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BMW M3 and M4 Competition 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the BMW M3 and M4 Competitions with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at their Australian launch.

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the BMW M3 and M4 Competitions with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at their Australian launch.

BMW's M division is an important and integral part of the German brand's profile, and the team from Munich is certainly getting a bit more serious about it of late.

Explore the 2016-2017 BMW M3 Competition Range

BMW M3 Competition 2016 review | road test
BMW M3 Competition 2017 review | road test

 

Cars like the M2 have been a smash hit with critics and customers alike, so the local arm has decided to up the ante with the M3/M4 pairing, which launched in 2014.

The current four-door M3 and the two-door M4 (as well as the drop-top M3 Convertible) have each scored an almost identical twin that has been tweaked in a few key areas.

They'll be tagged as Competition models in their own right, and take the total number of M3s and M4s on sale to 12, if you count manual and twin-clutch-equipped cars.

Other M4 variants

BMW M4 Competition Convertible 2016 review | snapshot

BMW M4 Competition 2016 review | road test video

Design

There are just a handful of exterior changes to the M Competitions, and you'll have to be pretty clued-in to spot them. 

A gloss black grille and similarly coloured front guard vents are the sum total of panelwork tweaks, while a set of forged 20-inch rims wearing wider 265/30 R20 front and 285/30 R20 rear Michelin PilotSport tyres and a set of four black anodised exhaust tips complete the changes.

Of the three, the M3 is the most useful as an everyday proposition.

On the inside, a set of bespoke bucket seats that are said to be lighter than the stock items take pride of place up front and, well... that's it for changes to the cars on a style front.

It's worth noting that the M3 Convertible doesn't get the new seats, thanks to its neck-height vents and self-feeding belts, and the prices reflect this.

Practicality

Of the three, the M3 is the most useful as an everyday proposition, thanks to its four-door, five-seat layout. The new seats don't change the rear legroom in any way, though the unusual vertical slots don't seem to serve any purpose in particular.

The two-door M4's rear is surprisingly awkward to access; the new seats have a rear-mounted electric slider switch, but the seat back latch is incredibly hard to both grab and operate, and the seat moves forward very slowly. The high sill, too, makes rear seat access a very tough task.

Otherwise, there is no change to either car over the regular M3 and M4, with room for two bottles front and rear, a smallish stash space below the centre console and a lidded bin with a (now somewhat outdated) modular phone holder that requires the purchase of a bespoke bracket to suit an owner's phone.

At 12.2m, its unusually large turning circle makes it a chore to maneuver.

Price and features

The Competition variants are each $5000 more expensive than their regular counterparts, with the extra coin going towards not just the large wheels and new seats, but a raft of small but important mechanical tweaks as well.

The M3 is the cheapest of the three at $144,615 and the M4 jumps a neat ten grand to $154,615. The Convertible only jumps $4000 in the leap to the Competition specs, and retails for $165,515.

Mechanically, the suspension has been overhauled, with 15 per cent stiffer springs added front and rear, along with retuned Active M adaptive dampers, a thicker pair of anti-roll bars and a recalibrated electronic Active M rear diff and stability control system to suit the suspension tweaks.

Standard equipment levels are otherwise unchanged, with the highly specced Ms already offering items like tyre pressure monitoring system, a multi-mode heads-up display, lane departure warning, adaptive LED headlights, internet connectivity and full leather on the dashboard and glove box after a range tweak last year.

  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).
  • 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown). 2016 BMW M4 Competition (Coupe shown).

Engines and transmissions

A new exhaust backbox, an ECU retune and an extra 500rpm make up the major changes to the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six petrol engine, which nets an extra 14kW of power to push it out to 331kW@6000rpm, and yields the same torque of 550Nm across a slightly wider range of 1850-5500rpm.

Once it dries up a bit, though, both machines show a newer, more mature side once the pace increases.

