We pit a performance saloon against a performance SUV. Which approach is best?
This isn’t a conventional pairing. Yes, both cars here are performance versions of posh German five-seaters. But one, the BMW M3, is a four-door saloon and the other, Porsche’s Macan Turbo is a mid-size SUV. What could they possibly have in common?
More than you might first think. And not just because each costs around £60,000. No, they may look rather different, but both BMW and Porsche are very keen to pitch the M3 and the Macan Turbo as swift, effortless, family-friendly all-rounders. Cars just as good on trackdays as they are on the daily commute.
The £58,685 BMW M3 DCT has a 3.0-litre 425bhp twin-turbo straight-six engine. The Porsche has a 3.0-litre six-cylinder as well: its V6 twin-turbo puts out 394bhp and, like the BMW, is paired with an automatic gearbox. But unlike the BMW, it has all-wheel drive. Will this give it the edge?
BMW M3 M DCT
Engine: 3.0-litre, 6cyl, twin-turbo
List price: £58,685
Target Price: £58,685
Torque: 406lb ft
0-60mph: 4.0 sec
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 27.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 194g/km
Not in terms of acceleration it doesn’t. The BMW is a rocketship. It explodes off the line, with an incredible engine and exhaust roar, and the automatic gearshifts are near-perfect (albeit a little too racecar-raw for some). On the move, it explodes from 30-70mph in a barely believable 3.1 seconds. From city speeds to motorway speeds in little more than an eye blink.
The Macan is also fast and potent, particularly with the traction of its all-wheel drive system. But it doesn’t quite have the BMW’s speed and isn’t as dramatic as the thrilling M3. Even so, it will still rush from 30-70mph in 4.2 seconds. Genuinely fast, even if it does also highlight just how much faster the M3 is…
The BMW is similarly focused through the bends. OK, the ride is tauter and choppier, so it’s noisier and more tiring at speed. But boy, how it delivers for the driver, with fantastic poise, accurate and meaty steering plus epic throttle response. It floods the driver with feedback, so although you have to work that bit harder to get the most from it, the rewards are worth it.
Porsche Macan Turbo
Engine: 3.6-litre, V6, twin-turbo
List price: £59,300
Target Price: £59,300
Torque: 406lb ft
Top speed: 165mph
Fuel economy: 23.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 208g/km
If you’re after a cool cruiser, the Macan’s the one for you. The everyday ride is much more comfortable, even without the optional air suspension (frankly, the standard setup is so good, we wouldn’t bother). Body movements are controlled, grip is plentiful and, although it lacks the BMW’s sporty focus, it’s still sharp on turn-in and has decent steering feedback. It certainly still feels like a proper Porsche, despite being an SUV.
It’s that bit nicer than the BMW inside, too. It fully justifies its £60,000 price tag, with perfect fit and finish that seem genuinely luxury-grade. The M3 may have a bigger, better infotainment screen and an easier-to-use cabin, but some of the finishes are more worthy of a car half the price, and it doesn’t quite have the Porsche’s sense of occasion. Saying that, the BMW is slightly more practical for passengers – surprisingly, it has more rear legroom than the Macan.
Both are very well equipped, as you’d expect given the heady price tags. They have sports seats upholstered in leather, sat nav, DAB, a full suite of parking sensors and generally top-draw comfort and kit. The BMW has a few extras missing on the Porsche: metallic paint, cruise control and Bluetooth are all must-haves you must fork out more for.
Something else in the BMW’s favour is that it will prove a bit more economical and slightly cheaper to lease. The Porsche has the better retained values though – but don’t expect either to be particularly cheap to own and run. Bank on £40,000 of expenditure after three years…
So which is it? This time around, for sheer excitement, we’re giving the nod to the BMW. This is a sports car twin test and the BMW is simply the better sports car. It’s not perfect, but it’s still easy to live with, and shows you can have practical four-door five-seaters that still deliver thrills by the buckletload.
Not that the Macan Turbo is a distant second-best. It’s extraordinary in its own right, and probably the choice if you want something a bit more refined and easy to live with than the focused BMW. But for us, sporty focus is good, so the M3 just edges it.
Rob Adams, WhatCar