► We drive the M3 and M4 Competition Pack
► New alloys and a 19bhp power hike on offer
► Also gets a meatier exhaust and revised dampers
Is this the car the M3 and M4 should always have been? It’s rare for BMW to drop the ball, but it’s fair to say the latest iteration heartland M cars were not quite as fab as we’d hoped for when they arrived in spring 2014. Where the E90 was all V8 bluster and edgy handling, the newest models felt like a small step backwards, especially with the switch to a more muted six-cylinder turbo.
Perhaps somebody at M division agreed, because just two short years after launch we’re presented with the new Competition Package on both M3 and M4 bodystyles. Past experience suggests this is the spec the majority of buyers will pick in the UK, with a whopping 80% take-up.
When you see what you get for your money, you’ll understand the reasons behind their popularity. For a nice round £3000, BMW offers a 19bhp power boost and ruder M sports exhaust, freshly designed 20in alloys shod with broader rubber and suspended by recalibrated springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.
These engineering changes prove it’s not just a cosmetic makeover for posing purposes. And you can feel it when you drive either car any distance: the Comp Pack editions pour down the road with a subtle polish, feeling every inch an M division product. It’s that well-judged blend of taut body control and plump ride comfort that sorts the merely average chassis set-up from the discerning ones. It rides surprisingly well considering the large rims.
It’s classic evolution not revolution stuff. Traction is bolstered by the updated driving modes controlling the Active M differential and despite boasting a fulsome 444bhp and 406lb ft of grunt, it never feels a handful as you rev out the straight-six, tapping up and down the instant-shift twin-clutch auto. What of the soundtrack, one of our bugbears of the newest M twins? The start-up grumble is softened slightly, but once warmed up the blown six sounds a bit angrier, more tuneful. We still hanker after the screaming V8, mind.
So performance is gently upgraded (0-62mph takes just 4.0sec!), but there’s more to the Comp Pack than saving a tenth here or there. Anoraks take note: you’ll spot these M3s and M4s by their Shadow Line black gloss detailing – we love the discreet dark badges replacing the usual chromed letters and numbers on the bootlid. The window brightwork is now smoked and so are the kidney grilles, lending a modest menace in keeping with the German express genre.
Inside you’re gripped by new lightweight M sports seats, with gaps in their backs – nominally to save weight, though you may find yourself poked in the back by errant children. The illuminated M motif on the seatbacks is a bit naff, but we were smitten with the subtly striped seatbelts, woven with an M tricolor.
If you’re dropping nearly sixty large on an M3 or M4, we’d heartily recommend spending an extra three on the Competition Pack. It feels like a more complete package – just pick your bodystyle to suit your lifestyle. Why not launch an M3 Touring, BMW?
The specs: BMW M3 and M4 Competition Package
Engine: 2979cc 24v straight-six turbo, 444bhp @ 7000rpm, 406lb ft @ 1850rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed M double-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.0sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 34mpg, 194g/km CO2
On sale: Now
Love: Subtle upgrades add missing polish to M pairing
Hate: Even with sports exhaust, that six-banger is no V8 substitute…
Verdict:You’d be mad not to upgrade to the Comp Pack
Read more from the May 2016 issue of CAR magazine