2015 BMW M3 First Drive | Edmunds.com
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2015 BMW M3 First Drive

  • Full Review
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2015 BMW M3 Sedan

(3.0L 6-cyl. Twin-turbo 6-speed Manual)
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Quick Summary: Think BMW has slightly lost its way? Think the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has it rattled? Think again. The M3 is back, this time as a four-door with a twin-turbo six-cylinder, fabulous poise and balance. It's everything a fast, small sport sedan ought to be.

What Is It?
The M3 has traditionally been the flagship 3 Series, and this fifth-generation M3 retains that distinction. This time, however, the M3 designates the sedan while the coupe becomes the M4. As before, the M3 has had weight pulled out of it, more power stuffed into it and a lot more strength added throughout the body, the suspension and the driveline.

2015 BMW M3

What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come in?
The M3 was previously offered as both a coupe and a sedan, but now the coupe has been given the M4 designation. There is just one level of trim for the four-door M3, plus a significant range of options.

It's a well-appointed four-door sedan complete with dual-zone climate control, electronically adjustable, leather-clad sports front seats and five-seat capacity. There is a permanently raised multimedia screen atop the center of the dash, containing everything from car setup to navigation and entertainment, while the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning controls are below it.

Compared to the two-door M4, the sedan body is actually narrower, though they share the same track widths. That means the M3's wheel arches stick out more outrageously so the two cars can share their forged aluminum suspension pieces, ultra-rigid rear end subframe, brakes and 18-inch forged alloy wheels. It also means you'll have to be more careful parking it next to a curb.

The narrower sedan body translates to slightly less shoulder room than the M4, though the M3's rear-seat passengers have significantly more head- and shoulder room. It's also heavier than the M4 coupe, with a curb weight of 3,351 pounds, versus 3,301 for the two-door. The dual-clutch transmission will add an extra 44 pounds as well.

The M3 is cheaper, listing in the U.S. at $62,925 versus the coupe's $65,125 base price. It arrives here with a standard six-speed manual gearbox and BMW USA hasn't announced the pricing for all the options.

The most obvious of those is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but there are also carbon-ceramic brakes, 19-inch wheels and tires, a head-up display and, naturally enough, a sunroof.

2015 BMW M3

How Does It Drive?
The new twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine is a treat. With 406 pound-feet of torque on tap it has terrific abilities around town and in low-speed situations. All that push is available from just 1,850 rpm, so it's always ready to punch you forward, quickly.

Despite its low-end performance, the twin-turbo motor has an architecture that lends itself to revving high and proud, so its 425 horsepower arrives at 5,500 rpm and the limiter doesn't arrive until 7,600. It feels like a very different motor above 5,000 rpm, and it seems BMW has intentionally made this the cut-off point between comfortable torque-fed speed and frenzied high-revving fury. That's the point at which the M3 turns from a very fast, V8-sounding sedan into a ridiculously angry monster that would like to do nothing more than smash through its rev limiter.

Then there's the gearbox. It's a very different car with the manual transmission fitted to it, because it's a more intimate experience and it's more dominated by the engine's muscle than it is with the dual-clutch transmission. Yet it's not as intrinsically good a machine with the stick. It's slower (zero to 62 mph in 4.3 seconds, where the dual-clutch seven-speed M3 does it in 4.1) and it's considerably thirstier, too.

The dual-clutch is a transmission for all seasons, adding to the new M3's qualities as a car capable of covering several roles at once. It can shift as smoothly (almost) as an automatic, it can shift as brutally fast as a race 'box and it has 3 degrees of shift comfort in between.

2015 BMW M3

Then there's one of the real highlights of the car that most people won't even know is there. We're talking about the active rear differential that collars every last scrap of grip from its rear-wheel-drive setup. It's even smart enough to know whether you want to drift it a bit or just want to drive it as fast or safely as possible. It also lets the car deliver both launch control and a smoky burnout mode.

