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BMW's icon gets stop-start plus optional suspension and DSC tweaks

Our Verdict

BMW M3 Coupé
Anyone who drives this car and yearns for more straight-line performance clearly has power issues

The latest generation BMW M3 isn't as thrilling as the original E30 M3, but it's still mighty

  • First Drive

    BMW M3 GTS

    Hardcore M3 GTS possesses a singularity of purpose that is utterly intoxicating
  • First Drive

    BMW M3 Competition Pack

    BMW's icon gets stop-start plus optional suspension and DSC tweaks
26 April 2010

What is it?

The high level of bespoke content and the low production volume of BMW's M cars means they don't get altered a great deal during their life cycle. So what we've got here -­ forthcoming £100k GTS notwithstanding ­- is as altered as the regular BMW M3 is going to get.

The new Competition Pack is a £3315 option that comprises a whole lot of subtlety. So subtle, in fact, that one of the biggest changes is the introduction of stop-start as part of an Efficient Dynamics rollout.

Actually, it's a bigger deal than it first sounds. The M3, with or without Competition Pack, is the first six-cylinder-plus BMW in the UK to get stop-start, and it comes with other ED gubbins such as brake energy regeneration (which activates the alternator to charge the battery on the overrun).

That means the M3 sips six per cent less fuel than before (on the dual-clutch version, which is the first non-manual BMW to get stop-start too), with CO2 emissions down from 285g/km to 263g/km.

But yes, I know, it's called Competition Pack, right? So the 'competition' bit? That comes in the form of a 10mm lower ride height and CSL-style 19in alloy wheels. There's also a different setting on the electronically controlled dampers when in Sport mode and a tweak to the stability control system.

What's it like?

Those Competition pack mods don't sound like a lot but, even so, rather risks overstating its case. If you haven't driven an M3 for a while, you'll notice precisely no difference. If you have driven one recently, you'll notice virtually no difference.

The wheels look great. Perhaps I'm kidding myself, because it's been a while since I last drove an M3, but I wondered if they, coupled to the lower ride height, kept body control a wee bit tighter.

You'd have to be going pretty ballistic in a back-to-back test to notice the difference in the DSC settings. I wasn't, so I didn't, but on a track day it should make the M3 more exploitable, although in truth on a track day the button that turns it off is usually the preferred one.

And the different Sport mode damper calibration? Again, you'd want to be on a track before you selected Sport, just because it's so firm. That it's tightly controlled is in no doubt, but it's also pretty darned hard for the road.

One of the dynamic things supposedly entirely unchanged is the steering. I thought there was a touch more weight and feel than I remembered, which might be down to the lower height and big wheels, but it's a pity it remains on the mute side and still has a steering wheel rim that's thicker than it needs to be.

Shame, because what is actually going on beneath the wheels is usually pretty darned impressive. The M3 is one of those cars that doesn't instantly blow your socks off, but its unchanged 4.0-litre V8's performance is vivid (0-62mph stays at 4.6sec with the optional seven-speed, dual-clutch 'box), and few cars can match the M3's all-round ability to both cast aside long distances with ease, yet entertain to a decent degree on the right road. I think I like it more now than I did at its 2007 launch.

Since then, the dynamically superior Audi RS4 has come and gone and the RS5 will rock up any moment. M3 Competition Pack versus RS5 on British roads and somewhere with a bit of sliding space will make for an interesting comparison. Me? I wouldn't be at all surprised if the M3 more than held its own.

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Comments
27

13 May 2010

Trying to redeem a rubbish car. Yes, technically, it's absolutely brilliant, it's still the benchmark for all performance cars handling-wise, but goddammit it's so soulless! Blaring flat plane crank V8, shouty styling, flat dashboard... I want a manual gearbox, pre-Bangle styling, a straight-six engine and a wraparound dash, but I want the eco-ey stuff too, like the stop-start. Now, I think that'll be the E36's bodyshell, with the E46's dash, a magnesium-block version of the old straight-six, the steering of one of the older models but the suspension (including magnetic dampers) of this one.

13 May 2010

After watching and reading many comparisons between the M3 and Rs4 i think they were matched dynamically infact the M3 didn't understeer so much like the Audi and posted faster lap times on the track. But all said the Audi's steering was better. I just love this M3! Especially with those wheels

13 May 2010

It does look well in white and you know it's going to drive well because it's an M3. But I have to say I do prefer the E46 model for looks and the design of the dashboard.

13 May 2010

[quote Rover P6 3500S]Trying to redeem a rubbish car. [/quote]

Yet again, your comments have all the hallmarks of an idiot trying to garner attention. First the the F40 is horrid and now the M3 is rubbish?

When you get a licence, I suggest you trying actually driving some cars rather than asking your friends what they think.

On another subject, as Matt Prior referred to, why is it that BMW insist on making steering wheels rims so ridiculously thick? The last Z4 I had also suffered from this, and every M model has a steering wheel rim so puffed up it is not comfortable to wrap your fingers around it for any length of time, so you end up spreading your fingers along the rim rather than around it. I assume there is a good reason (or maybe just something to do with joy), but it feels unnatural.

13 May 2010

Only BMW could put stop-start in a car and call it a competition pack!

Ok, so the've lowered it a whole 10mm....wow!! 1 whole cm!!

Then they've put bigger (and probably heavier) wheels on.......bigger wheels don't automatically mean better handling!

13 May 2010

Hmmmmmmm! Waste of money, my car staops and starts too, it comes free with the key.

13 May 2010

So Matt Prior's M3 Competition review could be summarised to one word:

Meh.

13 May 2010

[quote Tim Oldland]

So Matt Prior's M3 Competition review could be summarised to one word:

Meh.

[/quote]

Well he states that you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.....apart from the engine cuts out at junctions and traffic lights........I had an old Mondeo that did that!

And besides, thats hardly a performance modification, is it? Great for quick getaways from the lights!

13 May 2010

[quote disco.stu]

[quote Rover P6 3500S]Trying to redeem a rubbish car. [/quote]

Yet again, your comments have all the hallmarks of an idiot trying to garner attention. First the the F40 is horrid and now the M3 is rubbish?

When you get a licence, I suggest you trying actually driving some cars rather than asking your friends what they think.

[/quote]

+1

Well said.

No doubt soon enough his playmate "Los Angeles" will wade in a with some kind of ridiculous comment.

13 May 2010

[quote Rover P6 3500S]Trying to redeem a rubbish car. Yes, technically, it's absolutely brilliant, it's still the benchmark for all performance cars handling-wise[/quote]

Rubbish but brilliant..

[quote Rover P6 3500S]Blaring flat plane crank V8[/quote]

You also claim to like the F430 which has a flat plane crank V8.. You like to contradict yourself. Attention seeker supreme.

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