Australia is a land of surprises. Entwined within with an endless array of poisonous wildlife, long, sandy beaches and naturally occurring Hemsworths, is a nation of performance car fanatics.
Sure, we don’t build them here anymore, but our culture of four-wheeled fandom once produced the world’s fastest four-door sedan and more recently, the most powerful load-lugging ‘ute’ on the planet.
It doesn’t stop there. Our fair shores have cultivated two Formula 1 world champions, we invented live-streaming on-board ‘race’ cameras, and need I even mention ‘the Shoey’.
However, nothing highlights this horsepower addiction more than the cars we buy.
Despite our remote location and relatively small population, Australia ranks as one of Lamborghini’s top-ten global markets and lays claim to the highest ratio of AMG and M cars, to their regular Mercedes-Benz and BMW counterparts, sold in the world.
As you would expect, that final relationship, between BMW Australia and M-Division in Germany, carries a bit of weight. Which is why this car, the 2018 BMW M3 Pure is an Australian specific model.
And you wonder why they call this ‘the lucky country’.
While it forms the entry point of the M3/M4 range, the Pure is no stripped-back pretender. This car is all the M3 you want, and just leaves out a few things you don’t really need.
The black-face 19-inch style 437M wheels are standard, as is the rest of the bodywork, but the headlamps are the regular LED units, not the adaptive ones.
There’s no leather dashboard, or even leather seats, as the trim is the one-choice-for-all Carbonstructure fabric. Seat heating has gone too, plus you’ll have to make do with the basic nine-speaker sound system.
But under the skin lies the full potency of the ‘Competition Pack’ specification, all 444HP (331kW) of it. Here, nothing is missing, from the re-tuned dampers, updated MDM settings, even the M-Performance exhaust system.
The Competition goodies even extend to the revised sport seats, tri-colour motif seatbelts and black badging.
You can even specify a six-speed manual transmission to replace the seven-speed DCT for no extra cost.
And this all comes at a considerable price saving over the ‘all-boxes-ticked’ M3 Competition. What’s not to like!
Locally, the M3 Pure retails for A$129,900 (before on-road costs and options), but right now an F80 Pure can be yours for the decidedly reasonable sum of A$119,000 (on the road). Now, before you choke on your Arby’s (what that even is, I don’t know), let’s do a little maths.
Take away the 10% goods and service tax, and the 33% luxury car tax (payable on value above $58k) and you are left with about $93k. After a quick Australian dollaridoo to US greenback conversion, the Pure currently stands at just over $70k US.
Even if you keep the tax department happy, the straight retail exchange is around US$90,000.
For comparison, using the BMWUSA configurator, I built a car that closely resembles the M3 Pure, and came to just under $80k US. Given the size of the US market is thirteen-times larger than that of Australia, and the shipping route is one-third the distance, I’d call the Australian M3 Pure one hell of a deal.
It’s not the first time BMW Australia has done this either.
The F80 M3 Pure follows in the footsteps of the E92 Coupe (which came with standard frozen grey paint and a manual transmission) and the F10 M5 sedan, in Frozen Blue. The current F82 M4 and F87 M2 also have ‘Pure’ versions, just for us lucky folk down under.
You see, there’s no ‘ordinary’ version of the M3 or M4 available here anymore. Once the Competition was released, offering more power and better driving dynamics, what good, honest, kangaroo eating Australian would ever go back.
It has been said before, but the Competition upgrade gave the F80 M3 the performance and behaviour it deserved from launch.
That unyielding rush from the line, the little step to the left on high-rev second-to-third gear changes, the familiar flickering of the MDM light as the 275mm (10.8 inch) rear tyres struggle for traction… this is what you want from an M3.
For the uninitiated, it is still not a car you can just point and shoot like a Playstation game. While there is plenty of lateral grip and predicable oversteer, you need to respect the power delivery and rear-drive dynamics.
Cold roads, damp line markings, and thoughtless throttle mashing are the natural enemy of the M3. Learn to understand your steed, know where the limits are, and ballistic on-tap performance is yours for the taking.
On Australian roads, it’s almost compulsory to set the adaptive suspension to Sport rather than Sport-Plus, just for a little extra compliance and control over changing surfaces. I even find that the comfort steering setting offers the best compromise between control and feel.
But dial up maximum M-ness for performance, and set the DCT to its most swift and violent changes, and the triggered endorphins from the sheer fun of this car will temporarily wipe the concept of adaptive headlights from your mind.
I’m the first person to say that contrasting colour leather seats, and a stitched dashboard make a cabin a more impressive and special feeling environment, but balancing the M3 on the correct side of a narrow, winding road, the S55 alternating between metallic rasp and gargling overrun, it doesn’t matter.
Gripping that fat, tricolour stitched wheel, I can’t count the stereo speakers.
The thrill of the drive is what the M3 is all about, and here, the Pure delivers.
Our market has made it clear that pulse-rising performance isn’t necessarily tied to luxury trimmings, and in the case of the Pure, the absence of premium features doesn’t in any way dilute the driving experience.
It is as it should be, Pure by name, pure by nature.
The M3 doesn’t just need to be the answer for those shopping for a full-house 3 Series; there’s a 340i for that.
As if you are like me, you want an M3 because, as silly as this sounds, it is an M3. Raw, fast, angry, entertaining and aspirational. All the focal attributes of the Pure.
I love the idea of a full-spec Competition adorning my garage, but when you break it down, the M3 Pure is all the M3 you need.
A pure driver’s car for a pure driver’s country.