5 December 2021

The BMW M3: a show-stopping, head-turning, petrol-powered rocket

| James Coleman
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BMW M3 Competition

The BMW M3 Competition posing at the Arboretum. Photo: James Coleman.

We’re going to start with the obvious: that grille.

As the world moves to electric vehicles, it seems that BMW is very keen for everyone to know that their latest M3 sports sedan is very much not an electric vehicle. It is powered by internal combustion and needs a lot of air. A heck of a lot of air.

Everywhere you look, there is criticism that the designers at BMW’s head office had a what-if moment and gave it massive nostrils. In pen, so the bosses couldn’t rub it out.

There’s no doubt the looks are polarising, but it could also be argued they are classically BMW. Look up ‘1940 BMW’ and you’ll see what I mean.


The laser high beams can reach as far as 500 metres. Photo: James Coleman.

If you still aren’t a fan, the Corporate Manager for Canberra BMW Tabish Ali would like a word.

He says that since the new M3 arrived at their dealership a few months ago, there’s been a non-stop flurry of orders. And that if the grille was such a problem, this wouldn’t be happening.

“It’s a car that isn’t afraid to stand out,” he says.

“It says to everything else on the road, ‘Get out of my way’. Look at it in the context of the whole of the car’s design and it’s excellent.”

So there. Now that that’s out of the way, we can get on to the rest of the car, which is – without a doubt – excellent.

I, for one, have never driven a car that has garnered quite so much attention. Everywhere I went, heads turned and hands poked out of windows with thumbs up. While parked for photos at the Arboretum, a fellow BMW driver bestowed me with the honour of “Nice car, mate”, while a passing ute promptly dropped its anchors so the driver could come over for a closer inspection.

Maybe the design isn’t as tidy as the previous M3 models, but I think it’s safe to say we’re a bit over tidiness from German cars. It’s time someone spiked the schnapps.

READ MORE Is the Porsche Taycan the electric vehicle for petrolheads, or plain sacrilege?

For the first time, there is an all-wheel-drive ‘X-Drive’ model, but the one I’m in is the standard M3 Competition model, in ‘Model Aeroplane Grey’ (probably). This means rear-wheel drive, no bucket seats and no sunroof, but it’s still far from basic.

The big news is that the M3 comes with a ‘Drift Analyser’. This will measure your sideways smoky action and then give you a score out of five, just like a video game, although with considerably more chance of going out in a blaze of expensive glory.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t try it.

The roof is made of a mixture of carbon fibre and plastic to save weight. Fair enough, but the interior is also decked out with carbon-fibre inserts, and you just know that in a four-door, five-seat sedan like this, they’re not making one jot of difference to the overall weight. This means they are there purely for aesthetic appeal. Yes, that’s right – for fun.

Two red levers on the steering wheel (also with added carbon fibre) serve as shortcut keys to your favourite settings. For instance, the left lever can be set up so everything is pliant and comfy while the one on the right could take the engine noise, throttle response and suspension settings to the max.


Leather, carbon fibre and lots of M3 badges make up the interior. Photo: James Coleman.

This, the salesman explains to me, means you can go into a corner while pouring a bottle of bubbly before putting it down, flicking one of the red levers and shooting from the apex like a fox with its tail on fire.

I can certainly vouch for the fact that either way, you’re going to be doing a lot of shooting.

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This is a jolly quick car – BMW claims a 0-100 km/h time of 3.5 seconds. Plant your foot and there is a slight lag while the engine girds its loins before the full power of that inline-six twin-turbo petrol engine comes crashing down with a noise that not so much stirs the soul as curdles it and spits it out as a lump of cottage cheese.

Online commentary may suggest the M3 has a snout, but this pig sure can fly.

What a view (I’m talking about the car). Photo: James Coleman.

2021 BMW M3 Competition

  • $154,900 (plus on-road costs)
  • 3-litre inline-six turbo-petrol, 375 kW / 650 Nm
  • 8-speed automatic, RWD
  • 0-1oo km/h in 3.5 seconds
  • 10.2 litres / 100 km combined fuel usage
  • Safety not yet tested.

This car was provided for testing by Canberra BMW in Phillip. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with Canberra BMW.

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ChrisinTurner4:19 pm 05 Dec 21

Imagine the performance it would have if it was an EV.

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