Used 2011 BMW M3 Sedan
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2011 BMW M3 is perhaps the perfect all-around car for enthusiasts. From track-day shenanigans to the daily commute, the M3 does it all with aplomb.
There is a sports car that doesn't look like a sports car. It has too many seats, and one body style has too many doors. It has a usable trunk. You could drive it to Kansas in complete comfort. And yet the 2011 BMW M3 has a 414-horsepower V8. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. It stops from 60 so quickly your eyes may find themselves on an outbound journey from their sockets, and it sticks in corners with the tenacity of super glue. The M3 truly is the sports car for people who still need the practicality (and/or anonymity) of a regular old sedan, coupe or convertible.
Of course this wolf in sheep's clothing nature is not new to the M3, which has been kicking other sports cars in the teeth since the 1980s. The car's free-revving engines have always been a big part of that, and this latest M3 is the first (and likely the last) to feature a normally aspirated V8. Essentially the M5's V10 with two cylinders removed, this manic 4.0-liter eight-cylinder sings a glorious wail at full throttle all the way up to its sky-high redline of 8,400 rpm.
The M3 story isn't all about the engine, though. The ultimate "ultimate driving machine" must go around corners, and the M3's brilliantly balanced and capable chassis gets the job done. There's a level of communication and involvement with the M3 that makes you feel in complete control, and it's one that's increasingly being lost in the new world of electric power steering and selectable driver settings.
Indeed, the 2011 BMW M3 still stands as the most well-rounded choice in the hyper performance luxury car class. Audi offers the same body style choices, but the 2011 Audi S4 and S5 trade some all-out performance for better civility, though the new 2011 Audi RS5 should be a better match. 2011 Cadillac's CTS-V (now as a coupe and wagon, too) will outrun the M3 in a straight line but isn't as agile around corners. The story is similar with the sedan-only 2011 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Really, you can't go wrong with any of them. But if you really want a sports car that doesn't look like one, the M3 is the only game in town.
2011 BMW M3 configurations
The 2011 BMW M3 is available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power front seats (with manual thigh extender, adjustable side bolsters and four-way lumbar adjustment), leather-cloth upholstery, driver memory functions and a 10-speaker sound system with HD radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The coupe adds a carbon-fiber roof and split-folding rear seat, while the convertible adds a fully powered retractable hardtop and sun-reflective leather.
The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats and retractable headlight washers. The Premium package adds power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, BMW Assist telematics, Bluetooth, leather upholstery and different interior trim. The Technology package adds electronic damping control, M Drive adjustable settings, keyless ignition/entry, the iDrive electronics interface and a navigation system with voice controls and real-time traffic. Most of the above items are available as stand-alone options along with 19-inch wheels, a sunroof (deletes carbon-fiber roof on the coupe), rear parking sensors, automatic high beams, power rear sunshade (coupe and sedan), a split-folding rear seat (sedan), satellite radio, an iPod/USB adapter and a 16-speaker premium sound system.
The coupe and sedan can be equipped with the Competition package, which adds EDC (electronic damping control), 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires, a lowered suspension and different programming for EDC and stability control.
Performance & mpg
A 4.0-liter V8 powers every 2011 BMW M3, sending 414 hp 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 locking rear differential.
We've tested just about every variety of M3. The coupe with traditional manual went from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, while the sedan with a manual and the convertible with M DCT did it 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 2010 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 the regular front side airbags extend up to head level, and there are also pop-up rollover hoops. 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 M3 itself has not been crash-tested, but the 3 Series sedan 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.
The 2011 BMW M3 is the heaviest M3 yet, but it's also the most capable. The 4.0-liter V8 is one of the most exhilarating engines in any car, and most drivers will run out of gumption long before the M3 runs out of grip. The EDC 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. Frankly, those who get the M3 without EDC will never miss it.
