2013 BMW M3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: 2 door sports coupe
Engine/trans: 309kW/400Nm 4.0 litre V8 | 6spd manual
Price: $155,100 (plus on-roads) $166,100 (as tested)
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.4l/100km | tested: 14.7l/100km
Painted bright orange, a splendid contrast to its signature unpainted carbon fibre roof, that E92 coupe signalled the end of an extraordinary era in the history of BMW’s M division.
From next year the M3 will be the sedan, with the Coupe becoming the M4 and the howling V8 replaced by a forced induction straight-six.
It will be fast, it will be amazing, but it won’t have the character of the E92.
So, what made the M3 a modern classic?
Quality: BMW is known for tightly constructed cars and the M3 is no different. It’s a low-maintenance, low-fuss interior, lifted slightly by the carbon effect leather on the dash.
The car has been in production for nearly five years, so every part has been honed to fit perfectly. The interior has dated well, but it’s no fun fair, so typical BMW in that respect.
Comfort: The front seats are covered in a softer, more supple leather than even a top-spec 335i, as are the steering wheel and gear knob. The front seats are electrically adjustable fore, aft, up, down and there’s lumbar and thigh support.
The seats flip forward electrically for access to the two rear seats which are also comfortable for sub six-footers. The seats are all very supportive which is handy given the car’s capabilities.
Equipment: 13 speaker Harmon Kardon stereo with bluetooth and USB, sat-nav, 8.8-inch dashtop screen with split function, sat-nav, voice control, full trip computer, stop-start, cruise control, keyless entry and start, bi-xenon headlights, active headlights, automatic anti-dazzle rear view mirror, dual-zone climate control, electric front seats,
Storage: Up front there’s a large glove box, two cupholders that sprout from the dash on the passenger side and a pair of fold-out bins in the doors. The driver’s elbow bashes a reasonably shallow centre console which also houses the USB port.
The rear passengers get a couple of cupholders and a roll-top coin tray. The boot is a healthy 440 litres, but has a high loading lip. It’s a good shape, however and the lack of spare wheel means a low, flat floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: If you want an easy drive, a manual M3 is not for you. But if you’re looking for a car that’s always engaged with the road and demands above-average concentration, there’s scant few others like it.
The S65 V8 is a smaller iteration of the old V10 M5’s S85 engine which itself traces its lineage back to the BMW Motorsport V12 of the road-going McLaren F1. It’s a special engine with some serious pedigree.
Despite its high revving nature, there’s enough torque (once the engine is warm) to be driven smoothly in traffic. On the open road, the V8 is a windows open, foot-flat, downshifting joy.
Acceleration out of hairpins is brutal. Traction control intervenes subtly to keep the show out of the boondocks, but not to throw a blanket over the sheer enjoyment at the wheel.
With the traction control off, the progressive torque and power curves means that handling remains predictable - it won't bite the hand suddenly.
The chassis disguises the car’s sobering 1600kg kerb weight. Turn-in is precise and the tail, begging to be wagged, will go with whatever your right foot says.
BMW’s fabled M-differential makes the car move like a much lighter machine.
Refinement: Performance car buyers aren’t really looking for a quiet, composed car, but the M3 does a decent job once the engine has warmed (from a cold start, it can embarrass you by kangarooing down the road).
Once up to temperature however, the engine is much more civilised. The suspension is always firm, but the ride is more tolerable than expected, even with the 19-inch alloys.
Suspension: The M3 makes do with MacPherson struts up front and an independent rear end, but heavily modified from the standard coupe.
Dynamic dampers can be optioned on the convertible, but this is a purist’s car, devoid of buttons aimed at taming the car for taking granny to the shops.
Our M3 was fitted with lightweight forged 19-inch (up from 18-inch) glossy black wheels and 245 tyres up front and monster 265s on the rear.
Braking: While the brakes of the M3 have been criticised over the years as being a little weak, for most drivers that’s kind of like complaining Concorde could have gone a bit faster. On the road it’s highly unlikely you’ll reach the limits of the 360mm discs up front and 350mm at the rear, both ventilated.
Pedal feel is also good.
ANCAP rating: 5
Safety features: ABS, stability and traction control, corner braking control, dynamic brake control, six airbags (front, side and curtain),
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited.
Service costs: As with all BMWs, servicing is on an as-needed basis, with the car letting you know via the in-dash screen. Service plans are available.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mercedes-Benz C 63 Coupe ($157,900) - The C-Class can’t stay with an M3 on the track but its evil-sounding 6.2 litre V8 makes up for it.
You can’t have it in a manual but it does come with a 7-speed automatic and can be made to dance with your right foot. (see C-Class reviews)
It will carry four passengers and the dog but still keeps the M3 in its sights with its Quattro drivetrain, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and 4.2 litre V8. (see A4 reviews)
Nissan GT-R ($170,800) - With the M3’s price quietly going down and the Nissan’s going up, the GT-R appears poor value compared to its German rivals.
However, every year it grows more muscle from its 3.8 litre twin turbo engine. It also does 0-100km/h in 2.7 seconds, two seconds faster than the rest of them. (see GT-R reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The M4 will most likely be a better car in every way: more refined and with even greater depth of talent.
The M3, particularly the manual, is for drivers who have (or want to have) a helmet hanging in the garage and a set of racing boots, and don’t mind a few blows from potholes or bad surfaces.
It’s a hugely powerful car, a towering achievement and, most importantly, enormous fun to drive. Rambunctious, fast, and a razor on road.
The BMW M3 is a modern classic.