Auto123 reviews the 2022 BMW M3 Competition xDrive.
The last time we test drove this muscular German-bred car was in June of last year, when BMW's Canadian division invited a few journalists to come and check out the M division's latest creations at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, a few stones’ throws from Toronto.
It was an instructive exercise, in that we could learn and experience the differences between the M and M Competition performance levels, and also get a feel for this latest generation of the M3/M4 tandem.
Like the big M5, the newest M3 and M4 models can also leave the factory with BMW’s in-house all-wheel drive system, dubbed xDrive. It should be noted, however, that this variant arrived later in 2021. No chance to test it, in other words, before the snow arrived. Hence the white stuff on the ground in our images. This was just fine with the M3 Competition xDrive and its Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 winter tires that we test-drove just before winter bid its final au revoir, for now.
The main features of both the M3 and M4’s two-wheel drive variants having previously been covered, no point returning to that here. It was onto the new 4WD version, and its presence in my driveway was going to help answer one simple question: is the 2022 BMW M3 Competition xDrive THE most appropriate M-badged car for Canadian BMW fans, given our particular winter conditions?
Four-wheel drive… and 50 more kg!
One of the trade-offs of any AWD system is the little bit of extra weight it entails. In this case, we're talking about 50 kg, as the M3 Competition xDrive is equipped with the M active rear differential, which is responsible for a fully variable distribution of power between the two rear wheels, as well as the car's own traction control system (read more permissive). There's also a dynamic stability control system.
But there's more, like the electronically controlled multi-plate clutch integrated into the transfer case that distributes torque between the two axles as needed. The performance division’s engineers sought to optimize oil supply to the clutch, regardless of the type of driving style adopted. Unlike the rear-wheel-drive sedan - the same adjustments are applied to the M4 Competition coupe - the all-wheel-drive version gets two driveshafts to send that crazy amount of available horsepower to the front and rear differentials.
Like the proper sports sedan it is, the M3 Competition xDrive prioritizes transmission of power to the rear drive wheels, if only to maintain the playfulness of this automotive icon. However, if the car senses a loss of traction, the front axle comes into play. Of course, all this symbiosis between the car and the driver happens in milliseconds, without you even noticing anything.
Needless to say, with stability control and traction control off, the M3 turns into a controlled skid freak, especially on wet or snowy roads. On the other hand, with 503 horses under your right foot and an automatic transmission that changes gears at lightning speed, you have to be careful and never lose sight of the fact that behind this electronic grip management system lies a race car in street clothes.
Oh yes, and for those who were wondering if the extra weight is at all noticeable, it is not. A day on the track with a RWD M3 Competition and one with all-wheel drive might have brought to light a difference, but on the road, the disparity is hard to detect.
The magic of electronics
Now available on a wide range of models, driving modes are of course a part of everyday life in a super-sedan like the M3 xDrive. And you know what? That's a good thing!
Now, by default, most M3 buyers mostly want to enjoy the full potential of this top-shelf sedan with the throaty sound, sharper response of the inline 6-cylinder engine and the lightning-fast shifts of the 8-speed automatic and all that. But sometimes it's fun to put the car in “quiet” mode by playing with the car's settings in the centre touchscreen or else via the buttons lining the carbon-fibre-clad centre console.
At the opposite end, for thrill-seekers, the sharpest adjustments really give this M3 Competition wings, which, when the suspension is at its firmest, has a lot in common with a track car... though with more soundproofing and technology of course!