The optional M DCT dual-clutch automated manual is good but not great. Specifically, you can't have rev-matched downshifts without harsh upshifts -- on the smoother shift-quality settings, the rev-matching feature is absent. The manual transmission, in typical BMW fashion, has longish -- but still satisfying -- shifter throws and a remarkably light clutch action.
The M3's sport seats are at once outstandingly supportive in hard driving and among the most comfortable we've sat in for long trips. The backseat is a bit cramped, however -- expected in the two-door models, but not in the sedan, which trails rivals from Audi and Mercedes in rear headroom. In the coupe, an automatic seatbelt arm delivers front occupants their belts, eliminating 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. However, the overall design lacks visual interest despite the availability of metallic and wood accents. The current version of iDrive -- mandatory with the optional navigation system -- is the best yet by far, featuring extra physical buttons and a revised menu structure for much more intuitive operation. From the driver's perspective, there's a notable lack of bins and cubbies in which to store cell phones, wallets and the like, especially if the iDrive controller has been equipped, as it replaces the storage nook on the center console.
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Features & Specs
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It's a funny thing about the E92 version of the BMW M3 coupe. Just when the sexy beast comes off feeling a scooch chunky and lumbering in everyday use, we have an opportunity to take it out on a track and drive it as it's meant to be driven and all is forgiven. Keep the standard 414-horsepower M65B40 V8 up around 7,000 or 8,000 rpm through the middle gears of the seven-speed M-DCT paddle box, and we really feel why it has been engineered as it has. It borders on dynamic poetry in motion once all the onboard tech is set up just as we like it and the curves begin while we learn the right line.
To paraphrase the immortal Nigel Tufnel, the 444-hp 2011 BMW M3 GTS takes the BMW M3 E92 and goes to 11. There is never any doubt about what is meant to be going on here. Weight is down 187 pounds to 3,462 at the curb, all things mechanical have been optimized for track use, there's a bolted-in rollover bar where the rear seats used to be, and an available Paddock package makes sure you're accompanied by two bikini-clad young ladies carrying beer-branded umbrellas to shade you from the sun every time you want to leave the house and go for a drive. (Would we kid you?)
Which is why not one of the nearly 150 units of the 2011 BMW M3 GTS that have been planned to be produced at the BMW factory in Regensburg is bound for North American ownership. It's just too politically incorrect. And it would have a couple homologation issues, and then it also comes with some clubsport-type add-ons that North American authorities have deemed ultra-dangerous, like evil fiberglass bucket racing seats, a demonic roll cage, dastardly polycarbonate side rear windows and back window, and life-threatening six-point seatbelts.
OK, We'll Try It Anyway
So we approach the 2011 BMW M3 GTS with the idea that maybe someday a friendly European tycoon will call and have us flown to a private racing circuit and then cavalierly toss us the BMW key fob to stuff into the dash of his $140,000 M3 GTS. (Actually, after taxes most Europeans will have paid $170,000 or more. Shocking, yes, but every M3 GTS is already sold, and not to stupid, wasteful people.)
And in a way, this is actually what has transpired, only with BMW itself playing the role of the tycoon. Fob stuffed in just to the right of the steering wheel and start/stop button poked, the GTS woofs to life. Much of the acoustic insulation has been chucked into the dumpster and the titanium, low-backpressure Boysen exhaust is extra resonant, so we hear so much more of the V8's voice as it seeks the 8,300-rpm redline.
Setting all touchables and viewing aids to accommodate our physical orientation in the manually adjustable competition seat, we swing the meaty steering wheel back and forth to take notice of the GTS's steering rack, which has less hydraulic assist. We've selected the Competition mode on the electronics, so we hunker down, feeling mean. Getting into line on the pit lane here at the idyllic Ascari circuit in southern Spain with the sun bearing down on us with the intensity of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the steering rack and the front suspension and the front brakes make those metallic pinging sounds that set the competition-themed scene even clearer. The track test of the 2011 BMW M3 GTS awaits.
Can We Try It Again? And Again?
With track conditions ideal for the GTS's 19-inch Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires — 255/35ZR19 96Y front and 285/30ZR19 98Y rear — we set off at the green flag.
