Swapsies: the Top Gear Garage M3 has morphed from 2WD to 4WD for winter
How does the old Instagram adage go again? New Year, New me? Well, here’s Top Gear’s take: new year, new M3. It’s out with the Green Demon and in with the Pinotage Powerhouse.
The M3 I’ve been running has magically changed colour. And VIN number. Why? Well, having racked up 15,000 miles in a few months, a slightly shocked BMW has politely put out a summons notice for the return of YA70 TWW. We’re told it’s required back at the Bavarian mothership before we batter the odometer further and it becomes “difficult to remarket”. AKA, stop driving the bloody thing otherwise we’ll never be able to resell it.
But there’s a reason it’s riddled with so many miles: it’s just so easy to pile them on. I’ve not been trying to complete some sadistic endurance challenge either. It’s just so damn good at doing the day-to-day car thing and has slotted into my high-mileage lifestyle fantastically.
The word ‘daily’ gets on my nerves. I am convinced you can ‘daily’ anything; it just requires an adequate mindset and an aversion to meaningful friendships. But the M3 is a fantastic daily (two secs while I vom) because it’s just a 3 Series, albeit much, much faster. And BMW’s 3ers have been hacking around getting silly miles on them since they were invented. They’ve always been the definitive mid-sized four-door saloon with a decent-sized boot and an aspirational badge on the front. This one is no different. It’s just the G80 blends its performance and day to day functionality in a more cohesive way than before.
At first, I thought this would be an issue – a 500bhp super saloon that didn’t feel special enough as it didn’t obnoxiously display its performance. But trust me, there’s plenty of violent shove and go. Yes, it can be dialled up and down via various menus – summoned or silenced with synthesisers in the Harman Kardon speakers – but if you want a demonstration of what it’s capable of just keep your right foot pinned and have the audacity to tell me it’s not fast when you hit 0–62mph in under four seconds.
You can probably tell I’ve become remarkably fond of it. Don’t get me wrong, it lacks emotional awareness and character so isn’t pulling at my heartstrings in the same way other cars would. And there is that controversial front end that some people still can’t get over (I can and have). So without wanting to sound like a selfish brat (while sounding like a selfish brat with a short temper and low blood sugar) I didn’t want to give the car back early. Especially as it’s still on the same set of tyres it arrived on, making me think I haven’t been trying hard enough. So we reached a compromise to see out the rest of the loan. A lovely 500bhp wine red compromise.
For the next four months we’ll be running YC71AVK . There is a very fundamental difference between the two cars though. Where the green car sent all its power to the rear wheels, the red one splits it between all four. Yep, controversially, it’s a four-wheel-drive M3 – the first xDrive M3 ever. I’m here to see if that’s a stroke of genius or sacrilege.
Still being a Competition model (the only M3 we can get in the UK, remember) the engine is identical to the green 2WD car, a 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six with over 500bhp paired with an 8spd automatic gearbox. There is a difference in price though as you have to think of BMW’s xDrive 4WD system as an option you fit to the car rather than a separate model. It costs £2,765 to add to the £75,660 M3 saloon or £76,990 M4 coupe. Which is a lot to begin with. Because when you throw a load of options at it the price jumps to – wait for it – £95,370. Making it £10k more expensive than the green car. Sheesh.
A large chunk of that is taken up by the M carbon ceramic brakes with gold calipers (£7,995) and I’m looking forward to seeing what difference they make. The already hefty 1,730kg G80 M3 Competition needed all the help it could get. And this 4WD has an extra 50kg piled on top. Other than that, the only differences are the £1,100 paint (a wonderfully sophisticated and brooding ‘Aventurine III’ that adds a subtle aesthetic to the M3, a black interior (still with all the carbon trimmings and those awesome seats) and – oddly – the deletion of the wireless charging.
The car is currently on winter tyres, which is a wise choice at this time of year. But when the weather starts warming up I’m keen to try the car on the optional, sticky Cup 2 track tyres. Four-wheel drive and those bad boys means this could be an absolute traction-tastic rocket ship. The training to get in shape for the potentially brutal g forces it’ll deliver begins now because – as the old Instagram adage goes – “summer bodies are made in winter”, right?