It's still the M3, but not the M3 we remember.

Introduction

The M3 is one of BMW’s most well-known badges, but due to a model series renaming policy that began in 2014, it is no longer attached to the back of a coupe – that signal honour is reserved for the very, very closely-related M4. Instead, the M3 comes as a four-door saloon only, with a choice of two power outputs (431- or 450hp) and two gearboxes, keeping the range simple to understand. It was revised for the 2017MY with additional equipment, mildly modified looks, and an according slight increase in price and it competes with the likes of the Mercedes-AMG C 63, although there are fewer direct rivals for the saloon M3 than there are for the M4 Coupe.

 

Body Style: Saloon          Seats: 5           MRP from £57,355 - £60,355 

  

Did you know? The BMW M3 was 30 years old in 2016 and, to celebrate, a 30-piece limited edition was launched called the 30 Jahre – it cost a hefty £82,675.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (8.6/10)

It’s hard not to think that the BMW M3 rather undoes the case for choosing the M4 instead. Not only is the saloon cheaper and more practical than its supposedly more glamorous two-door sibling, it wears the ‘proper’ petrolheads’ badging on its boot lid. There’s also an argument that says the M3 is sweeter to drive than the M4, although it – like the coupe – is a far spikier proposition than its predecessors if the roads turn even slightly damp. However, as compact sports saloons go, the M3 remains one of the leading lights in the automotive world.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

 

2017 BMW M3

We Like

Legendary name

Extremely quick

Most practical, affordable M car

We Don't Like

Handle with care in the wet

Price increase during facelift

Old V8 engine was more characterful

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 BMW M3

Like the M4, the M3 is a steroidal take on the regular BMW model upon which it is based – in this case, the 3 Series Saloon. From the outside, its stocky stance, bulging arches, re-profiled bumper, quad exhausts, and big wheels leave little doubt as to its performance potential. Nor does the carbon fibre roof, which is new to this generation of four-door M3; on the previous generation, the Coupe had this distinctive feature, but the Saloon did not. And you can add more carbon in the form of the Full Carbon Exterior Pack and the Carbon Mirror Pack, with a further optional Black Pack completing the menacing look.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 BMW M3

Again, the M3’s cabin shares much with the M4, because they’re a common family of cars. Extended Merino leather in a choice of four colours is standard-fit, with further options clothing the dashboard in more cow hide, or bringing in various shades of brown, or offering up contrast-colour stitching. A three-spoke multifunction M steering wheel and M-branded instrument cluster team up with sports seats in an effort to make the cabin feel befitting of a sports car but, to the uninitiated, you could very well be sitting in a 320d M Sport, rather than a 431hp supersaloon. Perhaps it might be best to select the Competition Pack, which features deeply sculpted M bucket front chairs that add both a visual and ergonomic wow-factor, or even the Interior Carbon Pack, which trims up the gear lever and its surround in more carbon fibre – but, even better, it includes a plush Alcantara-clad steering wheel with a 12 o’clock marker.

Practicality

If you want this drivetrain and you’ve got a young family, the M3 is unequivocally the model to pick, ahead of the M4 Coupe or Convertible. With four doors, access to the rear seats is far easier here than on the M4s, while said back bench can accommodate three people, rather than just two. The 60:40 split rear seat backs make the cut and the boot is the biggest of the M3/M4 family, at 480 litres. Heated, electric front seats with a driver’s memory function, electrically adjustable and folding door mirrors, and a steering column that can be tweaked for reach and rake all ensure that anyone should be able to attain the perfect, hunkered-down, sporty driving position in the BMW.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 BMW M3

The BMW M3 benefits from the Media Professional pack – including 3D satnav mapping – on an 8.8-inch display screen as standard, with DAB, Bluetooth with wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi preparation, and BMW’s ConnectedDrive features all part of the standard specification. As is iDrive, which remains our favourite method of in-car infotainment control. It has been refined and improved across the best part of two decades, making it more intuitive and easier to control with your eyes on the road ahead than any touchscreen system could hope to be.

