2009 BMW M3

2009 BMW M3

The Basics:

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new BMW M3 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new BMW M3 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

It’s not cheap and it is kind of heavy, but the 2009 BMW M3 offers the kind of performance that brought Porsche 911s and Chevy Corvettes fame on the racetrack and on the streets.

For $55,000, the 2009 BMW M3 redefines the performance envelope for BMW's 3-Series range” but at a significant weight and price penalty. However, you might be going too fast to notice.

When the M3 arrived stateside 20 years ago, the car was powered by lowly four-cylinder engine. The 2009 version, with a 4.0-liter V-8 engine producing 414 hp, is a performance monster compared to its predecessor.

The M3 is often chastised for having too many electronic aids that can interfere with the driving experience” adjustable shocks, steering, and stability control among them” but fortunately they can all be turned off for maximum fun by enthusiasts attracted to the M3’s incredible handling and traction. The 2009 BMW M3 grips corners firmly, while the body stays tightly in line like a racecar.

For 2009, the M Double Clutch Transmission is now offered throughout the M3 line as a $2,900 option. This seven-speed gearbox with Drivelogic is designed for high-rpm engines and allows the driver to shift gears without interrupting the flow of power. It’s a dream for weekend racers, yet it won’t punish you with jarring shifts on the daily commute.

From the outside, the M3 looks the part, with a very aggressively styled exterior. The interior of the 2009 BMW M3 closely mirrors that of the standard 3-Series yet has wonderful, snug sport seats and sportier interior trims. Interior comfort is fine, though most adults will find the backseat cramped. Also, the 3-Series rides quite well, but it has more road noise than is typical.

The M3 offers a lot of high-tech features to go along with its top performance” and some of these are driving aids more than gadgets. BMW is making the steering wheel-mounted M Drive button a part of the optional Technology Package for 2009. M Drive allows M3 owners to store and access dynamic control settings such as steering, damping, and stability” effectively allowing you to fine-tune the demeanor of the M3 to suit the driving conditions to your liking. The 2009 Technology Package also includes Electronic Damping Control, the BMW Navigation System with Real Time Traffic Data, and the Comfort Access system that allows keyless operation of the vehicle.

Whether it’s the coupe or the sedan, the 2009 BMW M3 makes its thundering performance known with bulges, vents, slits, and badges.

Car and Driver observes the 2009 BMW M3’s “bulging aluminum hood” and says “visually, there's no confusing the M3 with a standard-issue 3-series, even though both cars share doors, windows, headlights, taillights, and trunklid.” The other panels have been massaged, and BMW replaces the normal steel on top with a "carbon-fiber roof," says Cars.com; it’s the "the flared fenders and nose-low, hunkered-down profile that suggests a nearly audible snarl." Autoblog points out the "M-specific quad pipes" that "let Bimmer cognoscenti know that they're behind something special." "The BMW M3 appears as a 3 Series Coupe or Sedan that's been to the gym," explains MyRide.com, "not like a dude on 'roids but rather someone who's been doing twice-a-days and eating nothing but chicken and tuna." The front and rear fascias are "revised," the hood has "rippled aluminum" with vents, plus "additional vents on the fenders," they add, summing up its styling as "an exquisite machine that doesn't require exaggerated body kits to draw attention." Edmunds agrees that it has “more aggressive body styling” than the usual 3-Series coupe or sedan.

It’s not cheap and it is kind of heavy, but the 2009 BMW M3 offers the kind of performance that brought Porsche 911s and Chevy Corvettes fame on the racetrack and on the streets.

"Heavily-bolstered," the seats "feel custom-made to your body." Plus, the "thick-rimmed steering wheel" gives the driver a "sporty feel," while cruising down the highway. Additionally, "leather trim" and "door sills with the M logo" round out the interior of the "high-performance" M3 BMW, says MyRide.com, with the added comfort typically left out of such sporty vehicles.

The interior of the M3 has changed, but not as dramatically as the exterior, Car and Driver noted. The M treatment applies with sportier buckets and a thicker steering wheel, and M badges all around the car. Edmunds noted the front seats as being particularly "aggressive" in the M3.

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.

The 2009 BMW M3 showcases the automaker's impeccable build quality and features seating for five, although we'd hesitate to stuff many in its back seats for long.

