BMW M3

Powerful engine squeezed into a practical saloon car

8.9
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 8 reviews
  • Huge performance
  • Great handling
  • Capable cruiser
  • Synthesised engine note
  • Steering could have more feeling
  • Lacks a bit of M3 character
 

£56,605 - £62,100 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

32 - 34 MPG

Review

The BMW M3 has long been regarded as the definitive sports saloon. With each generation that passes, reviewers always note the same qualities; great handling balance, a screaming engine and supercar-bothering performance.

On the surface, the latest version doesn’t look radically different from the 3 Series saloon on which it is based – only some nice alloy wheels and a subtle body kit offer any clues that this might be something special. But it is under the skin where BMW have worked their magic.

On the whole, the latest M3 seems to have lived up to the reputation of its predecessors, with one or two caveats. The main point of contention centres around the introduction of a turbocharged engine – for the first time in the M3 – which lacks the character of the previous masterpieces.

The interior is largely similar to the 3 Series on which it’s based. Upgrades include front sports seats, a unique M Sport gear lever, and paddle shifters which sit behind a three spoke M Sport steering wheel.

Subtle upgrades aside, sharing a few parts with the standard 3 Series is no bad thing. There is plenty of room for four (with room for another on shorter journeys) while a 480 litre boot is quite generous, certainly among cars which can offer this kind of performance.

It’s all well screwed together (as most BMW cabins are these days) but one tester notes that some trim pieces don’t feel as nice as you’d hope for a car costing in the region of £60,000. There is the option to add some lovely carbon fibre trim pieces though, which for a smidge under £400 manage to liven the cabin up.

There are many reasons to commend BMW on what they have achieved with the latest version of the M3. Bespoke aluminium suspension components and a carbon fibre roof contribute to the latest version of the saloon weighing 80kg less than the previous V8 model. Meanwhile, trick adjustable dampers allow the driver to electronically adjust the firmness of the car to suit road conditions.

All of these features contribute towards making M Division’s latest creation stunningly effective at covering ground quickly, whatever the situation. The rear-wheel drive chassis and near-perfect weight distribution result in a car that feels “balanced, accurate and forgiving” even when driven with enthusiasm.

Testers compliment the optional carbon ceramic brakes for being “virtually unfadable with a linear pedal action”, but then they should be good – at £6,250 they cost more than 10 percent of the cost of the whole car…

It isn’t quite perfect though. the electric power steering has a decent weighting to it, but in terms of feedback and feel, several testers feel that it is lacking, meaning that you don’t feel as connected to the car as you’d perhaps expect.

The latest M3 engine follows the market’s current trend towards smaller, more efficient engines. Gone is the old 4.0-litre V8, replaced by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six. Despite the reduction in capacity, the new engine produces 10 horsepower more than before, with 431hp being fed onto the tarmac via the fat rear tyres.

One benefit of forced-induction is that it offers very generous levels of torque; 405lb-ft is available from as low as 1,750rpm, and keeps shoving all the way through to 5,500rpm. It is impossible to argue with the performance it delivers.

The latest M3 dispatches the 0-60 sprint in just 4.1 seconds when equipped with the dual clutch semi-automatic transmission (DCT), while the manual lags just a couple of tenths behind. Both gearboxes are excellent, but the DCT is predicted to be by far the best seller, with only the keenest drivers expected to choose the manual.

What does frequently suffer from criticism, though, is the way that the turbo six makes you feel. Many dislike the noise, which has to resort to being artificially piped through the car’s stereo to beef it up a little. One tester also points out that the turbocharged engine fails to offer the “razor-like throttle response” or “alluring aural qualities” that the engines gracing the finest M cars deliver.

These are general, non engine-specific reviews off the BMW M3. They give you a good idea of what the car is like without going into detail on one particular engine or model.
After a brief spell with eight-cylinder engines, the M3 returns to an inline six-cylinder unit in its latest designation - albeit boosted by turbochargers this time around.

The new M3 is too new to have been tested just yet, but there's plenty to look forward to with the new power unit. Output of 431 PS is more than healthy enough and a quoted 0-60 run of 4.3 seconds gives it enough pace to worry supercars. A 32.1 mpg combined figure is certainly healthier than the old V8 M3 too, so the car should maintain its ballistic-but-usable reputation.

Check back again soon and we'll have full details on the M3 from press reviews.

At £56,175, The M3 looks like reasonable value in this class. The fact that it costs £460 less than the M4 Coupe – which not only offer nearly identical driving thrills, but is less practical, too – further increases its appeal. Mercedes’s latest rival, the AMG C63, costs about £3,000 more, at £59,975.

The claimed figures of 34mpg and 194g/km of CO2 emissions mean that the M3 will be relatively painless to run on a day-to-day basis. Unless you enjoy flexing your right foot, that is: some testers struggled to get 20mpg while driving with a little more enthusiasm…

There are other costs that need to be factored in too. Many of the optional extras are expensive, and the majority of owners that are predicted to choose the DCT gearbox will have to fork out a further £2,645 for the privilege.

BMW M3 30 Jahre Edition

If the M3 isn’t exclusive enough for you, take a look at the M3 30 Jahre Edition. Built to celebrate the M3’s 30th birthday, this special edition comes as standard with exclusive 20-inch alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes and extensive use of carbon fibre components both inside and out. The upgraded competition pack option from the standard M3 is also fitted.

Conclusion

However you approach it, the M3 is a hugely accomplished sports saloon. One tester sums it up best by saying “It delivers exactly the sort of split-personality that M3 buyers are likely to want; being easy-to-use and drive everyday, but challenging and thrilling when you want it to be”.

That the engine lacks a little fizz won’t be a massive concern to most buyers, neither will the slightly disappointing steering. The M3 is the most capable small sports saloon currently on sale. At least until deliveries of the new Mercedes-AMG C63 begin, that is…