As for multimedia, you get the latest build of BMW iDrive with ConnectedDrive, which we think is one of if not the best system currently out there.

Input is done either by the selector wheel that now boasts a touchpad on top or voice commands. You get all the usual functions including navigation and entertainment and more cutting-edge features like internet connectivity and apps.

Our favourite bit is the new app for controlling GoPro Hero sports cameras - It's one of the best in-car apps we've experienced.

BMW M3
GoPro app is new for the M3 model

The head up display is super, too, and for the M3 now features an option rev counter for when you are driving in manual mode using the paddle shifters. Nifty.

On the downside, the nav system can be tricky to follow. As ever, it's a tiny bit laggy, which can lead to missing exits on roundabouts. The live traffic data and alternative routing is borderline useless, too.

BMW M3
Head-up display is a definite highlight

That's a flaw BMW's nav shares with many other systems. But it's no less galling for that. In the end, nothing beats pulling up Google maps and using your MK1 eyeballs to judge how the traffic is looking.

Devastating drive

This is what it's all about. Driving the M3. Words frankly don't do justice to the relentless shove the new M3 offers. It absolutely pulverises the old V8 model. Really.

Honestly, numbers like the claimed 4.1 seconds to 62mph don't do the real-world performance justice.

Its best party trick is accelerating from 5,000rpm in fourth gear (out of seven). At that stage, you're doing 90mph and the M3 explodes forward like the Millenium Falcon with warp drive engaged only to bang into the 155mph speed limiters moments later. It's faintly ridiculous.

BMW M3
After 2,500 miles in the devastating M3, we still can't quite believe how rapid it really is

Of course, it's not the fastest car in the world. We've driven plenty more powerful and faster cars. But not in this segment. Thanks to the light kerb weight, the M3's acceleration often feels more vivid than the bigger, more powerful M5 and M6 models from BMW.

Oh yeah, and the new M3 achieves all this while emitting under 200g/km of CO2. That's plain ridiculous.

Thanks to the work BMW has done on the chassis, things like carbon fibre bracing and solidly-located subframes, the new M3 feels even more precise through corners, too. It's quite a package.

So, what's the catch?

If at this stage you're thinking surely BMW mucked something up somewhere, we can confirm the new M3 won't be for everyone. The character and noise of the turbo engine, for all its epic thrust, won't please purists who love naturally-aspirated zing.

In fact the character of the performance is more 335d uber diesel on steroids than old school BMW M car, despite the work BMW has done in making this petrol turbo rev to 7,000rpm.

BMW M3
Beastly looks to match brawny performance

The augmented engine noise using the car's audio system will offend the same old school crowd.

And more generally, the new M3 has less character as slow speeds. It's remarkably comfortable, remarkably refined. For most that will be all for the better. But for a small minority, the missing sense of driving a real weapon, even when pottering through town, will be sorely missed.

The new performance saloon standard

But the biggest problem is that the things the new M3 does best are things your conscience and the law doesn't allow for on most public roads.

It's at its best when you are driving it like you stole it. Then it's electrifyingly fast and impeccably precise, bar a little loss of body control in extremis.

The rest of the time it's very refined, very, well, normal BMW. What you make of that is up to you. For a tiny minority, the M3 and its M4 sibling represent the end of BMW M cars as we once knew them. Highly strung, utterly unique.

BMW M3
Too much horsepower for the home counties: The new M3 is almost too fast

For everyone else, we reckon the M3 is bang on for what most people want from a modern performance saloon. It certainly makes something like an Audi RS5 feel hopelessly flat footed.

So, there's nothing unique about the mix of ingredients here. Turbo power, paddle shift gearbox, a metric tonne of tech. But the way BMW has blended them into a devastatingly usable package truly sets new standards. It's not a BMW M car as we knew them. But it is an exceptional achievement.

The new M3 is available now from £55,654 in the UK and $62,000 Stateside.