The BMW M3 is what happens when talented engineers shoe-horn a twin-turbo engine into a practical family saloon. Sadly, it isn’t cheap to experience this tempting combination for yourself
The BMW M3 is the fastest version of the standard 3 Series saloon that packs a twin-turbo six-cylinder engine and some seriously aggressive visual upgrades. In addition to larger alloy wheels than the standard car, you get plenty of gaping air intakes, a much louder exhaust and numerous tweaks designed to make the BMW M3’s interior look significantly sportier.
More supportive sports seats come as standard alongside plenty of M badges and some slick metal gear-shift paddles behind the steering wheel. Even the optional red leather seats and carbon fibre dashboard trims look pretty appropriate in a car as raucous as the BMW M3, but some plastics lower down in the cabin feel slightly cheap for such an expensive sports car.
Thankfully, you won’t have much to complain about when it comes to the BMW M3’s practicality. There’s plenty of space in the front for very tall drivers and the sumptuous wingback sports seats come with loads of adjustment to help you find your ideal driving position.
The back seats are spacious enough for two adults to get comfy, too, but you’ll have to make sure only shorter passengers occupy the central rear seat. The BMW M3’s boot is reasonably roomy for a sports saloon, too – a set of golf clubs will fit with room to spare.
The BMW M3’s dedication to outperforming the competition on a race track means it’s lost some of its predecessors' character
If it’s handling prowess – rather than practicality – you look for in a sports car, then the BMW M3 is one of the best high-performance saloons in the business. It isn’t quite as quick as the Mercedes AMG C63 to reach 62mph from rest, but you can hardly call the M3’s 4.3-second sprint time sluggish.
Show the BMW M3 a series of corners, however, and it’ll carve a neater, more nimble line through them than the lairy C63. Stick the gearbox, suspension, steering and throttle in their most responsive modes respectively, and there aren’t many four-door sports cars out there that can keep up with a charging M3.
The optional Competition Pack adds more power, larger alloy wheels, retuned suspension, a less intrusive traction control system and a louder sports exhaust to the BMW M3’s already impressive performance arsenal. It helps make the M3 one of the sharpest sports saloons around and a serious track-day weapon.
Go one step further – into range-topping CS territory – and you get 10 more horsepower, which is enough to slice 0.3 seconds of the Competition model’s 0-62mph sprint time.
Unfortunately, when you just want to settle back into a relaxing cruise, the BMW M3 doesn’t do quite as good a job as alternatives from Mercedes and Audi. Its adaptive suspension softens out most potholes and bumps, but can’t quite separate you from the road as well as the seriously smooth Audi RS4.
The BMW M3 isn’t quite as easy to drive quickly as the Audi RS4, either. Its tail-happy nature and two-wheel-drive setup mean it doesn’t inspire quite as much confidence as the sure-footed four-wheel-drive Audi RS4 – especially in wet weather.
That said, if you’re looking for a searingly quick four-door sports car that’ll spend more time at the track than in rush-hour tailbacks, then the BMW M3 is one of the best around.