BMW M3 review
The BMW M3 has always mixed performance with saloon practicality - and the new model doesn't stray from the formula
The BMW M3 has long been the go-to performance saloon, heading the class for years thanks to razor-sharp handling and fantastic engines. However, now the M3 faces stiff competition from the likes of Audi, Mercedes and even Lexus, BMW has upped its game and made some big changes.
The M3 comes in saloon form only, unlike the previous generation, and is priced at £56,190. You’ll have to look to the M4 Coupe and M4 Convertible if you want a 2-door or drop-top version, as these now slot into the 4 Series range. Still, the M3 has a muscular bodykit, bootlid spoiler, twin-stalk mirrors and quad exhausts to ensure it’s recognisable as the performance variant in the 3 Series range.
The latest M3 ditches the 4.0-litre V8 from the previous car and now packs a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the bonnet, but this doesn’t mean sacrifices have been made in terms of power and performance.
In fact, the M3 has 9bhp of extra power over the old car – meaning the latest model boasts 425bhp, a quicker 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds and efficiency gains, too. Factor in an 80kg weight loss and the M3 is a quicker performer all-round than its predecessor.
The M3 was tested extensively at the Nurburgring and honed by BMW’s top professional racing drivers during development, to ensure rivals like the Audi RS4 and Mercedes AMG C 63 are kept in their place.
The M3 is suitably aggressive in a way that befits its ‘M’ badge. On the outside, there’s a beefy bodykit, bootlid spoiler, 19-inch alloys, quad exhausts and a dark carbon fibre reinforced roof. You can add even larger alloys if the standard ones aren’t enough.
Inside, there are plenty of features that make the M3 instantly recognisable as part of the 3 Series family. There are some distinctions, though, including the M gearlever, doorsills, steering wheel and dials. Also fitted to UK M3s are a set of electronically-controlled heated bucket seats.
This is possibly the area that matters most for any BMW M model. Let’s get it out there straight away – the M3 doesn’t disappoint. The car feels blisteringly fast when the powertrain, dampers and steering are set to their most aggressive level. It will sprint from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and is extremely capable through the corners. It simply refuses to understeer in tight bends.
The back end can get a bit lively if you give the throttle a poke mid-corner, but the accessibility and adjustability of the M3 means it won’t scare you off. The ride never feels too harsh either for such a sports-oriented car, and you can tweak the settings to your heart’s content – for example razor sharp throttle response combined with softer suspension. This makes the M3 incredibly adaptable.
If you want a more sedate setup, switch into Comfort mode and the M3 immediately relaxes, taking on a character more similar to that of a standard 3 Series.
High performance models like the M3 are carefully honed but still have to pass the same endurance tests as the rest of BMW’s line-up. That means millions of miles of stress-testing on the engines and components to ensure it won’t let you down.
The M3 has been specifically designed for use on the track, too, so you shouldn’t have to worry about turning up for an occasional track day. Despite these assurances, it’s difficult to gauge exactly how reliable the M3 will be, because it’s such a new car. It should be electrically sound, though, as it uses all the same kit as the current 3 Series.
When it comes to safety, the M3 will claim the same excellent Euro NCAP result as the 3 Series. That means a full five-star rating, with a 95 per cent adult and 84 per cent child occupant protection rating.
The great thing about the M3 is that it doesn’t compromise on practicality compared to the 3 Series on which it’s based. That means there’s plenty of space in the rear seats for tall passengers and there’s a 480-litre boot.
Unlike the 3 Series, the M3 gets 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats as standard – a £650 cost option normally. There’s a nice big glovebox, deep door bins and plenty of cupholders throughout the cabin so you’ll never be stuck for storage space, either.
BMW claims the latest M3 is 25 per cent more efficient than the previous generation. This has been possible due to BMW downsizing from a 4.0-litre V8 to a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit, and an 80kg reduction in kerbweight.
With the DCT gearbox, fuel economy sits at 34mpg and CO2 emissions of 194g/km. If you opt for the manual, fuel economy slips to 32.1mpg and CO2 emissions increase to 204g/km.
If you drive the M3 how it’s supposed to be driven, though, you won’t see fuel economy figures north of 20mpg. The lower CO2 emissions mean a lower annual tax bill, making the M3 slightly more accessible for company car buyers – but not by much.