| First Drive | Berkshire, England | BMW M3 with Competition Package |
BMW bundles up some equipment to create a Competition Package for its M3. It brings 10mm lower suspension, a re-programmed Dynamic Stability Control+ setting and new CSL-inspired 19-inch alloy wheels. The real big news is the addition of stop-start to the entire M3 line-up, this improving economy by six percent and reducing emissions from 285g- to 263g/km.
In the Metal
Wheels aside you'll not notice any visual differences between a Competition Package equipped car and the standard M3. That means you get a carbon-roofed, bonnet-humped coupé with the pent-up aggressive looks that define BMW's best M car. In optional satin finish paint it looks sensational, though it's a shame BMW didn't add a few more visual clues to highlight that you've added £3,315 of Competition Package to your standard M3. Interestingly, if you want the practicality of four-doors and the Competition Package you'll be disappointed, as BMW only offers the option on the coupé model.
What you get for your Money
The standard M3 delivers a high-revving V8 engine with 414bhp and the ability to reach 62mph in just 4.8 seconds (4.6 seconds with the M Double Clutch Transmission, M DCT). The Competition Package does nothing to change that, it only promising a bit more dynamic ability with suspension 10mm lower, lightweight alloy wheels and new settings within the Electronic Damper Control and Dynamic Stability Control+ systems. Add the Competition Package and it'll cost you £3,315 on top of the £53,275 for the standard car.
The M3 has always astonished with its pace and the M3 with the Competition Package doesn't change that. Really, it feels no different, the suspension changes doing little to the ride quality and the revised settings within the damper and stability systems not really apparent on the road. Choose anything but the standard set-up on the Electronic Damper Control and the M3 is a bit too stiff for the public road in the UK. The changes are likely to make a slight difference to the M3's ability on a smooth, fast track, but without a standard non Competition Package equipped M3 to compare directly with, on the road it's difficult to see what advantage choosing the pack brings - unless you really like those wheels.
That's perhaps a measure of how brilliant the M3 is already rather than a criticism of the changes the Competition Package make. With the differences the Competition Package brings being so subtle a more sporting exhaust pipe or airbox would add some real appeal to it, and make it more obvious where you're spending your money.
The biggest difference then with the 2010 M3 is the inclusion of a stop-start system. It's odd to have the M3's 4.0-litre V8 shut down and sit quietly at traffic lights, it adding 1.5mpg to the car's combined consumption figure to record 25.2mpg when fitted with the M-DCT transmission. In real-world driving it's unlikely you're really going to notice the difference, as the M3 isn't the sort of car that you'll feel inclined to cruise in. It's at its best when it's going quickly, where it feels as hugely competent and composed as ever. It's just a shame there's not a touch more feel coming through the chunky steering wheel.
BMW claims that the M3 is the first BMW non-four-cylinder manual-equipped car to be fitted with stop-start. That might be the case, but its suggestion that it's the first performance car in the world to do so ignores cars like Porsche's Panamera
and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
It's likely everyone will tick the option box for the Competition Package, but we reckon you could spend your money more effectively elsewhere on the M3's options list. If BMW added some more obvious visual identifiers than the smart wheels, or added a more exotic-sounding tailpipe, it'd be a default choice. For everyday use on the road it's debateable whether it's worth the additional outlay. What does impress is BMW's integration of its EfficientDynamics technology, which changes nothing about how the M3 drives - save for it shutting down when it's stationary. The additional fuel it saves is always welcome, particularly on the M3, which has always had a ravaging thirst. It still has, but perhaps now you can escape the wrath of the environmentalists when you sit silently at traffic lights.