Commuting for fun

Great car on a good route. By Ben Barry


Getting to North Wales from the East Midlands is one of my favourite routes ever, with a decent motorway stint followed by an epic B-road run that former Jaguar man Mike Cross showed me about 15 years ago. He thought it such a fantastic test of a chassis that he signed off the XJR-S there.

This time a 5.30am start helps beat Birmingham tra¤c, my miles in darkness on the M6 and M54 melt away courtesy of the M3’s compliant ride in its Comfort setting, unerring stability, Harmon Kardon surround-sound audio, laser lights, and juicy torque from that unstressed turbo six.

The M3 makes almost identical power to the old E61 M5 Touring – the one with the V10 and lumpy gearbox – but that car always felt a little jumpy, where the first M3 Touring wears a boot like a comfy pair of slippers, and on a clear run like this it strides cross-country like Gulliver roaming Lilliput. Which makes it all the more remarkable just how alert the M3 Touring feels on a B-road. The steering is super-responsive for any car, never mind a big estate weighing 1.9 tonnes, and the front-end bite is almost as mighty as the power of the optional carbon-ceramic brakes.

I start with the suspension in Comfort mode (perfect for motorways and the best choice in town, where the M3 can feel stiff-jointed) but as my confidence builds so the body starts to feel just a fraction behind the suspension, rocking a little side-to-side, particular­ly at the rear. Switching to Sport locks it down, and with speed under the wheels there’s more than enough compliance to flow. Throw 4WD Sport into the mix – more rear bias – and slacken the shackles of stability control, and the M3 becomes pretty indomitabl­e point-toand point, melding the interactiv­ity of rear-wheel drive with the competence of all-wheel drive. Even the sat-nav seemed shocked.

To be fair, a decent commute.

The story so far

The first ever Touring version of the M3

★ Chassis; performanc­e; practicali­ty; infotainme­nt; good mpg for bhp

- That front; price; weight


Price £86,570 (£107,080 as tested) Performanc­e 2993cc twin-turbocharg­ed straight-six, 503bhp, 3.6sec 0-62mph, 180mph E ciency 27.2-28.0mpg (ocial), 22.6mpg (tested), 229-235g/km C02 Energy cost

30.5p per mile Miles this month

1249 Total miles 8437

 ?? ?? Destinatio­n reached for a hard day’s road testing
Destinatio­n reached for a hard day’s road testing
 ?? ?? BMW M3 Touring Month 2
BMW M3 Touring Month 2

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