BMW M3 M DCT
List price £58,685
Target Price £58,685
The 3 Series super-saloon ditches V8 power in favour of a cleaner, leaner twin-turbo straight six.
Porsche Macan Turbo
List price £59,300
Target Price £59,300
Flagship baby SUV matches the M3 for pulling power, but can it deliver the same smiles per mile?
Yes, one’s an SUV and one isn’t. Regardless, the similarities between the BMW M3 and Porsche Macan Turbo are as obvious as the glaringly mismatched body shapes. Both temper serious performance with practicality, plush cabins and prestige badges.
When we say serious, we mean face-bending, off-the-wall, serious. So if you’ve got around £60k, and need something that’s suitable for the commute, family transport and Nürburgring lap times, then look no further.
What are they like to drive?
The M3 is available with a manual gearbox, but we’re testing the seven-speed M DCT auto, through which the twin-turbo, straight-six engine sends 425bhp to the rear wheels.
If anything, the BMW feels faster even than its power output suggests. Put the multitude of adaptive elements into maximum-attack mode, and it rips up the road with a resonant bassy roar, snapping through gears by itself just when you want it to, or allowing you to take full control via the paddles. The 30-70mph dash is the one you’ll use when overtaking, and the M3 can cover it in a supercar-like 3.1sec.
Plant the Macan’s throttle and its 394bhp V6 twin-turbo engine revs with clean ferocity, while the standard seven-speed PDK auto ’box flicks through ratios slickly and without the thunk that the M3’s gearbox generates in flat-out up-changes. The Macan gets from 30-70mph in a stonking 4.2sec. Nonetheless, you get less of a sense of the speed you’re doing in the Porsche, and not much of the M3’s drama, either.
The two disparate characters are evident even before you consider the way both cars handle. The Porsche is the calm, relaxing GT with a hooligan streak, next to BMW’s white-eyed sports car tamed for everyday use. The M3 is unashamedly noisier and more tiring over long distances, mainly because of the sheer volume of road noise at motorway speeds.
Comfort definitely favours the Porsche, which is the more supple of the two. It’s so good on the standard steel springs that we wouldn’t bother with the optional air suspension. That’s not to say the BMW is uncomfortable – just that it’s tauter, although the ride is choppier at most speeds.
The pay-off for the Macan’s comfortable everyday manners (and the fact it’s an SUV) is that it doesn’t feel as sporty as the M3. That’s hardly surprising, but make no mistake, the Macan Turbo keeps its body movement under control, it turns in to corners sharply and has communicative, meaty steering and huge grip (thanks partly to our car’s £1012 torque-vectoring system). It’s an extraordinary feat of engineering.
Even so, the M3 is on another level. Turn in to a corner and the steering feels precise and reassuringly weighty, while the easily modulated accelerator gives you confidence to apply exactly the power you need. Ask for too much and the sheer feedback means the M3 feels truly poised and exhilarating, although you simply cannot discover the depth of the M3’s abilities on UK roads. Nonetheless, while the M3 is a few notches short of the Porsche’s ease of use, it’s more than a few ahead in terms of driver reward.
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