Edmunds noted the M3's top-notch fit and finish, writing that the build quality and materials were "excellent," but said the interior's palette was "monotonous" and restrained. Autoblog noted the M3's comfortable ergonomics and said the materials were high quality.

Two adults can fit in the back seat, but Motor Trend added that the back seat should be considered for occasional use only. Car and Driver was a little more kind by saying that the rear seat should be fine for two adults, noting that it was "tight but livable." Edmunds wrote that the front seats were aggressively sized, but added that they were fairly adjustable, especially the side bolsters and thigh supports. Once you've dialed in the seat, it fits well, they added. MyRide and Cars.com appear at odds when describing the front-seat room; MyRide noted that the adjustable back rests kept drivers snug while carving canyon corners despite being snug, Cars.com deemed the interior "roomy enough."

Trunk space is more than adequate, according to Car and Driver, but Cars.com wrote that the opening is a little narrow. MyRide added that the split-folding rear seats can offer more cargo capacity in instances such as carrying tires to the track.

Most have noted the M3's sonorous V-8, and Automobile fawned over the noise by saying the V-8 can sound like a "screaming demon" when the gas pedal is mashed. The V-8 sounds angrier and more insistent than any V-8 "this side of Maranello,"" they wrote. Edmunds took issue with the 19-inch tires and the road noise they generate, ranging from a slight hum to an annoying drone. Cars.com said the noise coming from the tires was mostly sedate in all but "porous pavement," which can bring out a whine from the wheels.

Neither major U.S. safety rating organization has crash-tested an M3 yet, and we don't expect that to change much either. The IIHS and NHTSA haven't thrown an M3 into a wall, but the structurally similar 3-Series netted a four-star score for front impact safety and five stars for side-impact safety from federal testers. The IIHS gave the 3-Series a "Good" rating, and Edmunds noted the excellent outward visibility from those cars.

Before hitting a wall, Cars.com noted the M3's big disc brakes that can help stop the car. With 14.2-inch rotors up front and 13.8-inch rotors in rear, the M3 has the stopping power to bring the sport sedan to a halt. The M3 also features standard stability and traction control systems.

According to Edmunds, the 2009 BMW M3 offers a comprehensive safety package, including "full-length side curtain airbags, front seat side airbags [and] antilock disc brakes.”

Even though performance clearly ranks above all else in the 2009 BMW M3, it has many” perhaps too many” technology and convenience features. Reviewers generally love the audio options but loathe the unfortunate iDrive system, which hasn’t become much friendlier in recent years.

Base coupes or sedans are moderately well-equipped, but lack some of the features found on competitors. Edmunds reports that the M3 comes in one trim level with standard automatic climate control, leather seating, heated power adjustable front seats, cruise control, 18-inch wheels, split-folding rear seats and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player.

Adding the Premium Package adds to the list, BMW Assist telematics, power-folding mirrors, and better interior trim, according to Edmunds.

Many performance buyers will opt for the Technology Package that adds M Drive, which lets drivers adjust steering and throttle response, and includes keyless ignition, adjustable dampers, navigation and BMW's forgettable iDrive infotainment controller.

Edmunds noted that 19-inch wheels, heated seats, and rear parking sensors are available as a la carte options. Satellite radio, HD radio, and iPod connectivity are all offered. A sunroof is a no-cost option.

Buying Tips:

Now that the initial rush to own a first-year model is over, M3s should be more readily available.

Other Choices:

  • 2007 Cadillac CTS-V
  • 2008 Lexus IS F
  • 2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Reason Why:

Loyalty counts heavily in this crowd, and the BMW M3's reputation brings a legion of fans with it. This is a hotly contested field, and each of the three rivals has also been completely redesigned in the past year or two. Lexus's IS-F has a 416-hp V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, which gives it a technical edge on the M3. Then there’s the new Cadillac CTS-V, which might actually be the most fun to drive of these sedans, with especially communicative steering and great body control at the limits. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG may be faster, but it doesn’t have the same frisky feel of the Cadillac or Lexus.

The Bottom Line:

It’s not cheap and it is kind of heavy, but the 2009 BMW M3 offers the kind of performance that brought Porsche 911s and Chevy Corvettes fame on the racetrack and on the streets.

Research Other Topics

on a scale of 1 to 10
Expert Rating
Expert Rating
Comfort & Quality
Expert Rating
Expert Rating
Expert Rating
Looking for other models of the BMW 3-Series?
Read reviews & get prices