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The Top Gear car review:BMW M3/M4/M4 GTS
For:Superb engine flexibility, fast reacting turbos, chassis poise and grip
Against:It's just not as charismatic as it used to be, wayward rear end
M3 4dr DCT
There’s a turbo under the bonnet for the first time - is the magic still there? Ollie Marriage reports
The fastest new 3 channels the spirit of the old M versions. Shame it’s a bit…sober
Hard sometimes not to see things through the distorting lens of one’s real life, so looking at the M3 Saloon, I was made up to have proper access...
What we say:
M3 and M4 have lost charisma. M4 GTS restores it by the bucketload
What is it?
A contentious update of an old favourite. The BMW M3 has always been the benchmark by which all junior super saloons are judged, loved not just for its handling and driver appeal, but also its dazzling naturally aspirated engine. We’ve had four, six and eight cylinder versions across the three model generations since the M3 first showed its face in 1988, but now we have something different. Turbos. A pair of turbos, in fact, mated to a 3.0-litre straight six. There are M3 saloon and M4 coupe versions, plus the ultra-limited edition track-oriented £121,770 M4 GTS.
If you’re thinking of buy BMW’s fastest 3-Series saloon or 4-Series coupe, this is going to be pretty much all that matters to you. You used to buy the M3 solely on the basis of its fabulous engine – the noise, response and spine-tingling top end were worth the entry price alone. But impressively responsive though the new turbos are, there’s still a delay before you get the wallop, while the noise… it’s just too artificial to genuinely prick your ears up. It’s onlt the GTS that makes a proper racket. Some will enjoy the straight six engine’s gutsiness and newfound torque, but for us, because you don’t have to put much into it, you get less out of it as a result.
Still, it’s a very fast thing indeed, and covers ground exceptionally well. Just go steady with the throttle - there’s enough torque for the rear to overcome grip and the diff can be spiky. If you can we urge you to spec the £3K Competition Pack, which sharpens the whole car up. The GTS is way sharper and more specialised, with notably better steering and more control, but apart from excess tyre roar the lesser cars are perfectly easy to live with. It’s just a shame the magic has been diluted.
On the inside
It’s all as you expect here – standard issue 3-Series layout and materials as seen in a million 320d M Sports plus a little bit more kit to play with. Bear in mind that once you’ve specced it to your taste with the nice bits you want, you’ll be looking at a £70k bill. For a small BMW. Still, even the coupe will carry four normal-sized people and supply boot space enough for a hefty shopping trip.
Want a GTS? Just be warned you get no rear seats. But you do get a roll cage instead, plus the most amazing set of full-on bucket seats that are as brilliant to look at as they are to sit in. You even get matching M-branded seatbelts.
By embracing turbo technology, BMW has at least ensured that running costs should be more acceptable. The old V8 M3 returned 22.8mpg; the new one is capable of a quoted 34.0mpg. That’s a huge leap, and CO₂ falls accordingly - to, on DCT models, below the 200g/km level that could get it past business users’ accounts departments. The GTS gets water injection that’s filled up via a bottle below the boot floor. If you do track days make sure you keep the 5-litre tank filled up. You won’t get the full 493bhp if you don’t…