Most modern cars today are well-built machines. They’re properly engineered, offer a high degree of safety and are equipped with decent amenities. Many of them are even fun to drive. But only a few actually leave you wanting more.
The all-new BMW M3 is one such automobile. To hardcore enthusiasts, it probably seems too conventional, too comfortable and not sporty enough, because it has four doors instead of two.
This sort of thinking, however, would overlook the M3 and its abilities. For starters, this sports saloon is no sleeper car. Huge air intakes dot the front bumper and there’s a swollen “power dome” on the bonnet. The blistered wheel arches aren’t just there for show, either. Apart from housing bigger and wider standard wheels, they’re there to accommodate the M3’s front and rear tracks, which are respectively 48mm and 32mm wider than the 335i’s.
The test car’s interior is equally racy. The sports seats offer plenty of spinal and lateral support, while the large steering wheel – trimmed with blue and red stitching – is a treat to hold, thanks to its positive grip and broad thumbrests. The cockpit would’ve been even nicer if the brake and accelerator pedals were finished in lightweight aluminium (with rubber inserts).
Key to the M3’s addictive appeal is its powerplant. The twin-turbocharged 3-litre straight-6, packing 431bhp and 550Nm, trumps the naturally aspirated 4-litre V8 in the preceding model by 11bhp and a whopping 150Nm. For enhanced tractability, the torque is spread over a wide band – from 1850rpm to 5500rpm. Fans who were lamenting the loss of the V8 motor shouldn’t feel short-changed.
It is this flexibility that gives the M3 its day-to-day driveability. Unlike the aforementioned V8, which needs to be stretched to fully deliver its performance, the output of the turbo inline-6 is so much more accessible. Furthermore, the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox has a far more progressive “creeping” action this time, to help make crawling through traffic jams smoother.
The engine is not just flexible, but linear as well, responding to throttle inputs with as much finesse as the driver can muster. Accompanying this performance is a naughty soundtrack, which is rorty at low revs and grows increasingly menacing as the revs climb.
Driven within Singapore’s boundaries, the four-door M3 feels just as agile as the two-door M4. But the M3 has an added advantage – the ride is more forgiving than before, making it more pleasant to drive on a daily basis.
But the M3 isn’t just about comfort – it’s about great agility, too. With its widened tracks and precise steering, the M3 moves incisively through corners. Behind the wheel, you only have to think of where you want to go in order to find yourself there. The nose tucks in obediently, and there’s very little body lean, even as you wind on additional lock. If the 335i is like a sharp knife, then the M3 is like an even sharper scalpel.
As with all M models, the driver can tweak the car’s dampers, powertrain and steering feel via the buttons beside the gearshift lever, and save these under two different configurations, which can be recalled using the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel. For everyday driving, it’s best to leave everything in Sport mode.
The M3 is an addictive automotive drug with potent ingredients that leave drivers “high” on speed. But like all narcotics, it comes at a cost – you’ll be paying for the “substance abuse” with not just your wallet, but your licence, too.
ENGINE 2979cc, 24-valves, inline-6, turbocharged
MAX POWER 431bhp at 5500-7300rpm
MAX TORQUE 550Nm at 1850-5500rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 4.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h (governed)
CONSUMPTION 12km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 194g/km
PRICE INCL. COE
$307,189 (no CEVS rebate/surcharge)