The 2009 BMW M3 still retains its brilliant handling and unbelievable performance, even though the car feels larger and less focused than previous editions.
Its ability to flatly corner and hold grip well beyond the expected limits remains stupefying. Even around corners at high speeds, the body stays firmly in place, ready for another input like a racecar. Both Motor Trend and Car and Driver gushed over the performance of the 2009 BMW M3, noting that it was sensational, beautifully balanced, and confident around a track. Cars.com jumped into the fray by proclaiming the M3 had superb handling and Edmunds called the car a "decathlete" noting that the car's handling helped shrink the big body around the wheels. Braking is progressive and linear, Cars.com wrote and Edmunds similarly praised the stoppers by noting that the confident pedal and big rotors resulted in a stopping distance from 60 mph that was better than any other car they've recorded on their test track.
Handling and traction are only two pieces of the overall equation, though. Under the hood of the 2009 BMW M3 is a lofty 414-horsepower 4.0-liter V-8. With that kind of power, the M3 only needs 4.8 seconds to run up to 60 mph on its way up to a 155-mph top speed. The M3 is a powerhouse, according to Edmunds, and they noted the 8,400 rpm redline that makes the engine sing as it heads toward the horizon—quickly. Motor Trend wrote that the V-8 has usable thrust all the way throughout its range, and Automobile wrote that the engine's soundtrack was nothing short of "magic."
The engine can be paired with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. MyRide has heavy praise for the M3, calling it the "new uber Bimmer." The clutch in the M3 is heavy, but Edmunds noted that the pedal is progressive and Automobile added that the pedal was easy to modulate. The shifter is familiar for 3-Series drivers, precise and satisfying, but also a little rubbery, Automobile added. The 7-speed automatic offers a manual mode, via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but also a full automatic.
BMW has added numerous electronic aids that can interfere with the driving experience, such as adjustable shocks, as well as steering and stability control, to name a few. Fortunately, they can all be turned off for maximum fun. A newly optional M Drive feature lets owners dial in the M3's performance based on conditions—and mood. The new feature controls throttle feel, suspension firmness, and steering response. Depending on the mode, the M Drive feature also lets the rear wheels slip for wheelspin—on a track of course—but the feature has been met with some controversy. Motor Trend noted that it let drivers "tune" their cars, but Edmunds lodged a complaint with the steering that was echoed by Automobile, noting that it was numb on center. Car and Driver went further, saying the modes were part of "BMW's fetish for technological overkill."
Experts mostly agree that the M3 has grown into a bigger, heavier, but still capable car. Edmunds wrote that back-to-back with earlier versions, the new M3 isn't as communicative as older models, but they wrote that the M3 is still a driver's car. Motor Trend lauded the M3's ability to now cruise, noting that it felt refined loafing along on the interstate, in sixth gear, even with the bigger wheel/tire combo.