BMW M3 review

The BMW M3 is faster, more agile and can now be had with switchable four-wheel drive. But you’ll either love or hate the looks…

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wowscore
9/10
This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Hugely fast and capable
  • New four-wheel drive option
  • Decent-sized boot

What's not so good

  • Alternatives are more comfortable
  • Looks divide opinion
  • Estate version not arriving for a while

Find out more about the BMW M3

Is the BMW M3 a good car?

The BMW M3 is a high-performance saloon alternative to the Audi RS4, Mercedes-AMG C63 and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. It’s the original and still considered the best by many, loved for packing so much pace and excitement into a sensible, family friendly body.

The latest generation has more power and luxury than ever, but that might not matter to you one jot if you take one look at it and don’t like what you see…

Imagine the BMW M3 a bit like your other half rocking up home unexpectedly with a tattoo one day that you knew they wanted, but secretly detested the idea of. It’s long been known BMW had plans to shove the huge front grille you see on the M3, despite outcry from enthusiasts not to do it, and, well, they’ve done it.

There’s more to the outlandish styling of the BMW M3 than just the ‘kidney’ (maybe lungs would be more appropriate) grille. Huge intakes sit either side of the bottom of the front bumper, while down the side swollen wheel arches makes it stand out from a regular 3 Series. In fact, the only bit of bodywork shared with the standard car is the boot lid — though here it has a spoiler tacked on top. You’ll see a quad-exit exhaust sat below a chunky diffuser, and happily, those huge tailpipes are real.

You have the option between two alloy wheel designs as well, with the front pair 19-inches and the rear 20-inches in size. You can also choose to have lots of the exterior details clad in carbon fibre, although this is a pricey option.

You’re not going to mistake the BMW M3 for a run-of-the-mill 3 Series inside, either. It’s covered with M-coloured stitching, M-badges everywhere and if that wasn’t enough, it’s like somebody spilt a large mug of carbon fibre all over the place. A thick model-specific steering wheel features as well as standard electrically-adjustable sports seats that come with illuminated M logos, though you can opt for figure-hugging carbon fibre bucket seats if you want a feel more akin to a racing car.

This version of the BMW M3 is a bit longer than the old car as well, so there’s more room in the back. Legroom back there is pretty good, and there’s more headroom here than the equivalent M4 as a result of the saloon body style. You could easily use this as a family car.

For no extra cost in the BMW M3, you get a fantastic infotainment system on a 10.1-inch screen. It’s intuitive and dead easy to use, plus there’s finally support for Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay. Both can be connected to wirelessly, as well.

In front of you, there’s a 12.3-inch digital drivers display for key driving info, and this has some customisation to it too, including racy-looking M-specific displays. It’s not the most configurable or exciting-looking instrument display in the business, however.

The new BMW M3 is nothing short of sensational to drive, and I’m excited to see how blisteringly quick the all-wheel-drive version will be.

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

There’s a reasonable amount of boot space in the BMW M3, with 480 litres. That’s identical to the outgoing car, though those after a bit more room will be happy to know an estate ‘Touring’ version is on the way.

If you’re buying a BMW M3 though, you’re likely most interested in its performance — and this latest version has bags of it. Its 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six engine is good for 510hp and 650Nm of torque in Competition form (which is all you can get in the UK), sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It fires the M3 from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a 155mph limited top speed. You can get that raised to 180mph as part of a package that also includes carbon-ceramic brakes, but it’ll cost you £8,000. Gulp.

Another option you can get on the M3 for the first time ever in the UK  is an xDrive version. This brings in the same switchable four-wheel drive system as you’ll find on the M5, allowing you to have the security of all-weather traction mixed with the ability to switch back into rear-wheel drive for some hooliganism.

When you’re driving it hard, the M3 doesn’t feel quite as spiky and unpredictable as the old car — largely in part because of impressive levels of grip all-round.. It feels sharper than the likes of the Audi RS4, yet not as intimidating as the outgoing version. It’s even less spiky in the four-wheel drive version, which rivals the Audi for storming all weather, all season pace.

This is more than just a brutal performance car though and does the normal stuff pretty well. Switch everything into Comfort mode and you can cruise along pretty comfortably with lighter steering, though the suspension still has a pretty firm edge to it at low speed.

As you probably would with your other half’s surprise tattoo, you can probably look past the looks and appreciate the BMW M3 for the impressive performance car it is. You might even grow to like the styling, too.

Watch our BMW M3 v Porsche 911 group test:

How practical is it?

Boot space is pretty good in the BMW M3, though you’ll have to wait for a little longer for an estate version if you need more. 

