It became clear pretty quickly that DR was going to need a proper MPV. Something that could function as a fast and practical chase car for grouptests; something that could transport us across Europe (mainly to the ‘Ring it seems!) in comfort and then go like a madman when we arrive; in short something that can do everything well without feeling compromised by its broad spread of talents. Which is why we’ve got an E90 M3 saloon. So far the only flaw in our plan is that the thirst of its V8 is threatening to sink DR before it’s even got off the ground!
We’ve had the M3 for a few weeks now and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to live a hard life. It’s so versatile that whenever anybody needs a car for a specific purpose the M3 seems to fit perfectly. In fact it’s sat outside now wearing a thick beard of dead insects after an epic Northants-to-Anglesey (via Caterham, Surrey!) and then back again thrash. Obviously we had to do a couple of laps of the new circuit while we were there… and the M3 coped remarkably well. To be honest I’d been rather spoiled by the lightweight cars we’d been testing – obviously a very scientific process bereft of enjoyment, no arsing around at all – but even so the M3 felt neat and tidy, the balance more neutral than the always-oversteering coupe. Even the brakes seemed to cope pretty well.
The difference between coupe and saloon is marked, actually. The four-door feels more supple at low speeds, not quite as sharp in its reactions to both the road surface and steering inputs. For everyday driving it’s the nicer car – oh, and I think it actually looks a bit cooler than the coupe – but when you want to forget all that versatility and just go fast the saloon isn’t quite as polished as the coupe. We’re talking degrees here, but the body control isn’t as efficient, the front end not as nailed to an apex as the coupe and it occasionally does that peculiar BMW pogo that has been eradicated in the two-door car. Other differences? Well the saloon does seem even thirstier than the coupe. Maybe it’s the extra 45kgs or the less slippery shape but it’s tricky to get the saloon to average much over 21mpg even on a relaxed motorway run. On my daily commute (consisting of urban crawl, dual carriageway and then a short B-road blast) it’s getting closer to 18mpg. Painful when the good stuff is averaging £1.20 a litre.
So the V8 chews through super at a frightening rate, but the payback is having access to that 4-litre V8 – one of the great engines on sale today. It doesn’t feel dulled by the added weight at all, it screams around to 8000rpm and it’ll thump along at a cracking pace even if you limit yourself to just 5500rpm. I know cars like the M3 and RS4 have got more expensive with every evolution but just think about the engineering that goes into a 4-litre V8 able to rev to 8500rpm and produce over 100bhp-per-litre. These engines are just as exotic as a Ferrari V8 or Lamborghini V10. If we can keep feeding it I think the M3 is a DR hero in the making.
We’d be interested to hear from anyone who has an M3 on order or who has been living one for a while: How you decided between coupe/saloon (notice I neglected to mention the convertible!), manual/DCT etc. And does an M3 without the optional EDC dampers actually exist? Email firstname.lastname@example.org