2011 BMW M3 Competition Package Review

BMW’s new Competition Package for the M3 offers mild upgrades that few will truly appreciate

2011 BMW M3 Competition Package Review

BMW’s M3 is already considered one of the best handling cars on the market, and now comes a package that promises to increase handling even more, along with improving the looks.

FAST FACTS

1. The Competition Package includes a 10mm lowered suspension, new mapping for both the Dynamic Stability Control and the Electronic Damping Control systems, as well as forged alloy 19×9-inch front and 19×10-inch rear wheels with 235/35/19 front and 265/35/19 rear tires.

2. The Competition Package is priced at $2,500, bumping the M3 to $63,064 including delivery and the $1,300 gas guzzler tax.

3. No changes to the engine’s performance are made, with the 4.0L V8 continuing to make 414-hp and delivering a 4.5 second time to 60 mph with the DCT transmission.

The $2,500 Competition Package lowers the M3 by 0.4 inches, gives it 19-inch wheels with a greater offset, and adds new mapping for both the Dynamic Stability Control and the Electronic Damping Control systems.

It’s a small upgrade to be sure, but when looking to shave tenths off of one’s track time, every little bit helps.

Interestingly, it’s the Competition Package that forms the basis of the recently released Frozen Gray M3 Coupe (shown) and with that model retailing for $77,600 this option looks like a steal.

At first glance, the M3 with the Competition Package looks almost no different from its brethren. The lowered height is subtle, but the larger wheels and greater offset is noticeable, if you know where to look.

Fired it up, and the M3’s 4.0-liter V8 comes to life with a snarl. The dual-clutch 7-speed automated manual transmission is a bit tricky to use at first, but you quickly get used to it.

Getting used to it may not be necessary, though, since the transmission often seems to outsmart the driver.

TRACK TESTED

My time with the car was short around the big and fast Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The drive was part of a large media event where we had the chance to get track time in a lot of hot new product, and the M3 was one of the most impressive cars we drove all day.

As it should be, given the 414 horsepower under the hood and the M3’s rep as one of the best handling sports cars on today’s roads.

Pull out of the pits, and the V8 hauls impressively into the first turn, with the dual-clutch transmission responding nicely to inputs.

Too nicely, in fact, as I quickly give up on my plan to shift for myself, instead choosing to let the transmission do the work for me. By the fourth turn, I was done manipulating the gears.

It’s hard to say if the Competition Package makes the car that much better without the aid of a stopwatch, but then, the original package is quite good to begin with. I’m no pro driver, but the M3 made me feel like one. The insanely accurate and nearly perfectly weighted steering gets a lot of credit for that; it simply instills confidence in the driver, allowing he or she to corner just that much faster. The car goes where it’s pointed, with no complaints. A hot lap feels like a gentle afternoon drive.

The brakes do their job well, too, bringing the car down from high-speed straights into low speed corners without drama. Body roll is almost non-existent, and the M3 seems stable and planted when attacking those straights, even at high speeds.

LOWER AND STIFFER RIDE SURE TO BE LESS PLEASING ON THE STREET

There are flaws. The engine’s rumble is a bit louder than what some expect from a Bimmer, even one wearing an “M” badge. The interior has the standard BMW quirks and foibles, and the dual-clutch does take a few minutes of familiarization. Not to mention the lowered ride height and wider wheels will likely negatively affect ride out in the real world. Expect driving over speed humps and broken pavement to be an exercise in patience.

My test car also had a curious stalling problem in the pits. It stalled several times after I rolled forward then came to a complete stop, much the same way a traditional manual would die out if the clutch pedal wasn’t depressed in a timely fashion. It did this in first gear in manual mode, and once in regular “drive” with the transmission set in automatic mode. I asked a BMW spokesperson who was on hand about it, but he was puzzled. There were no issues on the track or lumbering around the pits, however.

Fuel economy is a killer—the car is rated at 14/20-mpg (city/highway) with either the 6-speed manual or the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, 13/20 with the manual and a convertible top.

THE VERDICT

BMW’s 3-Series line perennially wins awards from the automotive press, and the crown jewel of the line continues to get better. There still are few cars that allow drivers to connect to the road like this one.

No one disputes that the M3 is a fantastic car. The Competition Package will likely appeal to a limited number of customers—either weekend racers or those who simply must check every option box—and it’s hard to tell if it makes the car better, but it certainly does not make it worse.

RELATED READING

2008 BMW M3 Review 2009 Audi S5 2010 Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe Review 2009 Nissan GT-R Limited Edition BMW M3 Frozen Gray Coupe Revealed

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