Long term report: BMW M3

I feel bad. The M3 is meant to be a nice, usable and exciting everyday road car – but I can’t stop taking it on the track. In fact I seem more drawn towards trackdays with this car than any other I’ve ever run. Perhaps it’s because the M3 is so capable that you can only enjoy its maximum potential on the road for fleeting moments, perhaps it’s because its V8 sounds like some sort of wild race engine when it’s zinging up towards 8000rpm. Or maybe it’s just because I’ve got the willpower of a puppy and love sliding the thing around like an idiot. Whatever, the trend shows no sign of drying-up.

So my last track excursion was at the Nürburgring – and the M3 was literally stunning (brakes aside). But then it should be pretty good on a track that formed a large part of its development. Maybe a few more chinks would appear on a shorter, wider, smoother circuit, I thought. So when RMA suggested that I come and see how one of their ‘Paddock Club’ days worked I jumped at the opportunity, pointing it towards Donington knowing I was about to spend rather a lot of money on fuel.

The ‘Paddock Club’ is for serious trackday addicts. You pay a yearly fee and then just turn up at any RMA event and get out on track. And there are several trackdays just for members, which means no need to book, no briefing (the regulars know the rules inside out and driving standards are high) and loads of track time. It’s a great concept providing you’ve got time and flexibility. The only drawback is that you leave desperate to own a GT3 RS…

Anyway, the M3 was predictably excellent. It certainly felt heavier and softer around Donington than the ‘Ring (and I was having to nurse the already abused brakes), but it retained its incredible balance and raw speed. An E46 M3 CSL (remapped and dyno’d at 380bhp) couldn’t live with it along the back straight (although on fully adjustable suspension and Michelin Cup tyres it killed the saloon in the corners), and even the GT3 RS’ didn’t seem that much faster. I love following 911s on track – mainly because it makes a nonsense of those who say the engine is ‘in the wrong place’ – and at Donington they were clearly gaining time on the M3 in the middle of a corner. Where I’d be dialling-in a correction and losing traction the well driven 911s were just hooked-up and gone. However with the new Michelin Cup tyres that are now standard on the M3 Coupe, I reckon it wouldn’t be too far off the pace. You can have a look at how it coped on the video.

It seems to be standing-up well to the abuse. The engine has used just a litre of oil in 5000-miles and there’s not a squeak or rattle anywhere. Driving the C63 AMG recently reminded me how well this thing is built – maybe a smidge behind Audi standards, but better than just about anything else. The fuel consumption seems to be improving slightly, but it’s still hovering at just over 21mpg. Overall I can’t really think of any negative points. Sorry. If we can solve the braking issue (we’ll try different pads/fluids next), I’ll be 100-percent happy. Oh actually there is one problem – the DAB radio is useless. More crucial insights soon.

Go to www.rma-limited.com for more details about the Paddock Club and RMA trackdays