New & Used BMW M3: In Depth
The BMW M3 is a legend amongst fans of luxury sports cars. Though it follows the classic front-engine/rear-drive layout, there's a magic to the M3 that's all its own. Its closest competitors include the Mercedes C63 AMG, Lexus IS F, and the Audi S4.
The 2013 BMW M3 is a well-built car, and its cabin is a surprisingly comfortable --especially for a dual-purpose street and track capable car. We liked the V-8 power, the grip and handling and the dual clutch transmission -- the primary point for caution is the way the car's cost can spiral. There are also rumors out on the future of BMW M3 as well as BMW M3 spy shots.
Originating with the E30 edition of the BMW 3-Series in 1986, the original M3 was a small, relatively light two-door coupe and convertible. Power came from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder, and though power hovered around 200 hp--with most of that delivered near peak engine speeds--the car quickly won fans and followers. The E30 M3 was only offered with a manual transmission. It saw wide use in racing, which continues to this day.
The second generation of the M3 came with the next generation of the 3-Series it's based on: the E36. Arriving in 1992, the new model upgraded the small four-cylinder to a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder (upgraded to 3.2-liters in 1996), rated at 240 horsepower. A sedan version of the M3 was introduced for the E36 generation. Both five-speed manual and automatic transmissions were available. This model ran through 1999.
In late 2000, the E46 M3 came on the scene, with a much more potent 3.2-liter S54 in-line six-cylinder engine rated at 333 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission and a new SMG automatic transmission with an electro-hydraulic clutch pedal, with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Next came the E90-series (E90, E92, and E93) M3, first sold in 2007. A new V-8 engine, displacing 4.0 liters and generating 414 horsepower, raised the M3 to new levels, but at the same time, the E90 M3 gained considerable weight, pushing it more into the realm of grand tourer than sports car. A wave of technology also brought the M3 more fully into the modern realm, with advanced traction and stability control programs to enhance performance, a new dual-clutch transmission, and other advances. A number of special editions have been offered, primarily as appearance packages. The overall level of the M3's luxury and equipment also rose with this generation, wrapping in more advanced navigation, entertainment, and creature comforts.
With a new generation of the 3-Series (F30) already on the roads, a new M3 is expected to arrive soon as well. Rumors have placed a turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the hood, which would mark the first time forced induction has been used in a production M3. However, that vehicle will only emerge in sedan form--now that BMW has divorced its coupes and convertibles into a new BMW 4-Series lineup, the M3 badge will only apply to the four-door sedan (or wagons and gran Turismo hatchbacks, if BMW so chooses). The new M3 is not expected to arrive until the beginning of 2014 at the earliest, likely as a 2015 model.