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BMW M3 Competition review

While in other markets, the BMW M3 Competition is a hotter version of an already potent super-saloon, in Britain, it’s the sole form of M3 offered here. That does mean the M3 starts at close to £76k in Britain, but it also ensures that all versions of the Mercedes-AMG C63 rival are appropriately rapid. The ultimate in foor-door performance? We hit the road…

Design

Thuggish. Purposeful. Angry. These are the words that come to mind when you’re confronted with BMW’s G80-generation M3 Competition. It looks mean because it is mean, with muscular wheel arches, big brake calipers and a silhouette that emphasises the power of the twin-turbo straight-six engine under the bonnet.

Dare we say it, the once controversial front grilles that adorn this M3 also now don’t look too awkward. In some corners of the internet, this is the best-looking M3 in years. We’re not so sure, but there’s no denying that it packs plenty of road presence.

It looks mean because it is mean

What's it like to drive?

Mega. Mad. Thrilling. If we’re sticking to the three-word theme. In all seriousness, this is a machine that, when driven with enthusiasm, feels sports car reactive. The M3 Competition reacts quickly to your steering inputs, loading up its adjustable suspension with masses of grip. It charges out of bends and keeps on going until you let off, with 510hp being delivered to the rear wheels in a near-unbreakable fashion, thanks to the quick-shifting automatic gearbox. It hits 62mph in 3.9 seconds.

It also stops tremendously well with those enormous brakes, which resist overheating and work consistently no matter your effort level. They mask the car’s 1.7-tonne weight, although you are aware of the mass moving around during quick direction changes. This is a four-door, five-seater saloon, after all.

It’s a good one, too, because you can soften the suspension off, relax the engine and gearbox, and lower the exhaust volume, creating a comfortable, chilled cruiser. You could easily drive the M3 Competition long distances, if you’re able to resist the urge of using that muscular engine’s power. It’s a lovely thing to live with.

The M3 Competition reacts quickly to your steering inputs, loading up its adjustable suspension with masses of grip

Interior

The M3 Competition’s beefed-up exterior is matched by an appropriately sporting interior, with snug, bucket-style seats, carbonfibre gear shift paddles and lots of M colours and badges. It feels in tune with the car’s nature, but also comfortable and adjustable enough to cater for most driver bodyshapes. We’re especially into the M3 Competition’s leather and Alcantara fabrics, which feel and look great.

You get a digital instrument cluster and infotainment system, which is sharp and fast – and comes equipped with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. There’s even a rotary control for the system on the centre console, should you prefer a more tactile way of using the touchscreen software.

Practicality

Compared with the technically very similar BMW M4 Competition, the M3 model is more usable and practical thanks to its rear doors. It’s a proper saloon, with a boot big enough to swallow two full suitcase and a couple smaller travel bags, and the sort of rear passenger space that would be comfortable for most adults.

Reliability and running costs

The G80-generation M3 Competition is too new for us to fully gauge how it fares in terms of long-term reliability, but all things initially appear good. The turbocharged straight-six engine under the bonnet is an evolution of the previous car’s motor, which was proven to be tough, and most of the tech aboard this model exists in other BMWs. So there should be no nasty surprises.

Running costs are also respectable, because the 3.0-litre engine can be so effortless. You’ll see over 30mpg on a run if you’re sensible, but you can quickly half that (and then some) if you open the taps. Those who venture onto track will need to take into account just how thirsty turbocharged engines are in general, but the reward is scintillating, high-adrenaline fun… Oh, and the same can be said about tyres. Work the M3’s specialist tyres hard and you’ll need to remember that replacing just one will likely cost well over £200.

You’ll see over 30mpg on a run if you’re sensible

What cinch loves

This is a four-door saloon that thinks it’s a racing car. You can drop the kids to school, cruise to the shops and then head to a trackday. The M3 Competition will take all of the above in its stride.

This is a four-door saloon that thinks it’s a racing car

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Verdict

Great!

Stunning performance in an aggressive-looking, practical package. What’s not to love? Don’t say those grilles…

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