The world is a funny place at the moment, full of uncertainty and direction, so it was a nice respite when BMW New Zealand offered us the latest iteration of their sporty staple the M3 Competition to review – and then NZ immediately went into level 4 lockdown.
Born out of the desire to enter motorsport, the BMW M3 hit the world stage around the mid eighties and almost immediately set the gold standard in terms of saloon racing. It was well poised both on and off the track and oh so fast. In many respects it became the benchmark BMW and over the past five generations it’s notched up over 350,000 in unit sales.
Anyway, a few months back (when we were allowed to mingle) we attended the launch of the sixth generation, firstly at the North Shore Airport where we raced up and down the runway experiencing its 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds, and then later at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park where we pushed the accelerator hard and let the Twinpowered six-cylinder unleash its full 375kW of power and 650Nm of torque. Both experiences were fantastic and thrilling – just as well as none of this was allowed when ‘staying local’ in lockdown.
I have to say that gazing out the window at the M3 Competition sitting on the driveway is an agonising experience. Dressed in ‘Isle of Man’ green with bright orange interior the BMW sports sedan just begs to be driven, so in all honesty I did; a lot. From driving to the postbox to collect the mail to supermarket shopping and even going to the local park for a walk, for me, taking the M3 has indeed become essential.
Despite not being fast or indeed thrilling, what these small but obviously very worthy trips have allowed me to do is use this track-embracing BMW M3 as a daily driver and I must say, it actually goes about these tasks well.
Design wise, the sixth Gen M3 has been the topic of fierce conversation and mainly because of the big grille, it’s very polarising. But to me, having a kidney grille on a BMW is essential and having it so large makes it easy to pick out in the supermarket car park.
Being the Competition model meant that my M3 came with a vast amount of carbon fibre, from the large air-gulping front vents and sleek roof, to a mere sliver of a rear spoiler and the lower diffuser that surrounds the quad exhaust. Lightening the car not only provides more power to weight gains but it also goes a step towards counteracting the lockdown girth I have personally managed to gain.
On the matter of waist, the M3’s carbon fibre sports seats are soo figure hugging, that not only are they a pleasure to drive with but just quietly I have sneaked out of the house to simply be embraced by them without actually going anywhere – yes I know it’s sad, but in these unusual times a hug never hurt anyone (even if it comes from a sportscar).
As I said before, the drives in the BMW M3 have been plentiful in number but small in distance, however, they have allowed me to get to know the niceties of this otherwise ferocious sedan.
‘Hey BMW’ is there to take care of all the odds and ends of driving, from changing the radio station to setting the temperature, all it takes is a quick chat and it’s done. What’s more, just like the need to be hugged, it’s nice to talk to someone (that doesn’t argue) – things have evidently become increasingly irritating during lockdown I have found. You can also wag your finger at the Harmon Kardon stereo to raise and lower the volume and change tracks, music listening is of course essential.
The new BMW M3 comes loaded with luxurious extras, the steering wheel is heated, as are the bucket seats, while the head up display ensures you stay within speed limits (I’ll get to more of that in a moment). And it even has these things called indicators that flash the orange lights on the car’s outside. The headlights are laser and can see further than my failing eyesight and the infotainment and instrument clusters are big, bold, clear and personalisable, so in many ways every trip is like being in a different car.
Driver and safety aids are aplenty with things like reversing assistant that retraces the last 50m you drove forward on, parking assist so YOU don’t have to do tedious parallel parking, adaptive cruise control should you ever venture onto the motorway and lane keep/steering assist to ensure you get stressed while driving in level 4.
Then there’s the drive itself. Living in the ‘burbs means that I mainly have to adhere to 50km/h, which in an M3 Competition is way below idle and quite frankly, dull. So, (top tip) to switch things up a bit, I opted to use the paddles and keep the gears low and the revs high, it gives you all the joys of listening to the M3’s sports exhaust sing while travelling along at virtual walking pace – to the rest of the world I must have looked like a knob, but who cares, they should be at home anyway!
The ride and suspension is firm but forgiving, even when M1 was selected I didn’t break any eggs on the way back from the store (or scramble them).
The BMW M3 may have been born for the racetrack and indeed does thrive there, but I can honestly say that it’s daily drivable too. Alas, I didn’t get to use drift mode or lap timer or the G-force meters that lie in the M-Sport menu but maybe, once all this craziness goes back to normal and we’re allowed out to play again, BMW NZ will be kind enough to hand me the keys again and let me drive further than my gate.