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BMW M3 Saloon (2007-2011) review

Four-door BMW M3 saloon adds a dose of versatility over the coupe, yet still offers the same supercar-rivalling thrills

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Performance, V8 soundtrack, 4dr practicality
  • Running costs, standard 3 Series interior
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The BMW M3 saloon is the third body style offered by BMW for its high-performance compact executive. The high-revving 414bhp 4.0-litre V8 is the same as that found in the M3 Coupe and Convertible, and it provides the same driving thrills and tuneful soundtrack. The biggest differences between the M3 saloon and Coupe are the fact the former adds a pair of rear doors, the carbon fibre roof section has been replaced by steel and it’s a little heavier, too. That means performance is slightly blunted, but compared to a Mercedes C63 AMG, the M3 saloon is the more entertaining driver’s car, especially as it comes with a six-speed manual, which is more involving to use than the C63’s seven-speed auto.

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Our choice: BMW M3 saloon

Engines, performance and drive

As with the coupe, there’s more to the BMW M3 saloon than just a big V8 up front. While that provides huge acceleration across the rev range, it’s backed up by a chassis and a suite of hi-tech electronics that get the most from it. The M3 saloon’s main rival is the Mercedes C63 AMG, and while that car will beat the M3 in a straight line, the BMW is more satisfying in the bends, with a sharp chassis, lots of steering feel, an accurate, smooth-shifting manual gearbox and clever differential to get that power to the road without any fuss. And when you want to take things easy, the M3 is equally accomplished, although the optional 18-inch alloys take the edge off of ride comfort.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

A big V8 is never going to be cheap to run, and if you make the most of the M3 saloon’s performance, you’re unlikely to get anywhere the official economy figure of 22.8mpg, which isn’t great in the first place. The M3 saloon isn’t as popular as its coupe and convertible counterparts, so is a rarer sight on the roads, but this also means resale values are likely to be poorer.

Interior, design and technology

There are a number of styling cues that mark the BMW M3 saloon from the standard car. It has flared wheelarches, extra vents in the nose and bonnet, quad exhausts out back and big alloy wheels. It does without the carbon fibre roof of the M3 Coupe, but it still looks purposeful. The big letdown is the cabin, as it doesn’t really add anything special when compared to a 330d M Sport, for example. However, it’s well built, and comes with a decent amount of kit as standard.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

A four-door supersaloon is a smart choice if you’re after a single car that can satisfy when you’re driving alone, but also transport the family and their luggage when necessary. The M3 saloon is as practical as the standard car, so there’s plenty of room up front, but rear seat passengers will have limited room, especially in the cramped middle seat. There’s not much in the way of cubbies on the centre console, though.

Reliability and Safety

The BMW M3 has been on sale since 2007, and there haven’t been any major issues reported with the engine, which itself is a development of the V10 from the last M5. Some owners have reported problems with the iDrive control system, but a software update should address any problems. The M3 is based on the five-star Euro NCAP-rated 3 Series, so it’s a safe place to be, while the M3’s hi-tech traction and stability control systems actively look after you should the car’s performance exceed expectations.

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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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