TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW M3 Competition Package with M Performance upgrades

For many car enthusiasts, stock performance, looks, sound and dynamics simply aren’t enough. In fact, the aftermarket tuning scene has probably never been bigger. There are many enthusiasts who, upon taking delivery of their new sports car, take their car straight to a tuning shop to have it modified. The reasoning behind this is understandable — anyone with enough money can buy a BMW M3, so if you’re a real car enthusiast, your M3 should be faster, look more exciting and be louder than the Average Joe’s. Well, BMW wants a slice of this aftermarket-tuning-pie and is attempting to get it with M Performance Parts.

Through BMW’s M Performance Parts, customers can now order their sports car with a vast number of different options that can make their car look, feel, sound and drive different from every other BMW on the road. It allows unique personalization that should make the majority of enthusiasts happy. Admittedly, if you want your M3 to make 700 hp and be slammed to the ground, BMW can’t help you. But if just want some enhancements to the way it looks, the way it drives and the way it sounds, BMW’s M Performance Parts can certainly be your huckleberry.

The kind folks at BMW’s M Performance Parts division allowed us to sample a 2017 BMW M3 Competition Package all decked out in M Performance parts. Our test car was fitted with about as many M Performance parts as it possibly could be, so we were really able to sample what BMW has to offer. So let’s start with what our car was all about.

Our tester was a 2017 BMW M3 Competition Package very brightly painted in Austin Yellow Metallic. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Austin Yellow but this car was designed to be loud, in both looks and sound, so the bright yellow paint worked well. It was also adorned with M-colored stripes just about everywhere stripes could be. It wasn’t exactly conspicuous, this car. Its looks were further exaggerated by a carbon fiber front splitter, carbon fiber rear diffuser, carbon fiber rear spoiler and carbon fiber mirror caps. The carbon fiber contrasted quite well against the immensely bright Austin Yellow paint job.

Though, the star of the show wasn’t the sea of carbon fiber. It was the brand-new Style 763M wheel option, finished in matte black. They’re the same basic wheels that come as-standard on the new BMW M4 CS, though they do have some differences. For instance, the M4 CS’ are finished in Orbit Grey, rather than the matte black finish of these and these also have “M Performance” stamped into them, which looks pretty cool. This wheel option was quite easily the best looking part of this car and the only part that was unanimously liked. They’re stunning wheels and almost a must-have for any M3/M4 buyer. They aren’t cheap, as the wheel package costs $5,500, but they do come wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which are superb.

Fun fact: if you attended the 2017 New York International Auto Show, or followed coverage of it, the Austin Yellow BMW M3 on display was actually the car we drove.

On the inside, our BMW M3 had about as much carbon fiber as it did on the outside. Featuring carbon fiber trim on the dash, door handles, shift knob and its surround, handbrake lever, steering wheel and even the armrest, it was a carbon lover’s dream. There was also about as much alcantara, as the stuff was everywhere. It all looked very sporty and very exciting, even if it was a bit much.

Though, the first thing you notice when looking at the cabin of this car is that steering wheel. It looks a bit like the Display Steering Wheel II that we had in our recent M240i tester but this is an M Performance specific wheel that is quite unique. It’s wrapped in both leather and alcantara, with carbon fiber and M-colored stitching. I personally like the standard BMW M steering wheel better, as it’s one of the best steering wheels on the market, but this was pretty cool. Though, it did feel a bit odd to hold, as the rim isn’t entirely round and its thumb bolsters are very aggressive. The blue center stripe is cool, though.

Mechanically, the only M Performance upgrade was the exhaust. A full titanium exhaust, based off of the very same one used in the BMW M4 GTS, was equipped to our tester and it’s another must-have on the BMW M3. While the standard M3 isn’t the best sounding BMW of all time, as it’s probably the M3’s biggest complaint, this titanium exhaust changes that. It’s loud — as in crazy, almost-absurdly loud. In fact, it’s the loudest stock BMW I’ve ever driven. Cold start wakes the neighbors. Though, there’s a metallic snarl to it that makes it sound like a proper M car. Plus, the pops and bangs that come on downshifts and throttle lift are delicious.

