Home / Home / BMW M3 Road Test Review – München Speed Metal

 

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We’ve finally got our power-hungry hands (and legs) on the fifth-generation model of one of BMW’s most iconic cars, the M3, and put it to the test.


Story: Jim Gorde
Photography: Saurabh Botre

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“Keep your eyes on the road, your hand upon the wheel.” Eyes filled with shades of baby blue, got me thinking about ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and Jim Morrison’s voice echoed in my head as I made my way through morning traffic in Mumbai, in search for some scenery. Everyone’s going about their routine, some trying harder than others to get somewhere quicker, but to no avail. People tend to lose focus on what’s really important. Priorities. A reality check — that’s the only solution. However, sometimes the focus of others helps you get some perspective of your own. You don’t have to do everything. It’s not easy, let alone possible. You just have to do something well. So, then. A track-ready, family sedan may sound like a stretch but, if there ever was one work of engineering that can pull off both roles with aplomb, it’s the Munich-born and Nürburgring-raised BMW M3. And it pulls them off very well, indeed.

True. Some may argue that the M3 is a four-door M4, but, in reality, it’s the other way around; the M4 is the two-door M3 that never made it to this generation with its nomenclature intact. Either way, it’s a focused offering. How? Well, it’s a seriously quick means of transport for four, and, save for this baby-blue-coloured, quad-exhaust-piped example we have here, it can be a fabulous, almost understated daily-driver, too.

For starters, the engine has been a victim of the prevalent trend of downsizing and turbocharging, but, in some ways, it’s more like it should be. The M3 it replaces, the E92, featured the only V8 in the M3’s history. To see it going back to six cylinders in line is a welcome change, to many. The addition of twin mono-scroll turbochargers means boost is on hand to further the experience, and not hamper what it was known for. We’ll get to that later.

The M3 is just as well-equipped as a true luxury-sport sedan should be. It has LED lighting, piercing headlamps, dashes of chrome, an exposed carbon-fibre roof, large wheels with low-profile rubber, and four tail-pipes to go with the four doors. The exterior on this F80 M3 isn’t too far from the F30 3 Series sedan. And that’s a good thing, because the 3er has its charm and sharpness balanced in a way only Bavaria can manage to do.

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Inside, the alcantara and soft-leather interior identify it immediately as a fine sport-tourer. The supple leather upholstery with alcantara lining offers superb ergonomics and a ready-to-pounce driving position, side bolsters and all. The M steering wheel, the centre console with the display, the M Dynamic Mode control, and the iDrive controller all make it seem like it’s well thought-out. There’s even a lovely premium audio system that does much more than just play your choicest tunes. The rear offers more than enough space for two, with three being a tighter fit. However, there isn’t any shortage of comfort or convenience. Yet, weight is kept in check. As a package, the M3 weighs in at just over 1.5 tonnes.

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Start up, and the motor growls before settling down to a burble. The gear lever needs to be slotted to the right to get drive. Looking back ahead I see the dials are simple white text on black background with red needles — simple, effective, and get the job done the old-school way. And there’s the head-up display up front. Excellent! The red-line is set at 7,500 rpm — is this thing really turbo-ed? The 2,979-cc signature straight-six is back, with the two turbochargers and direct injection adding fuel to an already brilliantly burning fire, so to speak. The free-revving engine’s older siblings were capable of delivering stunning naturally-aspirated horsepower. This one feels like it does that, and then the turbos add the additional horses, making for an immensely potent package. With a peak 431 PS, the M3 boasts of a power-to-weight ratio of 276 PS/tonne. And that’s a number that triggers nerves endings and activates the right foot, making it kick down hard.

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Roaring off from standstill, the M3 cracked 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds and managed a quarter-mile in less than 13.5 seconds. Shedding speed was also no difficult job for the impeccable M performance brakes, with 80 km/h to zero taking just over two seconds and 22 metres. Incredible. It can also sprint at a millisecond’s notice, and get up to speed, overtake, and dismiss other lumbering wheeled forms of mobility to specks in the mirrors in a matter of seconds — 40 to 80 km/h takes two seconds. Yet, once you’re done blasting past — responsibly, of course — on the highways, you will encounter a bumpy patch at some point of time. Maintaining a steady speed sees efficiency jump into double figures. Yep, there, I said it. It’s not all bad on that front either, thank the 550 Nm of peak torque that begins at 1,850 rpm. For the most part, the logical transmission keeps the engine turning at around 2k rpm, which means zero lag and instant response.

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Apart from the throttle, everything from the steering feedback to the response from the brake pedal feels more urgent. The suspension was stiff and the ride was rather firm, making for sharp and precise changes of direction, assisted in no small part by the active M differential. That’s where the support from the sports seats is highlighted as well. To be honest, I was in the sportiest of M Drive modes for most part. ‘Sport+’ holds the engine revs at almost 7,500 before necessitating a flick of the paddle behind the steering wheel. This is the part where you realise racing drivers were involved in its development: Bruno Spengler, and former F1 driver Timo Glock, no less. There is a ‘Comfort’ mode, too, for when child-seats are tethered and little eyes are closing.

So, how would it be to live with? After spending a few hours with it, the only real issues were the ride height. You will have to slow down for speed-humps, lest my need to rephrase and call them speed-breakers, instead. Then again, if you’ve always admired the M3, it does everything right and easily justifies itself as a great everyday car. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, and there shouldn’t be a problem at all.

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Need to Know – BMW M3

Price: Rs 1.26 crore (ex-showroom)

Engine: 2,979 cc, in-line six, twin-turbo petrol
Max Power: 431 PS @ 5,500-7,300 rpm
Max Torque: 550 Nm @ 1,850-5,500 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1,560 kg

Performance:
0-100 km/h:
5.38 seconds
Quarter-mile: 13.48 seconds @ 175.88 km/h
Top speed: 250 km/h (electronically limited)

 

About the author: Jim Gorde

 

Automotive Correspondent at Bike India and Car India.
Believes that learning never stops. Loves V8 engines as much as a good breakfast.
t: @BikeIndia / @CarIndia

 

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