2009 BMW M3 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Ferocious acceleration, phenomenal handling, civilized ride, sublime front seats, functional backseat, available in three body styles.
  • Navigation system requires the addition of iDrive, limited interior storage.
List Price Estimate
$11,576 - $18,444

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Edmunds' Expert Review

It doesn't get much better for enthusiasts than the 2009 BMW M3, which offers near-supercar performance and daily-driver livability in coupe, sedan and convertible body styles.

Vehicle overview

There are a select few model names in the automotive world that consistently make otherwise mild-mannered enthusiasts salivate uncontrollably. One that will do the trick is "911"; so will just about anything following "Ferrari," and perhaps "GT-R." We think it's about time "M3" joined this exclusive group, if it hasn't already. Like its illustrious predecessors, the 2009 BMW M3 offers a singularly alluring cocktail of sports-car performance and everyday practicality.

The previous-generation M3 was a tough act to follow, boasting a supremely capable chassis and one of the world's greatest engines at the time: a 333-horsepower 3.2-liter inline-6. As enthusiasts waited for BMW's M division to get its hands on the current 3 Series platform, many genuinely wondered: How could BMW possibly make the M3 any better? Well, for one thing, the company gave it a 414-hp V8 -- and true to M3 tradition, it's a high-revving gem of a motor, providing ample midrange thrust that builds to a racecar-like wail as the tachometer needle swings past 8,000 rpm. For another, it brought back the M3 sedan -- last offered in 1998 -- and replaced the previous M3 ragtop with a retractable-hardtop convertible design. BMW head designer Chris Bangle also got his controversial hands on the current 3 Series' polarizing sheet metal, but the M3 makes the best of it, thanks to its blistered fenders and other go-fast styling cues.

So, does all of that add up to progress? Depends on whom you ask. Purists will still pine for the feral rasp of the previous-generation M3's inline-6, or the telepathic connection between chassis and driver that defined the original M3. All will agree, however, that the 2009 BMW M3's performance is nothing short of breathtaking. With a 0-60-mph sprint of 4.6 seconds and a 12.7-second quarter-mile, the M3 is squarely in Porsche 911 territory -- yet it boasts a livable suspension and usable backseat in any form, and it can even be had as a sedan. You know what? Purists, schmurists. What sane enthusiast wouldn't lust after a perfectly practical daily driver that can give one of history's most iconic sports cars a run for its money?

The M3's greatness is such that it's hard to identify any direct competitors. Audi's lame-duck RS4 convertible rides on an aged platform, and its overall performance can't hold a candle to the M3's. And although the new S4 sedan is closer, it still doesn't quite match the M3. The Audi S5 is a V8-powered performance coupe, but it competes more against the 335i than the M3. Mercedes-Benz's C63 AMG has the M3 outgunned under the hood with its 451-hp V8, but it's only available with four doors and an automatic transmission. Small wonder, then, that the M3 name leaves enthusiasts salivating -- there's just nothing else quite like it in the performance car arena.

2009 BMW M3 models

The 2009 BMW M3 is available as a sedan, coupe or retractable-hardtop convertible. Based on the compact 3 Series, the high-performance M3 comes in a single trim level. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, xenon headlamps, cruise control, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable sport seats with driver memory, split-folding rear seats and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The coupe features a carbon-fiber roof, and all M3s receive revised exterior styling, an exclusive sport-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes and a limited-slip rear differential.

The optional premium package adds power-folding mirrors, BMW Assist and enhanced interior trim. The technology package tacks on M Drive (which allows the driver to adjust throttle response and steering feel), a voice-activated navigation system, iDrive, keyless ignition and entry and electronically controlled dampers. À la carte options include 19-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof (sedan only), heated front seats, rear park assist and a number of audio options, including an upgraded sound system, HD radio, satellite radio and an iPod adapter.

2009 Highlights

For the 2009 BMW M3, a redesigned iDrive controller debuts for the optional navigation system, which is now hard-drive-based and features real-time traffic. Also, the M3 sedan receives the same new taillights and other rear-end styling tweaks as the regular 3 Series sedan, as well as assorted minor interior enhancements.

Performance & mpg

A 4.0-liter V8 powers the 2009 BMW M3, sending 414 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. The redline is a thrilling 8,400 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and the M DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automated-manual gearbox is optional. The latter offers manual operation via steering-wheel-mounted paddles as well as a full automatic mode. All M3s feature a specialized locking rear differential to manage the transfer of all that thrust to the pavement.

In our track testing, an M3 coupe with the traditional six-speed manual shot to 60 mph in a fleet 4.6 seconds and blasted through the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined for all models except the convertible with the six-speed manual, which drops to 13 mpg city.

Safety

Standard safety features for the 2009 BMW M3 include front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control.

