2018 BMW M3

2018 BMW M3 Review

Retaining civility while delivering high performance has always been the M3's allure.
author
by Carlos Lago
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

It's a common problem: You have to transport your family, but you still want to go fast and have fun. What's a driving enthusiast to do? Try the 2018 BMW M3. This performance variant of the brand's 3 Series merges practicality and performance into one highly enjoyable sport sedan.

The transformation from luxury-oriented 3 Series to really fast luxury-oriented M3 includes a vastly more powerful six-cylinder engine, bigger wheels, stickier tires, stronger brakes and firmer suspension tuning. The exterior changes are more subtle. Aficionados will recognize it immediately, but most might not notice the quad exhaust tips, domed hood, wider fenders and carbon-fiber roof.

What we really love about the M3, though, is that it retains its civility in spite of the performance upgrades. The ride quality remains comfortable thanks to adaptive dampers, the seats are supportive yet comfortable enough for long road trips, and the back seat and trunk are spacious. While there are higher-performing competitors, and more luxurious ones, few blend both traits with the fluidity of the 2018 BMW M3.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 BMW M3 gains a standard rearview camera, the latest version of the brand's iDrive entertainment system and LED headlights.

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The 2018 BMW M3 comes in one trim level and offers just a few options. As such, your biggest choice is between the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic. The M3's faster with the latter but more engaging with the former. The Competition package gives the M3 sharper handling and a more entertaining experience — not to mention some of the coolest-looking wheels currently on a new vehicle — so that's a worthy option. The M Driver's package is also worth it, just for the day of high-performance driver training.



Trim levels & features

The BMW M3 is a four-door, five-passenger high-performance car that's based on the company's 3 Series. Its sedan layout gives it practicality for daily use, while its sporting hardware upgrades make it more exciting to drive. The few options packages available can increase performance further and add more comfort features.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine (425 horsepower, 406 pound-feet of torque) that sends its power to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic.

Standard equipment highlights include adaptive suspension dampers, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, power and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition and entry, auto-dimming mirrors, BMW iDrive infotainment interface (with a 8.8-inch display screen), a navigation system and a Harman Kardon sound system.

The Competition package sharpens the M3's responses by boosting engine output to 444 hp and further tuning the suspension and differential. It also includes lightweight 20-inch forged wheels.

The Driving Assistance package is where you'll find advanced safety features. This package includes lane departure warning, forward collision warning (with pedestrian detection) and low-speed automatic emergency braking. It also adds a feature that displays the posted speed limit in the gauge cluster.

The Executive package adds more convenience-based extras such as adaptive headlights with auto high beams, heating for the steering wheel and rear seats, a head-up display, side- and top-view parking cameras, and an automated parking system.

Stand-alone options include carbon-ceramic brake rotors, a nonadaptive suspension, a sunroof, blind-spot monitoring, wireless device charging and Apple CarPlay phone integration. Owners seeking more thrill should consider the M Driver's package, which is essentially one day of high-performance driving education.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 BMW M4 (turbo 3.0L inline-6 | 6-speed manual | RWD).

NOTE: The M4 is the coupe variant of the M3. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's BMW M3, however.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall

Driving

The M3 drives a lot like a sports car. It accelerates with potency, turns sharply and stops quickly. There's little reason to crave more performance, though the steering doesn't communicate much road feel to the driver. Still, this car does an impressive number of things very well.

Acceleration

The turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder feels eager, alert and powerful. Sharp at low revs, has a strong midrange and is willing to rev with great throttle response at any speed. In Edmunds testing, an M4 with a manual transmission hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 116 mph.

Braking

The M3's brake pedal is firm. The powerful (optional) carbon-ceramic brakes on our test car have excellent modulation and great stopping power. There are some groans at low speeds, but that's expected. In a simulated-panic stop from 60 mph to zero, the M4 took just 106 feet, an excellent result.

Steering

Steering on the M3 is well-weighted and precise, but it's lacking the feel we expect from cars in this class. That lack of feel becomes even more pronounced when you get closer to the car's elevated handling limits, but in-town steering should be sufficient for most drivers.

Handling

No surprises here: The M3 has lots of grip and excellent agility. The car's immense handling capabilities inspire lots of confidence while you're driving fast. This is especially rewarding for drivers who are attentive in managing weight transfer.

Drivability

This car is a great example of cohesive integration of the primary driving controls. The manual gearbox in our test car had slick, bright and fast shifts. Drive this car every day and you'll be able to tell that its nuances were fussed over.

Comfort

Everyday use is no problem for this car. It's properly sporting but totally user-friendly. The ride is supple enough for your commute, and noise will never wear you down. Its seats in particular stand out for their ability to do it all.

Seat comfort

Front-seat comfort is outstanding no matter whether you are exploring a mountain road or just cruising. The combination of leather and cloth is unusual but effective.

Ride comfort

This is a firm-riding car, no doubt, but there's a suppleness to the dampers that rounds off the edges. Nobody will mistake its ride quality for that of a Bentley, but for a sporting vehicle it is quite good.

Noise & vibration

Some road noise is evident from the low-profile tires on optional 20-inch wheels, but there is very little engine noise at a cruise. Prod the throttle and the engine perks up nicely. The resulting sound isn't soul-stirring, though.

Interior

The M3 has a practical driving position with good outward visibility. The controls, though numerous, are arranged in a way that makes sense. The interior is large and easy to live with on a daily basis.

Ease of use

Logical and well-laid-out cabin controls make the M3's interior easy to use. The iDrive screen is large, bright and crisp, as are the simple gauges. Climate controls consist of temperature knobs and buttons for the rest. Limited brightwork prevents distracting reflections.

Roominess

This is a larger car than you might guess. The ample width provides plenty of shoulder and elbow room in front. Without the sunroof, headroom is no problem for 6-footers. The same goes for the back seats, which comfortably support passengers of all sizes.

Visibility3.5

Forward and side visibility is good, thanks to the relatively upright seating position and tall windows. As with most modern cars, there are large blind spots at the rear roof pillars, and the deck is on the high side.

Quality

Excellent fit-and-finish defines the M3's cabin. Cabin controls and features move smoothly and with precision. Materials are rich and appear to have been chosen to minimize distraction. The use of mixed materials on the seats is unusual but very effective.

Technology

BMW's latest iDrive entertainment system is powerful and relatively easy to learn and operate. Apple CarPlay is available wirelessly, but only as an option. The system also understands voice controls with remarkable ease and quickness.

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.