The stiffness of the chassis and the cleverness of the diff combine to make the M3 a sport sedan par excellence, one that's capable of tackling racetracks on Sunday and commuting to the office the rest of the week. It gives up a tiny handling deficit to the M4 (mostly because of its slightly higher center of gravity), but it's still fabulously composed with terrific steering, great balance and, with the optional carbon-ceramic units fitted, unimpeachably strong brakes.

How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
The best of M3s past have been all about their raw speed, their engaging engines with a screaming power delivery and exquisite balance. The most maligned have been seen as fat luxury barges disguised as M3s. The beauty of this generation is that it's easily capable of being both things together in one package.

2015 BMW M3

It runs the same front seats as the M4, which are terrifically supportive without ever feeling like they're lacking in padding or comfort. The biggest difference is the ease of use for the backseat, plus the fact that it can seat five people, versus the four-body limit of the M4.

As with the M4, there are handy cupholders, a USB port and sizable door pockets. One thing it doesn't have is a dedicated place to put the proximity key when you're not using it.

There is a healthy luggage area beneath its carbon-fiber trunk lid (the roof is also carbon fiber) and it loses none of the comfortable attributes of the standard 3 Series in the transition to the fast lane.

What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
The EPA hasn't released official numbers for either the M3 or the M4, but BMW claims they will show a 25 percent improvement compared to the previous V8-powered M3 coupe and sedan.

2015 BMW M3

What Are Its Closest Competitors?
This is a segment in transition, as many of the usual competitors are going through redesigns of their own. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG has traditionally been the M3 sedan's most prominent rival, but it's about to be replaced with an all-new version featuring a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 engine.

The Cadillac CTS-V was often mentioned as a suitable alternative, but the latest CTS has grown in size and no V-series version has been announced yet. The smaller ATS is now closer in size and purpose, but it, too, lacks a V-series option.

Even the Lexus IS F is being readied for a redesign, so the V8-powered sedan from Japan will likely change drastically next year as well.

Why Should You Consider This Car?
Where the M4 is a brilliant drive in all conditions, the M3 is a slightly (and only very slightly) lesser driving machine that offers far fewer compromises in the real world, while delivering the packaging benefits of a four-door sedan.

It can be a family sedan when it needs to be, a Porsche Puncher when you want it to be and it has a don't-mess-with-me look without being overtly boy racer.

Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Even with its new downsized drivetrain, it's hardly the most efficient sedan around. And with a starting price of nearly $63K, it pushes the limits of what a small sedan can command.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Comments

  • marcos9 marcos9 Posts:

    Well done BMW! Love the new designs - this M3 is beautiful. Make mine an M5 touring though. =D

  • imolaredzhp imolaredzhp Posts:

    Maybe a nitpick, but a sunroof as an option on a carbon fiber top??? Why would BMW go thru the trouble to put the CF roof on the sedan to save precious few lbs and lower CG, then offer a sunroof option to put the weight back on (and possibly more)?? If you want a sunroof on the M3/M4, then you probably shouldn't buy a M3/M4.

  • christople christople Posts:

    Wow they got the weight down. Now it's your turn 2015 Mustang GT

  • rdollie_ rdollie_ Posts:

    imolaredzhp, I hear you but I think BMW is being smart here. I have a M3 sedan ('09) and the 99% of the time I'm not driving it on a track I'm happy to have the sunroof. There's a reason these cars come with leather, A/C, navigation, etc. and that's because they're also meant to be daily drivers. I'm sure if there's enough demand for a track-focused edition BMW will be happy to make a CSL variant without sunroof, A/C, radio, etc. for twice the price... If I were that serious about a track car I'd probably buy a 911 or Z06 and strip it, put in a cage, etc.. But at my age (45) I have no illusions of being a professional racer...so I'll keep the sunroof :)

  • imolaredzhp imolaredzhp Posts:

    @rdollie, I understand your point, and for the M3/M4 intended market it's still a "luxury" car that needs luxury car amenities. I'm being a bit of a hypocrite as my ZHP also has a sunroof ;) I thought the CF roof cannot be made easily for th

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    Imolaredzhp - The Carbon fiber roof on the M3 does not allow for roof attachments (the attachment points are fake if you see them in pictures, fyi). Therefore, some might like a sunroof and/or the ability to mount a roof rack on their m3/m4 and thus would need to opt for the sunroof. I don't like it either, but wanted to offer that up.

