The Competition Package version of the BMW M3 is clearly the best yet – as it should have been from the start
Text: Leow Ju-Len Photos: Derryn Wong
SINGAPORE — In the past a BMW M3 was pretty much a BMW M3, meaning the fastest, sharpest 3 Series around. Now you have variations to choose from, of which this, the M3 Competition Package, is the latest. It’s a bit of an “M3 plus”, meaning the four-door model (the two-door is now the M4) with a bit of extra go and some suspension tweaks to match.
How much extra? The engine remains a 3.0-litre turbo but now puts out a serious 450 horsepower (up from the standard M3’s 431hp). As a result, the time taken for a 0 to 100km/h lunge drops to 4.0 seconds flat (from 4.1 seconds). Read our review of the original, non-Comp Pack M3 here for a comparison.
That doesn’t sound like a lot of difference, and it isn’t, really. It’s hard to feel that this is any faster, particularly because the engine’s mid-range is where all the fireworks are, just like in the standard M3. Mind you, that car accelerates like a headcase, so the Competition Pack feels like it escaped from the same asylum.
Still, you do get some visual differences for your money. The com pack gives you black chrome everywhere — the tailpipes, the double kidney grille, the side window trims, the gills, and coolest of all the M3 badge itself — and big 21-inch wheels. Apart from wearing slightly wider tyres (+10mm on the standard M3), those alloys look bloody fierce and are the main reason people stare at the car when you pull up.
Inside you get “lightweight” front seats with neat cutouts in your lower back. I’m not sure how many kilos they shave off the car, but they’re unusual enough that people ask about them. And the seatbelts have subtle stripes in BMW’s M colours, which I thought would look kitsch but actually turned out pretty tasty.
But perhaps the most worthwhile thing about the Competition Package is that it includes a tweaked rear differential and new suspension settings — basically new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Even the electronics have been reconfigured.
|READ MORE: BMW M3 History – How The M3 Became A Winner|
It’s actually resulted in changes that you can feel. Maybe not so much at the front end, where the M3 is still bitey, sharp and eager, but at the back, where it’s no longer as loose. Seriously, the current M3/M4 sometimes feel like they have rear tyres made of banana peel; if you even look at the accelerator the wrong way, the tail end wants to break loose.
It means you can’t accelerate properly in an M3 until the steering is absolutely straight. Maybe that’s your idea of fun (and I’m not saying it isn’t hilarious), but then if you drive a Mercedes-AMG C 63 S you start to wonder why it has so much more power and yet so much better traction.
The Competition Package somehow lets the M3’s monstrous engine put much more power down, much more cleanly. Result? You can accelerate earlier out of corners, and drive that much harder without feeling like the car is spoiling for a fight with you.
Mind you, the rear end sometimes chirps during full-throttle changes from first gear to second. Also, some berk (meaning Editor Derryn) programmed the “M2” quick-select settings to turn the electronics fully off, causing me to leave three skidmarks when leaning a little too hard on the loud pedal (two on the road and one in my undies). The com pack might give you more rear end grip, but ultimately this is still a car you have to properly calibrate your inputs to if you want to drive it well.
If it’s still more traction you want, the M4 Competition Package is more than a version with two rear doors welded shut. Instead it feels different, with a rear end that’s noticeably better planted. That’ll be the one to chase laptimes in, while the M3 is the model you want if it’s long, drifty slides that you aim for on a trackday.
Either way, the Competition Package has been a worthwhile upgrade. It adds a bit of visual drama but more to the point it makes the M3 drive like it should have from the start. And in spite of the fact that it has the more practical four-door body than the M4 Coupe, it’s actually the raunchier of the two. If there’s a subversive bone in your body, that has to tickle it nicely.
BMW M3 Competition Package
Engine: 2,979cc, 24V, inline 6, twin-turbo
Power: 450hp at 7000rpm
Torque: 550Nm at 1850-5500rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 4.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency: 8.3L/100km
Price: $391,800 with COE
Mercedes-AMG C 63 S