Driving our BMW M3 M Performance tester wasn’t that much different than driving a standard M3 Competition Package, though, but that’s no bad thing. Handling is impressive, especially with the upgrades from the Comp Pack. So the new suspension is firmer but, in my opinion, more stable and planted. As we’ve said before, the Comp Pack is necessary for all M3/M4 buyers, as it makes the car as it should have been to begin with.

Now, I’m going to get a bit of flak for this but I had every aspect of the car in its most comfort-based setting. That means Efficient, Comfort and Comfort for the throttle, steering and suspension, respectively. Most enthusiasts switch everything to Sport before they set off because that’s the cool, car-guy setting. However, having driven quite a few M cars, both old and new, and understanding how modern BMWs feel, I personally feel that Comfort is the best setting for everything. The steering becomes lighter but it’s still heavy enough to feel like a proper M car. However, it’s ratio is more progressive and neutral and provides more lock to play with, sort of like an older M car. In Sport or Sport+, the steering becomes more of an on-off switch, either tons of lock or none, from very small inputs. It’s actually annoying and doesn’t allow me the sort of control I desire.

As for the suspension, Comfort mode actually provides a reasonable amount of compliance for daily driving while still being far firm enough to handle extremely well. There’s a bit of roll in Comfort but it’s minute at most and I actually like a bit of roll, as it allows me to really feel what the chassis is doing. In Sport or Sport+, the suspension is too stiff and gave me wheel-hop over New Jersey’s awful pavement, slowing me down and making the car feel less planted. So Comfort it was for me.

Now, the Efficient throttle setting looks bad to most enthusiasts, as it sounds like I was trying to get better fuel economy. But it’s really just a longer throttle and there’s no loss in power. It just effectively makes the electric throttle travel “longer”. In Sport or Sport+, again, the throttle feels like an on/off switch, which never allowed me to feel like I could properly modulate the throttle. I like a longer pedal travel, as it gives me more to work with and I feel like I have more control over what the car is doing.

But in that setup, Comfort everything, the BMW M3 Competition Package is a superb all around sport sedan. That engine, BMW’s S55 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged I6, could be weaponized. Its 444 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque completely belies the thrust that you feel. BMW claims that, with the DCT gearbox we had equipped, the M3 Comp Pack can hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a few ticks quicker. It’s brutally, violently fast on public roads and makes slicing through traffic hilariously easy. It’s made even more violent-feeling thanks to the absolutely raucous titanium exhaust. But when you want to just putter around town, transmission in automatic and shift aggression in its calmest setting, it can be a calm and comfortable sedan. It even has good back seats and a big trunk.

Our tester wasn’t just a standard BMW M3 Competition Package though. All of its M Performance goodies made it something more, something special. I didn’t feel as if I was driving a standard M3, it felt more special than that. Which is exactly the point of aftermarket upgrading. What also helped was the fact that I’ve never received more looks, nods, waves, thumbs up and shouts driving any other car in my life. I’ve driven more expensive cars, better looking cars and faster cars. But I’ve never driven anything that received the attention this M3 did.

Admittedly, in Austin Yellow with bright M Performance stripes and carbon fiber everywhere, it was a bit polarizing. Some people loved it and waved, smiled and took pictures of it. Some made hand gestures that were, let’s say rude. Either way, I’ve never received more attention in any car in my life, for better or worse. Now, our tester was completely decked out in M Performance gear. It’s as if the entire catalog sneezed on our car. It’s entirely possible to be more subtle and still get great M Performance.

So why go for M Performance parts over going to an aftermarket tuning shop? Well, there’s quite a few good reasons, actually. The first reason is that you can get your car, exactly as you want it, right from the factory. You don’t need to take it to a third-party shop and have to wait weeks while they upgrade and modify it. Also, you don’t have to pay a shop cash on top of your very expensive car purchase, as the cost of the M Performance bits are worked into the MSRP of your new Bimmer. So the cost is subsidized into your payments. Lastly, all of the M Performance parts and work done comes with BMW’s full factory warranty, which aftermarket work does not, obviously.

Now, BMW’s M Performance division can’t turn your M3 into some crazy extravagant show car, that’s not what it’s meant for. But if you want your Bimmer to look, feel and sound a bit different from everyone else’s, BMW’s M Performance parts seem like the best way to go.

The article TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW M3 Competition Package with M Performance upgrades appeared first on BMW BLOG

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