BMW M3 Competition review: heavy metal
Search Driven for BMW for sale
BMW M3 Competition
- More power than anyone could ever need
- Direct steering and throttle
- Trick traction control system
- Looks not be for everyone
- Glitchy infotainment system in our test car
- Optional carbon buckets hard to live with
It’s 2021. Cars are cleaner but also bigger than ever before, and BMW’s iconic M3 Competition is no exception.
The very first M3 (E30) weighed just 1360kg, a figure significantly lighter than the new G80’s 1805kg — which is more comparable to the M5s of yesteryear. But BMW has more than accounted for the weight by also making this the most powerful M3 the world has ever seen.
I firmly believe this car is an automotive masterpiece, but I understand why some don’t think that it’s a styling masterpiece. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can appreciate the fact that BMW has pushed the boat out with probably the most aggressive front end we’ll ever see on an M3.
Behind those massive grilles lies what BMW calls its M TwinPower engine. This twin-turbo 3.0-litre six spits out a hefty 375kW/650Nm, figures that far exceed the needs of a road car.
The two turbochargers work together seamlessly to deliver lag-less acceleration, providing a wall of torque at low RPM similar to that of a V8.
Curiously, BMW opted to swap out the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) we’ve seen on the last few M3s for an eight-speed automatic. It’s still incredibly quick, and allows for a more rounded drive at low speeds.
Unlike most of the modern M range, this M3 Competition is still rear-drive. The option for an all-wheel drive model is coming within the year, but we’d be more than happy to stick with the tried and tested FR layout in this iconic performance sedan.
The M3 is known for being aggressive on the road. In the G80 the Comfort suspension setting softens things up, but it still never really takes the sharpness out of the ride. At the other end of the spectrum, the suspension’s direct nature gives a driver full confidence at the limit. The M3 feels at home on the track, but also comes into its own on the road, where it genuinely feels like a race car with leather seats.
To put the new M3 into perspective, I was joined on a drive by a friend with an E36 M3 (1992-96) replica based on a 328i. Both are powered by strong BMW six-cylinder engines (and both in great shades of green), it was interesting to see how things have changed in the 25-odd years between the two. Obviously, the G80 was more of a walloping drive with all its power, but there’s something about a naturally aspirated engine with a manual transmission that can’t be beat.
The power and engineering in the latest M3 really comes to the fore on track. BMW has implemented a wonderfully useless feature in this car, called the M Drift Analyser. It will judge a driver’s drifts, giving a score out of five stars based on angle, distance, and time spent sideways.
You aren’t going to test that on the street of course, so I organised some time at Hampton Downs, and employed the help of BMW M driving instructor Mike Eady. Watch the video at the top of the page.
On the track, it’s hard to believe that the M3 can be a sensible road car as it’s just so good at going sideways. A quick snap of the steering wheel and a jab of throttle will leave you at full lock, and the rest is up to the driver.
Losing traction with 375kW on tap is easy, but keeping traction is something that the M3 Competition does exceptionally well. A perfect example is its 3.9-second 0-100km/h time. The Audi RS4 completes the same dash in 3.8 seconds with quattro, so the BMW’s time is a testament to some incredible engineering. Using the Launch Control feature is essential in achieving this time, as manually managing wheelspin is almost impossible.
Our car had the optional M Carbon Package. As well as adding carbon fibre mirror caps, this package includes a pair of M Carbon bucket seats which are the most hard-core seats I’ve ever come across in a road car. They’re bolstered in every direction, meaning that getting in and out can be a challenging experience, but they do an incredible job at preventing lateral movement. Unless you’re planning on hitting the track every month, I’d still probably avoid them; they’re a bit of a hassle to live with.
As a whole, this M3 Competition is one of the most well-rounded performance cars that will still let you get a bit silly in modern times. It can be a comfortable family-hauler during the week, while also being a drift-happy super-sedan for track days on the weekend. What more could anyone want?
BMW M3 COMPETITION
ENGINE: 3.0-litre twin-turbo
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, RWD