If there’s such a thing as a recipe for a good M3, the new one sticks pretty faithfully to it.
Like most previous M3s (the four-cylinder original and later V8 excepted), the new one has a straight-six engine and launches as a saloon and an almost identical coupe, the M4 (convertible and estate versions will follow). Like most previous M3s, the new one offers more power than most sports cars for less money (503bhp for £74,755; a Porsche 911 Carrera offers 380bhp for £83k). And like most previous M3s, the new one seats four comfortably and comes loaded with race-inspired details, from its super-stiff bodyshell to its ten-stage adjustable traction control.
But is it, like most previous M3s, also great to drive? Hell yes. The power’s always there, trying to overwhelm the rear tyres and launch you towards the horizon, but there’s magic in the new chassis, too, particularly its huge front-end grip. Even on a track, going into corners faster and faster, the new car just hangs on, refusing to let its nose push wide. Rear-axle traction is strong too, and easily played with thanks to the standard fitment of both M Drift Control and M Traction Control.
Ferociously fast, fun and beautifully finished, the new M3 is priced like a premium product – fortunately it feels like one, too.
There are gripes, of course. The steering’s fast: so fast it takes some getting used to. And this is also a heavy car. BMW claims 1730kg, and you feel every single one of them braking into a tight corner.
But the big moan – and there’s no easy way to tell you this, so we’ll just come out with it – is that the UK won’t get the new M3/M4 with a manual gearbox.
The reasoning is sound. In most markets, the new M3/M4 will go on sale as the base car and a more powerful M3/M4 Competition version. The Competition cars make too much power for the manual ’box, so they’re only being offered with the stronger eight-speed auto. But BMW knows it’s not worth bringing the non-Competition versions to the UK. We just don’t buy less powerful derivatives – see also the Porsche 911 Turbo, where Turbo S sales dwarf those of the lesser Turbo. So, it’s M3 or M4 Competition only in the UK, and no manual.
…and the ugly
BMW’s new front grille design will not have escaped your attention. It arrived on a concept car back in 2019 and immediately sent the internet into a blind rage. Nevertheless, it appears loud and proud on the new M3 and M4. A terrible mistake? You decide.
The Charles & Dean verdict
The M3 remains the definitive sports saloon. No one does a better job of turning humble saloons into supercar-chasers than BMW’s M division. Our advice? Hang on for the xDrive four-wheel-drive version, due later this year. The existing M5 Competition is proof that BMW’s performance all-wheel-drive system is a winner, and four driven wheels will likely make the new M3 a more versatile and no less exciting sports saloon.
BMW M3 Competition: £74,755, 503bhp twin-turbo straight-six, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 180mph