Boot (seats up)
480 litres
Boot (seats down)
-

This new BMW M3 is a bit longer than the old car as well, so there’s more room in the back for passengers. Legroom is good and the rear doors make access easy if you’re using this is a family car.

Upgrade to the carbon bucket front seats though and there’s even more space for your legs in the back. They won’t suit those of larger build, however, due to the figure hugging frame. They’re also a bit of a pain to get out of for taller folk, but they do look nice.

The M3 has basically the same level of storage as the standard 3 Series on which it’s based.

You can get a 500ml bottle into all of the door bins and the glove compartment will take another medium-sized bottle.

You can fit a few phones under the central armrest, while there is also a pair of cupholders under a cover in front of the gear lever, along with a 12V socket and a USB port. This section has a lid on it and if you have a particularly chunky USB cable you won’t be able to fully close the top to keep things neat and tidy.

Speaking of USB ports, there’s another under the front armrest and a pair in the back between the front seats but they’re all of the newer USB-C type so won’t work with older cables. There’s also a folding rear armrest with a pair of built-in cupholders.

There’s a reasonable amount of boot space in the BMW M3, with 480 litres. You get an electric tailgate as standard as well, which will help take off the load if you’re lugging in loads of cargo.

Unlike some models, there’s no trade off in boot space for having the four-wheel drive version. If you’re after more room there, an estate ‘Touring’ version is planned to come but it’s unlikely to arrive before the end of the year.

What's it like to drive?

The BMW M3 is a sublime and sharp performance car, but there are more comfortable fast daily drivers

Powering the M3 is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six engine that’s good for 510hp and 650Nm of torque in Competition form, sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

It’ll fire the M3 from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a 155mph limited top speed. You can get that limit raised to 180mph as part of a package that also includes carbon-ceramic brakes, but it’ll cost you £8,000.

A new four-wheel drive xDrive version has been added to the range, too. That drops the 0-60mph time to a supercar-baiting 3.5 seconds thanks to the extra grip, but demands an extra £2,500 or so for the privilege. Still, as the rear-wheel drive car is pretty lairy on wet or cold tarmac it certainly seems like a worthwhile investment – while you can switch to two-wheel drive mode if you still want to light up the rear tyres.

Regardless, the engine is explosive and delivers huge pace, but settles down nicely at a cruise. It makes a decent noise, too, if not quite the same rabid snarl as an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

There is a lower-powered version of the M3 available in other markets too, which has the option of a six-speed manual gearbox. You can’t get that in the UK, though. Sorry purists.

When you’re driving it hard, the BMW M3 doesn’t feel quite as spiky and unpredictable as the old car — largely in part because of strong levels of grip all-round. It’s a lot less intimidating than the old car, though if you turn the traction and stability systems off it’s still a bit of a hooligan.

Happily, if you want to exploit all of the M3’s performance come rain or shine there is a new four-wheel drive xDrive version available. It adds an extra 50kg or so to the car’s weight, but the trade-off is glue-like traction over poor surfaces and on wet or icy tarmac, where the standard car would struggle to put its power down fully. But it’s the best of both worlds, because in the car’s sportiest settings you can switch to 2WD mode and disengage the front driveshafts for some slidey fun on track.

It’s not just a brutal performance car though, and does the normal stuff pretty well. Switch everything into Comfort mode and you can cruise along pretty comfortably with lighter steering, though the suspension still has a pretty firm edge to it, particularly around town. If you want something a little more everyday-friendly, the comfier and more refined Audi RS4 is the way to go.

 

What's it like inside?

A fan of carbon fibre? You’ll be right at home in the rather spacious BMW M3. At least there’s no mistaking it for a regular 3 Series.

BMW M3 colours

Metallic - Black sapphire
Free
Metallic - Brooklyn grey
Free
Metallic - Isle of Man green
Free
Metallic - Portimao blue
Free
Metallic - Skyscraper grey
Free
Metallic - Toronto Red
Free
Solid - Alpine white
Free
Solid - Sao Paulo yellow
Free
BMW Individual metallic paint - Aventurine red lll
From £1,100
BMW Individual metallic paint - Dravit grey
From £1,100
BMW Individual metallic paint - Tanzanite blue
From £1,100
Individual paint - Frozen Orange II
From £2,985
Individual paint - Frozen Portimao blue
From £2,985
Individual paint - Frozen black
From £2,985
Individual paint - Frozen dark grey
From £2,985
Individual paint - Frozen pure grey metallic
From £2,985
BMW Individual special paint - Frozen Brilliant white
From £3,985
Next Read full interior review
Buy or lease the BMW M3 at a price you’ll love
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RRP £78,175 - £100,215 Avg. carwow saving £4,275 off RRP
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Monthly
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