What is it?
Our first chance to try what, for many, will be the most appealing version of the BMW M3 – the new four-door saloon option – in right-hand drive form, and on UK roads.
The reasons that the draw of this new M3 may outweigh that of the coupé are actually pretty numerous. It’s cheaper than the two-door (only by £1415, but that’s enough to spec BMW’s excellent electronic damper control system); it’s more practical (there are bigger rear seats, there’s better access to them through the two extra doors, and there’s a bigger boot). And yet, according to BMW, the M3 saloon’s damn near as fast as the coupé (4.9sec to 62mph vs 4.8; 155mph flat out)
But is it as thrilling to drive down a typical stretch of British B-road? Read on to find out.
What’s it like?
The extra practicality that this car offers leads you to expect some kind of compromise in its handling; if it’s bigger inside, you guess it must be bigger outside, heavier, somehow less sharp. But it just isn’t – and a glance at BMW’s measurements reveals why.
The M3 saloon has an identical wheelbase, and the same front and rear track widths, as the coupé. It’s actually marginally shorter than the two-door (by 35mm), as well as being marginally wider and taller. But with the wheels being in exactly the same places, and because it carries only 25kg of extra weight than the coupé, it gives up next-to-nothing by way of agility.
And so the virtues that shine through one driving experience are just as vivid and compelling here. First among them is the M3’s phenomenal V8 engine. It truly is a masterpiece, serving up all-subjugating performance and a delectable wail above 4000rpm, and yet proving totally docile, relatively quiet and incredibly easy-to-live-with lower down the rev range.
The car’s made all-the-more special by the extent to which you can adapt it to suit your circumstances. The M3’s throttle response, power steering assistance, damper rates and traction control system can all be tweaked for optimum performance, wherever you are.