Road testers often disagree. It’s normal; healthy, even. A certain variability in the views that members of the Autocar road test desk may have of an important new car is to be encouraged if it adds fresh perspective to the conferring process (which is best accompanied by tea and a well-chosen biscuit or two, I always think). We strive to be consistent and fair; but ultimately, if you’ve got any ambition to do this job seriously, there comes a point when you just have to stand behind what you think.

Sure enough last week, as several of us road testers were driving and considering the new BMW M3 Competition alongside its rivals, there was a little variability in our own particular takes on the car. You’ll by now have read Matt Prior’s first drive verdicts on both the M3 Competition saloon and the related BMW M4 Competition coupe. Don’t worry, folks; I agree with them almost completely. But even so, when you read our cover-billed group test in the magazine next week, in which the BMW takes on the excellent Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and the stonking Mercedes-AMG E63 S, don’t be surprised if the outcome surprises you a bit. It’s not done to confuse, or for shock value; it’s just one honest take.

We all have our own personal reactions to cars, as well as particular tastes and predilections. When you judge one in isolation, or drive it in a different place or just in a different way to the next guy, you’ll very likely end up feeling differently about it than him. And when you read a big test on one, would you rather think the verdict had been even partly decided by either the glittering hyperbole, or the damning criticism, of the last bloke to have tested it?

I certainly wouldn’t. To me, every new car must have an equal chance, and a clean slate onto which to make an impression. That’s what the M3 had. And, well, you’ll find out what it did with that chance soon enough, I promise.

When it was all over, it was how the car might stack up against the BMW M Division’s back catalogue of M3s that I was left wondering about. To me, it’s clearly a much-improved driver’s car; better by some considerable margin than the previous-generation ‘F80’ version, with its slightly tetchy damping and tricky-to-read limit handling.

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