It used to be that the BMW M3 simply walked into different “Best Car” awards, declared itself a winner, and went home. For decades, it was leaps and bounds ahead of its competition. Now, though, there are sub-$35,000 hatchbacks that can provide the same level of driver engagement. Which is why this year’s Motor Trend Performance Car of the Year award is so fascinating. The BMW M3 Competition is among the finalists but the rest of the finalists are damn good, too.

This new G80 BMW M3 Competition is a brilliant driver’s car, good enough to wipe the antagonistic grin off of any grille-hater’s face. My own included. It’s a sensational machine to actually push hard, with a front end that’s almost impossibly grippy, one of the best powertrains in the world, and a chassis that’s willing to dance every bit as hard as its driver. That said, there are several other cars on the market just like it.

Among the other MT PCOTY finalists are the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, and the Hyundai Veloster N. Read that back slowly and then pause for a moment while you reflect on the three cars that were just listed. As a BMW enthusiast, did you ever think you’d see the day when three of the M3’s toughest competitors, cars that could genuinely be considered better driver’s cars, were two Cadillacs and a Hyundai?

What’s most important here is that all three are as legitimate contenders for this award as the BMW M3. The M3 is a legend, a car born from a homologated touring car, and there’s a flipping Hyundai that can rival it for driver enjoyment? Not only are these strange times, they’re incredibly exciting times.

These cars are just the finalists named on Day 1 of the awards testing. There will be more and it will be interesting to see how far the BMW M3 Competition makes it. It’s a fantastic driver’s car but it isn’t without its flaws and the competition is stiffer than ever before. I’m genuinely curious to see how it all shakes out.

[Source: Motor Trend]