Singapore – The first thing anyone says about the new M3 is not that it’s the new M3, but opinions are immediately stoked – and divided – about the new colour.
Having tested the M3 and M4 on road and track in Portugal, the shade of almost baby blue seemed less out of place amongst the hills and blue, open skies around Faro. BMW M calls its Yas Marina Blue, everyone we met thought it looked, and we quote, like a smurf, a taxi and alternately a bold statement while also being quite gross.
We personally quite enjoy the new M3’s fang-filled looks. It does remind us of a smurf, yes, but with the extensive aero detailing on the front and a scalloped carbonfibre roof capping things off, if it was any tiny, blue person it would probably be called Darth Smurf.
As a result you probably don’t risk facing the ignominy of people trying to flag you down. Anyone silly enough to mistake this for a taxi is probably both short of sight, hearing and common sense (or all three), because the M3 bangs, hollers and farts its way through life with quite a lot of obviousness.
The M3’s quite a bit larger than before – 91mm longer overall and with 50mm added to the wheelbase, plus a wider track all around. Thankfully it doesn’t feel big, as the previous V8 version was wont to do all the time, because BMW’s engineers have shaved off about 45kg of weight thanks to lightweight components. Manual versions should be even sweeter, as they’re 35kg less, and with the new auto-blip function, a real joy to drive even around town.
The big bones about this car are under the hood, with the return to an engine with six cylinders in a row: the 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine shares block with the current 35i power units, but is almost totally redone with a different bottom end, two small but equally-sized turbos and a helluva lot more revs and torque.
The inline six makes its presence obvious, but it’s more of a growler than a howler. Not everyone agrees, but the boomy, throaty notes it emits at low revs make the car sound like a V8 – you only really get the raspy inline six thrum at higher revs and by then, you’re already in illegal territory.
Turbo generosity and torque paves over the shortcomings of the revvy V8 – arguably the best bit of the old M3 – and update the car to the ‘modern M’ experience: one of immense grip, sagacity and a split second of waiting before an ungodly, turbocharged rush.
Purists hoping for a return to pre-V8 form, where the M3 was more of a rapier than a longsword, will be disappointed, but it doesn’t mean one might not be convinced.
Like all M cars, you can tweak the suspension, steering, engine and gearbox settings to suit your needs. But it shows the nature of the car as one that can go from snooze n’ cruise to slash and dash at the push of a button.
The stiff suspension isn’t unyielding, while the exhaust noise can be quietened out of Sport mode, but you’ll test the patience of passengers in the back on longer journeys. Better just to go as fast as you can and terrify them into submission so that they’ll never ask you for a lift ever again.
With the M3’s feeling of performance in abundance, you’ll probably terrify them more through sound and fury than the feeling of actual speed – the M3 feels primarily like it’s got a huge amount to give, more than you ever could use on public roads. We have little doubt it’s up to bloodying the nose of supercars from even three or four years back.
But what we enjoy most about the M3 now that it’s a standalone sedan, is its less-than-obviousness. BMW M expects to sell vastly more M4 coupes, with M3’s making up maybe a quarter of global sales.
It’s the kind of car that will still make your passengers in the rear seize up and die of fright or premature rigor mortis. We’d have one in black, with the manual gearbox, although it’d be a pity if the victims, I mean passengers, turned contrasting Yas Marina Blue after a ride.
Want more sport sedan fun? The M4 Convertible has recently begun sale in Singapore at $272,800 without COE, we’ve tested it overseas already. The new 510bhp Merceds-Benz C 63 AMG is arriving next year, while the Lexus RC F offers a very contrasting old-school experience we find hard to resist. The M3’s big bro, the M5, saw a facelift and new competition pack option unveiled earlier this year.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,979cc, 24V, inline 6, twin-turbo
Power 431bhp at 5500 – 7300rpm
Torque 550Nm at 1850 – 5500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 278km/h
0-100km/h 4.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.3L/100km
Price $232,800 without COE