The BMW M3 GTS might have been stealing all the headlines recently, but there’s another new M3 around too, the Competition Package-equipped Coupe. Introduced as an option as part of a recent mid-life update, it offers a performance-focussed pack for those who want their E92 M3 to feel a bit more CS, CSL and GTS.
But while the Comp Pack is an option, stop/start tech is now standard, the first time BMW has fitted the system to an engine with more than four cylinders and with anything other than a six-speed manual. Read on for CAR’s review of the new BMW M3 Competition Pack.
Let’s leave the BMW M3’s new Competition Package until last – what else is new?
The visual mid-life nip ‘n’ tuck has been limited to a set of new LED rear lights, which sharpen up the BMW’s back and make the whole car appear sleeker. Beyond that there aren’t any other changes to spot – all M3s, whether Coupe, Convertible or saloon, haven’t been privy to the regular 3-series Coupe and Convertible’s revised nose. Not that we’re complaining, as the new white lights are a bit too in-your-face Audi for our liking. All of which means the M3 Coupe looks as good as ever, with the de rigueur deeper front and rear bumpers, signature quad exhausts and more aerodynamics mirrors, plus the carbonfibre roof and the ‘power dome’ bonnet to help differentiate this M car from lesser BMWs.
Inside it’s the same as before as well, the M3 Coupe having picked up the latest iDrive system when the M3 saloon was launched. It’s not a stunning sight, but everything just works. Like the cup holders, which pop out of the dash ahead of the passenger, still within reach of the driver but also freeing up space on the transmission tunnel. Or the row of eight programmable buttons, which flash up their memorised function if you brush your finger over them. It’s all good quality stuff, and while you can tell most of it is identical to what you can find in a £25k 3-series saloon, the (optional) carbonfibre-look leather, fat M Division wheel and seats, and the view out over the bulging bonnet let you know you’re in something special.
What about this new stop/start system?
Or start-stop, as BMW would have us call it. It’s now standard on all M3s, whether you opt for the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box. Our car is fitted with the latter, dubbed M-DCT, and the promise is a reduction from 285 to 263g/km CO2, while the fuel consumption figure is bumped from 23.7 to 25.2mpg.
And does it work? Yes, and brilliantly. There are many, many stop/start-equipped cars available that just never do what they should, because their operating margins are so slim – only Mini, BMW and Porsche’s tech seems to work consistently. And in the M3, nine out of ten times the big V8 cuts out at a standstill. You need to be using the auto mode, and when you come to a halt you just keep your foot on the brake, press a little harder than you ordinarily would, and suddenly you’re greeted with silence. Even with the air-con full on and lights ablaze our car’s stop/start system consistently worked – only a long stint in traffic eventually drained the battery and left the engine running. The only downside is that you need to keep your foot on the brake; shift to neutral and the engine restarts.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our BMW M3 Competition Package CAR first drive
And when you get on and enjoy the engine when it’s running…
You’ll experience one of the best cars on sale today, and one of the world’s great engines. Once you’ve let it warm through of course – set off in a cold M3 and you’ll have to wait for the oil temperature needle to swing towards 100deg and the adjustable red zone on the rev counter to head towards 8000rpm before you feel comfortable giving it full beans. But when everything is warm there’s a crisp rasp to accompany the slightest twitch of your right foot, and a completely addictive V8 roar when you head for the red line. It’s no deep-chested muscle car, but something much more highly strung, a little delicate but nonetheless brilliant. And when you’re homing in on 8300rpm, watching the shift lights flickering on, you’ll think there’s no better place you could possibly be.
The Competition Package itself is a £3315 option, and because it includes a set of 19-inch wheels and the adjustable dampers (ordinarily £1265 and £1295, and a must-have for most M3 drivers) BMW reckons it’s not only good value but will be taken up by 60% of customers. The bonus is that the bigger wheels are clearly inspired by the E46 CSL – they’re very tasty. A 10mm suspension drop, lifted from last year’s M3 Edition, and a special M mode for the DSC system complete the package. And does it make a difference? Unfortunately we didn’t have a track to play on, but the reality is this latest M3 feels better than ever, with a sharp turn-in, strong resistance to understeer, and the ability to let you schlep along with the hoi polloi one moment, and act like a complete hooligan the next. Just make sure you leave the dampers in their regular setting – anything overtly sporting is just too stiff for the UK.
The 4.0-litre V8 engine alone is enough to award the M3 five stars, but that the fact it steers brilliantly, goes bloody fast, looks great, and now does its bit for the environment too, makes it better than ever, and one amazing motor car. We love it. We want one.
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