Less is more

2015-02-08 13:10

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Not everyone can afford the blisteringly hotBMW M3at R1?016?118.40. But this limited edition 3 Series, all dressed-up in Performance M guise, should satisfy those who need their BMWs to look (and feel) more pimped and primed than the others.

And it works out less pricy than ticking all the separate Performance M kit boxes if you were to reconfigure your 3 Series dream-beemer.

The luminous “Valencia Orange” I drove seems almost out of place on a luxury sedan. On the plus side, it’s visible to other road users, but I would still choose “Laguna Seca Blue”. At first glance, the black M-performance side sills, black front grille, carbon wing mirror caps and rear carbon spoiler, combined with the orange paint job (all standard) looks a little Bollywood. But that is just a question of taste. After a week, the colour had grown on me. The sports-embellished, orange 3 Series commands a certain presence, but still made me feel quite self-conscious – eyes followed us wherever we went.

#Trending’s test model came with M Sports suspension, so I was expecting a hard ride, but somehow the BMW seemed to absorb the road’s lumps and bumps quite nicely. The black interior with faux carbon fibre inserts in the dash and doors is visually unassuming, which kept my attention focused on the beautiful 335i engine – a 3-litre, twin-turbo, six-cylinder affair that makes a beautiful noise when the pedal is floored. My test model had none of the ­other performance-enhancing gear, such as the M Performance Power Kit, so output was the same as the regular, 225 kilowatt 335i’s engine. Still, set it to the Sport or Sport Plus settings and the car springs to life.

Acceleration is supersmooth and the 8-speed automatic moves swiftly and seamlessly through the gears. For those who like to be more involved, there are flappy paddles for manual gear changes. I switched to EcoPro mode for town driving, but when I took it to Napier, I let my hair down on Sport Plus. The twisty, abandoned road turned into Kyalami and the 3 Series became one with every corner. But my hard driving raised fuel economy from 10 to 13 litres per 100km – a small price to pay for all that blissful power.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother much with the M Performance Edition, as the 335i, without all the trimmings, is already fabulous. If you specify the power kit as an option, the increase in power is only about 10kW to 15kW. (The power kit is only available to the 320d, 330d and 335i derivates). Also, Driving Experience Control with your EcoPro, Comfort and Sport Settings is not exclusive to the M Performance Edition – it’s standard fare from the entry-level 3 Series and upwards, with the additional Sport Plus setting in higher-specced models.

It’s tempting to get carried away with optional extras and the M Performance Edition, as tested, came to almost R790?000. Agreed, there were plenty of expensive ­extras: a sunroof, internet and sat nav. But with Google Maps on everyone’s smartphones these days, who needs the latter? The regular 3 Series 335i model’s base price is R654?527.40 and includes the standard kit, including Bluetooth and beautiful leather seats.

If I were in the market for a new 3 Series, I’d pick one in a free, non-metallic black or white and customise it with whatever’s free. There’s quite a bit to choose from that doesn’t cost extra. I used BMW’s online car configurator. My choice – a solid white Modern Line 335i with a red leather interior and elegant, 18-inch light alloy wheels – came to R660?227.40, including VAT and CO2 tax. That would be it for me. And it would be enough.

The limited production 3 Series BMW M Performance Edition has recently been made available to South African M-line aficionados. Only 500 have been released. But what is the point, exactly? Ané Theron, drove an eye-catching, “Valencia Orange” metallic number.

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