- Ferocious acceleration from turbocharged engine
- Powerful brakes
- Sports car handling
- The odd sound of this six-cylinder engine (especially compared to the previous V-8)
- Lack of steering feel
- Gritty pedal feel and the squeal of optional carbon-ceramic brakes
BMW M3 Expert Review
New for 2017
- Adaptive M Suspension now standard.
- iDrive updated to 5.0
- Executive Package now includes wireless charging and Wi-Fi hotspot with enhanced USB and Bluetooth.
- Individual Extended Merino Leather now includes leather dashboard.
As ever, the BMW M3 offers the power and handling of a sports car in a tidy sedan wrapper. Based on the laudable BMW 3 Series sedan, the M3 elevates that car's performance to a much, much higher level. The M3 features unique interior trimmings and fenders, high-performance engine, suspension, wheels, brakes, and tires.
In keeping with BMW's recent protocol, odd numbers indicate four doors, so the (F80) M3 is a four-door five-passenger sport sedan of a higher magnitude than the more common 3 Series. In standard trim, the iconic 2017 M3 comes with staggered-width 18-inch forged alloy wheels, performance tires, and a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine making 425 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 406 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1,850 rpm. Driving the rear wheels through a computer-controlled active rear differential, a six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a multi-mode seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is optional. Standard automatic engine stop/start may be turned off. According to the EPA, the M3 with a manual transmission should earn 17/26 mpg in city/highway, for a combined 20 mpg on premium gasoline. A DCT-equipped M3 loses 2 mpg on the highway for a net loss of 1 mpg in combined driving. In Motor Trend testing, an M3 with the DCT has run 0-60 mph between 3.8 and 4.0 seconds.
If that's not enough, for a little under $5,000 you may upgrade a 2017 M3 with the Competition Package. As such, engine output increases to 444 horsepower, wheels grow both in diameter and width, dynamic settings and response are heightened, and special front seats plus gloss-black trim are added.
Keyless entry and ignition are standard and the interior comes well equipped with 10-way power front seats (memory for driver), cloth and leather upholstery, three-stage heated front seats, carbon-fiber and gloss-black trim, and split-folding rear seats. A Harman-Kardon premium audio system is standard as is hard-drive-based, voice-controlled navigation with 3D maps, real-time traffic info, and an extra 20 GB of storage for digital audio files. The latest-generation iDrive (5.0) controls infotainment features including Web connectivity, BMW ConnectedDrive, and a host of available apps. Besides various leathers, other interior options include the Executive Package (parking sensors and rearview camera, heated steering wheel and rear seats, wireless charging and Wi-Fi hotspot, and an information-packed head-up display).
There are no crash test results for the M3, however, outfitted with eight, standard airbags, the 2016 BMW 3 Series from which the M3 is derived received five stars from NHTSA. Less generous with the 3 Series, the IIHS awarded only a "Marginal" (second lowest) grade for its small-overlap front crash test and also for its standard headlamps, especially low beams. In all other IIHS dynamic tests, the 3 Series scored "Good" (highest) grades, and also an "Advanced" ranking for forward crash protection when equipped with optional equipment. Adaptive cruise control is standard, however, the camera- and radar-based Driver Assistance Plus package adds blind-spot monitoring, side- and top-view cameras, lane keeping alert, forward collision warning, high- and low-speed automatic braking, and pedestrian protection. BMW Assist emergency communications is standard and includes on-demand roadside assistance, automatic crash notification, and stolen-vehicle recovery assistance.
Unless you plan to regularly book time at a race track, we feel the carbon-ceramic brake upgrade is a noisy and expensive option. When equipped with these brakes, Motor Trend recorded stops from 60 mph in the 99-104-foot range, which is considered very good, even for sports sedans.
What We Think
After spending a spine-compressing year in a 2015 M3 before Adaptive M Suspension was standard, we're relieved to learn that the adjustable setup now comes on every M3. We quickly acclimated to the DCT's idiosyncrasies and overcame our "seething frustration with the dual-clutch transmission's parking sequence." Otherwise we loved just about every minute of that year-long, trouble-free loan. One staffer had this to say, "Aside from the [squealing carbon-ceramic] brakes, I loved driving it on empty highways, ripping along in Sport+ mode. It sounds pretty damn beefy. All my friends loved it, too; they just enjoyed being driven around because the back seat is pretty roomy. I fit my whole bike in there without having to remove my front wheels." An on-staff surfer regularly loaded a 7-foot board in the car thanks to the fold-down rear seats.
In a comparison test among the then-brand-new 2016 Cadillac ATS-V and an aging 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 S, we declared the 2015 M3 "the best third-place finisher in Motor Trend history." Citing "a twitchiness to the M3's chassis" that irritated the electronic stability-control (ESC) system to the point that it "would cut power (and fun) at inopportune times," the ESC's M Dynamic mode was better, but still a little too intrusive.
The high-performance M3 placed second in a four-car performance sedan comparison test behind the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio but ahead of the Cadillac ATS-V and Mercedes-AMG C63 S. With the available Competition package, the M3 suffered from overly heavy steering, a clunky dual-clutch transmission, and less engaging handling compared to the Alfa and the Cadillac ATS-V. Additionally, its interior lags behind in quality to the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. With the available Competition package, however, the M3 now features better handling thanks to its more aggressive suspension setup compared to the standard car, and pairs well with its powerful engine.
The F80 M3 is the first M3 sedan to come standard with a carbon-fiber roof.
- Audi S4
- Cadillac ATS-V
- Mercedes-AMG C63