What could an SUV and an executive saloon possibly have in common? When it’s the BMW M3 and Porsche Macan Turbo, quite a lot.
Despite their apparently disparate characters – the BMW is a white-eyed sports car tamed for everyday use, the Porsche a calm, relaxing GT with a hooligan streak – each costs around £60,000 and offers serious performance, a family-friendly five-seat cabin, plenty of high-end kit and an equally prestigious badge. Whether you’re planning on taking in the daily commute or a trackday, either would do the trick.
In one corner we have BMW’s £58,685 M3 M DCT super-saloon, with its new V8-replacing 425bhp twin-turbo straight-six offering a cleaner and leaner driving experience than ever before. Its rival here is the flagship £59,300 Porsche Macan Turbo, whose 394bhp twin-turbo V6 promises plenty of full-on action as well. Let’s hit the road.
With our test car’s seven-speed M DCT auto feeding power to the rear wheels (a manual is available as well), and its numerous selective modes set for optimum response, the M3’s performance is barely short of awesome. It sounds great, and the auto shifts are perfectly judged if a little ‘thunky’ in flat-out upchanges, while taking charge via the paddle-shifters gives you even more control. The 30-70mph sprint is dispatched in a mere 3.1sec.
The Macan feels cleanly ferocious as it zips up to speed, its slick, standard-fit, seven-speed PDK auto aiding a 4.2sec 30-70mph time. It’s missing that sense of speed and drama the M3 brings, however. The same feeling extends to the SUV’s dynamics, which deliver a more comfortable everyday ride compared with its rival here. We wouldn’t bother with the optional air suspension, as the standard steel springs are that good. The Porsche may lack the BMW’s innate sportiness, but its controlled body movement, sharp turn-in, massive grip and communicative steering are a showcase for the brand’s engineering team.
It’s more suited to long-distance cruising than the M3, which is noisier and more tiring at speed, with a tauter set-up giving a choppier ride. The net result, however, is much higher driver reward, with sublime poise, precise, weighty steering, and perfectly tempered, confidence-inspiring throttle response. It may not be as easy to use as the Macan, but its superb feedback makes for an exhilarating drive.
The driving experience in both cars is more than enhanced by roomy, comfortable and beautifully equipped cabins. Each features widely adjustable, comfortable, leather-trimmed sports seats, colour screen, sat-nav, DAB, USB ports and all-round parking sensors. The BMW’s standard-fit metallic paint, cruise control and Bluetooth all cost extra on the Macan.
That £60k price tag is better reflected inside the precisely engineered, top-quality Porsche, though. The BMW may have a larger, sharper touchscreen and more user-friendly interface, but fit and finish that would be acceptable in a £30k exec saloon don’t quite cut the mustard here, with some brittle-feeling plastics and a lack of sense of occasions, despite the distinctive M tri-colours. At least it has more rear legroom than the SUV, which in turn can carry bulkier items thanks to its taller hatch boot.
Even if these sports cars represent a more efficient performance era, they still aren’t cheap to run, and each will cost just over £40,000 to own and run if a private buyer was to sell after three years. The BMW is slightly more economical, though, and cheaper to lease.
As a sports car test, practicality gives way to thrills – and for its sheer sports car excitement, the M3 wins out. It’s still easy to live with, but it offers blistering pace and plenty of grip. It may not be flawless, but it’s the best fast four-door sports car in this price range. That’s not to say the high-riding Macan Turbo disappoints. It lacks the BMW’s ultimate thrills – as well as its kit levels – but it’s fast, fun, grippy and refined. We could even call it extraordinary, but that’s still not good enough to win out here. The M3 takes the crown.
1) BMW M3 M DCT
Rated 5 out of 5
Engine size 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
2) Porsche Macan Turbo
Rated 4 out of 5
Engine size 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