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2022 BMW M3 Road Test Review: One of the Best Cars, But…

2022 BMW M3 Road Test Review: One of the Best Cars, But…

MALIBU, California – Encinal and Decker Canyon roads are serious challenges for anything on four wheels. They are impossibly tight, twisting and demanding the driver’s attention. Larger vehicles only survive these roads, including those with otherwise exemplary performance references. The 2022 BMW M3 is by no means a small car, as the latest generation of the G80 3 Series has swelled to proportions comparable to the time-honored E39 BMW M5.

Despite this, the M3 danced delicately through the incessant sequence tossed back and forth through these demanding Malibu roadways. Not a yellow line was crossed, nor a crumbling rock face planed. Credit goes to the controls here, which hasn’t been said about a BMW since…ah, I’ve struggled to think of anything since the E90 BMW M3. However, this version is very different from what was found in that V8-powered masterpiece. This steering is significantly lighter in effort. Some may say too light, but I would say they are wrong. Heft does not equal sporty. You don’t have to force this car, you steer it precisely with your fingertips. A Porsche is like that, and while the M3 doesn’t quite rise to that bar in terms of feedback, it’s a delightful new horizon for BMW that will hopefully trickle down to everything else in its fleet.

Now, like seemingly every car these days, there are adjustable drive settings. BMW makes it really easy to set them up the way you want them, with a dedicated “Setup” button on the center console and two red paddle buttons on the steering wheel that can be preset with a mix-and-match setup to choice. M1 became my everyday driver setting (everything in Comfort except steering because despite what I just said I preferred a little more weight and sharpness in the middle than the Comfort setting), while M2 has most elements in the most aggressive setting. The engine and suspension stand out by adding an additional Sport Plus option in addition to Comfort and Sport, and while I chose that with the engine, I left the suspension in the Sport center. The roads were just too bumpy for the firmest environment, which is more a matter of maintaining chassis control around corners than protecting my spine.

Speaking of which, the new M3 deserves a huge round of applause for its driving comfort. I drove it from just north of Malibu to San Diego and back (about 280 miles) on LA’s buffet of junk, and was blown away by how capably the adaptive suspension soaked up anything thrown in its way. I’d drive this M3 across the country tomorrow if I needed to, no doubt. This in contrast to the BMW X3 M Competition and its rock-solid ride that I didn’t want to put up with for more than a block.

Surprising comfort points also go to this M3’s $4,500 M carbon bucket seats, which have proven their support over long distances despite their tight mounts and relative lack of padding. Hard seats tend to be more supportive. That said, these seats are ridiculous. You can see through them for starters: at the shoulders, in the backrest and on the lower side bolsters, which look like Porsche Cayenne handles instead of seat bolsters. They are also made of carbon fiber with sparse padding, which means you have to be very careful when getting into this car. Your femur or more precious bits can be a rude welcome. Getting out isn’t exactly graceful either. Then there’s the weird mid-thigh support, which I suppose keeps you in place through the corners, but you’d have to have very thin legs so as not to dig into your thigh as you use the clutch.

Oh yes, and this M3 had the six-speed manual transmission. That means it has 473 horsepower instead of the automatic M3 Competition’s 503, plus a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds achieved by a professional driver versus 3.8 seconds achieved by almost anyone with a right foot. Do I care? I do not do. For bombing around Malibu mountain roads, for taking a big tour tour or to just drive to the supermarket, I’ll take the manual, please. Thanks to BMW for continuing the option. It’s fairly easy to drive, with an easy-to-modulate clutch, a slick-for-a-BMW gearbox (throws will forever be too long and rubbery for some), and pedals perfectly placed to hit the throttle . Automatic downshift to rev-match is also one of the options you can select in those riding mode presets and, as usual, it works really well to downshift perfectly every time.

As for the engine, there’s no denying it possesses the performance attributes with those 473 horses and 406 pound-feet of torque flowing through the rear wheels only. It feels like just the right amount of power, as opposed to the kind of silly, when-you-really-go-use-this-surplus of so many turbocharged engines these days. It sounds pretty good too – I actually turned off the M Sound Control enhancement which seemed to just put pressure on my eardrums and make the engine hum louder instead of the barking – but this isn’t the most sonorous of engines according to M3 standards. You don’t wring out to hear it, as you would generations before the turbo. But that’s okay, business continues.

Finally, let’s talk about the paint colour see you here. If you have looked at the M3 configurator on the BMW website, you will notice that Verde Mantis is not among the choices. That’s because it’s a custom order through the beautiful BMW Individual program. Furthermore, it is not even among the proposed choices the BMW Individual “Visualizer”. It’s quite the color, that’s a feeling I heard an awful lot while driving this M3. However, I’m a big fan of vibrant colors on relatively understated cars, so I have no qualms about it as a choice, even if it’s not quite my cup of (green) tea.

Of course, a not very subdued color is probably a good idea, as it will distract attention from the car it is smeared in. Some say the M3’s gigantic nostrils are starting to grow on it, but so will mold if you give it a chance. It’s horrible, and it would definitely keep me from doing it… buy this car despite being otherwise one of the best cars I have ridden in recent memory. It would be a top 10… but that face.