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2017 BMW M3 Road Test and Review

Scott Oldham
by Scott Oldham
September 3, 2017
6 min. Reading Time
2017 BMW M3 hero ・  Photo by BMW

2017 BMW M3 hero ・ Photo by BMW

Legend. Idol. Icon. These are overused words these days, but not when it comes to the 2017 BMW M3. Now in its fifth generation, the M3 nameplate first appeared on a high-performance coupe back in 1987. Today, the M3 sedan is the most powerful, most expensive and undoubtedly the most desirable member of BMW’s extensive 3 Series lineup. It’s also one of the quickest, fastest and best-handling sedans in the world.

The M3 is created by BMW’s M division, the German automaker's in-house tuner shop that competes head-to-head with AMG at Mercedes-Benz, S models from Audi and V cars from Cadillac. Little brother to the equally iconic M5 and M6 models, and most closely related to the two-door M4, the turbocharged M3 competes with such impressive contenders as the Mercedes C63 AMG, Cadillac ATS-V, and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

Tuned on the Racetrack

BMW’s high-performance M models, like the 2017 M3, are tuned on the world’s racetracks, including the legendary north loop of Germany’s Nurburgring, a circuit universally considered to be among the most challenging and most dangerous in the world. It’s there, under extreme high-speed conditions, that a special team of engineers turns the already sporty and capable 3 Series sedan into this high-performance luxury muscle car.

Those engineers add an aggressively tuned suspension, larger brakes, bigger wheels and tires, and of course hefty doses of horsepower. A mechanical twin to the BMW M4 coupe and convertible, the legendary M3 sedan is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine making 425 hp. There’s also an optional Competition Package which cranks that output up to 444 hp. That smooth inline six-cylinder engine is backed by a standard six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters that BMW only uses in its M cars. The combination gets the rear-wheel drive M3 to 60 mph in just 4 seconds.

 Photo by BMW

Photo by BMW

Low Base Price, No All-Wheel Drive

BMW M3 pricing starts at $65,945, including $995 for destination, which is almost $10,000 less than the Mercedes AMG C63 S and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Standard features include heated power front seats, Bluetooth, a tilting and telescopic steering wheel, a navigation system, leather upholstery, a 16-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, and 18-inch wheels and tires.

Our loaded M3 test vehicle was equipped with a few pricey option packages and other extras that drove its sticker price up to $88,045. Its Competition Package cost $4,750. Aside from the additional 19 hp, it dials up the M3’s handling capability with a quicker steering ratio, 20-inch wheels and tires, an adaptive suspension and M’s Active Differential, which helps get the turbocharged power to the road. Our test car was also equipped with the M Carbon Ceramic Brake option, which cost an awesome $8,150, and the automatic transmission for $2,900. Despite all-wheel drive being an option on the other 3 Series models, it isn’t offered on the M3.


A Great Drive

Everyone should drive an M3 at least once in their life. Put it on your bucket list. It’s that good. Fast. Smooth. Comfortable. This small high-performance luxury sedan can accelerate from 0 to 100 mph in just 8.6 seconds, yet it can be driven every day without sacrifice.

Unless you plan to take your 2017 BMW M3 to the track, the expensive Competition Package isn’t necessary. It certainly adds performance, but it compromises quite a bit of the M3’s comfort, adding a rougher ride and quite a bit of noise to the interior. Without it, the M3 is an excellent daily thrill ride. Its suspension is firm, even with the standard 18-inch wheels, but it’s not overly aggressive. You feel the road, but you won’t arrive at the office looking like you just went a few rounds with Mayweather. The M3 is sporty and responsive in the city, and on the twists and turns of a back road it’s wonderfully balanced and seems to shrink around you the harder you push it. The turbocharged inline six-cylinder is extremely smooth, even at its 7,500 rpm redline, and it sounds like its spitting flames from its four oversized tailpipes.

 Photo by BMW

Photo by BMW

Fast, But Not the Fastest

Although the M3 has the power to pin you to its leather seat, it cannot keep up with some of the other cars in its class. Even with the optional Competition Package, the 444-hp BMW M3 is less powerful than the Mercedes-Benz C63 S, Cadillac ATS-V, and the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio. The twin-turbo V8 in the Mercedes is packing 503 hp, the twin-turbo V6 in the Caddy is pumping out 464 hp and the Alfa’s twin-turbo V6 is the king of pop with 505 hp. The M3’s 406 lb-ft of torque, while impressive, is also less than the others, which even have eight-speed automatic transmissions to trump the BMW's seven-speed unit.

