BMW M3 review
The BMW M3 has always mixed performance with saloon practicality - and this new model doesn't stray from the formula
The BMW M3 is a traditional performance flagship of the BMW 3 Series range and has been long regarded as the super-saloon of choice because of its great engines and razor sharp handling. This latest model marks a slight departure for BMW as it’s the first ever turbocharged M3, swapping out the old car’s 4.0-litre V8 in favour of a more efficient 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine.
Handling is clearly still a priority, and BMW has cut 80kg from the old car’s kerbweight and fitted adaptive dampers and a limited slip-differential to ensure it’s as fun to drive as it can be. It’s been extensively tested on the Nurburgring circuit and honed by BMW’s professional racing drivers.
The old M3 range used to include M3 Coupe and Convertible models but those cars have now been made part of the BMW M4 line-up.
In typical BMW fashion, the M3 is an aggressive but understated design. The 3 Series shape is still recognisable, though cloaked beneath a more muscular bodykit, a bootlid spoiler and four exhausts. A set of M twin-stalk wing mirrors, M intakes in the flanks and a dark carbon fibre-reinforced plastic roof help mark out the M3. A set of 19-inch alloy wheels come as standard, but you can upgrade to larger wheels if you want.
The interior features many recognisable 3 Series components but there are plenty of M3-specific touches, like the M gearstick, door sills, steering wheel and dials. A set of electronically controlled, heated bucket seats are thrown in on UK M3s.
This is the bit that matters most for any BMW M model, and the M3 doesn’t disappoint. Set the powertrain, dampers and steering to their most aggressive settings and it feels blisteringly fast and extremely capable in the corners. It’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and resolutely refuses to understeer in tight bends.
Just a slight press of the throttle mid-corner will get the back end moving around, but the M3 feels so adjustable and accessible that it’s not scary – just fun. Alternatively, you can keep everything set to Comfort and the M3 immediately relaxes, taking on a character that’s far more ‘normal’ 3 Series. It rides nicely and it’s pretty refined.
High performance models like the BMW 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 all of the components to ensure it won’t break down.
It’s been specifically designed for use on a track, too, so you don’t have to worry about taking it on the occasional trackday. Despite all these assurances, it’s hard to gauge exactly how reliable the M3 will be, but it’s should be electrically sound as it uses all the same kit found in the 3 Series.
When it comes to safety, the M3 will claim the same excellent Euro NCAP result as the 3 Series. So that means a full five-star rating, featuring 95% for adult occupant protection and 84% for child occupants.
The great thing about the M3 is that it’s every bit as practical as the 3 Series on which it’s based. That means there’s plenty of space in the rear seats for tall passengers – the M4 coupe is short on headroom – and there’s a 480-litre boot. Unlike the 3 Series, the M3 gets 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats as standard – they’re normally a £650 optional extra.
There’s a nice big glovebox, deep door bins and plenty of cupholders scattered throughout the cabin so you’ll never be stuck for storage space.
For the latest BMW M3, the engine has been downsized from a 4.0-litre V8 to a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder. Pair that up with the 80kg kerbweight saving and the M3 is 25 per cent more efficient than the car it replaces. Go for the seven-speed DCT gearbox and that means fuel economy of 34mpg, with CO2 emissions of 194g/km. Manual-equipped models are slightly worse, claiming 32.1mpg and 204g/km.
Drive the M3 how it’s meant to be driven, though and you’ll find fuel economy of below 20mpg becomes the norm. On the plus side, those new, lower CO2 emissions mean a lower yearly tax bill and also make it a little more accessible for company car buyers – but not by much.