From £51,440
The best everyday M3, with the same breadth of performance as the coupé

Our Verdict

BMW M3 Coupé
Anyone who drives this car and yearns for more straight-line performance clearly has power issues

The latest generation BMW M3 isn't as thrilling as the original E30 M3, but it's still mighty

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What is it?

Our first chance to try what, for many, will be the most appealing version of the BMW M3 – the new four-door saloon option – in right-hand drive form, and on UK roads.

The reasons that the draw of this new M3 may outweigh that of the coupé are actually pretty numerous. It’s cheaper than the two-door (only by £1415, but that’s enough to spec BMW’s excellent electronic damper control system); it’s more practical (there are bigger rear seats, there’s better access to them through the two extra doors, and there’s a bigger boot). And yet, according to BMW, the M3 saloon’s damn near as fast as the coupé (4.9sec to 62mph vs 4.8; 155mph flat out)

But is it as thrilling to drive down a typical stretch of British B-road? Read on to find out.

What’s it like?

The extra practicality that this car offers leads you to expect some kind of compromise in its handling; if it’s bigger inside, you guess it must be bigger outside, heavier, somehow less sharp. But it just isn’t – and a glance at BMW’s measurements reveals why.

The M3 saloon has an identical wheelbase, and the same front and rear track widths, as the coupé. It’s actually marginally shorter than the two-door (by 35mm), as well as being marginally wider and taller. But with the wheels being in exactly the same places, and because it carries only 25kg of extra weight than the coupé, it gives up next-to-nothing by way of agility.

And so the virtues that shine through one driving experience are just as vivid and compelling here. First among them is the M3’s phenomenal V8 engine. It truly is a masterpiece, serving up all-subjugating performance and a delectable wail above 4000rpm, and yet proving totally docile, relatively quiet and incredibly easy-to-live-with lower down the rev range.

The car’s made all-the-more special by the extent to which you can adapt it to suit your circumstances. The M3’s throttle response, power steering assistance, damper rates and traction control system can all be tweaked for optimum performance, wherever you are.

That means, for example, you can cruise 100-miles up the motorway in commendable comfort, with the traction control fully on, the dampers set to comfort mode, and the ECU mapped for optimum economy. Then, when you hit the track, you can switch off the DSC system, beef up the car’s body control, sharpen up the steering and throttle response, and indulge in the kind of tail-led hooliganism that only an M-car can serve up.

It’s that dept of talent that sets the M3 apart from its rivals. It’s fast, fun and forceful when you want it to be, yet can also be relatively comfy and relaxing over long distances. The added practicality the saloon body brings is simply another facet to this M-car’s already-powerful allure.

Should I buy one?

If you’re buying a performance car that will put in occasional family and everyday duties, certainly. We like the M3 coupé enormously. That you can now buy one with the same breadth of ability, but added practicality – and for less cash – gives this M3 a genuine claim to be the best that BMW has ever produced.

Maybe it’s not quite as involving as an E30 M3 coupé, or as focussed as an E46 CSL. Without question, however, it’s the M3 with the longest and most convincing CV, and the easiest to live with.

Join the debate

Comments
14

7 February 2008

I'm sure its a great drive and all that, but whilst - if I had the money - I would take the M3 Coupe over the equivalent Audi or Merc any day of the week (due to personal preference on exterior styling and interior design), I think the saloon looks really boring. Maybe in the flesh it looks better, but in these pictures it doesn't look much different from a poverty spec 318. If I needed the extra doors, based on looks alone I think I'd go for the Merc.

7 February 2008

Is this a knee jerk reaction to the Audi and Merc brands being 4 door only therefore, making them more practical?

Is this a case of BMW ignoring the financially better off family man for many years?

Is this a case of BMW admitting they got it wrong for many years?

But atleast they have realised some people still like driving while they have other on board. Well done the boys from Munich.

7 February 2008

Was there any need for the four door version? Not IMO. I tend to go along with what's been said already; BMW should've kept the M3 badge on the coupe only and not diluted the brand further.

