This BMW M3 Competiton M xDrive is the TopGear SA 2022 Speed Week winner. That needs to be said up front. By our account, it is the most accomplished and competent sportscar in its segment, specifically the all-wheel-drive version being reviewed here. The design has wormed its way into our psyche at this point and whether we like it or not, the G80 M3 nose is well and truly here to stay. The starting price of R2,020,000 is strong, and that is before you consider the myriad options available from BMW. M Exterior Carbon Package will set you back R100,000 for the replacement of certain parts with Carbon Fibre bits. M Carbon Bucket seats a further R82,500. There are a further 48 options, some of which will hike the price even more.
The BMW M3 then is no simple sportscar. It has grown into a highly complex character with layers of tech and engineering wizardry, not least of which is a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. It is this, that makes quite the difference to its overall appeal because it heightens the car’s performance envelope and gives you some peace of mind. And that latter part is an important thing for most of us.
All the tech and engineering has added considerable weight to the M3, now just under 1.8 tonnes but only 50 kg heavier than the RWD version that has now been discontinued in South Africa. With all that added weight, you may be worried that it has lost its ability to dance and sing. Don’t worry. It’s a well-rounded sportscar now, more so than ever before.
M-interiors certainly feel more thorough than the fake M-cars…you know, the M240i’s and M340i’s, for instance. There’s a lot more detail and depth to the design and layout, fit and finish and even the allotment of M-badges is generous. The standard M Sports Seats are well bolstered and adequately comfortable for the daily drive or the weekend jaunt. Finding that perfect driving position is easy. Niceties such as ventilated seats need to be asked for, FYI. Central to the M3 cabin is the iDrive system that houses most functions within the car. New 2023 M3’s will be offered with the latest iDrive 8 operating system but this 2022, 50-Jahre model was fitted with the version before that. Despite the Navigation and Media functions, the system offers BMW’s multi-media and multi-sensory user experience. This means the ability to use the system by way of the touchscreen, the iDrive controller and buttons, the voice-activated commands and even the ridiculous hand gestures. Don’t do the latter…trust me.
The M3 is also ably fitted with driver assistance systems galore, all accessible and usable from the BMW Live Cockpit Professional digital display.
Rear seat occupants may struggle with the hard-backed carbon fibre finishes of the front seats and depending on exactly which sports seats are fitted, the rear can feel somewhat cramped compared to the standard 3-Series models. It’s not a hatchback but its important to mention the difference over its non-M3-Series siblings.
We spent significant time in the BMW M3 RWD version. You can read our review here. You can also read our thoughts on the car’s performance during Speed Week 2021, here. The BMW M3 Competiton M xDrive is very much the same car, but for its powertrain and drivetrain setup. The M3 xDrive benefits from the same sort of system that does work in the BMW M5, and our Speed Week 2021 results show just how competent that car is.
Let me start with the bad stuff. Mmmph, yes it’s not perfect. For a start, the ride is firm. It’s firm because it’s a sportscar and the dampers are not concerned with your comfort, despite the ability to slightly change their behaviour in the M Mode menu. You can happily drive this car to Ethekwini but as soon as you get to the bumpy tarmac south of Pietermaritzburg you’ll start to feel the bumps. It isn’t terrible but it’s noticeable. On that same tarmac you may also observe some tyre noise from the Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Concerning sound, the 375 kW inline-6 twin-turbo engine remains as sumptuous as ever but some will always lament the pre-turbo era M3 noise. This car does sound a little contrived in its cracks and burbles and it certainly doesn’t win the award for Noise of the Year.
That aside, the engine delivers a strong 375 kW and 650 Nm of torque that is still as brutal as it is in the RWD. The joy of the xDrive is that it still feels every bit as playful as the RWD. The system is rear-biased for the most part and every time you stamp the loud pedal, you’ll feel the rear liven up for what comes next. Hopefully it’s a corner, and you can press in to feel the chassis compress and the steering tighten up. The real joy of the M3 is the connected nature of the chassis, steering and powertrain. The transmission is always in the right gear at the right time and the power delivery is vicious yet spanned across enough range to allow you to confidently press on. Where the AWD system starts to show its advantage is when you do overcommit into a corner. Where you’d expect the tail to step out in the RWD, the AWD wilfully holds on for longer and comes back to centre a little faster. The Speed Week test wasn’t without a share of overcommitment from some team members, but I can attest that if the RWD car was in the same predicament, the results would have been different.
M Mode sports a few more tricks so you can tailor your M1 and M2 buttons with more wizardry. The digital layouts are also configurable depending on the diving mode, as are the setups for chassis, powertrain, steering, braking and traction. This latter menu includes that laughable M Drive Professional Drift Analyser. You can engage 2WD mode should you want to, but that makes the M3 a totally unmitigated experience. I suggest using this in controlled environments.
The M3 is so well-rounded when you consider what a sportscar is asked to do. Its steering is ever so accurate, its brakes are fantastic and its chassis is highly competent. It’s still a handful and still requires absolute driver commitment and focus. Isn’t that why it’s such a well-loved machine? Some of its competitors are too watered down, too computerised in that they rob the driver of the intended feel and participation from the defined sportscar. This car, even with its AWD configuration doesn’t do that all.
There’s a real battle for R2-Million sportscars with four-doors and a boot. That Alfa Romeo remains a strong competitor to the M3, but it doesn’t come as an AWD. Competitors from Audi can also be considered but for sheer competence and street cred, the M3 is a flag bearer. The new C63 S from Mercedes-AMG will make an appearance in late 2023 and that may well be something to look at but it will be more expensive, I’m sure.
BMW’s 50-Jahre product cars are always going to be special, so if you can get your hands on one, it’s not going to hurt your future value. I have no doubt that his car will carry its value well, considering its competence and how strongly the M-brand is doing in South Africa for BMW.
This xDrive BMW M3 is the most thorough M3 ever. This is the case on paper but also where it matters, on the road…or track. The BMW M3 Competiton M xDrive is a four-door family car that can shatter the pride of two-door, more expensive metal should it choose to. Should you choose to, you can tailor it to include M5 levels of tech and luxury or to be as sporty and as carbon fibre infused as ever. It’s a car that caters to the petrolhead, the executive, the family person or the single professional all in one.
I’ve lost the argument about its design and maybe it’s something you’re slightly uncomfortable with. That is a subjective matter. What isn’t subjective is its depth of ability. It delivers stonking performance in most settings and yet, can we enjoyed as a daily drive too. The AWD brings some tempering to what was a slippery rear track, and this makes it the one to have.