Hardcore, not just hype
VALUE The hype over the brawny BMW M2 has overshadowed the car that helped put BMW performance on the map: the M3 sedan. So BMW has given it a once-over, with more power, sharper handling and a higher price. The Competition edition inflates the regular M3’s RRP from $139,615 plus on-road costs, to $144,615. That extra money buys lighter wheels, stickier tyres, stiffer suspension, sportier seats, a crackly exhaust and a fraction more power, although no more torque. COMFORT Trundling in stop-start traffic, you can’t exploit the extra power and instead find yourself loathing the stiffer suspension hampered by tyres seemingly as thin as rubber gloves. Even on dry tarmac, the M3 Competition struggles to maintain traction if you’re enthusiastic in first and second gear on bumpy city streets. The stability control coughs and blurts, and you’re soon overtaken by Toyota Yaris hatchbacks and Uber drivers. At least the sculpted sports seats are superbly comfortable when you’re stopped. SAFETY Six airbags are standard, as are front and rear sensors and a rear view camera. It has cruise control with braking function (to maintain speeds downhill) but automatic emergency braking is not available. It also comes with a free advanced driving course. Owners would be well advised to take up the offer. DRIVING I was initially dismissive of the extra power and torque — 331kW/550Nm versus the stablemate M2’s 272kW/ 465Nm. Just as I was thinking this is a pretty ho-hum car and contemplated handing it back early, I did something I should have done in the first place and headed for an open road. Once the rear tyres get warm and the road opens up, the M3 Competition comes into its own. The acceleration — once the tyres are agreeable — is astounding. I’m not brave enough to ride a motorcycle but this is as close as I think the feeling gets, this side of a Ferrari 488 or Porsche 911 Turbo. Unfortunately the speed limit is reached rather quickly in first and second gear, and the exhilaration doesn’t last for long. With no traffic behind, you slow down and do it again. And again. ALTERNATIVES The M3 Competition delights the senses and truly is a step above the M2. But is it $55,000 more fun than the M2? I don’t think so. Buy an M2 coupe and use the change to pay for a spare set of wheels and tyres and become a weekend warrior on track days. If you want a comfortable high-performance sedan to live with day to day, buy an HSV GTS or Mercedes C63 AMG. VERDICT The BMW M3 Competition is for hardcore enthusiasts and weekend warriors only. You’ll need a second car to handle the daily grind.