I’ve argued long and hard with a number of people regarding the subtlety of the new M3 range. They want their M3 to look like its ready to punch you in the gut and steal your wallet, while I think the current car’s ‘sleeper’ approach – just a couple of visual cues that hint at giant-killing ability – is spot on. In its Convertible guise, the M3 is about as attention-grabbing as I would want to go, anything more is just showing off.
We’re all familiar with that gem of a 4,0-litre V8 powerplant to sidestep the technical details for once. All you really need to know are the following: 309 kW AT 8 300 r/min, 400 N.m of torque at 3 800 r/min, borrows some architecture from the company’s V10 and propels the car from zero to 100 km/h in 5,3 seconds (with the six-speed manual ‘box) on the way to an electronically-limited 250 km/h top whack.
The one figure that stands out is the 0-100 km/h figure, which is a whisker slower than that of its stable mates. Still, considering that the added torsional support and roof gubbins place an extra 200 kg on the car, the performance is still electrifying and everything feels just as rigid and taut as the Coupé – something that could not be said of previous drop-top M3s.
Figures aside now, what this car is really all about is the tactile and aural experience. Drop the roof and head for the nearest tunnel or gullied road you can find – when you hear that V8 snarling away in the nose, you’ll finally appreciate why bystanders have been whipping their heads in your direction every time you blip the throttle.
The effect is amplified when you throw the new M-DCT transmission into the mix. Not only does this gearbox react near-seamlessly to a flick of those paddle shifters (whilst offering a launch start option, an admittedly sluggish low speed assistant and shaving 0,2 secs off the 0-100 km/h time), but the soundtrack gets a whole lot more interesting. My apologies for going phonetic on you here but the whipcrack that is a downshift with M-DCT goes something like this: (gently tug shift paddle) zwip, graaaaaaarrr! (smile broadly, and find another excuse to repeat whenever possible). BMW’s spokesperson described the transmission as a neat compromise between a manual and an automatic but, as much as I enjoyed the saloon’s/ Coupé’s snappy manual gearbox, my preference lies with the more versatile M-DCT ‘box.
With the top down, the cabin is remarkably well shielded from wind buffeting – I was able to hold a civilised conversation at more than 120 km/h and the addition of heat-reflective leather upholstery neatly circumvents the possibility of any ‘griddled backside’ incidents. The only real drawback of this alfresco approach to motoring is the folding roof’s ability to chomp up a fair bit of boot space.
The driving experience is…well…very similar to that of the Coupé; the car is agile, the ride taut but composed, the steering is typically BMW-alive and that rev-happy motor spools up swiftly from any throttle input. BMW has done very well to exorcise the demons of the previous generation (jerky SMG ‘box and shuddering ride offered by the previous M3 Convertible) to make the M3 Convertible more of a viable choice for enthusiastic motoring than a powerful, but flawed, showpiece for sun worshippers seeking M-division performance. The R767 000 price tag (before you tick the R39 000 M-DCT option box) is steep, but being able to hear that engine at full-chat is something you’ll struggle to put a price on.