BMW M Performance is BMW's in-house motorsport division famed for developing high-performance cars. The M3 is also such a four-door sportscar from their stable based on the 3 Series sedan. Its inception took place about 30 years ago when the carmaker homologated this one for touring car racing. Ever since then, there have been four generations of this vehicle. Today, the model on sale in India is in its fifth generation. As expected, it still is BMW's answer to enthusiasts who want the motorsport fun with the everyday usability. To find out we did an inter-state drive in this sedan from Maharashtra to Karnataka and back. Read on to know if it impressed us about what it promises to be.
The Yas Marina blue colour is what grabs your attention first. BMW is known to name car colours after popular motorsport venues and this one is named after Abu Dhabi's racetrack. This four-door sportscar looks identical to the 3 Series sibling, but still has many essentials to set it apart from the ordinary.
The front bumpers sport a low chin, massive air-intakes and are devoid of chrome highlights. The bonnet is well-sculpted with a hood, while the wheel arches are slightly flared. On to the sides, the imposing 18-inch five dual-spoke black wheels look the part. Below the exquisitely designed wing mirrors you'll notice one of the very few chrome accents. It gets an M Performance badge, and from here, a sculpted line runs towards the tail lamp. The rear wheels jut out of the wheel arches, while the wider rear track and muscular rear end make the M3 even more appealing. Lastly, the chiseled rear bumper with M trademark quad-exhausts complete the mean look.
The M3's cabin is interesting with the shapes and material used for the inlays on the dashboard. Interior quality is top-notch and one can opt for different trims and upholstery. Still, I liked the light shade leather in this car, which looks and feels premium. The carbon accents and M badges further add that exclusive touch to it.
With great frontal visibility, you can sit nice and low in the driver's seat offering adequate support with adjustable bolsters. Practical bits like cup-holders, storage bins in centre console and audio system controls are within driver's reach too. The rear bench is roomy and two adults can comfortably sit with enough space. The 480litres boot space is commendable as well to accommodate big bags. Additionally, the rear bench folds to liberate more space if needed.
The Harman Kardon sourced audio system produces 600 Watts and comes with 9 channels and 16 loudspeakers to keep you entertained. BMW's high-resolution colour display screen is crisp and gets a DVD drive, integrated hard drive for maps and audio files. It comes paired to a responsive iDrive Touch Controller. The rear view camera and Park Distance Control (PDC) with many sensors add to the convenience while parking. Besides, there's a BMW Head-Up Display with various M views adding to the practicality and delight. Furthermore, the carmaker has covered all bases on the safety front in the M3. There are eight airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with brake assist, dynamic stability control (DSC) including M Dynamic Mode (MDM) and cornering brake control (CBC). Then, there's an electronic vehicle immobiliser, ISOFIX child seat mounts and a run flat indicator too.
Wouldn't you be astonished when you are told that a four-door sedan, weighing more than 1.6 tonne, does the 0-100kmph sprint in just under five seconds? Yes, similar was the case with me. In our acceleration tests it did it in just 4.43 seconds! So what's under the hood of this fire breathing and tyre smoking sedan? The same (older M3's) naturally aspirated V8 petrol mill? Nope, this new-gen M3 brings in the brand’s six in-line configuration. There’s a 3.0-litre petrol mill producing 431bhp of power and a huge 550Nm of torque. This time, there’s not one, but there are two turbochargers. Unquestionably, the new engine doesn't rev up to the moon like the older v8. However, the turbocharged unit allows you to rev till 7,300rpm, giving you a wide engine speed range. As the two turbochargers operate to propel a lot of air to the cylinders, the high revs help in providing an instant throttle response with a unique engine note. Still, the engine doesn't feel strained and there's a linear power delivery ensuring a smooth drive.
BMW's TwinPower Turbo technology has played a vital role in maximising the torque which is available from a low 1,850rpm till up to 5,500rpm. This flat torque curve has helped in better acceleration and pulling power. This was quite noticeable be it for the low-end torque in the city or out on the highway. We were not worried much as the fuel economy displayed 8-9kmpl with the amazing cruising capabilities. This speaks for the overall weight savings made in the M3’s construction, which have helped not just in performance but providing a better fuel efficiency too. The seven-speed automatic gearbox also works like a charm. The changing of gears is quick and hardly felt unless you opt to use the stick or paddle shifters. And through a small button near the gear-lever, the M3 offers you to alter the transmission shift speed too. There are three modes, the first one being a little slower and smoother than the third one, which is very quick and pushes the car forward with a jerk. Not bad, in fact all the more engaging.
There are switchable modes too. This includes comfort, sport and sport+ to alter the power delivery, steering and suspension settings. We were in comfort mode at most times and the M3 did reasonably well on our roads despite its firm suspension. We only had to be cautious on broken patches of roads and speed bumps as the jolt was easily felt inside the cabin. Also to our surprise, despite the low ground clearance it never scraped as we went slow. The responsive steering is well-judged, sharp and gives a good feedback. Furthermore, it feels more precise in the Sport and Sport+ modes. This is where the suspension also firms up even more, helping you to go around bends at high speeds. The car just goes flat carving corners and the immense grip from tyres wants you to go even faster. Brakes have that bite and stop the car assertively and confidently even under hard braking.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||431bhp @ 5,500rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||550Nm @ 1,850rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||63|
|Tyre size||275/40 R18|
|Racy 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels||Yes|
|Reversing camera with guidance||Yes|
Competition All Specs
Mercedes-AMG C63 S
|Variant||C63 AMG S||M3|
|Max. Power (bhp)||503bhp @ 5,500rpm||431bhp @ 5,500rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm)||700Nm @ 1,750rpm||550Nm @ 1,850rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||66||63|
|Tyre size||245/35 R19, 265/35 R19||275/40 R18|
With most sportscars one has to choose performance over practicality. But, not with the M3! It combines the best of both worlds together. It is quick as a sportscar and can do all that a regular sedan can do. Yes, you might break a sweat while driving around cautiously on the pot-holed roads. But if the places you drive to have nicely paved roads, the M3 is the perfect car for you. Otherwise too, you just have to be a little more cautious. The M3 will just do fine.
Overall, in its latest iteration, the M3 might not feel as violent as the previous one with superlative performance and handling qualities. Even so, most of these traits have been retained and the fun character of the car hasn't changed much. In fact, what we now have is still a performance-focused, lightweight and yet a trendy and practical four-door sportscar. But then, at a price tag of Rs 1.26 crores (ex-showroom Delhi), the Mercedes-Benz C-Class C63 AMG S comes into perspective. Note that the latter is expensive at Rs 1.36 crores, but is more powerful too!
Pictures by Kapil Angane