And why have they used different grade of plastic, to the coupe's, on the saloon's dash?

7 February 2008

Oh good - another BMW that will be so much better than anything else on the road regardless of what it competes against and that everyone will lust after for no reason that I can fathom - totally uninteresting and does nothing for me IMO.

I saw a M3 CSL with a silly black roof with fins on it the other day and wanted puke! The guy driving was actually quite a considerate driver and was within the limit but it is a totally pointless car.

8 February 2008

'Pointless' cars don't sell. This M3 saloon will sell because of the depth of engineering, the mega performance and the all round quality of BMW design.. although Chris Bangle is in evidence in the Asian influenced rear looks which I think looks naff on all the 3 Series 4dr saloons the rest of the M3 bodywork looks uber-yummy. Expect a 6-9 month waiting list on release!

8 February 2008

Wasn't there an M3 saloon two generations ago?

So the brand was already 'diluted' if that's how you view it - surely the X3, X5 and that stupid X6 coupe thing dilute the brand more than a small, fast saloon which is kind of what BMW are about (IMO)?

TBH - I think both the 3 series saloon and coupe aren't much to look at. Both are boring at the front, the coupe seems to have the bland rear end off the old Nissan 200SX and the saloon is awkward and fussy at the rear - reminiscent of a late nineties Primera or Avensis crossed with a 7 Series.

The 3 series convertible looks awful from any angle where you can see the rear end.

I suppose the relative anonymity of an M3 could add to the appeal though. At least it's miles better looking than the Z4 with it's sad-eye headlights. Everytime I see a Z4 I can't help but wonder who would pay money so much for such an ugly car!

I think an estate version of the M3 would be the best looking and coolest version, but that's just me.

8 February 2008

I agree about the estate, but I also think the Z4 and 3-series coupe & convertible are great looking cars. Until a couple of years ago I used to evaluate cars for a living, and got through hundreds of demo cars - everything from the Range Rover Sport to the Proton Savvy. Of all the cars I bought home for the weekend, the only one my wife ever liked the look of was the Z4. I pretty much hated the design at first (especially the droopy front) but now I love it. Mind you, I'm a bit of a Bangle fan having run a few Fiat Coupes in the past - another car that I initially disliked the design of but grew to love. The 3-series saloon and convertible look great to me, very classy and long. The saloon is a completely different kettle of fish, I just can't stand it. Exactly right about the rear of the saloon, really reminds me of a Primera.

9 February 2008

Just to be clear, by "diluting" the brand I actually meant the M3 brand, rather than BMW as a whole.

Having said that, I can understand BMW's decision to diversify its product range in recent years (as have Merc and Audi). BMW knows that it has to sell cars in greater numbers not only to enable it to compete effectively, but also to survive as an independent company in the long-run.

As to the styling issue, I like the coupe's looks too, but I feel they really messed up the saloon's rear in particular. Those 1980s Japanse style rear lights...., what on earth were they thinking??!!

9 February 2008

I think talk of a saloon M3 diluting the M3 brand and heritage is a bit far fetched. Why should the M badge be restricted to certain bodystyles? As long as the saloon is executed with the same ethos, thoroughness, focus and heritage as nearly every other M car then what's the problem? Sure, the M3 coupe isn't quite at the top of the tree, and the saloon appears to be slighlty less effective that the coupe, but the saloon is still a proper M car in the way it has been designed. All the talk of it diluting the M3 seems to suggest that the car is more 340i M Sport than M3.

What would dilute the M3 brand is if BMW approached their performance cars in the same way as Mercedes and Audi - often just a mainstream model shoehorned with a powerful, but often inconsistent range of, engines and then job done.

11 February 2008

There have been M3 saloons in the past haven't there? Besides, small fast saloons is a BMW forté, so I don't see the problem there.

The problem I see is the reason for buying this over a more spacious 5 series.

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