BMW M3 Competition xDrive in the super test

The first M3 comes to life in 1985. What was designed by BMW Motorsport as a homologation model for Group A has long since become a milestone in the sporty middle class. Four generations of M3 have paved the way to date. The evolution started with four cylinders and 200 hp, brought the high-revving straight six in the second generation, set a monument for eternity in the E46, before the 420 hp E92 gave a V8 guest appearance for almost seven years.

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Whatever the reason, in 2014 the M3 was demoted to the M4, the legendary abbreviation for the heavier and slower four-door. Gone are the days of naturally aspirated engines, now supercharged in-line sixes set the tone. And neatly. From then on, the M4 was the fastest in its class, and as a GTS it was even faster than many a well-known sports car.
BMW M3 xDrive

The response is still the only small shortcoming on the biturbo six. The three-liter inspires with revving, at the top it runs out of air.

The M3? There was simply no flowerpot to be won with it. More doors, more sheet metal, more space, the Power 3er simply had to carry more (about 30 kilos) than the M4. And while it was driving dynamics with the music, it was always half a second slower on the race tracks. Even with the M3 and M4 CS launched in 2018 and lightened again, the four-door lagged five tenths behind.

All-wheel drive M3 with 50 kilos more

And 2021? the M GmbH presents the new M3 and M4. XXL kidney, 480 to 510 hp, new chassis, stiffer front axle, even more electronics and unfortunately also heavier. This initially caused a lot of resentment among BMW fans. In our super test of the M4 Competition, it weighed only 60 kilos more than its predecessor. And despite the ballast, more length and wheelbase – the coupé delivered, completely convinced. Two seconds faster than the 2019 model at the Sachsenring, even faster than the M4 GTS with cup tires and close to the 911, a real bang.

A little later, bad news for BMW fans. The Munich missed their M3 and M4 models an optional all-wheel drive, another 50 kilos on it. But the makers promised no loss of driving pleasure, on the contrary. With the 4×4 you should be a few tenths faster on the racetrack and when sprinting.

This 3 Series also has the well-known drift mode

And for the cross drivers among the M3 fans: This 3 Series also has the drift mode known from the M5 and M8. So there is a lot to clarify and explain at the premiere of an M3 in Supertest. That’s right, so far only the M4 and its sporty offshoot GTS have had to prove themselves in this test format.

BMW M3 xDrive

The M3 xDrive does not create large leaps in time compared to the M4. Nevertheless, the Limo is always a bit better for surfing the ideal line.

What do you need to know about the four-wheel drive M3, which is only available as a competition? Let’s start at the beginning. As with the M4, a new three-liter in-line six-cylinder with biturbo charging is installed compared to the predecessor. More high-speed character, larger, even more responsive turbos – and, and, and. The cooling system and oil supply are also designed for use on the race track.

Perfomance? 510 hp and 650 Nm. The new eight-stage ZF8 automatic converter is also used here. Landing gear? Compared to the predecessor, lighter wishbones and wheel bearings, more toe and camber, standard adaptive dampers, adjustable in many ways, everything like the normal M3/M4.

M Race Track package for 14,000 euros

In addition, underfloor struts, luggage compartment reinforcement and a separate rear axle carrier rigidly connected to the body. The steering and front axle, on the other hand, have been specially developed and tuned for the all-wheel drive vehicle. Braking is done with perforated steel brakes, 380 millimeters at the front and 370 millimeters at the rear. Our “M-BG 1578” carries the optional ceramic brake. Means 400 discs in front, 380 in the rear, gold brake calipers for 14,000 euros in the M Race Track package (including carbon seats, M Drive Professional with track and drift mode, Vmax increase to 290 km/h, 19/20 inch forged wheels with semislicks ) or 8200 euros individually, Comfort and Sport pedal feel adjustment included.
BMW M3 xDrive

The interior carbon package (1250 euros) is recommended. Also because of the currently sharpest shift paddles that you can get.

The 3 Series, painted in Irish Green, comes to the super test with standard forged wheels, 19s at the front and 20s at the rear, with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S soles -2 rubbers. Just like in the M4 Supertest, which also competed with both tire types at the Sachsenring.

Electronically controlled multi-plate clutch

What is there to say about the M xDrive? Compared to conventional BMW all-wheel drive vehicles, the M3/M4 uses an active M differential to distribute the torque to the rear wheels. In addition, there is an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch in the transfer case, which fully variably regulates the drive torque between the front and rear axles. Theoretically, in normal driving situations, 100 percent of the power always goes to the rear. With the smallest slip, however, the front axle speaks up to support it.

Just like in M5 and M8, all-wheel drive has three modes. 4WD is clear, switching to 4WD Sport sends more torque to the rear axle, while 2WD allows for a rear-wheel-only experience like the M5, provided Dynamic Stability Control is turned off.

BMW M3 xDrive

The picture says it all! Almost always the ideal line in the four-wheel drive M3.

Before the first few meters, the four-wheel drive M3 is allowed on the scales. Officially, BMW speaks of around 75 kilos more weight compared to the normal M3 Competition. With 1722 to 1753 we only notice 31 kilos of all-wheel ballast on similarly equipped vehicles. Get in, let’s go. As usual with the Supertest, first on the country road and motorway, then the way to DEKRA at the Lausitzring.

