Beauty and the beast. It's a tempting if lazy way to polarise our pair of 500bhp sports saloons, but I promise that’s the first and last time I’m going to make reference to the BMW’s bizarre nostrils. Instead, I’m more concerned about the amount of pies it appears to have been consuming, and the switch to a torque converter automatic gearbox from the old M DCT. Is it really going to cut it as a proper M3? These are the questions we’ve set out to answer over the course of a couple of days’ driving.

I claim first dibs on the M3, which is how I come to be slogging up the M6 early on day one. Somewhere out there Dickie Meaden is making similar progress in our evo Fast Fleet Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, while Jordan Katsianis is similarly watching the miles tick by from behind the wheel of a plain vanilla Porsche 911 Carrera. The Alfa’s presence here is easy to understand: it’s our favourite sports saloon of the moment, so it’s an obvious and formidable foe for the new M-car – a straight shoot-out for class supremacy. We could have added a Mercedes-AMG C63 to the mix, but that car isn’t long for this world, so you can find our musings on the model’s future at the end of this story, in the form of the CLA45. There’s an Audi RS4 back there too, demoted on account of it being significantly outgunned in this company and, with the arrival soon of the M3 Touring, about to lose a precious USP against the BMW.

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BMW M3 Competition v Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio v Porsche 911 Carrera -Which Is Your Cup Of Tea?

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