When Jeremy Clarkson tried to learn the Nürburgring Nordschleife — the fearsome 13-mile circuit in Germany comprising more than 150 turns and 1,000 feet of elevation change — in the late 1980s, he did so behind the wheel of a BMW M3 E30. Even with a top instructor on hand to break down sections of the circuit into bite-sized chunks, it was “like learning everything Mozart ever wrote. While being frightened half to death by a lion,” according to the columnist and TV star.
But while he found the track mystifyingly complex, was inexperienced behind the wheel in those days, and the racing-car-for-the-road E30 was a bit much for him to handle, he’d love to return to the track today with the latest M3… or more specifically the G81 M3 Touring he reviewed for The Sunday Times Magazine at the weekend.
Clarkson had already driven the M3 saloon and loved it, including the dafter gimmicks, such as “the way you can do a big oversteery skid and the car marks you for how good it was.”
But with the M3 package added to the Touring estate car body for the first time, “your dogs can get to find out what 500 horsepower feels like and what it does to the pit of your stomach when you go from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds,” according to Clarkson. In case that’s something a dog has ever wondered about.
However, there is a drawback, because “the rear quarters are carpeted, which could make clearing up the sick tricky.”
Some reviewers reckon the estate body reduces the M3’s structural rigidity, Clarkson notes, but he doesn’t agree and instead called the Touring version “the real deal”.
“It’s a complete gangster, but it’s a Guy Ritchie gangster. It’s eloquently violent. Elegantly deranged. When it kicks you in the groin, it’s wearing a Church’s brogue.”
Clarkson added that the beauty of the new M3 Touring is the electronics on board, which can make it as docile as you like when not trying to break lap records. “If you push a lot of buttons it can become as sensible and as corduroy as the Volvos that, in the 1970s and 80s, made Britain the estate car capital of the world.”
What’s more, he reckons it’s prettier than the saloon; a “tremendous-looking car,” in fact.
Considering all of the above, Clarkson concludes, “Why have an ordinary saloon with an ordinary boot when you could have so much more, with no discernible downside?” Other than the potential for having to clean dog sick out of carpet, that is.
Actually, Clarkson does point out a few other niggles in his review. At £86,365 it’s expensive, he reckons, and the dashboard he describes as surprisingly bland. He also admits the ride can be “a bit sudden” even in Comfort mode. But everything else about the M3 Touring is “sublime and moreish and wonderful”.
Having spent time with the BMW M3 Touring, and knowing what he now knows about oversteer and how it can be savoured, Clarkson would love to go round the Nürburgring in it. “Unlike the original M3, I’d enjoy driving it there and back as well,” he concluded.
To read more about Jeremy’s Nürburgring adventure, and his 2023 BMW M3 Touring review in full, head to thetimes.co.uk.
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