Now look, obviously it had been a long, long time since I’d been allowed out of the house, so I was pretty excited already. It had also been far too many months since I’d driven anything on a race track. Or even seen one.
So the chances that I was going to be blown away by hurling the new BMW M3 Competition around the insanely fast and exciting Phillip Island circuit were stratospheric. Then there’s the fact that the M3 – perhaps the best-ever example of a super sports car that can do double duty as a four-door family hauler – has long been one of my dream cars.
Best of all, this new one has an M Drift Analyser, and we were encouraged to try it out by being sent out on a wet skidpan to drive stupidly sideways in between the crazy-fast laps.
Taking all this into account, I still think, on any other day, I would have to rate this BMW as one of the best cars I’ve ever been scared witless by. On the downside, the M3s of old that I fell in love with (first launched in 1986, the car is now in its sixth generation) were subtle, sleeper cars. You had to know what an M3 was to understand how special and speedy it was, because they never looked overly aggressive.
This new one looks like it was designed by someone who shouts a lot and is obsessed with bodybuilding. It is to subtlety what Donald Trump is to politics. The giant, whale-mouth grille will not be to everyone’s taste, but at least when you’re in the driver’s seat, holding the super phat steering wheel, or operating the slickest set of carbon-fibre shift paddles it’s ever been my pleasure to touch, you don’t have to eyeball it.
Fortunately, it looks fantastic from behind, with its huge quad pipes, which also make properly dramatic noises when you unleash the wildly powerful twin-turbo, 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder engine. The 375kW and 650Nm M3 Competition is fast – 3.9 seconds to 100km/h and an easy 240km/h-down-the-Phillip-Island-straight fast – but it’s the way it sticks to the road and gives you the confidence to assault corners with malice that makes you fall in love with it.
It has a sense of humour, too, or at least a taste for the absurd, with the aforementioned Drift Analyser handing out star ratings for your drifting moves, and recording not only how far you’ve slid sideways but at what angle. Why? Who knows? Who cares? It’s just great.
No car is perfect, of course, and I must admit I made rapid sucking and blowing noises of disappointment when I was told that the price for the new BMW M3 starts at $144,900. (Another $5K will get you into the two-door coupe version, the M4, which is sexier but less practical.)
I should probably also wait until I’ve driven it on public roads before delivering a final verdict, but I’m doing it anyway. The new M3 is a beast – a big, beautiful, brash and bonkers beast. And you should definitely buy one and then lend it to me.