The M3 has not been crash-tested specifically, but the 3 Series sedan, on which the M3 sedan is based, scored four stars (out of five) for frontal impacts for both driver and passenger in government tests. It garnered a perfect five stars for side impacts for both front and rear occupants. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests gave the 3 Series sedan "Good" ratings (the highest possible) in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing, although the convertible received a second-lowest "Marginal" score because of insufficient rear-seat head protection and possible torso injuries for those in the front.

Driving

The 2009 BMW M3 weighs roughly 300 more pounds than its E46 predecessor, but it's still one of the most athletic cars you can buy. It sticks to the tarmac like pitch to your fingers, yet power-induced oversteer is rarely more than a flick of the throttle away. The electronic damper control (EDC) option provides three driver-selectable suspension settings (Comfort, Normal, Sport). Left in normal mode, the M3 does an adequate job of soaking up bumps while providing world-class body control in the twisties. Braking is phenomenal -- in our 60-0-mph braking test, the M3 came to a halt in just 100 feet, which is among the shortest distances we've ever recorded.

The optional M DCT dual-clutch automated manual is good but not great. Specifically, if you want rev-matched downshifts from the M DCT, you'll have to live with harshly executed but quick upshifts, because when you use the console-mounted toggle switch to dial the upshifts back to a less jarring setting, the transmission stops matching revs. This is an odd misstep for a high-performance car -- the downshifts should be rev-matched no matter what transmission mode has been selected.

Read our BMW M3 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test

Interior

Aggressively bolstered sport seats have long been an M3 trademark, and the current model continues this tradition. At the same time, the M3's seats are among the most comfortable we've sat in for long trips. The thick-rimmed, small-diameter steering wheel adds to the sporty feel, although some may find the rim too thick. In the coupe, an automatic seatbelt arm delivers front occupants their belts, obviating the need for torso-twisting maneuvers. The convertible's heat-reflective leather does a wonderful job of keeping the seats from absorbing too much heat from the sun with the top down.

Build and materials quality inside the M3 are excellent. The overall design lacks visual interest; however, the available metallic and wood accents dress things up a bit. This year's revised iDrive electronics interface that comes with the optional navigation system is improved over its confusing predecessor, but it still complicates the stereo controls considerably. Without iDrive, the M3's control layout is fairly straightforward and well-marked. From the driver's perspective, there's a notable lack of bins and cubbies in which to store cell phones, wallets and the like.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2009 BMW M3.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

None Better
DRR,09/18/2009
I have owned Mercedes, Porsche and several BMW's. I traded a 2006 M5 for the 2009 M3. Porsche is a pure sports car but the sports suspension is rough for daily use. The M5 was a Porsche with a Tuxedo. Not much to complain about except the SMG is no match for the DCT in the M3. The M3 is a sports car that you can live with every day. You feel like you are part of the car - it is balanced, agile, and responsive. The DCT is fast and the downshift throttle blips are better matched than I could ever do with a traditional manual. This is my third car with idrive and the new idrive is great - intuitive and easy to use.
One of the best ever.
Peter,11/04/2018
2dr Coupe (4.0L 8cyl 6M)
M3s with the V8 engine (2008-2013) are a different breed of sports car. You'll be spoiled forever and should own at least one during your lifetime if you're an enthusiast.
Good Step Up for Me
Nawaaz Ismail,08/08/2010
Overall, I am happy with my decision of choosing the current M3 Sedan. I have had it for a good year now, and I have learned a lot from owning and driving it. Previously, I used to own a '06 Evo IX MR, and I sold it so that I could get into an M3. It's not really a step up in performance for me, but it's a much stronger built car, all the way from its tranny, to how the car feels so planted during higher speeds. I've had the opportunity to take my M3 to the track 5 times so far, and I expect to continue taking part in Driver's Education events every month. The M3 is not the perfect car out there, but it is the perfect car for me at this stage of my life.
Unbelievable
Frank,03/23/2009
You think you're buying an outstanding vehicle until you actually take ownership. BMW goes above and beyond allowing for just about every little adjustment possible. If you want cargo room or great gas mileage don't buy this vehicle. If you want the driving experience of a lifetime this is the car for you. It sounds like a race car, drives like a race car, brakes like a race car and feels like a race car, BUT you can adjust the power, suspension and comfort levels to your liking. There really aren't enough words in this section to describe this vehicle.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2009 BMW M3 features & specs
More about the 2009 BMW M3

Used 2009 BMW M3 Overview

The Used 2009 BMW M3 is offered in the following submodels: M3 Sedan, M3 Coupe, M3 Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Coupe (4.0L 8cyl 6M), 4dr Sedan (4.0L 8cyl 6M), and 2dr Convertible (4.0L 8cyl 6M).

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Should I lease or buy a 2009 BMW M3?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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