Full 2013 BMW M3 Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 BMW M3 coupe gains a new Lime Rock Park Edition. Otherwise the M3 is unchanged as BMW readies an all-new model expected next year.
It takes years of consistent superiority to earn icon status, and the 2013 BMW M3 couldn't shake off its weighty mantle any more than a cheetah could outrun its own spots. One hot-rodded or so-called special edition doesn't cut it. Being competitive in a category or two against an icon isn't even enough. Benchmarked, copied and targeted: That's how a 2013 BMW M3 rolls. If you've never driven one and an M3 is merely the most expensive 3 Series (and therefore a status symbol) to you, then you're probably missing the point.
What makes the M3 a unique automotive icon is not just how well it can provide an enthralling driving experience (and it does), but that it can do so without sacrificing everyday drivability, practicality or even price. So why mess with a winning formula like that? BMW agrees and essentially left both the coupe and convertible M3 models as-is for the 2013 model year.
This means the 2013 BMW M3 is still powered by an exclusive, naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 that cranks out ample midrange power topped off by an addictive high-end rush as it winds out to a sky-high 8,400-rpm redline. A supremely balanced chassis and available adaptive suspension ensure the M3 corners steady and true while also providing luxury-car isolation and ride comfort on the highway or within the city. Of course, the requisite high-tech features, infotainment options and performance enhancements ensure the M3's competitiveness among the throngs that are trying to knock it off its pedestal.
The 2013 BMW M3 has few peers that are as well-rounded. But for the money, there are three natural competitors, and each comes from a similar "special division." The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG boasts a larger, comparatively more brutish V8 engine and similarly adept handling that combine to give the M3 a run for the euros. Also from Germany is Audi's new RS 5, which looks fantastic and has superlative grip exiting corners thanks to its standard all-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V is a larger, American-style take on the M3 ethos.
Still, for a world-class sport coupe or convertible that also deftly navigates the daily grind, the 2013 BMW M3 is unbeatable.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 BMW M3 is available in coupe and convertible body styles.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, automatic adaptive xenon headlights, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, manual sport seats with power-adjustable side bolsters and lumbar support, leather-cloth upholstery, Bluetooth, the BMW Assist telematics service and a single-CD sound system with HD radio, USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The coupe adds a carbon-fiber roof and split-folding rear seat, while the convertible gets a power-retractable hardtop, power front seats with driver seat memory and sun-reflective leather.
The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats and retractable headlight washers, while the Premium package bundles power-folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, upgraded leather and different interior trim and a navigation system. The same package for the coupe also includes power front seats, a power rear sunshade and leather upholstery.
The M3 coupe can be fitted with the Competition package, which lowers the suspension and adds adaptive suspension dampers, 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires, and different programming for its dampers and stability control.
Many of the M3's packaged items are available as stand-alone options, as are 19-inch wheels, a sunroof (requires replacing the coupe's carbon-fiber roof with steel), satellite radio and a premium sound system.
For 2013 only, a limited-edition M3 coupe is the fruit of collaboration with Skip Barber, owner of the well-known Lime Rock Park racetrack. Each of the 200 2013 BMW M3 Coupe Lime Rock Park Editions will be bathed in what BMW calls a "rare" Fire Orange exterior paint. The Competition package comes standard. Other changes include a lightweight titanium exhaust muffler, carbon-fiber front and rear aerodynamic aids, a flat-bottom steering wheel and special interior trim.
Powertrains and Performance
A 4.0-liter V8 powers the 2013 BMW M3, sending 414 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission (M DCT) is optional. The latter offers manual operation via steering-wheel paddles as well as a full automatic mode. All M3s feature a specialized, electronically controlled locking rear differential.
In Edmunds testing, an M3 coupe with manual transmission sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. That's an impressive time, although it's worth noting that the C63 AMG and CTS-V are both quicker. A convertible with the dual-clutch automated manual transmission makes the same run in 4.8 seconds. With either transmission, EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. A manual-equipped convertible gets 13 mpg city.
Standard safety features for the 2013 BMW M3 include front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control. The convertible lacks the side curtains but features rollover hoops and front side airbags that rise to head level. Optional is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
Braking performance is simply phenomenal. In Edmunds testing an M3 coupe stopped from 60 mph in 100 feet, which is among the shortest distances we've recorded; the slightly heavier convertible took 108 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The M3's sport seats manage to be outstandingly supportive in hard driving, yet also very comfortable during long trips. The rear quarters are similarly soothing provided the passengers are smaller, but we still wouldn't keep adult friends back there too long. In the coupe, an automatic seatbelt arm delivers occupants their belts, which eliminates awkward torso twisting to belt up. In the convertible, the heat-reflective leather keeps the seats from getting scorching hot during those perfect top-down afternoons.
In terms of fit and finish, the M3 is excellent. But despite the different available metallic and wood accents, the overall design is a little sleepy (though some may find it classic in a minimalistic way). Interior storage is also lacking. BMW's iDrive electronics interface works well for wrangling all of the M3's systems, though it can come off as rather complicated; some rival systems are easier to use.
In terms of cargo capacity, the coupe's trunk can hold a respectable 11.1 cubic feet. The convertible offers up to 9 cubic feet when the hardtop is up, but predictably shrinks considerably when the top is lowered. Still, it's possible to store a standard roller suitcase back there or two smaller bags.
The fun starts with the 2013 BMW M3's engine. The high-revving 4.0-liter V8 is one of the most exhilarating engines in any car we've driven. And this year's M3 is likely to be the last normally aspirated M car BMW will build -- the newest M5 is now turbocharged, and next year's redesigned M3 is expected to be turbocharged as well.
On a winding road, most drivers will run out of courage long before the M3 runs out of grip. The adaptive damper option provides three driver-selectable suspension settings (Comfort, Normal and Sport), but even in Normal, the M3 does an adequate job of soaking up bumps while providing world-class body control on back roads.
The optional M DCT dual-clutch automated manual is good but not great. Specifically, you can't have rev-matched downshifts without harsh upshifts, because the rev-matching feature is absent when the settings for smoother shift quality are engaged. The manual transmission has long throws in the BMW fashion, but the action is satisfying and it's complemented by light-effort clutch action.