From £55,9258
BMW M3 sports saloon receives minor styling and cabin upgrades, plus under-the-radar chassis tweaks, but can it usurp the Mercedes-AMG C63 or Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio?

Our Verdict

BMW M3

You’d imagine that a higher roofline and four doors would hinder the BMW M3 saloon’s capabilities compared to the M4, but you'd be wrong

  • First Drive

    BMW M3 2017 review

    BMW M3 sports saloon receives minor styling and cabin upgrades, plus under-the-radar chassis tweaks, but can it usurp the Mercedes-AMG C63 or Alfa Romeo Guilia
  • First Drive

    2016 BMW M3 Competition Pack review

    A more focused version of the M3 doesn't immediately sound necessary, but our UK drive reveals it's just the ticket
4 August 2017

What is it?

For the second time BMW has given the F80 M3 a makeover, although the 2018 model year upgrades are minor, to say the least. The smoked LED headlights are new and lend a fresh, sharper look, while the cabin has received a handful of subtle tweaks, most notably in the form of the latest iDrive operating system. 

Those are the revisions BMW is happy to talk about, at least. Like most manufacturers, BMW has a policy of constant and gradual improvement with each new model year. Many of those improvements, however, will be sneaked through to production without being communicated to the press or public. So while the company hasn’t announced any revisions to the M3’s chassis, we’re certain a number of important tweaks have been made. 

This is the M3 Competition, which carries a £3000 premium over the base model and comes with its own chassis settings, a small uplift in power, unique wheels and a number of styling changes. 

What's it like?

BMW’s iDrive system has been updated with attractive new graphics and a clear, easily navigated menu system. This might well be the best and most user-friendly automotive infotainment system there is and the click/scroll wheel on the transmission tunnel is much simpler to use when on the move compared with a a touchscreen. 

The M3’s cabin is mostly very good and, in this test car’s specification (with carbon-fibre cabin trim and two-tone leather), there’s just enough to let you know you’re not riding in any old 3 Series. The seating position is just about perfect, too, although the Competition-specific seats don’t offer any lumbar support, which can be a pain on longer journeys.

What makes us so sure BMW has gone to work on the 2018 car’s chassis? Quite simply, the latest M3 Competition is the best F80 so far - and not by a small margin. Whereas the very early cars were so lacking in body control that they could be downright intimidating to drive on a country road, and later models were a little better but still somewhat unpredictable, this latest version is altogether more cohesive – more so even than pre-facelift M3 Competitions

There’s some tension in the low-speed ride quality, but that settles really well at motorway speeds so the car doesn’t feel busy or fidgety. And in Comfort mode, in particular, the M3 Competition feels beautifully damped on a lumpy B-road, absorbing bumps and dropping into compressions without skipping off course or wallowing lazily. Body control has gone through the roof compared with the very first F80 M3s, which simply means this car works with, rather than against, you. Simply, it’s much less intimidating to drive.

The F80 has always been short on traction, more so even than more powerful rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. This latest version is no exception; those rear wheels will still light up very suddenly as the twin-turbo straight-six dumps great lumps of torque upon them. 

Another area where this car feels very different to previous models is the M Dynamic Mode, the halfway-house setting for the stability control. It previously gave you enough freedom to have some rather alarming moments, particularly in the wet. Now, though, it’s much less lenient. BMW has responded to criticism of those early cars being such a handful

With the systems off, the car is as playful as it has ever been, though, and if you’re confident with the throttle it will slide around like the best of them. It can feel quite snatchy as it breaks away, however, whereas other sports saloons, notably the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, are much more languid and progressive right at the limit. 

The drivetrain is unchanged, which means the engine still develops 444bhp – 19bhp more than the base car – and the standard transmission is a six-speed manual. Just about all M3 buyers specify the very rapid seven-speed DCT gearbox, though. The engine is still short on character and the soundtrack is bland, but there’s no doubting the throttle response or sheer performance.

Should I buy one?

If you want a fast and entertaining sports saloon, there’s no real reason not to like this. The level of competition in this class is extremely high right now and, although we do rate the AMG C63 S and Giulia Quadrifoglio higher than the M3, we certainly wouldn’t advise against buying the BMW

BMW M3 Competition Pack

Location Elan Valley, UK; On sale Now; Price £61,580; Engine 6cyls in line, 2979cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Power 444bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 406lb ft at 1850rpm; Gearbox 7-spd twin-clutch; Kerbweight 1560kg; 0-60mph 4.0sec; Top speed 155mph; Fuel economy 31.0mpg combined; CO2 rating 209g/km; Rivals Mercedes-AMG C63 S, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Join the debate

Comments
11

5 August 2017
I'm sure other M modelsin the past have been in the same predicament , BMW don't seem to get them 'right ' until they are just about to be phased out . The M2 however seems to have been great from the beginning.

