News of the week:
- The 2015 Car of the Year finalists have been announced.
- This year, 11 finalists were chosen – Audi A3 Sedan 1.4T, BWM M4 Coupe, Citroen C4 Picasso, Honda Accord 3.5 V6, Lexus ES 250 EX, Mercedes-Benz C200, Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi, Porsche Macan S Diesel, Renault Duster 1.5 dCi, Subaru WRX Premium, Toyota Corolla 1.4 D-4D.
- The SA COTY has been hosted by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists since 1986.
- From here, the cars will be evaluated by the Jury members at Gerotek where each vehicle will tested on varying conditions etc.
- The winner will be announced at the COTY ceremony next March.
- In 2013 and 2014, Porsche won the COTY title in SA, and it will be interested to see if the Macan S will give the marque its third COTY title.
- Many eyes on the COTY competition and car buyers have expressed their concerns that the competition isn’t a true reflection of the most deserving COTY for that particular year, especially because the winner was a sports car manufacturer over the last two years.
- Nevertheless, the competition doesn’t necessarily boosting sales, but gives the winner bragging rights during its reign.
You don’t own an M3 because you need a fast car, you own an M3 because you want a fast car, says Thegandra Naidoo.
Say what you want, drive what you want; there is no performance saloon as superior as the all-new BMW M3. The M3 heritage spans more than three decades and only a true M aficionado can truly appreciate its pure magnificence, performance, and racing pedigree.
Now, the fifth generation – the first production force-induced M3 model – comes equipped with plenty in its arsenal to challenge cars twice its price, or slay the odd Porsche 911 during a late night high speed jaunt.
The history of the M3 in South Africa
Over the last two decades, we’ve had four generations of M3 being sold in South Africa (barring the E30 M3 which was never officially imported to the country). The first E36 models were introduced in limited numbers in late 1993, but due to the overwhelming demand from buyers, the car made was officially brought from 1994 and became known as the “German Spec”.
The model was fitted with an S50B30 motor – a naturally-aspirated 3.0L motor with a single VANOS system. It was also equipped with an advanced Bosch ECU, and it included a Limited Slip Differential. Power output stood at 210kW and 286Nm, making it one of the most powerful production BMW models sold in the country at the time.
The E36 M3 Coupe was replaced by a Sedan derivative in 1997, albeit fitted with a bigger, more powerful S50B32 engine. Displacement was increased from 3.0L to 3.2L; it was fitted with a dual VANOS system, Siemens ECU, and a 6-speed manual gearbox. The power output stood at 228kW and 321Nm of torque… and it went like stonkers, sprinting from 0-100kph in under 6 seconds and covering the coveted ¼ mile in a little over 14 seconds. It was priced at around R265 000 at the time – the best value-for-money performance car during the late 90s!
The E46 M3 – available only as a Coupe – was introduced in 2001 and was fitted with 3.2L straight-six, and codenamed S54B32. It included many revisions over predecessor, such as a revised dual VANOS system, modified camshafts, advanced Siemens ECU, and a higher compression ratio.
It was the also the first M model introduced with the SMG gearbox in South Africa. Power output stood at 252kW and 365Nm. BMW claimed that the car could sprint from 0-100kph in 5.5 seconds, while it could reach a true top speed of around 280kph with the electronic governor removed.
The E90/E92 M3 Sedan/Coupe was introduced in 2007, and for the first time, it was fitted with a V8 engine. The S65B40 engine produced 309kW and 400Nm, could sprint from standstill to 100kph in under 5 seconds and a top whack of close to 300kph with the electronic governor removed.
While it remains the last naturally-aspirated M3 model, it wasn’t as well received as BMW had anticipated. Nevertheless, it looked great and growled under hard acceleration.
The next chapter of M3
The latest F80 M3 is lighter, faster, and the most adept BMW M ever created. Forget the M5 and M6, this car runs circles around its siblings. The most important factor, however, is that the M3 is all about the new engine.
BMW has forgone the 4.0L V8 engine in favour of a turbocharged 3.0L straight-six. Codenamed the S55B30 engine, it is claimed to be an evolution of the N55 engine that’s found in the current 335i. But it’s not. The S55 shares nothing with the N55! How so, I hear you ask?
Firstly, the N55 is a twin-scroll turbocharger, while the S55 is a twin-turbo setup. The S55 has higher displacement than the N55, and it is also lighter. This has meant that weighs 9kg less than the older V8 powerplant, but develops more power courtesy of twin-turbochargers.
The turbochargers produce 1.25 bar of boost pressure, while BMW rates the engine to produce 317kW and 550Nm of torque. It doesn’t seem likely a massive increase, considering that it produces just 8kW more than the predecessor V8 engine, but it does produce much more torque, enough to strip the asphalt as those huge rear garden rollers light up!
Added to this is the weight advantage. The new M3 is 85kg lighter than its predecessor model. The weight savings were achieved by fitting a lighter engine, gearbox and driveshaft, copious amounts of carbon fibre for the roof, and boot lid, and aluminium components for the suspensions, bonnet and fenders, reduced cabin insulation materials and forged wheels, amongst others.
How does it look?
From the outside, the aluminium bonnet still has the power dome, while M3 badging can be found on the kidney grille, fenders and bootlid. Our test unit was also equipped with the 19” wheel option, which will set you back around R25 000, but it’s worth every cent. The quad exhaust system or “four pipes” – as it’s known to M3 fans – has been the signature component of the M3 since the E46.
What’s it like on the inside?
The interior is standard fare. Other than sports bucket seats, it’s not a massive departure from the standard 3 Series. Legroom is decent at the front and rear, and there were no complaints from my passengers as we blasted into the horizon. The steering is chunky and nicely weighted.
What’s it like to drive?
One of the key elements with the previous M3 was that it sounded great, but it was lank thirsty and not the most economical of M models. That’s the price owners paid for owning a performance-derived V8 model. The latest model, however, is far more adept and usable as a daily drive. BMW claims that it’ll sip on 8.3-litres per 100km as a combined fuel cycle.
While we didn’t exactly achieve these figures, I must point out that we did push the M3 to extreme levels during our test period. We averaged about 14.8-litres per 100km, although, on an open stretch of road, and with the cruise control set at 120kph, we averaged just 8.2-litres per 100km…which is very economical for a car with these performance capabilities.
When kept in comfort mode, the M3 offers a balanced drive with a softer suspension setting, and a cushy ride to absorb all undulations on the road. In sports mode, and with a press of the M button on the steering wheels, the suspension tightens up, the throttle response sharpens up, and the M3 becomes a lethal weapon. Gear shifts on the DCT gearbox are unforgiving, raucous and give you a knee in the kidney as it cog swaps through all seven gears.
It is blisteringly quick, and launch control activated, you are able to dial in maximum revs and get the car off the mark with the least amount of wheel spin. Courtesy of the M Limited Slip Differential, the M3 remains glued to the asphalt on a windy road. And, if you dare, you could completely turn off the traction control, and perform ludicrous burnouts through those wide rear wheels.
It’s poetry in motion, but it comes at a ridiculous price. A price tag of R1 million will give you bragging rights over your neighbour who drives an Audi RS4, but it worth all of this money?
Well, for that money, you could purchase a second-hand Nissan GT-R and have far more fun both on the track and on public roads. The advantage of the M3, however, is that it is a practical car, and if you did want the sportier Coupe experience, you could opt for the M4. It doesn’t come cheap, but it comes loaded with all the bells-and-whistles to keep you entertained time-and-again.
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