more aggressive than the M3. Ruts and bumps really reverberated through the cabin.
GRANT: That’s the trade-off with those models. Performance remains the priority and the ride rewards come when you want to push the envelope. These new models have a conventional eight-speed automatic, rather than a dualclutch used previously. It results in easier changes, but not as rapid-fire as its predecessor.
KEL: Fitting all the groceries in the boot wasn’t an issue, both have a reasonable cargo area.
GRANT: There is some extra space in the M3 courtesy of the sedan shape. We managed to fit in two large suitcases, and another pair of carry-ons during one family road trip.
KEL: Thankfully it has all the latest safety gear to make parking easier. I always get paranoid in low cars about the concrete pylons and being too close to other vehicles.
GRANT: It has the panorama perspective which pieces together four camera views to ensure you’re within the lines, along with parking sensors front and back. For those still unsure, there is a Parking Assistant Plus which can pretty much do the job for you.
KEL: You’d think that would probably be superfluous with this model given the level of driver it’s likely to attract.
GRANT: This is true. It does have the rear cross traffic alert where the driver is warned of oncoming traffic, but the autonomous braking doesn’t work in reverse. The AEB system is fine when going forward, and it has radar cruise control along with a head-up display.
KEL: This seems to be where the Beemer does its best work.
GRANT: Unleashing the beast. With an M4 or M3 Competition in your driveway, regular track time would be a must to really explore its complete abilities.
KEL: All those console buttons looked a little confusing for me, except for the exhaust button which obviously makes it louder … or slightly less noticeable.
GRANT: Keen drivers will love the fact they can make a raft of selections to suit their needs, with varying settings for engine, exhaust, suspension, steering, transmission, brakes and traction control.
KEL: That’s all a little technical for me, I just like to get in and drive. But both felt like they were glued to the road and despite all that power it never felt unruly.
GRANT: The Competition models also get more power than your standard M3 or M4 (some pundits say even more grunt than what’s listed on the spec sheet), along with rear-wheel drive that real steerers love. Even faster models are due here in November offering all-wheel drive – and dropping the 0-100km/h time to 3.5 seconds.
KEL: Getting in and out of the coupe was challenging during our week, nothing too onerous but you have to wait for the seats to slide forward electronically. It can feel slow when you’re under pressure at school pick-up and drop-off.
GRANT: Yes, the sedan is the most sensible choice for families with four doors and the greater boot size.
KEL: There were no issues with head and leg room in the back.
GRANT: Ongoing peace of mind can be a worry, with just a three-year warranty. Most manufacturers are now offering at least five years. Basic servicing packs are available for $3810 covering five years or 80,000km, but premium coverage includes new brakes, pads as well as clutch discs and plates and that rises to $10,520.
KEL: Given it also needs the best of unleaded petrol, what’s the damage there?
GRANT: We averaged just over 10 litres for every 100km in both, which is not bad for this kind of performance.
KEL: Prod the accelerator and it’s easy to see the appeal. This Competition version wouldn’t suit my lifestyle, but I loved the look of both and appreciated how fun they were to drive. I’d pick the M3 for a daily driver.
GRANT: That’s one of the benefits of this new model, they’re not as peaky or difficult to drive compared to the outgoing model. The new auto gearbox makes getting around simple, but when you want to explore the performance the M4 and M3 pairing are among the best you’ll find.