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Car of the Year Awards 2024: Performance Car of the Year
First and foremost, a great performance car is entertaining and involving to drive, but unlike pure sports cars, they also have to be practical and comfortable enough to use every day...
BMW M3 Touring Competition xDrive
At school, being second best at something can be very frustrating. As the second cleverest mathematician, or the second quickest sprinter, you put all of the effort in but get none of the kudos. The BMW M3 saloon was that student: a fantastic performance car that has been overshadowed in recent years by the even more thrilling Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Now, though, the M3 has learnt a new trick, which has finally allowed it to leapfrog its Italian adversary. That trick? Versatility.
By taking the form of a more practical estate, the BMW M3 Touring is even better in day-to-day use than the saloon. You can drive to Ikea, electrically open the tailgate to fill the 500-litre boot with Daim bars and Scandi-cool knick-knacks, or drop part (or all) of its 40/20/40 split rear seats to slide in a flat-packed shelving unit. You can then drive home via Brands Hatch and set a personal-best lap time before cruising comfortably the rest of the way. You’ll struggle to do all of that in the Giulia Quadrifoglio, which isn’t available in estate form.
Sharing its mighty twin-turbo 3.0-litre engine with the M3 saloon, the four-wheel-drive Touring can bolt from 0-62mph in 3.6sec – quicker than the rival Audi RS4 Avant and the Giulia Quadrifoglio can manage. The engine not only pulls hard from low revs but also piles on speed even faster at higher revs, so you’ll want to wring every last revolution out of it. Only the noise it makes under acceleration could be better, especially next to the great-sounding units in the RS4 and Quadrifoglio.
But what if you also prefer the rear-wheel-drive Quadrifoglio’s playful handling to the M3’s precision and higher limits of grip? Well, actually that’s no problem, because you can vary the amount of drive going to the M3’s rear wheels (up to 100%) to make it behave more like the Quadrifoglio when you’re in the mood to play. This adjustability means the M3 Touring is much more fun to drive than the rather inert RS4. What’s more, the M3 Touring is as plush as that car inside, meaning it’s far classier than the Quadrifoglio.
In the wider context of this category, we reckon the M3 Touring will fit in with more people’s lifestyles than last year’s winner, the fully-electric Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo; blame the patchy nature of the UK’s public charging network rather than any shortcomings of the car itself. Plus, it’s even quicker than our favoured 4S version of that car.
Given how much the estate body adds to the M3’s appeal, you have to wonder why BMW didn’t make this car years ago.
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