Ever since 1986, the M3 designation has stood for supreme performance in a smaller-size BMW. After sitting out the 2014 season, BMW revived its sporty M3 sedan last year on the latest 3 Series platform. The old V8 was gone, with few tears shed, shoved aside by a modern, more efficient turbocharged six-cylinder engine that whipped up a mighty 426 horsepower. The M3 designation used to be applied to coupes and sedans, but the two-door version is now part of BMW’s 4 Series.
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2016 BMW M3 Overview
What's New for 2016
All-new last year, the M3 sees several revisions for 2016, including new L-shaped LED taillights and alterations to interior accents. Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, satellite radio, and Comfort Access keyless entry now are standard, and the navigation system has been upgraded for quicker responses.
Choosing Your BMW M3
Today’s M3 gets its mechanical muscularity from a twin-turbocharged 3-liter six-cylinder engine, which churns out 426 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. You can select a specially modified six-speed manual transmission, or pay extra for a seven-speed dual-clutch automated-manual unit. BMW’s electric power steering has three driver-selectable modes to alter the assist level. Bodies benefit from a carbon-fiber roof and other weight-saving materials.
Fuel economy, as estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, is identical to that of the M4 coupe: 17 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway with a manual gearbox, or 17/24 mpg (city/highway) with the automated-manual transmission. Automatic start-stop can shut the engine off when stopped. An M3 can accelerate to 60 mph in as little as 4.1 seconds.
Comfort and performance clearly coexist. Not only is the M3 cabin fitted with Merino leather or cloth/leather upholstery and wood, aluminum or carbon fiber trim, but you enjoy all the comfort and convenience features found in the regular 3 Series -- and more. Standard equipment includes 10-way power M sport front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters and driver’s memory, Comfort Access keyless entry, Harman Kardon 16-speaker 600-watt surround sound with satellite and HD radio, adaptive xenon headlights, and V-spoke 18-inch forged alloy wheels with wider rear tires.
In other words, the M3 sedan comes pleasantly “loaded,” with nearly everything a serious driver might need or want. Even so, BMW proffers a few option packages for your consideration:
Driver Assistance Plus adds lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, collision warning and mitigation, side- and top-view cameras, and speed-limit data.
The Lighting Package includes full LED adaptive headlights with automatic high beams.
A $3,500 Executive Package equips the M3 with retractable headlight washers, a head-up display, heated steering wheel, rearview camera, and front/rear parking sensors.
You can also specify individual performance upgrades, such as an adaptive M suspension system, 19-inch wheels, and carbon ceramic brakes ($8,150). A couple of high-end conveniences are offered, including automatic parallel-parking and a power rear sunshade.
The M3 packs a substantial quantity of standard equipment into its compact body, along with its sizzling performance potential. We consider the adaptive suspension (only $1,000 extra) to be the only essential add-on for high-performance fans. Otherwise, you can be secure in the knowledge that your M3 has what it takes for a momentous driving experience, even if nothing is added.
2016 BMW M3 Review
The M3 has been BMW's racing car in a sedan body for nearly three decades—but usually as a two-door. BMW's model identification scheme now labels the coupe as an M4 while the four-door keeps the original designation. Name-game logic aside, the M3 remains one of the top competitors in the factory-tuner sports sedan Olympics, providing an exceptional combination of speed, handling, and everyday usability at a rational (if not exactly low) price.
Pricing and Equipment
The M3 starts with BMW's popular 3 Series sedan and adds a heavily upgraded powertrain, retuned suspension, and subtly recontoured bodywork; the safest way to know you're looking at an M3 instead of a 340i is the presence of the M car's fender vent. On a less visible level, some of those panels are lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber.
A twin-turbocharged 3-liter inline-six—impress your business partners and call it by its in-house code, S55—makes 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque which is sent to a trick computer-controlled differential at the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or BMW's dual-clutch semiautomatic gearbox. An adaptive suspension system is available for $1,000 but the standard setup is so well-tuned that we call the extra expense and complexity unnecessary.
Base MSRP for the M3 is $63,500 with a $995 delivery charge. In keeping with the more focused attitude of the M3, the option list is on the short side and focuses mainly on allowing a buyer to decide whether the car should be an all-out performance demon or a kind of peak 3 Series.
- The $5,500 Competition Package adds a power boost, 20-inch forged-alloy snowflake-design wheels and a battery of revised suspension and driveline settings to better terrify your passengers during track days and on back roads.
- If your tastes run more towards highline than racing line, an Executive Package (heads-up display, heated steering wheel, parking sensors) and Driver Assistance Plus (blind spot sensors, lane-departure and collision-avoidance assists, 360-degree cameras) are available.
- A sunroof is a no-cost option, but choosing to let light in means you lose some lightness—the roof panel reverts to standard 3 Series metal instead of carbon fiber.
The M3 may have grown away from its roots as a tightly-wound race-ready version of the 1980s 3 Series, but this is no bloated cruiser. We remain pleasantly thrilled that this practical and rationally-sized four-door sedan is one of the best all-around performance cars on the street.
- The engine output numbers may seem merely good in an age of 707-horsepower Dodge sedans, but the twin-turbo motor's strong and very consistent torque delivery sets the car up for overachiever acceleration results.
- BMW's commitment to making manual transmissions available remains one of its most endearing principles.
- The optional carbon-ceramic brakes are painfully expensive at $8,150 but their seeming ability to bend Newtonian physics without a hint of fade must be experienced.
- The revised front suspension geometry is an improvement but we still miss the immediacy and feel of the steering in earlier M3s, especially in sequences of tight corners.
- The Sport+ driver-mode setting makes for lightning-quick throttle response and DCT transmission shifts—and a neck-snapping twitchiness around town.
- As the boost comes up, the fuel flow increases to match—and it shows. EPA estimates are tolerable but you'll be hard-pressed to match them if you dip into the power with any regularity.
BMW set the standard for serious and driver-centric interiors long ago, and the M3 is a good example of why that mindset continues to dominate. Clean design, high-grade materials, and a logical control layout make it easy to remain comfortable and in control at speed.
- The driving position and seats are typical BMW -- that is, excellent.
- The once-loathed iDrive infotainment system has been continuously improved and is now among the best to be found, enabling near-intuitive operation of a complex set of controls and features.
- Claustrophobics be advised: The M3's interior is on the dark and cozy side, especially in back.
- The synthetic engine noise running through the speakers is the height of contrived make-believe "excitement" in a car that is supposed to be the polar opposite of such games.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
There is essentially zero performance difference between the M3 and the M4. Both are ferociously fast and very usable as daily drivers, but the M3 is a few thousand less expensive and makes it easier to drop the kids at soccer practice.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The M3 is fantastic in high-speed sweepers, but something is very wrong when steering feel and response—long one of BMW's most sacred traits—become awkward in tight technical corners.
The Bottom Line
Accept that the M3 has moved past its hardcore roots—and has done so with grace and well-considered intentions—and you will appreciate that this is one of the best all-around real-world speed machines available today.