The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.4
Although the original BMW M3 was a road-going race car, this latest version is more comfortable and usable. Thanks to the 4-litre V8 under the bonnet, it's also much more powerful too.
Reasons to buy
- Looks great
- Superb to drive
- Beautifully built
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The standard BMW 3 Series is a handsome car, and even more so in two-door coupe guise. But the BMW M3 is more pumped up in every way. It sports bulging wheelarches, bumpers with gaping holes and an enormous power dome in the bonnet hinting at the power within. It’s a restrained look, but one that leaves other road-users in no doubt as to the M3’s potential. Nice touches include the four booming tailpipes and a neat M3 badge across the functional cooling vents in the front wings. But its real party piece is reserved for the more eagle-eyed enthusiast – a carbon fibre roof, which looks fantastic as well as reducing the car’s weight and lowering its centre of gravity for improved handling.
What's the interior like?
While the exterior is all bulging muscle and aggression, the BMW M3’s cabin is a remarkably sober affair. The dash is constructed from tactile plastics with orange illuminations, and there are few buttons to distract the driver. Most of the controls are housed within BMW’s iDrive system, which employs a dial next to the handbrake to control the car’s navigation, audio, communication, climate control systems in a colour screen in the centre of the dash. Another nice touch is the red, blue and indigo stitching around the leather steering wheel to echo the colours on the evocative ‘M’ badge.
How practical is it?
The front of the BMW M3 is as spacious as any other 3 Series, with plenty of room for both driver and passenger. The rear is surprisingly roomy too; although a series of cupholders and storage spaces means the rear will only fit two. Once in the rear, two adults can travel in relative comfort, although getting in and out can prove tricky. The 430-litre boot is certainly large and a useful shape, but a small bootlid hampers access.
What's it like to drive?
This is the BMW M3’s home turf. The power steering is operated hydraulically rather than electrically for added feel. The steering offers enough feedback to exploit the car’s balanced chassis, and our test drivers found its on-road prowess among the best of the current performance car crop. Naturally the M3 has sports suspension, tuned by BMW’s M division and gives an excellent compromise between handling and ride quality. But should the driver wish to turn the M3 into a more focused driver’s car, menus within the iDrive system can adjust the optional Electronic Damper Control system which stiffens the suspension through three settings. The weight of the steering can also be adjusted. The wide 245 and 265-section tyres provide enough grip not to lean on the traction control systems too much, unless pushing hard on the bends. That said, with a firm prod of the accelerator, there’s enough power to spin the wheels, or hang the back end out under hard cornering.
How powerful is it?
With more than 400bhp on tap via its 4-litre V8 engine, the BMW M3 is no slouch. It’ll despatch 62mph in just 4.8 seconds before hitting a limited top speed of 155mph. And it sounds simply sensational while doing it. Its peak pulling power comes at 3,900rpm, which means it doesn’t have to be wound round to the 8,300rpm redline to get the best from it. Accelerating from a standstill reveals its ferocious pace, and once the rear wheels have settled down and the traction control stops restricting power to the back, it’ll gather pace like few other cars can. Like the suspension, the throttle response can be adjusted to become more brutal through the iDrive system. The BMW M3 also has an innocuous-looking button on the steering wheel marked ‘M’. This is a shortcut button to optimise the suspension, throttle response and steering; but in reality, most drivers will set it to ‘maximum attack’ mode and leave the standard settings for everyday driving.
How much will it cost me?
At more than £50,000, the new BMW M3 is the costliest yet, and after specifying a few options, the car’s first buyer could be looking at a £60,000 bill – not far off the asking price for a new Porsche 911. And M3 buyers might also be tempted by the Nissan GT-R, which is available for a similar price. Day-to-day expenses are considerable too: low-twenties fuel consumption and group 20 insurance while the top tax band will add another £400 a year onto the cost of ownership. And don’t forget to budget for regular tyre changes, either. But it’s not all costly. BMW’s Efficient Dynamics system charges the battery when the car is braking, reducing the engine load to power the car’s alternator. And the BMW M3’s used values are traditionally robust, with the new model predicted to retain more than half its value over three years.
How reliable is it?
The standard BMW 3 Series coupe, on which the M3 is based, has a good reputation for reliability. The M3 feels solid and very well built, and crash damage should be the only real area of concern for the used buyer.
How safe is it?
The current BMW 3 Series received a full five-star rating for adult occupant protection in the EuroNCAP crash test programme, while it achieved four stars for child protection. The coupe model, or the M3 on which it is based hasn’t been tested but we’d predict a similar result. The BMW M3 features a good level of safety equipment including six airbags for the driver and one each for the front passenger and rear occupants; a full complement of traction and stability control systems and two-stage brake lights, which vary intensity depending on how strongly the brakes are applied.
How much equipment do I get?
The BMW M3 comes with a good level of equipment, but much of the really desirable kit – such as a digital radio, Electronic Damper Control, 19-inch alloys – are costly options. Standard equipment includes climate control, cruise control, iDrive with 8.8-inch display, electrically-operated leather M sports seats, CD player with six speakers and interior trim bespoke to the M3.
The fourth generation of the BMW M3 is surely the best yet. With a potent V8 engine mated to a balanced chassis and responsive steering, it’s one of the finest ways to spend £50,000.