What is it?
This, for the first time in history, is a BMW M3 with four-wheel drive.
The BMW M3 Competition xDrive saloon has had additional traction added because the latest-generation car, which we like a lot, gets 503bhp and 479lb ft from its 3.0-litre straight six engine. Rather big numbers. Clearly BMW supposes the rear tyres might need some help from the fronts under acceleration. Something akin to Audi RS levels of security.
Certainly the figures suggest the xDrive system is effective. With only the rear wheels driven, the M3 can go from 0-62mph in 3.9sec. In this xDrive form, that drops to just 3.5sec – a fairly whopping gain.
In everyday driving, though, the idea is that you won’t know the system is there a great deal. Normally, drive goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, just like it does in the regular, rear-driven M3. But with xDrive, there’s a multi-plate clutch ready to send power forwards, too, through drive shafts and to a front suspension redesigned to accommodate the halfshafts.
The amount of power diverted forwards varies depending on how much slip the rears would otherwise have but can be adjusted by the driver too, through three modes – Normal 4WD, Sport 4WD (which is slightly more rear-biased) or, with the stability control switched off, it can be abandoned altogether and the M3 returned to rear-drive, complete with its nifty system for rating how well the driver can drift.
In xDrive form, the M3 costs from £78,425 – a £2765 premium over the regular saloon. The system adds 55kg to the car, making the kerb weight 1780kg.