Is there a disconnect between what BMW thinks an M car should be and what purists think an M car should be? Is there still a hangover from those early days, when the M badge stood for compactness, lightness and Group A homologation? Well, if so, give it up: it was 35 years ago.
Anyway, there’s a new M3, and if you hadn’t seen that coming, then look at this car when it’s coming at you. It’s quite, er, striking, isn’t it? Behind that nose, which I’ll gloss over, today M3 means a car based on the four-door 3 Series saloon, with the coupé called the M4 for the second generation running.
A growing 3 Series means a growing M3. This car is 4.79m long, 1.90m wide and weighs some 1730kg. At its launch in 2014, the previous M3 was a smidge narrower but 123mm shorter and a full 170kg lighter when equipped with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox (the six-speed manual weighed less again). Even the E60-generation M5, which went out of production in 2010, weighed only 50kg more than this M3, and that was longer and had a 5.0-litre V10. This is how much cars have grown in a decade, and it’s about time they stopped. Enough protein already.
Hmm. This not-so-junior M5 has been at the whey powder too. You can buy a punier M3 than this in some markets, but only the full-fat M3 Competition will apparently do for the UK, which means its twin- turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine boosts to 503bhp at 5600- 7200rpm and 479lb ft from just 2750rpm through to 5500rpm. That’s a torque curve so deliciously phat and flat that, in order to keep tabs on it, four-wheel drive will become an M3 option for the first time this summer.
For the moment, though, the M3 is rear-wheel drive, which is why it has an M Drift Analyser, which will give you a star rating out of five for how well you’ve done your sliding – based on distance travelled sideways and the angle of your dangle, not including the number of lamp-posts you take out while failing to gather it up on the exit of a roundabout.