The 0-100km/h dash is exactly 0.1sec quicker at four seconds flat for both cars (the six-speed manual, says BMW, does the sprint in 4.2sec). Weights remain the same, too, at 1560kg for the M4 and 1540kg for the M3 four-door.

The only other change to the engine is the addition of a stiffer bed plate, which now holds the crankshaft more firmly in place.

Fuel consumption

Stated fuel consumption jumps five points to 8.8L/100km for both the M3 sedan and M4, while the Convertible leaps 0.4L to 9.1L/100km. 

After 180km of varied (and spirited) terrain in the M4 automatic, we saw an indicated fuel economy figure of 9.7L/100km.

Driving

Sampling both a six-speed manual (which is a no-cost option) M3 and a seven-speed DCT-equipped M4 over slippery and twisty northern NSW roads, the changes to the cars have yielded a definite improvement.

Despite entreaties from BMW that the revised exhaust noise would "wake the neighbours", it kinda isn't the case. There's a richer note at start-up and a more strident bark at light throttle loads, but it's all very civil.

Through town and on the open freeway, both cars are pleasant enough in comfort mode, with some road roar making its way in on rougher surfaces, particularly in the M4. 

The decision about manual or dual-clutch will be a tough one to make.

There are multiple ways of setting the cars up via the M buttons or dash switches with firmer steering and suspension, and on this damp and slippery morning, the M4 shows it still has an angry rear end for a road-going car, with the traction control light winking merrily away even under light throttle and soft dampers.

Once it dries up a bit, though, both machines show a newer, more mature side once the pace increases, with sweeping country roads an absolute pleasure to pass over in both machines.

The decision about manual or dual-clutch will be a tough one to make, especially given just how sweetly set up the self-shifter is.

The manual works well with a perfect heel-toe pedal set-up, a firm but comfortable clutch action and a tight gear gate. The engine even matches engine revs on downshifts for you.

The DCT, though, is quick, and can be made quicker via an adjuster button. You don't have to take your hands off the wheel, either. Decisions, decisions...

Safety

BMW doesn't offer a 'full stop' emergency braking function, stating that it wants the driver to still have final control. 

It does have a 'light' city braking option, along with lane departure warning, six airbags, pre-emptive safety preparation and an intelligent emergency call function.

Ownership

BMW offers a Service Inclusive program at the time of purchase, which for $2878 covers everything – including items like spark plugs, brake fluids and other fluids – for five years or 80,000 km. A three-year free roadside service assistance program also covers the cars.

Verdict

BMW's 331kW/550Nm M Competition cars still linger a little way behind their archest of arch rivals in the 336kW/600Nm Mercedes-AMG C63, in both the sales and power races. 

The M has the edge in the pricing stakes, though, being between five and ten thousand dollars cheaper, depending on variant.

Much like the long-lived rivalry between the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, though, the M/AMG blood feud isn't decided on raw numbers alone.

The decision by BMW Australia to double its 3 Series-based M range is no doubt influenced by the fact that there is currently six Mercs on offer – soon to be eight with the advent of the C63 Convertible in both S and Edition 1 guises.

With more than 80 per cent of buyers already opting for Competition models, it might be a case of the tail wagging the dog for BMW, if demand for the standard M cars falls to zero.

At any rate, the Competition car can be viewed as an effective mid-life tweak to a machine that has garnered mixed reviews since its 2014 launch. With more usable power, a friendlier chassis tune and rugged good looks, the M3 and M4 Competition puts BMW a step closer to its marauding rivals at Mercedes-AMG.

 

Would you have a competition model M3 or M4 over a standard model? Why, or why not? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 BMW M3 pricing and spec info.

Click here to see more 2016 BMW M4 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$89,900
Based on 15 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$77,000
Highest Price
$99,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $86,999 – 89,990 2016 BMW M3 2016 (base) Pricing and Specs
30 YEARS EDITION 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $120,120 – 138,050 2016 BMW M3 2016 30 YEARS EDITION Pricing and Specs
COMPETITION 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $77,000 – 99,990 2016 BMW M3 2016 COMPETITION Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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