Nine out of 10 dentists agree – the M3 is the most iconic BMW of all time. Sure, there's the old 2002s and the vintage CSLs, but in terms of general awareness and widespread appreciation, which Bavarian-built machine has the cachet of the vaunted M3? Even non-car people recognize its significance; watch for their reverent reactions when you tell them you drive an M3. If there's one car BMW cannot afford to screw up, it's the this one. Unsurprisingly, the 2018 BMW M3 is just as deathly fast and precisely nimble as it's ever been.

Best Value

Poke around BMW's configurator for a few minutes and you'll find that the M division offers a few different packages and options to keep things interesting. Take a deep breath before you go ahead and load up your dream M3 with all the goodies, as there's a fine line here between well equipped and overdone.

For starters, we'd avoid the enticing Competition Package. Yes, it sounds like heresy, but how often will you be taking your M3 to the absolute limit? Even if you drive on a track, chances are you'll only occasionally brush up against the incredibly high performance ceiling of the non-Competition Pack M3. Unless you're a professional hot shoe, save $4,750 and pass on this tempting package.

What we would splurge on is the Driving Assistance Package. For only $500, it includes lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking, as well a speed limit reminder that shows posted speed limits on the gauge cluster. As for standalone options, we'd only opt for the $500 blind-spot monitoring and the $300 Apple CarPlay (it's also a bit ridiculous that BMW insists on charging extra for a commonplace feature that can be found standard on sub-compacts, but we digress).

  • Model: 2018 BMW M3
  • Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbcharged inline-six
  • Output: 425 hp / 408 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 17 City / 25 Hwy
  • Options: Apple CarPlay Compatibility ($300), Blind-spot monitoring ($500), Driving Assistance Package ($500, speed limit info, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking)
  • Base Price: $67,495 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $68,795

Performance

BMW M3

The performance of a 3,500-pound car with over 400 horsepower and pound-feet of torque is guaranteed. But it also makes one consider the more fundamental implications of a machine like this. When does a modern performance car become too artificial? Where does the line get drawn between spec-sheet numbers and on-road feel?

This is the quandary that the M3 finds itself in. For the uninitiated, the current model will be a hoot and a half. But if you've had any significant seat time in the older versions that cemented the nameplate's legendary status, the new car will feel callous, distant. Even in the midst of high-spirited shenanigans, the lack of organic mechanical feedback will be sure to rankle those who remember the honest analog goodness of the old M cars.

Philosophical musings aside, there's no denying the outright power of this innocuous-looking sedan. The 3.0-liter inline-six features two turbochargers to boost output to 425 hp and 408 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the rev-happy engines that powered past M3s, this one manages the turbos in such a way to make all the power low in the rev range, meaning there's no need to wind it out to the 7,600 RPM redline for the full show. This doesn't mean we'd refrain from doing so, though – there's nothing like hearing an angry M car at full tilt, even if there's more piped-in sound than we'd like.

Enthusiasts will rejoice in knowing that an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual is standard fare on the M3. And though we enjoy heel and toeing as much as the next guy, the truth is that we prefer the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Even around town it's a seamless performer, and the programmable modes make it easy to turn this track hound into a domesticated sedan. When you do get on it, the shifts are lightning-quick, making it faster than any three-pedal example.

Style

Since 1988, the M3 has adhered to that classic advice about speaking quietly and carrying a big stick; indeed, there's few cars wielding this large of a performance stick that speak as quietly as this sedan. At first glance, casual observers who miss the subtle badging will most likely mistake this machine with one of its lesser brethren. If you've got an eagle eye, though, you'll notice all the functional differences over the regular 3s. There's the exclusive front fascia with large cooling ducts, flared fenders, unassuming lip spoiler, and quad pipes exiting out from under the rear bumper. It's nothing that calls attention to itself, but for those who know what to look for, it's immediately discernible.

For anyone who's been in a current-generation 3-Series, the cockpit of the M3 will feel immediately familiar. In fact, for the price point, the interior does feel a bit stark; it's clearly lifted from a car that normally retails for a good $30 grand less. But considering the mission of the M3, we'll forgive it.

The M seats are probably the biggest difference over the regular 3s. We find these 10-way power thrones comfortable and supportive, and unlike some focused sport seats, they won't beat you up over a long day on the road.

The Best and Worst Things

With a handsome style that could blend into any American parking lot but with the athleticism to outperform nearly anything else on the road, the M3 is a standard-setting blend of luxurious four-door performance.

Unfortunately, as the M3 has raised it's performance envelope, it has also diminished the feel and feedback it gives to the driver. There's now a certain numbness that never used to be there, and it's the most disappointing attribute here.

Right For? Wrong For?


BMW M3

The enthusiast who wants a trackable daily driver would be remiss to not consider the M3.

If you want a pure track star or back-roads bomber, consider something with more feel and a more focused mission.

The Bottom Line

The M3 is the M3. It's been a benchmark since it first screamed onto the scene 30 years ago, and it's still a benchmark today. While the 2018 BMW M3 may not have the feel or tactical feedback of the old models, such is the double sword of progress. If you want to revel in analog goodness, buy an old E46-chassis M3 or maybe a lotus. But if you want the quintessential modern sports-sedan, look no further than the 2018 M3.