5 August 2017

This spec was classed as the vehicle to beat in this sector, now apparently it was actually a bit of a dog, and even this alleged massive improvment isnt good enough to be best in class.. I think I would save £20k and just get a V8 Mustang, it may not be as good, but at least its got character, and £20k will pay for a lot of fuel and other associated running costs.. 

5 August 2017

I just find it hard to get enthusiastic about the M3 these days. It may be that there are so many amazing performance cars on offer now that the top end have to have almost irrelevant performance to differentiate. I remember when the 286hp in an M3 was monsterous. Now my hatch has more oomph than that. Which is ridiculous. When the e46 came along with 343 bhp, it really looked cool. Now, the new one? Meh.

A genuine question, "Are these cars becoming irrelevant?", if so what can the motor industry do to inject some interest back? M3s were very aspirational, now it's hard, at least from my perspective, to get very excited. I don't just aspire to one, to me M3s seem to sit in a strange middle ground between affordable and aspirational. An article from autocar on this would be very timely if done well.

The prospect of the new fiesta st, or Suzuki swift sport, charger, mustang or gt86 is actually more interesting to me. Or an RS6, 991, R8, Aston, which I aspire to. But not these middle ground motors. Again, weird.

i am sure M3 devotees will take issue with this POV. But it is my POV, not a criticism.

Spanner

5 August 2017
Spanner wrote:

I just find it hard to get enthusiastic about the M3 these days. It may be that there are so many amazing performance cars on offer now that the top end have to have almost irrelevant performance to differentiate. I remember when the 286hp in an M3 was monsterous. Now my hatch has more oomph than that. Which is ridiculous. When the e46 came along with 343 bhp, it really looked cool. Now, the new one? Meh.

A genuine question, "Are these cars becoming irrelevant?", if so what can the motor industry do to inject some interest back? M3s were very aspirational, now it's hard, at least from my perspective, to get very excited. I don't just aspire to one, to me M3s seem to sit in a strange middle ground between affordable and aspirational. An article from autocar on this would be very timely if done well.

The prospect of the new fiesta st, or Suzuki swift sport, charger, mustang or gt86 is actually more interesting to me. Or an RS6, 991, R8, Aston, which I aspire to. But not these middle ground motors. Again, weird.

i am sure M3 devotees will take issue with this POV. But it is my POV, not a criticism.

I agree completely, the 3 series used to be a vehicle to aspire to, now its just a repmobile, with the M3 being just the top of the range, its the Ford Sierra and the Sierra Cosworth of the 21st century, only the Cosworth had and still has a certain desirability and affordability to the average man in the street the M3 never had. 

6 August 2017

To be interesting, they should make 320i, 325i, M3 with NA L6, etc.

 

6 August 2017

The M3 is a great Car TO the person who bought one, there choice there money, but, what about the M5 ? Doesn't it have a part in saving BMW ?.....

Peter Cavellini.

jer

7 August 2017

I don't aspire to one either ... is that because of the ubiquity of the 3? or just because you get older and want a bigger car such as an RS6?

7 August 2017

I know talking about the interior on a BMW M3 is completely missing the point but it looks like it's straight out of 2009, even when new the F30 looked outdated....

Also this strikes me is the end to the BMW M car. A 3.0 litre straight six, and what is going on with the price? It just seems too civilian and boring now...look at it!?! driven by someone in a Next suit with matching Next shirt and Next semi-leather shoes talking about thinking out of the box. 

Just has a poor image now... actually 2017 is a pretty low point for cars, there's not even any alternative Jap metal right now is there- why isn't there an Evo or Impreza. 

7 August 2017

I'd love an M3 / C63 / Quadrifoglio but c£60k and 20mpg, how often are you going to get the driving opportunity to justify that kind of expense and running cost? We've recently taken delivery of a new 335d Shadow Edition, bought for £34k, doing 43mpg and goes like a good 'un, for me it makes an M3 look even more irrelevant in the real world...

17 August 2017

Problem with the 3 series is the 4 series, now the 3 series is seen as outdated and 2nd rate by the public and BMW. It may have worked for audi with a but it has "lessened" the 3 series, all those years building up "something" then undermining and the "demotin t is not a clever move in my opinion.

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