Hailed by some critics as the best-rounded car currently in production, the BMW M3 coupe features razor-sharp handling, a tuneful powerplant and a surprisingly practical interior with fully functional rear seats. Though based off the outgoing 3-Series and nearing the end of its life span, the M3 is still well worth a look for those seeking an extremely sporty yet comfortable daily driver.
The M3 is also available in convertible form, while the sedan version has been discontinued until the next-generation M3 lineup arrives.
The M3's 4.0-liter V8 powerplant has two more cylinders than its predecessor, delivering 414 horsepower and maximum torque of 295 pound-feet at 3,900 rpm. The engine is the lightest V8 in the world, weighing less than the previous M3's inline-six. A fine example of BMW's outgoing high-revving "M" tradition, maximum engine speed in the 4.0-liter is a screaming 8,300 rpm. In the interests of fuel economy, BMW is currently abandoning high-revving naturally aspirated engines in favor of turbocharged units with much lower redlines.
The compact V8 can be paired with the either a standard six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The row-your-own unit helps the car accelerate from zero-to-sixty mph in a claimed 4.7 seconds, while the auto is rated at 4.5 ticks; both times are likely conservative by nearly half a second. Fuel economy is rated at 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway for both transmissions.
Stopping power is enhanced by internally-vented, cross-drilled cast iron discs measuring 14.2 inches in diameter at the front and 13.8 inches in the rear.
The majority of the M3's chassis is constructed from lightweight aluminum, helping to keep the weight down and the handling reflexes sharp. Also contributing to the M3's agile dynamic character is a near perfect 51/49 front to rear weight distribution. Reminiscent of the carbon fiber roof panel used on the M6 coupe, the M3's carbon fiber roof cuts unnecessary weight and lowers the car's center of gravity. It also lets the roof edge appear flatter and thus lowers the perceived body height.
The M3 coupe is visually distinguishable from lesser 3-Series models thanks to a unique body kit, a more aggressive front fascia, a slight power bulge on the hood and, of course, the carbon fiber roof. Inside, the M3 maintains the simple yet elegant cabin of the standard 3er but adds numerous M badges, unique instruments and a fat-rimmed M steering wheel. The rear seats are surprisingly accommodating, and the trunk provides a reasonable amount of space.
A premium package offers power folding mirrors, universal garage opener, digital compass mirror, BMW Assist, Novillo Leather interior and choice of three optional interior trims. The technology package includes EDC, M Drive, Comfort Access, and a navigation system.
Stand-alone options include 19" wheels, Extended Novillo Leather, Electronic Damping Control, a navigation system and a premium sound system.
Buyers seeking an open-air experience can opt to delete the car's standard carbon fiber roof and replace it with a regular steel top and integrated glass moonroof.
The BMW M3 can also be ordered with EDC Electronic Damper Control. Adjusting damper forces electrohydraulically, EDC optimizes both the car's vertical vibration behavior as well as its yaw and roll motion in bends and its dynamic axle load distribution when applying the brakes and when accelerating.
Safety features include dual front, front side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The M3's closest competitors are the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe and Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, both of which make far more power but can't quite match the BMW's handling prowess.