DRIVING THE BENCHMARK: BMW's M3 is the quintessential performance car. Wheels24's Sean Parker says if you only get to drive one sports car in your life, make it the M3. Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker
Cape Town - Since 1985, the BMW M3 has been the quintessential performance car. It has the perfect recipe for driver enjoyment; rear-wheel drive, gearbox in the middle and engine up front.
Subsequent generations have moved the goalposts and now in 2016 we have the M3 Competition Package in South Africa.
What's different about the CC?
The package adds new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, along with reconfigured driving modes are featured in the Adaptive M Suspension.
BMW says it has tweaked the standard Active M Differential on the rear axle and the dynamic stability control system.
A couple of days of living with the 331kW sedan highlights just how brilliant it is as a sports car. And to be frank, that's the only way I wanted to drive it; power in Sport Plus, suspension in Sport Plus and gearbox in its most ferocious setting.
You always aware of the monster lurking beneath the steering-wheel. In fact, the only other time I drove an M3 was on Anton Rupert's private race track in Franschhoek in April 2016.
What's different on the outside?
Style upgrades include 20" alloys with a multi-spoke 666 M design, an M sports exhaust system with black chromed tailpipes and high-gloss 'Shadow Line' exterior trim.
The 'Shadow Line' motif is extended to the side window trim, window recess finishers, exterior mirror frames and bases, kidney grille, side gills, and rear model badge.
More importantly, what does it feel like to drive?
Fantastic, real, authentic, lairy, powerful...I could go on and on. The M3's 50:50 weight distribution and direct steering means you feel everything through the steering.
Drive it normally, and the M3 performs adaquatley as a premium sedan albeit with a harsh ride. Sadly, the ride is too harsh on normal conditions and the gearbox simarily suffers issues in its default setting especially during the first and second gears.
Dial in the damper, power and gearbox to its most vsiceral setting and the M3 becomes an absolute beast.
There's a little button labeled 'M1' which puts the car into the BMW default setting and suddenly I realise I'm sitting in a car built for the thrill of driving.
The M3 feels rapid, 4.0secs to 0-100km/h quick, maybe even faster. A heads-up display pops up, showing a rev-counter, speed and gear, reaveling all the power through its rear tyres.
But man is the M3 is rewarding to drive.
Apply sufficient throttle and there's a hint of the rear escaping your clutches... it's what purists live for.
It's a grin-inducing experience and when you're in a car this balanced, this tactile and this responsive, you're taking to a place of motoring perfection.
If you only get to drive one sports car in your life, let it be the M3.