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I grew up loving the M3, the E46 being my dream car. It still is. However, I spent a good portion of 2020 livid at BMW for ruining my favorite car – obnoxious grills, ridiculous amounts of sharp edges and those tacky fake side vents. When I initially bought my RS5 in early 2020, I wanted to try something different. But I felt like I had broken my long-kept allegiance with the ///M brand. There was always this hint of guilt lurking somewhere behind, especially every time I saw the RS5 parked right under the giant ///M flag I had so proudly adorned over my garage door. However, with the crazy direction BMW took with its design language, I started feeling good about the Audi – it was safe, stable, and unsuspectingly fast – no drama whatsoever.
Then on a fateful Saturday about a month ago, I was bored and decided to kill time trying out the new M3. “Let’s take a look at how much air those nostrils can breathe in,” I joked with my wife on my way to the dealership. I pulled over my RS5 and there it was, parked front and center, an M3 Competition. It took all of 5 seconds to realize just how gorgeous this car looks in person, and just as quickly, I also realized what this car has what the RS5 simply did not – drama.
Say what you will about the grill, it is not there to look pretty. It does not even try to. This car’s entire jam is theatre. Eye-popping colors, angled headlights, sharp edges, fire-breathing nostrils, over accentuated and very pronounced splitter, side skirts, diffuser, and rear arches … and let me stress that again, it is really not there to look pretty, the whole damn thing is an event, a pantomime! We wanted a car that James Bond would drive, but BMW gave us one that Duke Nukem would, you know, the kind that you drive when you want to kick ass and chew bubble gum? And that I think is pure badassery. *SLOW CLAP FOR BMW*
And that intention shows everywhere. Let us start with the interior. Audis have amazing interiors, and I thought no different of my RS5. It was pretty, with thsse horizontal lines running across the entire dash. It was seamless. It was perfect, almost clinical. All that is a good thing, right? Yes… until you hop inside the M3, esp. one with the carbon pack with those insane bucket seats. It immediately makes “perfect” and “clinical” sound boring. While the RS5 felt like it was carefully crafted by engineers using their precise rulers, the M3’s interior feels like it was molded with play dough, by 5-year-olds with only one thing in mind – making you feel like a 5-year-old as well. It wraps around you, even the instrument cluster is angled up perfectly so that no matter where you sit, the steering wheel never blocks it. The gauges are crazy, too. Even though I do prefer the classic round dials, I understand why it is the way it is. The bucket seats look aggressive, they yell at you, “Hey look, this is a serious bit of kit this car!” But for some reason, it does not feel over-the-top in this car. I am 5’8” 165 lbs. I have the side bolsters at their widest setting, and I just about fit. “But what about the taller, larger, wider folks,” you ask? Zero F’s given. One could literally imagine designers at BMW replying, “Do people taller than 6 feet fit into a Formula 1 car? Nope. So, deal with it.” And I love it! It almost feels like they got tired of trying to please everyone and finally built the car they really wanted to build!
The story continues in the performance department. Like I said before, the Audi felt safe and stable even though it was ridiculously fast. When you smashed the throttle, it happily obliged, safely pushing your head back to the seat. But you were always left missing something, yearning back for something more. I finally figured out what that was when I got into this M3. And yet again, it is that drama! The RS5 felt like a regular human that had a secret superpower of going fast, and it tried its best to hide that superpower. It wanted to be safe and stable. It felt most at home in comfort mode but was occasionally happy to take you on thrill rides. The M3 on the other hand feels most at home when it is revving hard, turning fast, and making crazy exhaust noises. You try to drive it slowly and the gearbox gets all moody on you. It wants to go, all the time. You feel like the car mocks you every time you press anything that reads “comfort.” It’s edgier, stiffer, sharper and way faster! If the RS5 was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the M3 is a wolf, forget any clothing to disguise anything – it is a wolf and wants to be a wolf, all the freaking time! I had the F82 M4 and it gave me sort of a similar feeling. But it also wanted to kill me all the time, esp. when it was wet. The G80 has grip for days. You must push hard to get the tail out. It will happily do it, but you will have to really tell it that you want it to do it. Even then, you always feel in control. But regardless of how you drive it, you just cannot stop smiling in this car. I have gone from the 2015 M4 to 2018 C63S to 2015 M6 to 2019 RS5 on to this one. And this is the best of one of the lot, by a VERY LONG WAY!
Many years ago, I wrote a review of my M235i. That review did fairly well and made it to the front page of Bimmerpost. I compared that car to my one-year-old German Shepherd, saying how raw and puppy-like it was. My guy is 8 years old now, but I think it is still fitting to make that comparison – he is loyal and sweet, but should you underestimate him, he is 100 pounds pure mischief raring to go! And that is exactly what this car is!
Say whatever you may about the design, I think BMW wanted this car to stand out in every aspect – looks, luxury, technology, and performance – and in that sense, I think they have knocked it out of the park! So, if you are one of those sitting and complaining about the grill, I hear you, I have been there. But just do yourself a favor and take one for a spin. I cannot guarantee that you will change your mind, but I will promise you that you will have one hell of a test drive… and maybe you will get the philosophy behind what this car wants to be. I did, so much so, that I bought it in the brightest color out of any car I have ever owned – Toronto Red. I think it fits this gem of a hooligan pretty well.
Cheers and thank you for reading. Hope you enjoy the dynamic shades of Toronto Red under various lighting conditions.
Last edited by utsavized; 04-29-2021 at 12:17 PM..