BMW M3 Competition Touring G81 Drive Review : Tour de Force

By davidkhoo, 18 April 2023

BMW M3 Competition Touring G81 Drive Review : Tour de Force

Singapore - Gosh, it’s been all-of-never since BMW launched a production M3 Touring (if you’re wondering, Touring is BMW-speak for station-wagon or estate).

Fact is, until the launch of this G81 M3 Competition Touring, if you wanted a fast BMW wagon in a compact 3 Series flavour, you could either go down the M Performance Automobiles route with a M340i Touring, or check out one of Alpina’s B3 express estates.

Considering BMW M’s arch-rivals from Mercedes-Benz’s AMG and Audi’s RS have always had contenders in the 3 Series segment (the C-Class AMG wagons and the RS2 / RS 4 Avant respectively… since the 1990s no less!), it’s always been some surprise BMW has taken till now to jump on the bandwagon… literally!

The M3 Touring may be the first M3 estate, but it isn’t exactly M’s first fast wagon.

Long-time BMW M fans will recall that the M5 has seen several Touring iterations, starting with the E34 M5 Touring and then the furious V10-engined E61.

Fast wagons get us petrolheads into a tizzy, because of their prodigious ability for swift, yet stealthy performance.

Bonus points go to muscly, plumped-up performance variants like the M3 Touring, because its rear fender flares are phat and proud and complete its ‘stanced’ um, stance, which to our eyes, perfectly complement the prominent oversized kidney grilles.

At present, the M3 Competition Touring is a compact executive express estate that plays by itself in the 500+hp Club.

With no new C 63 AMG estate in sight (and possibly, not ever for Singapore) and the Audi RS 4 weighing-in at ‘just’ 450hp / 600Nm, the BMW rules the roost in its segment as far as outright punch goes, with a mega 510hp / 650Nm from its twin-turbo’d 3.0-litre inline6.

Unlike the rear-driven G80 M3 Competition Sedan and G82 M4 Competition Coupe, the M3 Competition Touring comes in M xDrive flavour – BMW-speak for all-wheel drive – probably in anticipation of all the all-weather, all-road utility M3 Comp Touring owners are expected to inflict on it.

However, those ‘in-the-know’ will appreciate that such fast wagons are more about the cool factor than the utility… if at all.

Folks who go on about its 500-litres load-lugging ability (expandable to 1510-litres!), the split-opening tailgate and how practical it is… completely miss the point of a car like the M3 Touring.

With the M3 Competition Touring, it’s a sly, ‘nudge-wink’ finger-in-face power-move to show you don’t need an ‘obvious’ sportscar to grab the eyeballs, even if it so happens to be armed with a big enough stick to smack-down foolish challengers.

From the Audi RS2 Avant and Volvo’s 850 BTCC estate race-car to more modern express estates like the 156 GTA Sportwagon, Lancer Evolution IX Wagon, Octavia RS Combi and WRX Wagon, a lot of the cool quotient of a speedy station-wagon is in its seemingly incongruous silhouette.

Heads snapped around and cognoscenti readily recognised the M3 Touring for what it was when we were out and about in the Melbourne Red demo.

To us, the M3 Comp Touring is peak G8x M3 (and our pick of the current M3/M4 crop of models), with perfect proportions (from the front, side and the rear) and even punchier performance.

The cabin, ergonomics and digital interface are familiar G8x M3 / M4 territory, which includes the M Drift Analyzer and multiple dynamic settings for more intimate personalisation.

A little nugget we first noticed on the M3 Comp. Sedan (and all current BMW models) is the fact that the digital animation of the car in the interface matches your car’s actual colour – a small touch but a great one by BMW M, especially since we can’t think of another brand in the Teutonic Triumvirate to offer it.

There are quite a few dynamic settings to toggle through, but you only need to do it once (or twice to fine-tune), because the fire-hydrant red M1 and M2 trigger buttons on the steering wheel let the driver unleash his/her preferred driving mode.

We kept M1 for ‘mild’ and M2 for ‘manic’, which gave the car a broad enough dynamic scope to cope with all sorts of driving conditions.

We enjoyed sunny weather and dry roads during the test-drive, so M2 was set to our favourite blend of 2WD MDM mayhem that was nicely matched to the staccato-snappy 8spd auto gearbox.

However, it was good to know that in inclement weather and slippery roads, there’s the option of xDrive surefootedness to help put the M3 Touring’s huge power to the ground, which transforms it into an all-rounded, all-weather and go-everywhere sporting machine.

This Special Forces operator may be dressed for suburbia, but it possesses all the necessary skills and training to exercise deadly force when needed.

The M3 Competition Touring may wear the shape of a load-lugging beast of burden, but you’ll discover it is a thoroughbred sportscar the moment you turn a wheel in anger.

BMW M pulled no punches with the M3 Touring, so it isn't numbed-down for the driver from all the gritty goodness we've come to expect from the M3 / M4.

This Special Forces operator may be dressed for suburbia, but it possesses all the necessary skills and training to exercise deadly force when needed.

The thrill of the rush at full throttle is fiercely addictive, especially with the car in 4WD and you feel the full 510hp / 650Nm hit from the inline6 conveyed to the tarmac through all four corners.

2WD mode may serve up more frolicsome fun, but there’s something to be said about how relentlessly the tyres dig-in and grip in 4WD Sport when you’re hustling loud and loose on slippery surfaces.

The ride is firm, but pliant and never overly jiggly, with the taut body control of an athlete that is always ready to rumble.

When the hammer falls, the M3 Competition Touring will gamely bring the pain with the pleasure as it hurtles towards the horizon with the mighty pull of a runaway freight train.

On cross-country tours, the M3 Competition Touring engages full freight forwarder mode to devour highways, winding roads, people, pets and cargo alike with a devout fervour and in all kinds of weather.

Trust us when we say it isn’t an easy estate to keep up with, rain, shine or snow, because the M3 Competition Touring is a fast and furious force to be reckoned with.

PHOTOS Clifford Chow / Jay Tee

BMW (G81) M3 Competition Touring

Engine 2993cc, inline6, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 510hp / 6250rpm
Torque/rpm 650Nm / 2750-5500rpm
Transmission 8spd M Steptronic auto
0-100km/h 3.6secs
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically-limited)
Fuel Consumption 10.4l/100km (combined)
CO2 235g/km

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