Driven: BMW M3
Fast, economical and still a whole lot of fun to drive, the BMW M3 manages to have the cake and eat it too. Well… almost eat it
It’s a rant that we always start with while talking about the next generation of high-performance machines: the noise, or rather the lack of it. Thanks to turbocharging, modern-day engine noises aren't dramatic. As you know by now, downsizing isn't only something that your employers… um, employ, but it is the same story with car manufacturers too. Reason? Tightening emission norms. Manufactures are cutting down on cubic capacity, and squeezing in more power through forced induction.
The new BMW M3’s arrival is bittersweet for the same reason. In its latest iteration, the M3 has ditched the V8 engine for a more traditional straight-six layout. That’s the good news. Now, the bad news – thanks to the loss of two cylinders, the M3 has to make do with a pair of turbos.
The new twin-turbo inline-six 3.0-litre motor makes 425bhp (11bhp more than the last-gen V8) and 550Nm of torque (150Nm more than the previous car). All of it is put down to the tarmac via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. What that translates to, is a 0-100kph time of 4.3sec and a top speed of 250kph.
Step on the gas, and all that ranting about the muted exhaust and sound-dulling turbochargers sounds trivial. BMW’s M division has managed to work its magic around the turbo lag, so it's barely noticeable. Thanks to all that torque, every time you upshift, your head is thrown back into the headrest. No matter how fast you are going, the engine feels like it always has power in reserve. Even at speeds north of 200kph, the car feels planted.
However, even big SUVs can comfortably do 200kph in a straight line these days. It’s the corners that shed more light on a car's dynamic ability, and this is where the M3 impresses the most. Switch the steering to Sport Plus mode, and there is minimal assistance. The steering weighs up nicely and the car turns precisely into every corner.
The torquey motor means even if you upshift a bit early, there is still a boost of power waiting for you in the next gear from as low as 2500rpm. Though the torque delivery is impressive even in the low- and mid-range, the top-end power feels a bit blunt. BMW claims that the engine revs all the way to 7300rpm, but I prefer upshifting once the needle crosses 5500rpm to enjoy another boost in the mid-range.
The DCT transmission works well, whether you are tiptoeing around town or trailblazing across a smooth piece of tarmac. Europe gets a six-speed manual too, which we think should be sold as an option in India as well. Not available in India will be the ceramic-disc brakes that are the best part about this car. They've got bite, and are resistant to fade even when you are using them lap after lap on a racetrack.
To sum it up, the BMW M3 is still the best M money can buy. It doesn’t matter if it has a pair of turbos, or the fact that the synthesised sound is being poured into the cabin via the speakers. The steering is precise, and the 425 horses seem just about sufficient for a car this size. Thanks to the compact dimensions, you feel more confident throwing this car around corners. Yes, the fun is muted a bit thanks to all the electronic aids, but the M3 is still a lot of fun to drive.
Twin-turbo 2,979cc inline-six, 425bhp, 550Nm, petrol, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, RWD, 0-100kph: 4.3sec, max speed: 250kph
The M3 strikes the right balance between practicality and performance. It has four doors and a large boot, while the turbocharged inline-six means there are 425 horses to play with