He who dies with most toys wins, goes the saying, and in the motoring playground the legendary BMW M3 certainly stands out as one of the cooler playthings.
With the launch of the fifth-generation M3 about a year away, we recently took delivery of the existing model on an extended “farewell” test.
With the new car to be a turbocharged six-cylinder, the current M3 marks the end of a normally-aspirated era with its 4-litre V8, which uses good old cubic capacity instead of air compressors to deliver the go-fast goods.
We’ve had some fun with our toy in the last few weeks. First we took it for a high-speed run at the Kalahari Speedweek event at Hakskeenpan in the Northern Cape, and then we fitted an Akrapovic performance exhaust system to give it more of a voice.
RESTRICTOR REMOVAL SOON?
The M3, like most German performance cars, is governed to a 250km/h top speed as per the gentleman’s agreement, but there are rumblings that BMW South Africa might soon offer customers the option of removing the restrictor, allowing the car to achieve its true top speed of over 270km/h (yes, there are aftermarket tuners offering this service, but it voids BMW’s warranty).
Unfortunately this edict hadn’t yet been passed by the end of September when Kalahari Speedweek took place, and BMW didn’t want to remove our M3 test car’s restrictor if it wasn’t available to the public.
So the car achieved exactly 250km/h on Hakskeenpan’s clay surface before the speed limiter gently chimed in, but the ease and swiftness with which the M3 reached that goal suggested that it had plenty more to give.
If the speed-limiter removal does get the official green light, M3 drivers could be achieving some pretty impressive top speeds at next year’s Speedweek event. Watch this space.
EXHAUST BRINGS MORE KILLER-WATTS
Shortly after returning from our Northern Cape adventure we gave our pitch-black M3 a fittingly dark vocal side: an Akrapovic exhaust system which is a manufacturer-approved modification available at any BMW dealer. Priced at R82 000 (nope, toys don’t come cheap at this level), the titanium Akrapovic system is 24kg lighter than the stock exhaust and a pair of dual-outlet mufflers, in titanium or carbon fibre, complete the kit.
The grumpy exhaust has livened up the vocals very nicely, inserting a bit of raw-sounding “Nascar” effect which frightens the village chickens without droning too noisily when you’re long-distance cruising, which could become tiresome.
A 14kW power increase is claimed along with a torque improvement of 35Nm over the M3’s standard 309kW/400Nm outputs, however the deep-throated gurgle is what you’re really paying for as the performance improvements are very slight. We recorded no improvements in reef altitude standing-start acceleration – which remained at 0-100km/h in a suitably lively 5.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.5 secs - although there was a minor 0.2 sec improvement in 60-120km/h overtaking acceleration.
Worth 82k? Hmm, questionable, but this is the price of toys at this level of the market (and it really does make a most enjoyable howl).
Another optional toy fitted to our long-term M3 is a handling-enhancing R39 500 Competition Package consisting of modified Dynamic Stability Control and a special sports mode for the Electronic Damper Control. In combination with exclusive Y-spoke, 19-inch M light-alloy wheels, the 10mm lower chassis lowers the centre of gravity.
Sports suspension could quickly become a nuisance if you had your internal organs rearranged over every bumpy road and had to carefully tip-toe over driveway entrances, but the M3’s Competition Package strikes a good balance between handling and ride comfort.
The ride’s firm without being uncomfortably jarring and the ground clearance isn’t impractically low either, so this is a car we’ve been happily using as a daily commuter.
(And no, SPCA, we didn’t really scare any village chickens. We far prefer scaring minibus taxi drivers). -Star Motoring