At Ascari, the curve combos are almost ideal for a car like the GTS, and the delirious elevation changes in several sections of the 3.4-mile circuit add gravitational stresses to the test. The dual-clutch seven-speed automated manual gearbox with BMW's Drivelogic has its brain software diddled with to make upshifts and downshifts both extra quick. Then the suspension is very special with adjustable, competition-grade KW dampers and springs that make it possible to dial in either a street ride height (0.8 inch lower than the stock M3 setup) or a race setting (1.5 inches lower in front and 1.2 inches lower in back versus the stock M3).
The track conditions inspired such confidence that GTS-specific stability and traction helpers are switched off, the power button is lit up and both green lights are lit for the electronic differential. We also have the Drivelogic echelon of M-DCT calibrations illuminated up to the threshold prior to Launch Control.
Our faith was not betrayed as the 2011 BMW M3 GTS just ripped off several laps and then seemed to ask, "OK, so is that all you got?" For all of the challenging curves and occasional off-camber sweepers at Ascari where the drive in the stock M3 had given us such perfect drifts, the GTS just stays stuck and flat and extremely fast, with almost no need to feather the throttle.
Tight in the Tight Stuff
With the use of wheel spacers and forged-aluminum 19-inch wheels, the GTS has wider tracks than the stock M3. And the combination of this wider footprint with a dramatically lower ride height makes the whole car feel just as hunkered down as we are in the racing seat. It's sensational, and you can't beat the song the engine sings as the engine rpm rises and falls during a lap on a track.
The floor where the rear seats once lived has also been swapped out for a much lighter and stiffer piece built from sandwiched resin material, thus aiding and abetting the V8's glorious sound. Both the center console and inner door panels are redone in the same material. It's competition-grade stuff.
The adjustable rear wing not only looks great but also is adjustable over a wide range, anywhere from -3 degrees for almost no added downforce in back to +9 degrees for anyone who feels they really need some squat back there. The M pros from BMW recommend that this aluminum cheese cutter — some 47.8 inches wide — be set between zero and +5 degrees on any given day.
Prospective owners of the 2011 BMW M3 GTS have a wide range of colors from which to select, so long as they choose the Fire Orange you see here. Just as we love this sort of burnt color on any Lamborghini — or, heck, any hot performance tool if executed well — so we dig it here.
Once you open the hood you'll discover that the plastic engine cover for the M3 V8 also gets the orangesicle treatment. It is nice to see that BMW has done something playful here; perhaps AMG and Porsche will start finding more gratuitous joy in the engine bay in a similar fashion.
To make the M3's 4.0-liter V8 into the GTS's 4.4-liter V8, the stroke of the cylinders has been stretched from 75.2 millimeters to 82.0 millimeters, a modification made with different connecting rods.
With 444 hp at 8,300 rpm on which to call, 100 km/h (62 mph) now comes up in just 4.4 seconds from a standstill. That's down from 4.9 seconds in the showroom M3. Top speed is let out at 190 mph for the 2011 BMW M3 GTS, while the standard M3's top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
How To Whine Enough So We Get a Few for the U.S.
It's just not going to happen, kids. And, at any rate, the price tag for the 2011 BMW M3 GTS is rather filled with numbers at $140,000, isn't it? So it's probably almost sale-proof in the U.S. anyway.
Nevertheless, this is an appropriate car with which to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BMW M3. Not since we drove the E46-generation 2003 BMW M3 CSL back before the Italian authorities started enforcing speeding laws have we had this much completely satisfying enjoyment in an ultimate driving machine.
Deliveries just started on July 7, in Western Europe, while the right-hand-drive units for Britain and those of similar persuasion start delivery in January 2011.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report, which originally appeared on insideline.com.
Used 2011 BMW M3 Sedan Overview
The Used 2011 BMW M3 Sedan is offered in the following styles: 4dr Sedan (4.0L 8cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2011 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.