Talking of looking at the tarmac ahead of the car, rather than glancing down at the centre console to see if you’ve correctly selected Radio 2 on the DAB, an M Head-Up Display is available. Fitting it does mean, though, that you can’t have the windscreen with a grey shade top band on it.

Finally, in terms of audio, the BMW Loudspeaker Advanced set-up is a modest cost option on the M3 without the Competition Pack (where it’s part of the bundle), but if that’s not punchy enough for you, a more potent Harman Kardon set-up is only a little more.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 BMW M3

The 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, straight-six petrol engine aims to deliver on both fronts: power, and (relative) economy. Choose the ‘regular’ – for want of a much better word – 431hp/406lb ft specification and you’ll see 62mph come up in just 4.3 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox, or a rip-snorting 4.1 seconds for the M DCT auto. Fitting the Competition Package, which lifts power by 19hp to a peak 450hp but keeps the torque exactly the same, trims a tenth off each of these times, while all M3s are electronically limited to a maximum 155mph.

This is obviously more than enough grunt for day-to-day driving, but it’s not just about straight-line speed and pub-boasting with the M3. It has an impressive armoury of standard tech to help it cling on in the corners, such as wide sports tyres, a lightweight body that clocks in at just 1,595kg, Adaptive M suspension with variable dampers, and M Servotronic steering.

If that doesn’t suit, then the Competition Package recalibrates the Active M Differential, the Driving Modes (Comfort, Sport, and Sport+), and the DSC system, while specific settings for the Adaptive M Suspension (springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars) are incorporated, and lush 20-inch star-spoke alloys with even fatter tyres make an appearance. Owners can go the whole hog and fit carbon ceramic brakes, if they must, although the standard brakes are fine for road use.

As is the steering. And the body control. And the traction. And the calibration of the gearboxes. The outcome is that the M3 can put on a phenomenal dynamic display in the dry, covering ground at tremendous speed, or just delighting its driver by flowing back a wealth of information via the steering wheel and base of the seats. It really is a superb car, with the only niggle being the same caveat we’d level at the M4: when the roads turn greasy, the M3 needs to be treated with the utmost respect. The Competition Pack does rectify this spikiness somewhat, feeling like it should have been the set-up the factory gave the standard car from the outset.

Recommended engine: M3 DCT Competition Package

0-62 MPH

4.0 seconds

Fuel economy

34mpg

Emissions

194g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 BMW M3

While the M3 itself hasn’t specifically been Euro NCAP-tested, the 3 Series upon which it is based picked up the top five-star award in 2012, knocking in a huge score for adult occupant safety (95 percent) and a very impressive 86 percent for safety assist systems. That’s because the M3 has multiple airbags, traction control, tyre-pressure monitoring, and Park Distance Control front and rear as standard, and an options list that includes Adaptive LED headlights, the Driving Assistant bundle (City Collision Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Preventive Pedestrian Protection), Dynamic Safety, High-Beam Assistant, a reversing camera, the Surround-View 360-degree cameras, Speed Limit Display, and an automated Park Assist feature.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 BMW M3

Colours

All M3s get metallic paint as standard, which – given there are seven of them, plus one solid colour called Alpine White – means plenty of no-cost choice for the BMW buyer. Select from Austin Yellow, Black Sapphire, Mineral Grey, Mineral White, Sakhir Orange II, Silverstone, or Yas Marina Blue. One step up from there are the Individual metallic hues of Azurite Black, Champagne Quartz, Smoked Topaz, and Tanzanite Blue. Above those are four special order, ‘Frozen’ matte paintjobs, which are Brilliant White, Silver, Red, and Black. These are priced on application and they require regular, expensive, and impractical upkeep, so we’d genuinely avoid them if your M3 is going to be anything other than a garage queen show car.