As with the M4 Competition, the six-cylinder gets a little hesitant to get going at low revs, but grows all the more colossal from 2500 tours. The 650 Newton meters are already piling up at mid-rev, but don’t want to stay on board until the rev peak. Sure, the three-liter engine is easy to rev, you could tease it up to 7600 tours, it makes sense up to a maximum of 6900 rpm. Just like the M4, the all-wheel drive M3 is also completely convincing in everyday use. Especially since he conveys pure trust at all times – in him, his crystal-clear reflexes and his handling.

M3 to 100 in 3.2 seconds

Not to forget the chassis, which can spring in the softest characteristic and runs straight ahead. Or the visually impressive carbon full bucket seats, in which the back does not hurt even after a four-hour tour. The eight-speed automatic, which works almost naturally and hardly noticeably with normal driving. And the in-line six, which can also be remarkably economical. In any case, on this side of the StVO you hardly get the all-wheel drive M3 to the limits of its composure. It curves full, safe and extremely binding and sure-footed, so that the driver almost feels a little underchallenged.

Arrived at the DEKRA test oval, the M3, thanks to semi-slicks, dives through the acceleration disciplines as uncapriciously as it is extremely strong: With the extremely finely tuned and efficient launch control, it accelerates to 100 in 3.2 seconds, three tenths faster than the factory specification, five faster than the 2WD M3. In the first few meters in particular, he pushes himself off as if traction were the most natural thing in the world. Virtually without slip and big gestures, the limo catapults forward in the best mid-engine manner. When sprinting, there is still a small advantage for the lighter rear-wheel drive M3 with a less complex drive train.

BMW M3 xDrive

In the front wheel arches, BMW installed ribbed caps to protect the brake discs from getting wet.

Because apparently the internal friction losses in the three-digit speed range play a greater role than any traction disadvantages at the starting block. From the gap up to the 100 mark, the rear-wheel drive is already on par up to 200. And at a speed of 250, the all-wheel drive vehicle even lags behind a bit. This phenomenon can also be felt at the torque values ​​of 60-100 and 80-120 km/h.

No new records when braking, the 33.1 meters are only worth an “okay”. The pedal feel and ABS are successful, the system tireless – regardless of whether the discs are at 60 or 600 degrees. It was better, the 2018 M3 CS was already after 30, the M4 CS after 28.3 meters.

Is all-wheel drive faster at the Sachsenring?

Let’s get to the question of all questions: Is all-wheel drive faster at the Sachsenring? There is no direct comparison to the M3 Competition, but the M4 Competition Coupé should suffice as a virtual sparring partner. And the enthusiastic already with fabulous times, without just sniffing at the ideal line. Nevertheless, here and there small crossers might cost a few tenths. Shouldn’t happen with the 4×4-M3, so the theory goes.

First the round on the softer Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S. We drive in the 4WD Sport mode suggested by BMW, here the front axle is supplied with a little less torque and gives more leeway for the rear axle. Cornering grip, traction, everything like the M4 with the same tires.

Biturbo six plays powerful

The biturbo six plays powerfully, the automatic keeps their stages taut at all times. But with the steering you can feel small differences, it sometimes feels less relaxed. This seems to be due to the front driveshafts. Nevertheless, it glides a little more defined into oversteer than the M4, and you actually pull yourself out of the affair noticeably and measurably better in the tighter corners. 1:33.0 minutes is on the display, one second faster than the M4. Quickly into the pits, the BMW team around Andy Perlinger is waiting with a new, preheated set of Sport Cup 2 from Michelin.

And? Significantly more grip and only the ideal line in the first few corners? no! The all-wheel drive now leans even better on the chassis, uses the tire grip effectively and, if the worst comes to the worst, slides much more smoothly. Even in tight bends, he now hardly slips into understeer. And how it bends out of the curve! Highly reliable traction; exactly where the boundary between gentle yawing and real lateral movement is.

Accurate, curve after curve. In summary: the handling interweaves stability and agility into a flowing line. 1:32.13 minutes, the time impresses, faster than the M5 CS and well ahead of the competition. Nevertheless, the eight tenths on the normal tires are not enough for a recommendation of the track tire, as with the M4.

Technical data and price: BMW M3 Competition xDrive

Engine type: R6
Charge: Biturbo
Installation position: front lengthways
Valves/Camshafts: 4 per cylinder/2
Displacement: 2993cc
bore x stroke: 84.0 x 90.0mm
Compression: 9.3:1
kW (hp) b. rpm: 375(510)/6250
liter output: 170 hp/l
b. rpm: 650/2750-5500
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Type of drive: four wheel drive
Brakes front: 400 mm ventilated/perforated
Rear brakes: 380 mm ventilated/perforated
Brake disc material: carbon ceramic
Wheel size front – rear: 9.5×19″ – 10.5×20″
Tire size front – rear: 275/35R19Y – 285/30R20Y
Tire type: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 (in a package)
L/W/H: 4749/2068/1433mm
Wheelbase: 2857mm
Tank/trunk volume: 59/480L
Standard consumption • CO2: 9.7 l/100 km • 229 g/km
Emissions standard: Euro 6d ISC FCM
base price: 94,500 euros
Test car price: 113,800 euros

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