The 2017 BMW M3 is based on the popular 3 Series small luxury sedan, and the two cars share basic exterior and interior designs. But when you compare the models on a spec sheet, there is no mistaking which one is more performance-focused. With 425 horsepower, lightning-quick steering, a sophisticated active rear differential and brakes seemingly suitable for slowing down a locomotive, the M3 has all the right tools that make it a world-class high-performance sedan.
Two years after the most recent M3 redesign, BMW is also looking to boost the flair of its iconic sport sedan for 2017 with the release of a limited-edition model called the 30 Jahre M3, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the first-generation M3. BMW says it will sell 150 in the United States, and each one will come fully equipped with just about every M3 option you can get, plus exclusive Macao Blue metallic paint.
If a luxury sport sedan is the type of vehicle you're looking for, there are some enviable alternatives to consider besides the M3. The Mercedes-AMG C63 sedan trumps the M3 with a turbocharged V8 that's good for up to 503 hp (in the S model). The Cadillac ATS-V lacks the BMW's and Mercedes' interior polish and rear seat room but counters with a brawny turbocharged V6 and arguably the best handling of the bunch. The newest player in the segment, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, hails from Italy and makes strong performance claims with a 505-hp turbocharged V6. But given the M3's combination of racing-worthy performance and daily-driver civility, it continues to be an ideal pick in the class.
The 2017 BMW M3 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags.
The stability control system integrates several features designed to improve braking performance, such as self-drying brake rotors (when the windshield wipers are in use) and automatic brake-pad preparation (when the driver abruptly lifts off the gas). BMW Assist emergency communications is standard and includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
Optional safety features include a surround-view camera system, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.
trim levels & features
The 2017 BMW M3 is a four-door, five-passenger high-performance sedan that's based on the 3 Series. Only one trim level is offered. It comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, adaptive xenon headlights, adaptive suspension dampers, an active locking rear differential, M3-specific exterior body panels (including a "powerdome" hood and wider rear fenders), power-folding and auto-dimming heated mirrors, automatic wipers, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery with cloth accents, heated 10-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, carbon-fiber interior accents, fold-down rear seatbacks, cruise control and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Standard technology features include Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, an 8.8-inch display screen, a suite of applications under the BMW ConnectedDrive banner, BMW's iDrive infotainment interface, and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with HD radio, satellite radio, a USB audio input, an auxiliary audio jack and a CD player.
The Competition package bumps peak power to 444, a gain of 19 horsepower, and adds forged 20-inch wheels, an M sport exhaust with black chrome tailpipes, revised tuning for the suspension and adjustable driving modes, special exterior trim and lightweight M sport seats.
The M3's optional Executive package adds parking sensors, a rearview camera, a head-up display wireless phone charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, enhanced USB and Bluetooth, and a heated steering wheel. The Lighting package contributes adaptive LED headlights and automatic high-beam control. The Driver Assistance Plus package gets you blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, a surround-view camera system, speed-limit display and a forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking.
Stand-alone options include a few of the packaged items above plus 19-inch wheels, upgraded carbon-ceramic brakes, an automated parking system, a side-view and top-down camera system, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and a power rear sunshade. A sunroof is available as a no-cost option.
The rear-wheel-drive 2017 M3 packs a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that cranks out 425 hp and 406 pound-feet of torque. Two transmissions are available: a standard six-speed manual with automated rev-matching or an optional seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission (M-DCT) with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
According to BMW, the M3 with M-DCT can sprint to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and the six-speed will do the trick in 4.1 seconds. In Edmunds performance testing, a six-speed BMW M4 coupe (very similar to the M3 but with two fewer doors) needed 4.4 seconds to hit 60 mph. Note that the six-speed lacks launch control, making the launch procedure more trial-and-error-based; the M-DCT has it as standard.
The EPA estimates that an M3 with the standard manual transmission will deliver 20 mpg combined (17 city/26 highway). Opting for seven-speed M-DCT lowers those numbers to 19 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway). Automatic engine stop-start, which shuts off the engine to save fuel while the car is stopped, is standard on every M3.
The heart and soul of any M-badged BMW is its engine, and the 2017 M3's twin-turbo inline-six is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Acceleration comes on like a tidal wave at about 2,500 rpm and delivers a thrilling ride all the way to its peak at 7,500 rpm. Both transmissions match revs enthusiastically on downshifts, and the M-DCT's launch control is a consistent and effortless way of pinning your awestruck passengers into their seats. If we could change one thing, it would be BMW's decision to pump synthetic engine noise through the speakers — particularly shrill notes that appear when you're hard on the throttle. Otherwise, though, you know the M3 is doing a lot right if that's the strongest powertrain criticism we can muster.
Another small shortcoming is the M3 lacks BMW's traditional steering feel. Those used to the hypercommunicative hydraulic-assisted racks in previous M cars might notice this more, but we do find the steering in the new cars to be responsive and precise in our handling tests. Thankfully, the company's controversial variable-ratio steering system isn't even an option, as precision and consistency have always been a hallmark of the M3. In spirited driving, the M3's advanced active differential reacts to changing conditions in milliseconds by shifting power between the rear wheels, delivering mid-corner composure and predictability that's as good as anything with four doors — and better than many with two. As for the daily grind, the suspension turns out to be admirably civilized on rutted roads, particularly given the athletic handling capabilities that come with it.
The 2017 BMW M3 has the same sleek, understated cabin design of the 3 Series but adds tasteful sport-themed enhancements. The M logo appears frequently (perhaps too often), and carbon-fiber trim adorns the dash and center console.
Just about every feature comes standard on the M3, including the 8.8-inch central display screen with navigation. The latest iDrive 5.0 infotainment system takes a bit of time to learn, as expected, but its logical menu structure and wealth of customization possibilities make it one of the best systems available. From the driver's vantage point, the classic analog tachometer and speedometer provide a historical link with BMWs of previous decades.
The front seats are well-bolstered and as comfortable on long drives trips as they are supportive in aggressive driving. There's plenty of front headroom and legroom, and the backseat is decently sized for this class of car, with appropriate accommodations for two average-size adults. Trunk space is about average at 12.0 cubic feet.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.