BMW M3 review
The BMW M3 is an incredibly accomplished driver’s machine, yet tame enough to use on a daily basis
The M3 has been one of the most desirable cars in BMW's range since the Eighties. This V8 version is the fastest and greatest all-rounder, yet it's more fun to drive than an Audi S5 and almost has enough performance to keep up with supercars costing twice the price. However, it's also docile enough to use everyday and has plenty of space and equipment.
Our choice: BMW M3 Coupe Competition Pack manual
With a muscular bulge on the bonnet, pumped-up wheelarches, 18-inch alloy wheels and those quad rear exhausts, the M3 certainly looks like it means business. Some might find it too aggressive, but to be honest that's most of the appeal. Leave it to the Audi S5 to be more subtle. There aren't many options, but you can upgrade the wheels and specify electronic dampers. Inside, it's lavishly equipped with leather, electric sports seats, climate control, parking sensors and automatic xenon lights and wipers.
The M3 is brilliant to drive. Its 4.0-litre V8 produces 415bhp and the M3 accelerates from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. There's so much shove that you really don't need to rev it hard to go quickly - but take it to the redline and you'll keep up with a Porsche 911, and it has an amazing soundtrack, too. It's great fun in corners, thanks to meaty and precise steering, a clever rear differential and lightweight aluminium suspension components. It turns in sharply, grips well and the handling is superb - if you're skilled enough, it'll slide its tail all day. The twin-clutch automatic is quite smooth, but we'd go for the manual, which is a little notchy, but adds to the fun.
The M3 is really just a faster BMW 3 Series, so it's got just as much safety kit as the rest of the range, including front, side and curtain airbags, as well as a sophisticated traction and stability control system. Reliability should be superb, although if you're buying secondhand make sure the car has a full service history - M3s need regular maintenance to perform at their best.
Practicality is the sam as the standard BMW 3 Series Coupe, so there's room for four adults and a decent-sized boot that can swallow some big suitcases. Up front, the driving position is superb thanks to electric leather sports seats which adjust in every way - including an extending under thigh support. The steering wheel also adjusts for reach and rake.
This isn't a cheap car to run. But then with all that performance on tap, did you expect anything else? The big V8 is very thirsty, and despite standard stop-start, the lure of the performance will mean you'll be lucky to get anywhere near the M3's claimed figure of 22.8mpg. Emissions put the M3 squarely in the top road tax band, while insurance and servicing will be expensive. However, because of the M3s reputation, it's always in strong demand on the used market, so holds onto its value very well.