With its fat tyres, big wheels, stiff suspension and responsive controls the M3’s priorities are clear. But BMW has made use of improved control systems to increase the difference in feel between the Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus parameters you can choose from in the various set-up menus, and the new version is much more refined in its most relaxed settings than before. True, it always feels a little more harsh over bumps than a regular 3 Series saloon. But where the old model seemed on maximum attack all the time this new one can also do relatively mellow when you just want to cruise. Make no mistake, though. When you do choose to dial it up there’s a properly wild performance car under those sensible saloon clothes, your pre-configured preferences available in an instant via the two red ‘M’ buttons on the steering wheel. It’s a tech lover’s delight, given you can mix and match your preferred settings for steering weight, throttle response, brake pedal feel, suspension, engine noise and more and save them ready for when the road – or mood – takes you. Play to your heart’s content, though we’d suggest the Sport Plus suspension mode is a bit much for the road and is probably best saved for the track.
The cabin is certainly a step up from any other 3 Series, too, especially if you opt for the carbon fibre bucket seats. Their figure-hugging shape and insistence you ‘man spread’ with your legs apart in a contoured base are a little extreme and are clearly tailored to those of an athletic physique, but they certainly add a bit of character to the interior. They are more comfortable than they look (honest) but for the M3’s relatively understated vibe you may prefer the more conventional standard seat, especially if you have kids and don’t want them scratching the expensive carbon fibre shells with their feet or poking you in the back through the weight-saving cut-outs. As they doubtless will.
This article originally appeared on https://www.autotrader.co.uk/content/car-reviews/bmw-m3-review-saloon-2020