The good news is that the M3 weighs about 250 lbs less than its competition. Its low curb weight, however, isn’t enough to overcome its power disadvantage. While the BMW is one of the quickest sedans you can buy with a 0-60 mph performance of 4.0 seconds and a quarter mile time of just 12.2 seconds, it’s still slower than these competitors.


Understated Good Looks

Few will confuse a 2017 BMW M3 for a run-of-the-mill 3 Series. BMW’s M division does a masterful job of reshaping the sedan’s bodywork with additional attitude and aerodynamic trickery without making the car look juvenile or overly bejeweled. Almost every body panel is replaced, including the quarter panels, fenders, hood, and bumpers. The wheel arches are aggressively flared to cover the M3’s larger wheels and tires, and the new front fenders are dressed with sizeable vents that look right on a sedan with the M3’s high-performance capability. The designers also added an appropriate power dome to the hood and a sinister-looking front bumper with large air intakes to cool the M3’s turbocharged engine.

My favorite view is from the rear, where you can really appreciate the M3’s low, wide stance, and massive rear tires. Its four exhaust pipes, which are a signature feature on all M cars, are timelessly cool. And I’m thankful BMW resisted the urge to outfit the sedan’s deck lid with a cartoonish rear spoiler.

 Photo by BMW

Photo by BMW

Comfortable Sport Seats

Firm, heavily bolstered sport seats belong in a high-performance sedan with the M3’s acceleration and cornering capability, and the BMW’s are heated, well-shaped and extremely comfortable. Clear and concise analog gauges also fit the M3’s mission, as does its fat three-spoke steering wheel our test car’s glossy carbon fiber trim. The rest of the interior is basically taken from the 340i model, and it has an overall feeling of quality. There are beautiful materials and precise panel fitment. It’s an interior that won’t feel dated in a few years, and it can seat five if the ride is short.

Everything feels expensive, and there’s a large screen in the center of the dash. Visibility is good. All the controls are well-placed, and the standard automatic climate controls are easy to use. The latest version of BMW’s iDrive, which controls all of the car’s infotainment system, is easily navigated and the system’s large dial and buttons are well-placed on the console along with buttons that adjust the response of the suspension, steering, and transmission.


Small Trunk for the Class

Trunk space is tight, even for this class. The 2017 BMW M3 offers just 10.0 cubic feet of trunk space, which is less than the Mercedes, the Cadillac, and the Alfa, and its rear seat does not fold to expand that capacity, though a pass-through accommodates for long thin items like skis. Storage inside the BMW’s interior is also limited; the center console bin is small and the door pockets are narrow. The two front seat cup-holders are well-sized, but they’re questionably placed ahead of the shifter, where tall drinks can interfere with the dash and climate controls.

Fuel economy is good for the class. The M3 is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg highway, which is about the same as you get in its competition. I averaged 20.0 mpg in a week of spirited mixed driving around Los Angeles.

 Photo by BMW

Photo by BMW

Advanced Safety Systems are Optional

Despite its lofty price tag, high-end safety systems are extra-cost options on the M3. BMW's Driving Assistance Plus Package includes a system that warns drivers if vehicles and pedestrians are in your path. If the car believes an accident is imminent, it will also automatically begin braking in low-speed situations. The package is good value at $1,700, and it also adds blind-spot detection and a side- and top-view camera offering a bird’s eye view of the sedan and its surroundings. It really does makes parking easier.

Meanwhile, for another $3,900, the Executive Package includes a few comfort features like a heated steering wheel, onboard WiFi, parking assist sensors in the front and rear bumpers, and a head-up display that projects the speedometer and other information on the windshield ahead of the driver.

 Photo by BMW

Photo by BMW

The Best M3 Ever

Since the late 1980s, the BMW M3 has been the benchmark for small high-performance luxury cars. It practically invented the segment and has become an automotive performance legend over the last 30 years. Faster, sexier and more luxurious than its predecessors, today’s BMW M3 lives up to its lineage. This is the best M3 ever.

It may not match the horsepower of its rivals, but the new M3 makes up for it with a near perfect blend of speed, comfort, and style. If you’re an enthusiast looking for a small high-performance luxury sedan, the 2017 BMW M3 is a very desirable choice.

 Photo by BMW

Photo by BMW


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