BMW M3 Concours – Long Term Review – Report #10 – Report #13 – Report #14 – Report #15 2022
It looks remarkably like déjà vu. Having already reluctantly returned an M3 to BMW (the Isle of Man Green 2WD car we’ve covered up to 15,000 miles), now is the time to return its four-wheel-drive replacement. And it couldn’t be easier. In fact, this time it may be more difficult.
Recently, Ollie Marriage wrote about how the long-term Porsche 911 was superior to all other sports cars because of its everyday capability. The M3 follows a very similar and enviable path. However, unlike the 911, it doubles the functionality thanks to four doors and rear seats that you can fold down (*cough* we’re looking at you Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio). Over the last year it’s also been remarkably comfortable, and if the labyrinthine menus are anything to go by, endlessly customizable, which can make a ‘watch this trick’ weapon or an angry 35mpg repmobile .
But it’s not perfect. And I’ve always found the latest M3 to be an easy car to criticize in isolation: the 1,805kg size makes the G80 the heaviest M3 ever (which increases further when you specify 4WD ), the fact that it is improved “S58”. the straight-six is borrowed from an SUV rather than being more My and bespoke, and, of course this Face. But as soon as you put it next to something else, it starts to shine a little more and reveals its true colors and excellence. To date it has outperformed its closest rivals and having recently pitted it against a 240i, it really shows that M still makes M cars for M people. It’s the hardcore headliners, not the band.
Before returning it, there is one car I wanted to compare it to: the BMW iX. This too has a BMW badge, but I don’t see it as anything like the BMW I drove. And if people took offense at the look of the M3, I don’t know what they’ll say about the iX. Fortunately, Jason Barlow has just taken delivery.
HR: Not a spectator, right JB?
JB: Not in the conventional sense. Or the unconventional. Who knows what it is. I’m currently working on a gigantic automotive design history book, and I’ve recently been at eye level in some old BMWs. Mercedes came this about to buy BMW in 1959, when the company was on the wane, and New Class which happened in 1962 basically saved him. It’s worth watching: every BMW for the next 35 years has its design roots in this car, classy, understated and elegant. Obviously, the Chris Bangle era threw all that out the window, and it’s happening again now. Some people think it’s a massive act of self-sabotage. I think the iX is fascinating.
HR: Am I wrong for not wanting rhinestone buttons to change my sitting position? And I don’t know about you, but I currently feel like there are two BMWs. Your ‘i’ range and all the funky and controversial big grille designs and then people going for the last hurrah with things like the M5 CS, the new M2 and this M3. Doesn’t Munich need a more integrated approach?
JB: I assume you are referring to the crystal interior fittings of the iX. It’s funny, because BMW talks about its use of “tech-shy” in the iX — things you don’t notice until you’re using it, like power door buttons, hidden speakers , heated surfaces. I don’t think I’ve used the crystal clear i-Drive controller once since the car arrived; the touchscreen is so good, I go straight to it. Forget the exterior, the iX has hands down the best interior of any car on sale today.
HR: Given that I didn’t charge mine with overpriced electricity this morning, am I a pagan for liking the new M3? Yes, it lacks personality compared to older ones by trading engagement for easy speed, but if you want a fast sedan, there’s nothing better. And believe me, you are softening in the eyes. I will miss those rear hips immensely.
JB: Easy speed? I’d say the latest M3/4 is just as engaging as its predecessors, especially if you measure personality by the amount of focus you need to keep it heading in the right direction on a wet road. It’s definitely too heavy, though, and has, um, derived somewhat from the job description set by the original in the mid-80s. Mind you, as big as it is, it’s still half a ton lighter than the iX. It takes a whole working day to recharge the battery – the 105.2 kWh of this one – on my domestic installation. Yes, my electric bill skyrocketed, but it’s still nothing compared to the existential dread you must feel every time you pass or enter a gas station. And I managed to get a real 350 mile range from the iX on a single charge. Probably because it’s just not a car you want to beat. It could oversteer on the limit, but I really have no idea.
HR: The M3 obviously invites you to play. I have spent the last few weeks on the optional £2.5000 Michelin Cup 2 tyres. Don’t go for them. Yes, they’ll help you with lap times, but the M3 isn’t the best track car – too chunky. And on the road the stiff sidewalls destroy ride comfort, add road noise and when not up to temperature (a challenge in the UK) they understeer a lot more.
JB: These are alien concepts in the iX. It’s very fast, but I just don’t see the point of nailing it, in a straight line, let alone cornering. Comfort and autonomy take precedence. I don’t actively endorse this attitude, as an “enthusiastic” driver, but the steering and braking feel is also less relevant. That’s what bothers me with EVs. Basically, they optimize the idea of getting from A to B.
HR: Oh, the brakes. Thanks for reminding me. As nice as they look, you can save yourself a hefty chunk (£7995) by removing the M Carbon ceramic brakes. However, if you can afford it, get a 4×4. It sounds sacrilegious, it isn’t. I would go for the carbon seats as they offer incredible support and are surprisingly comfortable. Also, the M3s seem to suit an interesting, darker color, it hides the grille and puffs out the bodywork a bit… but stay away from Sao Paolo yellow – no one wants to drive a 500bhp Stabilo highlighter. And only disengage everything if you are up to it. It can be very snatchy to the side – as we discovered recently against James Deane’s impressive E92 drift car. But you will have to wait a few months to see the results of this. Believe me, it’s worth it.
JB: I can not wait. I’ll be here playing with my photochromic roof.