Despite BMW’s latest M3 boasting a muscular V8 engine and a considerable 420 horsepower, some fans of the high performance coupe wanted more; more control, more driver involvement.
More of a precision instrument than the similar size but distinctly hooligan-esque C63 AMG from Mercedes, the M3 offers the enthusiastic driver a versatile and accomplished experience. Yet, some critics have argued that the car lacks an ‘edge’ when it comes to extracting the maximum enjoyment. BMW’s response is the Competition Package.
Let’s get something straight, though; the M3 isn’t a bad car. In fact, it’s a very good car. From the original, trend-setting E30 to the present day, the evolutionary process has been a steady one. The application of more power, more performance and more useful technology has seen the M3 be transformed from race track special to supercar-baiting all-rounder.
In a bid to ensure drivers felt more at one with their M3, BMW devised the Competition Package. Don’t worry, there isn’t a roll cage or cut off switch in sight – it’s not that kind of competition bundle.
Mechanical changes aside, BMW also turned its attention to the car’s electronics. Enhancements to the M3’s Dynamic Stability Control system and the inclusion of a Sport mode for the Electronic Damper control system complete the changes.
So what about the practical experience? In a nutshell the car is good – very good. The V8 motor is and always has been a gem. It sounds fantastic when pushed hard; barking its way through the gears like a mini-me Nascar racer. A criminally infectious experience if you value your driving licence.
At a more intellectual level, the presence of the Competition Package add-ons subtly raise the enjoyment level by allowing you to further fine tune the car’s electronic helpers and go that bit harder and faster.
You get the best of both worlds in so much as the car can assume the role of tame pussy cat for the schlep to work. Fiddle with the electronics and you’re suddenly at the helm of a borderline track special. Everything – sights, sounds, sensations – shift up a notch or two.
The current M3 has always been an accessible car in terms of its performance, and the addition of the Competition Package only serves to enhance its appeal. After a few miles of ‘press on’ motoring you could even say that the handful of changes do much to unlock the car’s underlying potential.
With the ability to fine tune the suspension and stability control settings, seriously keen drivers can now delve that bit deeper into the M3’s reserves. On the road the car’s lower stance might appear modest but this feature and the switch to standard fit 19-inch wheels noticeably sharpens up responses. That favourite B road of yours just got a whole lot more interesting.
The same is true when engaging in higher speed activities on, say a track. It’s at times like this that you fully understand the car’s true potential; the retuned electronics work tirelessly in the background to help and enhance the experience, leaving the M3’s vocal V8 motor to take centre stage.
Those same critics will no doubt be quick to complain about the perceived increased focus on electronic aids in what is supposed to be a driver’s car, but once behind the wheel you’ll soon discover that you’re still very much in control.
From the car’s slick manual gearbox to its weighty, accurate steering and progressive brakes, BMW’s M3 offers appreciative and enthusiastic drivers an experience that’s second to none in the high performance coupe market. Factor in the Competition Package enhancements and the search for the car’s ‘edge’ is over. It’s here and it’s all good.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: BMW M3 Coupe Competition Package, from £57.930 on the road inc Competition Package.
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 petrol unit developing 420bhp.
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission, driving the rear wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 155mph, 0-62mph 4.8 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 290g/km.
By Iain Dooley