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As father to three kids under 12 years of age, I can appreciate the appeal of high-riding SUVs and their ability to cater to the needs of a growing family. But there is no escaping the fact that, for all their practicality perks, they often fall short in the fun department.
So for those parents who believe having kids should not mean restricting their driving experiences to sedate SUVs, please read on.
Because for my weekend test I drove the 2018 BMW M3 Pure. Priced at $129,529, this bonkers low-riding, four-door sedan capable of a 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.0 seconds is enough to cure anyone's SUV blues.
Dressed in Mineral Grey paint (a $1937 option), the BMW M3 Pure comes loaded to the gills with standard kit, including leather and cloth seat trim, electrically adjustable front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, head-up display and cruise control with speed limiter.
So, how will this high-performance sedan handle family taxi duties? And does it actually offer any real practicality? My kids and I had the weekend to find out.
Our schedule for the day starts with a soccer match in the morning followed by a dance recital and shopping in afternoon.
Even standing still, the BMW M3 Pure has looks that command attention. You wouldn’t necessarily call it attractive, yet this relatively small sports sedan's provocative design does a good job of conveying the wicked performance that lies beneath.
Forget wolf in sheep's clothing, there’s nothing inconspicuous about this low-slung, petrol-powered rocket. From the domed bonnet, to the flared wheel guards housing the double spoke 19-inch alloy rims, to the large quad-tipped exhaust, it presents a menacing air from every angle.
The design flare continues inside the cabin, with the M Sports front seats taking centre stage. They're draped in cloth, but they look premium and provide a super snug fit for the torso and hips while providing good amounts of comfort. The driver's seat is low and well positioned.
The dash has the familiar clean and functional layout of the regular 3 Series, with the M steering wheel being the stand-out feature here. Standard 3 Series equipment extends to the technology, too, with an iDrive controller to operate the standard navigation and the nine-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, via the 8.8-inch screen sitting atop the dash. Apple CarPlay comes as a $623 option. The carbon-fibre accents peppered around the cabin add to the premium feel, too.
The kids in the back seat had ample room, and had air vents to keep them company, but there are no cup holders or a centre armrest, with only bottle holders in the doors for liquid storage.
Back seat legroom for adults is a little snug. Sitting behind my driving position (I’m 180cm), I had a two-finger-width gap between my knees and the concave rear of the driver's seat. The middle seat is less forgiving and best left to a very small child.
For my taxi runs around the 'burbs, I had the throttle set to Efficient, the suspension in Comfort but the steering set to Sport, as I prefer the extra weight even around town. The ride was firm, but the suspension works reasonably well to minimise the impact of the various humps and bumps. Though as a daily driver I would argue perhaps not well enough.
The Sport and Sport+ settings are noticeably firmer and will transfer even the slightest little road imperfection directly into the cabin. The double-clutch transmission is based on a manual 'box, so when stopped on a hill the car rolls back upon releasing the brake pedal.
The stereo has to work seriously hard to compete against the ridiculous amount of noise generated from the quad-tip exhaust. The rough burble sound in Comfort mode is dialled up to something far more wicked upon selecting Sport or Sport+. With windows down the stereo is best left off.
Before the day's family taxi duties I managed to quietly exit the house for an early morning drive along some twisty blacktop.
The headline for this car surely has to be the engine. BMW has generously given this car the Competition’s more powerful engine, a twin-turbo straight six producing 331kW and a neck-snapping 550Nm of torque. Not bad considering the Pure comes in $11k cheaper than a regular M3.
Power is directed to the rear wheels via a seven-speed double-clutch transmission, and for my spirited drive, I set the throttle, suspension and steering settings to Sport, which for me sat right in the Goldilocks zone of the three settings (Efficient mode demands a heavier foot, while Sport+ needs only the lightest foot to illicit a ferocious response).
From a standing start the twin turbos spin up quickly to deliver some serious punch off the line, with a seemingly never-ending amount of torque propelling you forward. Gear changes in manual are lightning quick, with upshifts and downshifts occurring at the slightest touch. The sound emanating from the engine and the quad exhaust delivers angry tones of pure delight. An experience best had with the window cracked open.
The steering in Sport mode had good weight, with pin-point response around bends. Mid-range acceleration was blistering, with the addictive pull in third and fourth worth the price of admission alone.
It’s tremendously sure-footed and well-balanced around corners, with the fat Michelin Super Sports tyres providing plenty of grip. The back end seems to hunker down around the bends, instilling confidence to get the power down early. It’s during this type of stupid-grin-inducing drive experience that the M3 Pure suddenly makes absolute sense, but unfortunately my drive ends all too quickly.
Having had my fun, the M3 switched back into family hauling mode as we loaded up the picnic and sports gear into the 480-litre boot. Storage around the cabin is generally on the light side, with only a shallow oddment space located in front of the gear lever. It was barely able to stop my keys and mobile from flying off under any sort of acceleration.
The M3 Pure comes with a five-star ANCAP safety rating and includes dual front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view camera, blind-spot warning, lane-departure and collision warnings and low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Fuel consumption varied widely depending on driving modes, but according to the trip computer never ventured much below 12 litres/100km. That's more than BMW’s claimed 8.8 litres/100km, but it's largely a moot point given few will buy this car based on its fuel efficiency credentials.
The kind of performance and fun the M3 Pure delivers for a four-door sedan has to be experienced to be believed. What it lacks in practicality and refinement as a family daily driver is more than compensated for by the driving experience. And let's face it, the kids won't know what they are missing out on anyway.
At this price point, the entry-level Pure must surely be the pick of the M3 bunch. Now if only BMW would make an M3 wagon...
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