Driving impressions of the BMW M3 competition
From the moment you enter the cabin of the M3 and press the start button, your nervous system will be on high alert as this rugged 3.0-liter under-the-bonnet six comes to life. Your immediate response might be to feel a little anxious or maybe laugh a little, and that’s okay, maybe you should. With 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, some would argue that at this size, the M3 Competition is a bit overpowering. And that may be true up to a point – it’s not for everyone, but those who know how to handle it will be on the most attractive path of their lives below the $100,000 mark.
Despite the roar of the engine, the powerful exterior and the powerfully bolstered front seats, the M3 Competition will surprise you the first time you drive it. There’s no getting up to how brutal and rugged this compact sedan can be. When you hit the gas and take off for the first time, the feeling of all that torque transferring to the four wheels is a little off at first, but the real fun comes at around 2,600 rpm when the maximum torque kicks in. The lack of a manual transmission might not make you happy, but the eight-speed BMW ZF is so smooth and responsive that it’s understandable why BMW stuck it out in the M8 competition. The downshifts can be a little faster at times, but honestly, if that’s something that bothers you, it probably doesn’t belong in a car like the M3 Competition anyway.
The steering and chassis are almost as surprising as the torque delivery, and I’m here to tell you that the M3 Competition has the most precise steering I’ve felt in a long time. It’s electric power steering, and while there isn’t a lot of feedback, it still conveys exactly what you want it to feel. With ease, the BMW M3 Competition has one of the best steering systems in its class, but it’s not only the steering that makes it stand out, but also the chassis.
First, I should point out that the M3 Competition doesn’t drive like your grandmother’s Lincoln, so don’t expect it to be the smoothest ride in the world. It is by no means inconvenient, but there is no doubt that this is a sports car at its core. Damping is accurate, body roll is minimal even at high speeds in tight turns, and damping is practically non-existent if you’re not on track at excessively high speeds. The vehicle responds instantly and precisely to all steering inputs in a way that most vehicles do not. It’s very satisfying and maybe a little surprising at first. If you take the M3 Comp on the first round of spirited driving, prepare for it first because the driving dynamics will surprise you.
|Overall width with mirrors||81.4 inches|
|Overall width without mirrors||74.3 inches|
|front headspace||40.6 inches|
|front legroom||41.6 inches|
|Front shoulder space||56.0 inches|
|Rear headspace||37.8 inches|
|Legroom in the back||35.6 inches|
|Rear shoulder space||54.6 inches|
|curb weight||3890 lbs.|
All that said, don’t put too much faith in the xDrive AWD system. Not that it doesn’t perform well, but I quickly learned the M3 Competition has a way of reminding you that it’s a high-performance car. The xDrive system is rear biased and the rear tires will break before the fronts, especially without all the jams running. This is not to say that the M3 is not a well-configured machine. In fact, my time on the track taught me how composed he really is. I was quite impressed with the body control system, the impressive traction at high speeds, and even the brakes, which resist fading well.
All that being said, I made a point that I drive the M3 competition daily, and it wasn’t the easiest job in the world. The M3 powertrain doesn’t block anything…at all. It’s always a pleasure to go, and it’s definitely one of those cars that always goes a lot faster than you think. I felt the need to constantly look at the speedo for the first four days of driving. After that period, I started to get used to it, but then discovered that I crossed the city limits several times. The M3 can be driven every day as long as you don’t want something super comfortable, don’t mind a consistently attractive ride, and don’t care about the attention it’s going to get in the shop.
The technology is in place, the ride is worthy of the sports car name, and to be perfectly honest, a sprint of 3.0 seconds to 60 mph will give you the feeling of being in a supercar with a BMW badge. If you’re an experienced driver, the M3 will probably be for you, but it’s definitely not the car I’d recommend to someone who steps into high-performance cars or for someone who prioritizes comfort over everything else. It’s a great car, there’s no doubt about it, but the M3 competition certainly isn’t for everyone. That’s fine, though, because it’s not meant to be. With a starting price of $77,100 as of the time of writing, it’s definitely one of the most fun this side $100,000 cars you can buy.
|engine||Twin turbo, 3.0 liter inline six|
|horse power||503 HP @ 6250 rpm|
|torque||479 LB-FT @ 2,750 – 5,500 RPM|
|0-60 mph||3.0 seconds|
|maximum speed||155 mph (180 mph)|
|Transmission||ZF eight-speed automatic|
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