Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new BMW M3 Competition with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The BMW M3 Sedan is that gunslinger who rides into town and makes hoons and their hotted up rides run for cover. The M3 commands respect from the performance car community not because it’s fast, or agile, or good looking, or comfortable, or practical, but because it is all these things. This is an all-rounder that has become an icon. Messing with the M3 recipe would invite the wrath of an army of fans the likes of which haven’t been seen since Arnott’s dared change the taste of Barbecue Shapes.
Enter the BMW M3 Competition – it has more power than a regular M3, the suspension and exhaust has been changed, there’s different styling and it costs more. So has BMW done a Barbeque Shapes? Or just made a good thing better?
And one last thing. Not everybody disappears behind closed doors when the M3 rides into town. Walking out into the street to confront it is the brash Mercedes-AMG C63 S. There’s also scalpel-sharp Audi RS4, and that wild Italian newcomer the Alfa Romeo Giulia Qaudrifoglio. Does the Competition guise give the M3 an edge over these bad hombres?
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The M3 sedan is based on the 3 Series but like a beefy footy player wearing a suit the M3 stretches that 3 Series body to what looks like breaking point with a bulging bonnet, and muscular guards that just manage to cover tyres that look like oil drums. There's the enormous air-intakes, the gill-like vents, and a quad exhaust.
You can tell a Competition from a regular M3 by the black gloss finish to the grille, side vents, window trims and the exhaust tips. There’s also the wheels – the Competition gets 20-inch M light wheels that mirror the M4 GTS’s rims.
Inside the cabin differs from an ‘everyday’ M3 with lightweight M leather seats, and seatbelts with M colour stitching.
As the straight-six of the BMW screams into battle with you strapped to its back it’s hard not to feel suddenly very alive.
At 4671mm long, 1877mm across and standing 1424mmm tall the M3 is 85mm shorter end to end than the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, but 38mm wider and 2mm lower in overall height. The new Giulia is an even closer match at 32mm shorter, 4mm narrower and only 2mm taller than the BMW.
How practical is the space inside?
Far more practical than its two-door M4 Coupe sibling, the M3 Competition has back doors which open tall and wide, and rear seats offering so much legroom that even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with about 50mm of space to spare. Headroom is also great thanks to a high and flat roofline that doesn’t dramatically taper like the coupe's.
There are five seat belts but the flat and narrow middle back seat is more suitable for kids. Up front there are two cup holders and bottle holders in the doors, you won’t find any such things in the back.
Storage inside the cabin is adequate although the mechanical handbrake eats into the centre console bin’s turf.
Boot capacity is excellent at 480 litres, matching the Giulia QV and C63 S’s luggage space.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The BMW M3 Competition’s list price of $144,615 is $5000 more than a 'standard' M3. Along with the gloss black treatment to the grille and tailpipes, plus those wheels and seats, the standard kit is identical to the M3. This includes an 8.8-inch display with DVD player, sat nav, surround view and reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, Harman Kardon 16-speaker sound system, head-up display, proximity unlocking, and adaptive LED headlights.
It’s been three years since this new generation M3 arrived, and in car years that's almost half a lifetime. In that time rivals have introduced new technology that the BMW doesn’t have, such as a virtual instrument cluster and adaptive cruise control.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
Thanks in no small part to a new exhaust system, BMW has persuaded the M3’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol engine to produce 14kW more power for a total of 331kW. Torque stays the same at 550Nm.
The previous generation M3 was a V8, but this current version saw a return to an in-line six which was welcomed with open arms (despite the turbos) by M3 purists.
Beautifully balanced and planted, the M3 Competition’s handling is excellent.
The extra grunt means the M3 Competition can throw itself from 0-100km/h in 4.0 seconds with the auto transmission and 4.2 seconds with the manual which is 0.1s quicker than the M3.
How much fuel does it consume?
We drove an M3 Competition armed with a dual clutch transmission and according to the trip computer it was chewing through 14.3L/100km, which is a bit more than BMW’s official average combined fuel figure of 8.8L/100km.
My result isn’t too excessive given my driving style is well known for doubling those official figures.
What's it like to drive?
In between driving the M3 Competition and writing this review I piloted its new arch-enemy the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which is more powerful and adds fresh perspective.
What the Giulia and M3 Competition share is engagement. As the straight-six of the BMW screams into battle with you strapped to its back it’s hard not to feel suddenly very alive and at the same time aware that an error could lead you not to be. Same with the C63 S and RS4.
That said the sound you hear in the cockpit isn't all real. A computer is playing you a song - seriously. A sound symposer uses an algorithm to synthesise almost the exact note of the engine and then plays it through the speakers in the sound system. It's supposed to enhance the experience, my advice is just to put the window down and hear the real thing.
Beautifully balanced and planted the M3 Competition’s handling is excellent, those Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres (265/30 R20 front, 285/30 R20 rear) have impressive lateral grip while an electronic differential makes powering out of corners seamless.
Not quite as smooth is the transmission, which while able to change gears faster than I ever could manually shares the same traits of other dual clutches of allowing a car to roll forward down hills when shifting from Drive to Reverse.
The ride on those low profile tyres is hard, and running over a cats eye reflector felt like an actual cat. But if you want a comfortable ride then buy a Hyundai because the M3 Competition, like the car it’s based on, is built for high-performance.
BMW has also added 15 per cent stiffer springs and the adaptive dampers have been recalibrated to be firmer in Comfort, Sport and Sport + settings.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
There are three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the back row for child seats.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
BMW offers a $2878 service program which covers the M3 Competition's routine servicing needs for five years. The M3 Competition is covered by BMW’s three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.