► New, brawnier BMW M3 tested
► Extra 19bhp, sharper chassis
► Full UK review of faster four-door
They're a discerning bunch, BMW M3 buyers. Did you know that 70-80% of the last E90 generation sold in the UK had the Competition Package upgrade? This option's not been available yet on the F80, but now the go-faster box of tricks is coming on stream - and we've just driven the new, more powerful Comp-spec M3 for the first time.
When you see what your £3000 premium bags you in the way of extra goodies, you can see why Munich is forecasting this car will count for the majority of sales again:
- 19bhp power upgrade
- 0-62mph sprint drops to 4.0sec
- Chassis: recalibrated springs, dampers, anti-roll bars
- Updated driving modes, Active M Differential
- 20in M alloy wheels with 265/30 (f), 285/30 (r) tyres
- Lightweight M sports seats, M-striped seatbelts
- M sports exhaust, Shadow Line black gloss detailing
As option packs go, it's a lot for your money. If you're already stumping up £56,595 for a regular BMW M3, the logic is dropping another three grand on upgrades is a no-brainer. Especially as most will pay on finance, where the cost is spread across several years.
Click here to get a finance quote on a BMW M3 in CAR's new leasing section.
How to spot a BMW M3 Competition Pack
From a distance, this could be mistaken for any old M3: take one regular four-door 3-series saloon, stick some big rims on it, and a discreetly macho bodykit, with just the right mix of menace and modesty, so you won't stick out like the Porsche-slayer you are.
But there are subtle differences. That Shadow Line matt black trim lends a stealth cloak, replacing chrome on the side window graphic (what designers call the DLO, or daylight opening), the M3 badge on the bootlid, the kidney grille and side gills too. The 20in rims are also new.
How does the Competition Package affect the drive?
There's no mistaking the underlying M3 qualities at play here - but everything about the Comp Pack car feels sharpened. The sports exhaust has been recalibrated, and there's a dose of additional woofle, immediately noticeable at start-up. It's less clattery than the first regular M3s we drove.
Those 19 extra ponies make themselves felt on the road. The M3 has never been a slow car and the turbocharged six-cylinder now has performance capable of out-slugging even junior-league supercars: 0-62mph takes just 4.0sec (a tenth faster), when equipped with the twin-clutch auto, like ours was (instant gearchanges, lovely tactile metal paddles - take note Jaguar). We still miss the E90's zesty V8, if we're being honest - this straight six 3.0-litre is less charismatic, but it sure does pull like a train.
Zip the drive mode into Sport or Sport+ and it sounds raspier, fruitier. It's like M division engineering composers have learned how to fine-tune turbo'd engines and re-inject a frisson of fun. And the chassis handling is sublime, feeling hunkered down with an iron glove of body control yet a decent degree of compliance to soak up the patina of bumpy roads. Traction is impressive too, the active diff keeping all 406lb ft of blown torque on the road most of the time.
Special mention to the accurate, well judged steering too: it's not the most feelsome helm, but the M3 feels more agile than ever. All the more impressive, since our car rode on winter tyres and smaller, 19-inch wheels. We also had £6k's worth of ceramic brakes, which proved supremely powerful and fade-resistant, if a little grabby at low speeds.
The extra equipment
Those lightweight sports seats are quite something, with cut-outs to differentiate them from regular M3 pews. We're not fans of their backrests' naff illuminated M tricolor badge that glows cheaply at nighttime, but the thin buckets are grippy and more comfortable than their skeletal structure suggests. The discreetly M-striped seatbelts are a nice touch, too.
Otherwise, it's a stock BMW interior. The iDrive controller has evolved into a logical system of Germanic efficiency; the navigation is a paragon of clarity; the dashboard design is slightly less polished, less cohesive than what you'll find in an Audi A4 or Mercedes C-class; but the driving position and major controls are all brilliantly placed. There's no doubting the M3 is a proper driver's car first, and a sensible four-door family chariot second.
The Competition Package improvements do enough to nudge the M3 back up to a five-star car. CAR was disappointed by 2014's four-door, which felt like a step back from the brilliant E90-era V8. Now with 2016's upgrades, it feels like the M3 is back on its game.
We'd wholeheartedly recommend the extra performance, sublime chassis tweaks and extra character of the M3 Comp Pack.