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Friday, September 4, 2015

The 2016 BMW M3 Has Grown Old, But Not Weary: Review




30 years ago, BMW introduced the M3. It was—in an overstated sense—the perfect sports sedan. The styling was there, as was the performance. It was a flawless package, shipped from Germany with a shiny red bow on top.
Fast forward to 2015, and the M3 is still arguably the pinnacle of the sports sedan segment. But today more than ever, the competition is stiff. Mercedes-AMG, Cadillac, and Audi all have very good options that could dethrone the M3. The question remains: is the M3 able to retain its crown?


No V8? No Problem.
Send me all the hate mail you want, E92 lovers, but an M3 without an inline-6 isn’t an M3 at all. The big lumbering V8 of the previous generation is gone, finally. In its place is a brand-new 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6. And it’s good—real good.

The new engine gives you six-cylinder efficiency paired with V8 performance. Power is there at every gear, even at sixth you’re not forcing yourself to downshift in order to pass. It even sounds different too, almost like a big diesel truck. That could be in part thanks to the faux engine noise coming from the speaker; I’ll stay quiet on that questionable feature.


From that new inline-six, you’re getting a respectable 425-horsepower and 406 lb-ft torque. It’s not Hellcat type of power (or even Cadillac ATS-V power), but it’s palpable and there when you need it.

BMW says you’ll be able to get to 60 mph in about 4.0 seconds. The go from a standstill is pretty dramatic—forcing a healthy amount of Gs onto your chest all the way into third.

The launch isn’t completely composed though, negating a bit of tire spin you have to sort of ease your way into it properly. Again, it’s not eating tires like a Charger Hellcat, but do enough launches from standstill and you’ll be dishing out some cash for some new tires in no time.


Body Size Matters

Your girlfriend is lying to you, size does matter. And my one concern with driving a sedan, specifically one with sporty inclinations, is the size. I don’t like to feel like I’m driving a tank, I want something that’s going to do what I want it to do, and not fight me with its lumbering size throughout the entire process. Enter the BMW M3.

The M3 is perfectly proportioned—not to small, but definitely not too big. In reality, it feels smaller than it actually is when you’re behind the wheel. The narrow cockpit and gripping sport bucket seats really give you the feel of the car from top to bottom. The total curb weight sits at just 3,540 pounds, which makes it lighter than the ATS-V and new Mercedes-AMG C63.


The shifter follows the same route—not too short, but definitely not too long. It’s a typical BMW M gearbox through and through. The new M3 also features a not-so-controversial rev-matching system, which I found pretty nifty.

 Not everyone is as experienced in the heel-toe maneuver as Sir Stirling Moss, so this system does that perfect throttle “blip” when you downshift. It keeps the car balanced when entering a corner and trying to brake and turn at the same time.

The clutch is smooth and easy to get right. The gears are easy to find, and it even lets you know what gear you’re in on the dash, which is handy. It may sound trivial, especially for an expert driver such as myself (sarcasm), but it makes driving a manual much easier, yet still fun. The perfect formula if you want to get young drivers interested in a six-speed.


Subtly Sophisticated

The BMW M3 won’t be winning any beauty contests. Its looks are simple and sophisticated. Nothing about it screams “look at me!” unless we’re talking about the Austin Yellow one I was driving. It’s a great color, but also a great way to get pulled over by your local police department.

The exterior remains very BMW focused. From front to back, every line feels well thought out and in place. The only noticeable design departure from the normally sedated 3 Series is the overly-flared rear wheel arches. That’s a very M-like feature—one that I, nor anyone else will be complaining about.


Poised, Personable

The one critique—if you can call it that—that reviewers typically like to give about BMW is that its products are too stoic. ‘”There’s not enough personality…yada yada yada.” I’m not sure if that’s necessarily true, though, when it comes to the BMW M3.

Yes, the BMW M3 is an ultra-sharp wonder in sports sedan engineering. Arguably the best ever. But to describe the M3 as “stoic” or “boring” just wouldn’t be accurate. The M3, in all its precision, brings a measurable sense of personality with it around every corner.

The turns are sharp, and you feel very connected with the car. The back wheels like to squirrel out if you’re pushing it hard, but leave more than enough room for you to correct it. After every corner you want to give the car a nice pat on the dashboard to reaffirm it that it’s done a good job.

On wet roads, you’d be remiss to think that it’s going to keep its wheels flat on the pavement. All the way up to third, the flashing of the traction control light warns you to keep it under control, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun in the process.


The Verdict
The M3 isn’t some rag tag sedan with too much power and not enough poise—it’s an M3 for crying out loud. Everything about this car is precise and well thought out, from the brakes, to the gearbox, down to the windshield wiper fluid.

To say that the BMW M3 continues to be king of the sports sedans wouldn’t be an understatement. It’s true that many of the current BMW products have gotten more electronics and tend to fight the driver when it comes to control, but you don’t feel that as much in the M3. It just feels…good.

Starting off at $63,200, the M3 isn’t insanely expensive either. Granted, for that sixty-two large you won’t be getting much; the one I drove had cloth seats and no backup camera. But, even without that, you’re not really missing much in terms of luxury. The only car in the segment that undercuts the M3 is the Cadillac ATS-V, though it does come with more power.
Nevertheless, after 30 years and plenty of reengineering, the BMW M3 still remains one of the best, if not the best sports sedan on the planet.


Engine: 3.0L Twin-Turbo Inline-6
Horsepower: 425
0-60: 4.0 seconds
Price (base): $62,300
Very connected to the driver
Ample amount of power
Handsome, subtle design


Very connected to the driver
Ample amount of power
Handsome, subtle desig


Less power than the competition
Faux engine noise

 Photo Credit: Jeff Perez for BoldRide