  • Good night, that is one beautiful BMW. As far as aesthetics are concerned, that's a homerun by BMW.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Interesting. I was about to argue that the 3 series cannot really be called small any more. Then I decided to actually do some research before running my mouth (fingers) and was quite surprised to find that the current 3 series is within a couple inches of the 2014 Civic and Chevy Cruz and that it is 9 inches shorter than a Fusion. So while it may be the size of an 80's E28 5-series, by today's standards it still is a small sedan.

  • marmotking marmotking Posts:

    Hey, a round steering wheel! A small victory to be sure, but since the M3 is a benchmark for pretty much every actual and would-be competitor let's hope this is the beginning of the end of the flat bottomed wheel. |||| This is a very good looking car (though BMW's jagged tail light treatment still baffles me) and is shown off beautifully in the pictured blue. Instrument panel perfection. Also I loves me a straight 6.

  • gam2 gam2 Posts:

    My Grandma had a 1973 Dodge Scamp that color. Hideous!

  • scott325 scott325 Posts:

    I was the local BMW dealership last night trying to find a M235i without a moonroof and both the salesperson and the sales manager said that they would never spec a vehicle without a moonroof. That is, they couldn't sell the car unless it had one. (Of course, they were happy to order me a M235i with moonroof delete.)

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    I will never, EVER, understand the love for sunroofs. I was in a M-B dealership a few years ago and asked about getting a C-Class coupe without that awful glass roof. You would think I had suggested boiled beagle for dinner.

  • dokterv8 dokterv8 Posts:

    Does anyone remember an article a few years back with a BMW bigwig who was saying they would never use turbo charging because it interferes with the driving experience? I think it was automobile magazine or something... Seriously here, I can't find the article but maybe one of the motor heads here will know. Recently drove 6 series gran coupe with the twin turbo v8... Yes it's silly fun when you mash the pedal and hang on but really the throttle lag is annoying at best and truly took away from the driving experience - power is not as fun when there's no immediacy, sorry. I wasn't too impressed

  • nam4_ nam4_ Posts:

    There is NO WAY this car is the weight you quoted here. Please be more objective and don't use BMW numbers since we all now that they underestimate (ie. lie?) and give minimum possible weight that they dreamed about. My old E46 M3 with competition package was over 3400 lb. My friend's E90 was 3,660 lb. This car is said to be 200 lb lighter than E90 (4 door). So in best dreams of BMW executives and engineers this car can be close to 3,500lb. And I seriously doubt that (my estimate is 50-100lb less that E90). If you go to any BMW forums (and I went to a few) many people put their E90/92 on scale and found out the car was heavy. New M3 is a large vehicle. I saw it in person. I loved my E46 with competition package. After I sold it I drove friend's E90 on many occasions, and it was heavy boat. I don't buy M3s any more because how heavy they are. M3 moved from zippy sports car into GT tourer category. It is still nice car, don't get me wrong, but not for me.

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    This car is closer to 3,500 pounds with a full gas tank/fluids and no options. With 1/4 tank of gas and maybe no washer fluid and a stripper M4, you might get close to 3,400 pounds. This is still an amazing achievement. You can't have a frail chassis handling 406 lb/ft of torque all the time.

  • nam4_ nam4_ Posts:

    @joefrompa hmmmmm...... "you can't have a frail chassis handling 406 lb/ft of torque all the time." Really? How about 911TT (996) my current vehicle handling 413 lb of torque from 2700 to 4700 rpm for many many years with lighter chassis. Mea

  • Is that Laguna Seca blue? For the life of me, I cannot figure out why they don't use Estoril blue as that was my favorite blue by far.

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