Installing an all-wheel drive system didn’t dampen the excitement that the M3 offered – in fact, it added it to it in many ways. Performance is more exciting than ever, but more accessible. When you’re not on the track, the added safety of all-wheel drive brings an extra layer of reassurance. There are still minor flaws that won’t fit among the great M cars, but it’s an incredibly efficient, yet practical, performance saloon.
This is the new BMW M3, but despite appearances it is unlike any M3 before it. For the first time in its 35-year history and the sixth time this vehicle has been ordered, the iconic performance saloon is now offered with all-wheel drive.
Fundamentalists in leadership do not have to worry. For a start, the rear-wheel drive option will continue to be sold alongside the M3 xDrive – costing £2,765 less than the £78,425 all-wheel drive. Second, this is a base BMW M, so the shifting is a little more involved than just slapping an extra couple of driveshafts on the front axle.
In introducing the all-wheel drive system, BMW redesigned and re-tuned the front axle with the M3 double-knuckle spring strut; As before, it is made of aluminum to save weight. The front geometry has been tweaked to suit, while the electromechanical steering response has also been given attention not to deviate too much from the overall feel of the rear-wheel drive model.
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Power is split between the two axles via a multi-plate clutch that allows, BMW says, to split fully variable torque. The active M differential features software unique to the M3 xDrive, while the transfer case has its own control unit that allows power to be redistributed almost instantly when any slip occurs. There are of course new steering columns up front, but they are unique to the mechanically similar M3 xDrive and M4 Coupe xDrive.
To maintain the character of BMW M, the torque splitting has a distinct rear bias, and daily driving force will only be sent to the rear wheels until a loss of traction is detected. You can also select a drive mode that exclusively sends all 503 hp and 650 Nm of the 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo to the rear axle. This is not something we would recommend for the faint of heart; In this mode, the dynamic stability control system is also disabled, so this is largely the drift mode intended for the track.
Leave it in all-wheel drive (there are parameters to adjust under this setting as well) and the extra traction will appear immediately from the second you start. The full-bore start now allows a dash to be covered from 0 to 62 mph in a claimed 3.5 seconds, 0.4 seconds faster than the delayed rear-drive variant. As before, top speed is limited to 155 mph, although the optional M Driver’s Package raises that to 180 mph.
The motor may not be the best, but it is incredibly efficient. Whether it’s left to its own devices or you prefer steering wheel control, the eight-speed gearbox is solid, although we’d like quicker gears in the quickest mode.
But the xDrive system is about more than just numbers. On the road, the result of this change is a level of cling that, in a dry state at least, is almost completely non-combustible. Even on uneven terrain, it is possible to keep the throttle engaged through second and third gear without a hint of slippage.
Hard acceleration out of turns reveals a balance very similar to the standard M3 in the 4WD Sport setup. The difference here is that once the rear wheels reach maximum traction, the fronts help spread more torque, firing the next four-door saloon down at an exceptional rate.
It’s hard to notice the 50kg weight penalty from the overdrive tech in a 1,800kg car anyway, so in terms of overall balance, the xDrive maintains that great feel of the center of mass down the middle of the car; The M3 cruises into corners much more aggressively than any car this size has any right, yet it still retains the character of an M3, but is now devastatingly faster.
While it’s very good that all-wheel drive hasn’t affected the M3’s fun, it also means that some (albeit minor) flaws remain as well. Most important is the ride, which comes close to being very firm.
In anything other than smooth asphalt on a racetrack, the M3’s suspension feels busy. Some might enjoy that level of feedback from the road, but it never settles down. The M3 pushes the surface to succumb to rough terrain. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, one of its closest four-door competitors, features a “bumpy road” setup for its adaptive dampers, which allow the suspension to breathe with the road surface in a way that BMW doesn’t.
Alfa Romeo has nicer steering, too. The setups for both cars are quick, but the BMW rack makes less impression of heaviness as loads build up in the tires. It’s accurate and incredibly effective on the track, but it’s not fun the rest of the time.
Of course, all-wheel drive isn’t an option at Alfa, so some of those comparisons won’t be of interest to sport saloon buyers who demand extra traction. BMW also benefits from an impressive infotainment system within a robustly built cabin. Just like the standard M3 Competition, drivers can choose their preferred driving mode settings and store them within the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel, allowing easy access to their ideal settings for braking, steering, throttle response, transmission speed and stability programs.
Since the M3 is rear-wheel drive, there is no loss in practicality with the addition of a driven front axle, as the trunk space stands in the same roomy 480 liters as the rest of the 3 Series lineup. However, at 28.2 mpg you’ll lose the least amount of efficiency compared to a regular car – 0.6 mpg, and while it emits an extra 5g/km of CO2 – it’s hardly much and will likely depend on your driving style.
|engine:||3.0L V6 Turbo Petrol Engine|
|power/torque:||503 HP / 650 Nm|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
|0 to 62 mph:||3.5 seconds|
|maximum speed:||155 mph|
|Economy/CO2:||28.2 mpg / 228 g/km|
|For sale:||right Now|
#Review #BMW #Competition #xDrive