Just look at it, stop for a minute and really take it all in. Yes, the BMW M3 Competition is a little bit like a regular 3 Series, only more defined, more muscular, angrier and more purposeful.
Little cues like the gloss-black trim where there's usually chromework and a set of mesh-design alloy wheels that hark back to the BBS wheels of an original E30 M3 all help and the Smurf-blue Yas Marina paint...well the verdict is still out on that. But they are all unique (apart from the paint) to the Competition Pack.
But it’s under the skin, with more power and a tweaked handling package, that the Competition sets itself apart from a regular M3.Strangely, the Competition Pack makes the M3 a little more hard-core yet also better behaved. Go figure!
Vehicle Style: High-performance prestige medium sedan
Price: $144,615 (plus on-roads) $147,730 as tested
Engine/trans: 331kw/550Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.8 l/100km | Tested: 10.9 l/100km
For $5000 over the price of a regular BMW M3, the M3 Competition seems like pretty decent buying when you take into account the up-sized wheels, Shadow Line exterior, changes to suspension, and not to mention the extra 14kW available.
The 331kW and 550Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder M3 Competition still trails behind the rather monstrous 375kW and 700Nm Mercedes-AMG C 63 S with its twin turbocharged 4.0 litre V8 - however one could argue that in day-to-day driving the less brutal M3 might actually be the easier car to live with.
Whatever the motivation, the finely honed M3 shows that the clever sods at BMW M certainly know a thing or two about performance and chassis balance and time spent behind the wheel of the M3 Competition certainly proved that.
- Standard Equipment: Head-up display, electrically adjustable heated M sport seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, active LED headlights, leather trim (seats, doors, dash), carbon fibre trim inserts, cruise control with speed limiter, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch iDrive display, 16-speaker Harman/Kardon audio, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB and Aux inputs, DAB+ digital radio, ConnectedDrive online services, intelligent emergency call
- Options Fitted: rear window sunblind $600, parking assistant $675, metallic paint (Yas Marina Blue) $1840
- Cargo Volume: 480 litres
Treading the fine line between performance and luxury, the M3 Competition manages to pack in aggressively bolstered front seats, a fat-rimmed steering wheel and M-striped front seat belts along with leather trim on just about everything, electric seat adjustment, and no shortage or high-end equipment.
In fact, the options list on this particular test car was about as minimal as you’ll find on a modern BMW and shows off just how well equipped the M3 really is - perhaps not something you might say of the same car (or any other BMW) a decade ago.
The cut-away front seats look the business, and keep enthusiastic drivers firmly in place as road conditions step-up, though I’d argue the case for a little more lumbar support on long drives - that might just be my creaky back talking.
The practicality of a three-row rear bench and a pair of rear doors can’t be ignored either - while this might be a dedicated high-performance rocket, it’s still also perfectly suited to life as a family sedan.
The stitched dash surfacing and high-gloss carbon fibre trim are perfectly fitting for a car of the M3 Competition’s ilk, and though it may not have quite the same high-end finish as the C 63 S, the BMW is less ostentatious, which could be the right fit, particularly in a performance machine.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 331kW/550Nm 3.0 litre twin-scroll turbocharged inline six-cylinder
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear wheel drive with active limited slip differential
- Suspension: Adaptive dampers, MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated and cross-drilled rotors - 380mm front, 370mm rear
- Steering: M Servotronic electric power steering with variable assistance.
Anyone who has driven the standard M3 would be unlikely to consider it lacking in performance, but that hasn’t stopped BMW from massaging an extra 14kW into the Competition Pack, and remapping the torque curve to provide more low-down urge whilst topping out at the same 550Nm.
While M aficionados may still lament the M3’s move to turbocharging, away from its previously high-revving naturally aspirated past, the M3 Competition’s 4.0 second 0-100km/h claim should be enough to quiet even the most ardent objector.
The engine will still happily rev too, though its 7000rpm ceiling, while high for a turbo mill, doesn’t approach the stratospheric 8300rpm redline of the previous generation’s V8. Those that like to tune into to the internal combustion workings may also be disappointed - while the freer-breathing Competition makes a fairly guttural scream when pushed compared to the regular M3, there’s still a synthesised engine note played through the speakers which spoils the experience for occupants.
Given the right stretch of road, or preferably track, the M3 Competition shows its sharpened reflexes in the best light, with huge levels of grip, suspension that rides tautly but accurately, and a handling balance that’s as close to neutral as you’ll find in any production car.
Though BMW provides three-stage adjustment of dampers, steering, gear shifts, and throttle responsiveness independently of each other, the softest of each setting is quickly forgotten about (except for the suspension on long trips) with second-stage Sport almost spot on for the average drive.
Crisply responsive, with the right amount of noise the M3 Competition feels lively, and somehow smaller when wicked up a notch - go further still and the humble four-door really steps up, demanding to be manhandled in a much more salacious manner.
Of course BMW provides a launch mode for maximum attack, with brutal off-the-line acceleration for startling dragstrip performance. Similarly the M1 and M2 customisable drive mode buttons on the steering wheel remain, allowing quick and easy vehicle customisation.
The effect of 15 percent firmer springs can certainly be felt on Australia's often disheartening road surfaces, yet despite the underlying firmness the M3 manages to retain a level of dignity over hard hits.
The slightly looser stability control software also adds to the Competition’s lively feel, allowing more rear end play before intervening, and working at all times to show the driver off in the most flattering way. M Dynamic Mode lifts the intervention threshold even higher (way higher, in fact) inviting enticing oversteer capabilities to the power-on party.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - The BMW 3 Series range model scored 36.76 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2012.
Safety Features: Dual front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view camera, blind-spot warning, lane departure and collision warning alert, low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: BMW Service Inclusive pre-paid servicing starts at $2878 for five years or 80,000km. Service intervals are condition based, determined by the car’s internal sensors.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It’s impossible to go past the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S as a ‘traditional’ rival, with its bellowing twin turbo V8, and well finished interior - but that performance comes at a price, with the heavy-hitting Benz starting at almost $10k more.
Though it might require a decent jump in price of around $30,000 BMW’s own M5 Pure is close enough to warrant consideration - particularly if the extra size and extra performance are what you’re really after.
Perhaps not in the same league when it comes to refinement, but certainly destined to become collectable with production set to wind up next year, the HSV GTS proves that when it comes to performance metal Aussies are just as capable as the Europeans.
Perhaps not quite a direct rival, but powerful, showy, and prestigious nonetheless, the Lexus GS F is more of a grand tourer than outright track weapon with an enticing naturally aspirated V8 engine and plenty of space for the family.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Thanks to firmer suspension and looser stability control the M3 Competition feels more direct, more in-touch with the road beneath it, and more finely controllable by the driver than the regular M3, therefore delivering a far more engaging experience.
This car is most certainly the default choice for owners looking for a part-time track weapon, with the relatively small price premium compared to the standard model bringing more than enough worthwhile upgrades to an already enticing package.
No, the M3 Competition still isn’t the sledgehammer that the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S is, instead the BMW is more cooperative, more connected, and equally as aggressive with its race-ready driving modes engaged.
On top of that the M3 Competition looks purposeful, brawny, and mature (questionable colour choices aside) giving it the right kind of attitude every step of the way, from walking up to the car in the morning, to throwing it into a series of tight mountain roads by mid-afternoon.