Test Drive: BMW M3

Bob Arora sets off on a BMW roadtrip in the dazzling new M3...

My first memory of the M3 was when a family friend bought the original car that was launched 35 years ago.

Being a young teenager, this car was absolutely stunning. The fact it was actually left-hand drive only added to the appeal and the coolness of the car.

I always wanted an M3 but it was always out of reach for me as they were just so expensive.

When my local BMW garage started renting certain cars out, the dream of driving the M3, even if only for a few days, became a reality.

An occasion in Birmingham was the perfect excuse to hire the M3, and the night before I went to collect the car I literally couldn’t get to sleep with the excitement.

BMW M3I picked the car up and the drive to Birmingham was just as I expected; the car was an absolute dream to drive and the performance can only be described as mind-blowing.

The next day I decided to go and get some petrol, to my absolute shock the car’s mirrors were gone, and where I had parked the car there were no cameras.

The mirrors were so cool, M3 drivers often found their mirrors stolen and they would find their way onto some hot hatches instead.

This now brings me onto the latest generation M3. Whenever a new M3 is launched there’s always a lot of excitement around the car.

The latest M3’s styling has been overshadowed by the massive grill. Now, I have to admit it doesn’t look good in most of the pictures I’ve seen, but in the flesh, it looks really sporty and it actually suits the car’s latest styling.

It’s slightly heavier and larger than the outgoing version. Currently the M3 is only available in competition pack and in rear-wheel-drive.

A touring version, along with a four-wheel- drive, will be here soon too. Once the roads are slightly damp, the rear end twitches like no one’s business.

BMW have ditched the dual clutch automatic gearbox for an 8-speed ZF gearbox. I’m not sure if this is psychological, but I’m convinced the gear changes weren’t as quick as a dual clutch box.

The seats have an illuminated M3 sign which lights up when you unlock the car, I’d buy one for this feature alone!

The alloys suit the car but I’d be tempted to make them slightly larger just to fill the arches. Bucket seats with carbon inlays are also included in the additional £6,750 cost, ceramic brakes have gold callipers to distinguish them and they cost an eye-watering £8,000. BMW M3

My car was fitted with standard brakes which were more than adequate, in my humble opinion.

The car I drove had a seriously cool orange leather interior with splashes of carbon all over the place. The dash also had some lovely ambient lighting.

Head up display, Harman Kardon speakers, wireless phone charging, front and rear parking cameras, Apple CarPlay and Android CarPlay are all standard.

BMW’s iDrive is as user-friendly as always; it is either operated via a rotary dial or touchscreen and it is still the easiest to use.

One feature I didn’t try was the M-drift analyser, which gives you a rating out of 5. The car’s chassis is absolutely brilliant and the engineers at the M-division have excelled themselves.

The steering wheel is a lovely thick rimmed wheel which has two paddles for manual gear changes and two small red buttons which allow you to pre-set braking, steering weight, engine set up and so on.

At low speeds the car’s engine sounds a little bit tappety, but once it warms up and you get to the top of the rev range, it sounds really meaty, with a great growl.

The car is fitted with a sports exhaust button which really makes a difference. The car is priced from £74,000 without any additional options which is a lot of money, and it’s dangerously close to a base Porsche 911.

With this latest M3, BMW have once again beaten all of the car’s competitors – the Mercedes C63, Audi RS4 and the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio are all playing catch up, once again.

Car courtesy of Vertu BMW Boldon, branches also at Sunderland and Teesside: vertumotors.com/bmw

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