Trim Levels

There are no trim levels, just the basic car and the Competition Pack, which costs an additional £3,000. The M3 comes with dual-zone climate control, cruise control with a brake function, automatic lights and wipers, and Xenon headlights as standard, on top of everything we’ve already listed. The 30 Jahre, for reference, used the M3 Competition Pack as a basis, and then threw every conceivable extra on top to justify the colossal £82,675 price tag, including Comfort Access, the Harman Kardon sound system, the Surround View monitor, carbon brakes, the M Head-Up Display, M DCT, and more. Just 30 examples of this car came to the UK, making them sure-fire collectors’ pieces in years to come.

Size and Dimensions

The M3 is exactly the same length as an M4, only slightly wider and a good bit taller.

Length

4,671mm

Width

1,877mm (excluding door mirrors)

Height

1,430mm

Max towing weight without brake

N/A – M3 not rated for towing

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 BMW M3

BMW fits the M3 with fuel-saving technology including electric power steering, brake energy recuperation, an auto start-stop system, and an optimum shift indicator. It doesn’t matter whether you pick the regular 431hp car or the 450hp Competition Pack, economy and emissions stay the same – the manual will do 32.1mpg with 204g/km, while the M DCT is a touch cleaner at 34mpg with 194g/km. That does have an effect on Benefit-in-Kind, moving the automatic M3 down from the top 37 percent bracket to 35 percent, but under the VED laws introduced in 2017 it no longer makes a difference for road tax. Residual values should be strong on the M3, but weirdly, the Saloon is in group 45 insurance – two or three groups higher than the M4 Coupe and only matched by the M4 Convertible Competition Package.

Reliability and servicing

Launched in 2014, long-term reliability cannot yet be assessed, but no horror stories are currently emerging about the M3’s fragility. Like all BMWs, it uses the Condition-Based Servicing indicator in the dashboard, which will inform the owner when it requires a check-up. BMW offers Service Inclusive and Service Inclusive Plus, which cover just servicing, or servicing and maintenance costs for five years or 50,000 miles. Could be worth it, because servicing the M3 for five years isn’t going to be cheap and Service Inclusive Plus also covers wear items like windscreen wipers, brake pads, and brake discs. These last two things will most likely have a proper work-out, considering the reason people buy the M3 and not, say, a 320d in the first place.

Petrol models

No fixed servicing schedule – Condition-Based Servicing system.

Diesel models

N/A.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 BMW M3

As it is more practical and cheaper than the M4, the M3 is the best bet and best value of BMW’s mid-sized performance family. However, the facelift saw prices increase slightly, from a smidge above £56,500 to more than £57,000. Fit the Competition Package and the M3 is knocking on the door of 60 grand, while adding those carbon styling packs inside and out, and the carbon ceramic brakes as well, will see the price skyrocketing towards £70,000 and beyond. At which point, you have to surely start thinking about opting for an M5 instead.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Car Enthusiast

With a Competition Pack, carbon brakes, and a manual gearbox, this is the M3 in its most involving specification.

Tech Junkie

Fit the Head-Up Display, 360-degree around-view monitor, and the Harman Kardon sound system for the ultimate M3 tech experience.

Luxury Seeker

You need to keep the M3 on the standard 19-inch alloys, fit the auto M DCT transmission, and drive around in Comfort mode a lot.

Rivals

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Astonishingly good car, with a Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre biturbo V6 and 510hp; will do 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, and it looks gorgeous.

Audi RS 4

Bit tricky, this – Audi only does the RS 4 as an Avant; BMW doesn’t make an M3 Touring. New RS 4 is on the way though.

Jaguar XE S

Jaguar hasn’t yet made an R version of the XE, so the 340hp S is the most potent model. Very sweet to drive, but lacks firepower against M3.

Lexus GS F

Really a 5 Series rival, but with a 477hp normally aspirated V8 and £70k price tag, this is the Japanese alternative to an M3.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 S

Outpunches the M3 with its sensational 4.0-litre biturbo V8, making 510hp, and AMG has really sorted the chassis; it beats the M3.

What others say

What Car?

“The BMW M3 is best four-door sports saloon you can buy. It’s quite frenetic, though, and only really comes alive when driven hard.”

Car Buyer

“The BMW M3 is a legendary name among super saloons and the latest version is no poor relation.”

 

Be part of something big

2017 BMW M3