Mercedes C63 2014 Review
As the introduction of the next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class gets closer, the guys at AMG are working on a swan song for the last iteration of their most popular model.
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BMW has taken a bit of a gamble with its latest M3 performance car, firstly by replacing the V8 engine with a new twin-turbo six and by renaming the coupe and convertible variants as M4s leaving the M3 only available as a four-door sedan.
Purists will no doubt mourn the passing of the V8's throaty growl but should be placated by the added power and torque from the new turbo six, while the name change for the two-door models is part of BMW's even-number policy and may quickly be accepted.
The zero to 100km/h sprint is listed at 4.1 seconds
The new M3 has a chunkier look than before, with the wheels pushed further out to the sides of the car and taking bulging wheel arches with them. As before, the long BMW bonnet features a bulging power dome in its centre, needed to contain the large intercooler fitted underneath.
Inside there are plenty of M Sport features including carbon-fibre trim, Merino leather sports seats and sports steering wheel with M contrast stitching. The powered front seats come with adjustable side bolsters to combine comfort with support for a variety of rump sizes.
New BMW M3 is powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six with a pair of turbochargers. Despite the reduction in capacity from the superseded 4.0-litre V8 it generates marginally more power (317kW compared to 309kW) but, more importantly, nearly 40 per cent extra torque (550Nm against 400).
The twin-turbos deliver that torque all the way from 1850 to 5500 rpm – the V8 didn't reach its peak until 3900 revs.
The zero to 100km/h sprint is listed at 4.1 seconds, again beating the V8 which stopped the clock 0.6 seconds later.
Fuel economy isn't high on the priority list of performance car buyers but, given that it comes with four doors and extra interior space, the M3 can also serve as an everyday drive car and so the reduction in the official numbers from 11.9L/100km in the V8 to 8.3L/100 km in the six does become relevant.
The M3 proved to be comfortable and relaxing around town
Transmission is through an improved version of BMW's seven-speed M double-clutch transmission, a gearbox that outperforms the no-cost optional six-speed manual transmission and with the benefit of steering-wheel mounted shift paddles.
A car with the performance of the BMW M3 needs the best in safety equipment and this includes six airbags, ABS brakes, traction and stability control, corner braking control, and dynamic braking lights that set off the hazard lights under extreme braking.
There is also Active Crash Protection, a safety feature that activates a series of protective measures if a crash is imminent, including closing the windows and sunroof (if fitted), tightening the seat belts, and post-collision.
With the family in mind there are Isofix attachment points in the rear for child safety seats.
Our initial drive of the new M3 was at its Australasian launch in New Zealand where the emphasis was on track testing. This time around we're back into our home territory to see how it copes with the less challenging but more real-life conditions.
Performance cars are sometimes a bit of a handful in everyday city conditions but the M3 proved to be comfortable and relaxing around town. With four doors, seating for five (preferably four in the rear and then sub-six foot in height) and a 480-litre boot it can adapt to the requirements of most small families.
It's a real delight to drive with fast response and a new engine note
As with any M car, there's a choice of settings to adjust engine, gearbox, suspension and steering. Each has three modes - Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Within the city limits and on the motorway Comfort was the obvious choice and provided what the name promised.
Once onto our favourite country roads and without any passengers on board we were able to flick the switch to Sport or Sport+ and give the little Beemer its head. With the twin turbochargers combining to virtually eliminate turbo lag acceleration is all but instantaneous. At low revs and speeds you do feel the lag, but once that's been overcome it's a real delight to drive with fast response and a new engine note that, while quite different from the distinctive V8 tone can be just as rewarding.
The new M3 officially uses just 8.3L/100km on the combined driving cycle. In real life we found it using 11.0 to 13.0L/100km under reasonably sensible driving, climbing past 15.0L/100km if you do get stuck into it. Open road and motoring driving did bring it down to 8.0-9.0L/100km.
The new engine, together with a reduction in weight of around 60kg through the use of a variety of lightweight materials, in particular carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and aluminium, mean improvements in fuel consumption and emissions. CFRP had been used previously but only in the old M3 coupe.
Those who want a single car that will allow them to combine their passion for driving with the convenience of a small-medium four-door sedan should seriously consider the new BMW M3.
At $156,900 plus on-road costs it's around $8000 dearer than the previous model, however BMW has priced the added value of extra standard equipment at around double that amount.
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