2014 BMW M3 review
We test the new BMW M3 in the UK, the four-door saloon has new twin-turbo six-cylinder engine, but can it beat V8 rivals like the Mercedes C63 AMG and Jaguar XFR?...
Behold, the all-new BMW M3. Cue the choral music, for this is a truly landmark moment.
Actually, on second thoughts, hold the choir, because you may want to save the feverish excitement for the BMW M4, which is the name of the new coupe version of BMW’s storming mid-range sports car.
Even so, the four-door M3 has exactly the same mechanicals and performance figures as the M4 Coupe, consisting of 425bhp from a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo, six-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, adaptive dampers, uprated aluminium suspension, and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, although the optional seven-speed dual-clutch ‘M DCT’ automatic will be the majority seller here in the UK.
So, does the new car live up to the hallowed M3 badge?
What’s the 2014 BMW M3 Saloon like to drive?
It delivers exactly the sort of split-personality that M3 buyers are likely to want; being easy-to-use and drive everyday, but challenging and thrilling when you want it to be.
The new twin-turbo straight-six engine is a peach. There’s no sudden surge of power, and it revs right through to a ballistic 7600rpm when you want the full-on, sports car experience, while also delivering properly muscular mid-range oomph that makes it easy to drive smoothly and very fast without trying.
The auto gearbox that we tried helps, blurring shifts well in normal mode, or being impressively slick and snappy when you resort to using the paddles, blipping on downchanges for you, and causing little or no pause in momentum on up-shifts.
With all the many variable elements in the right tune, including dampers, auto gearbox, steering and stability control, (which can all be adjusted independently) the M3 turns-in to corners with pinpoint precision and plenty of feedback through the wheel. You can even allow the back-end to step-out, without feeling in danger of injury or insurance claim, making it feel lively without being too scary.
However, there is a problem. While the M3 is monumentally rapid, you do need to be pushing towards the edges of its grip before you feel it come alive; the harder to you drive, the more it becomes obvious that it’s actually quite agile – it just hides it beneath the comfortable, fast tourer feel you get at normal road speeds.
So, the M3 is great when driven near its limits, but at normal road speeds the steering becomes a touch slower and a bit more lifeless, and you lose that finer sense of handling athleticism.
Even so, the ride comfort is good on the standard 19-inch alloys. It’s certainly firm, as you’d expect, but it doesn’t get too crashy over potholes, and though you’ll be aware of undulations and scars in the road surface, it’s more than compliant enough to satisfy anyone looking at a proper sports saloon.
Refinement could be better, because there’s lots of tyre noise at most speeds, but you’re more likely to be listening to the boomy, loud exhaust note anyway. It's fine when you're driving fast, but can be a bit of a drag when you're just trying to get from A to B.
What’s the 2014 BMW M3 like inside?
The biggest difference over the standard 3 Series is the seats. Unique to the M3 and M4, they are heated and electrically adjustable, and offer loads of bolster support, helping to make them really comfortable for long journeys, or supportive enough for faster driving.
Otherwise, as you’d expect, it’s almost the same as the cabin in the standard 3 Series, which is no criticism at all. The dash is easy to use and all the materials feel high-end, and the M3 even comes with BMW’s Professional Media Pack, which includes wide-screen sat-nav, as well as front and rear parking sensors and all the other essential entertainment and comfort features.
Some of the materials don't feel quite as plush as you'd expect on a car that costs over £60,000 once a few options are added though, so it's probably worth splashing out the extra £395 for the carbon fibre dash inserts, as they really do help lift the cabin.
Still, flashes of the BMW M colours are in evidence throughout, and the steering-wheel mounted shift-paddles that you get with the auto ‘box are well-shaped, so you don’t have to stretch to reach them.
There’s easily enough room in the back seats for two six-footers, and the 480-litre boot is big enough to cope with substantial amounts of family paraphernalia, or even a couple of spare tyres for track days.
Should I buy one?
If you’re after four-door practicality, with supercar-hassling pace, then yes. The M3 hits a fine balance between being easy to live with, and yet utterly absorbing to drive with intent. It's bigger than before, but still feel perfectly at home on narrow UK roads.
It’s a shame there’s not a little more pizzazz to the handling at normal road speeds, but it’s hardly dull at any moment, and there’s no doubting that few rivals will be faster than the M3 or it coupe sibling.
A Jaguar XFR might offer more aural delight and feel a bit more exciting in normal use, but the M3 is not only cheaper, it will also be faster in real-world use and is just as much of a delight to drive if you do really stretch its abilities.
By any measure, the new M3 is a properly engaging sports car and for now, the best car in its class.
What Car? says...
BMW M3Engine size 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo
Price from £56,175
Torque 406lb ft
0-62mph 4.3 seconds
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Fuel economy 32.1mpg
BMW M3 M DCT automatic Engine size 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo
Price from £58,675
Torque 406lb ft
0-62mph 4.1 seconds
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Fuel economy 34.0mpg
Best used small cars for less than £10,000
Small doesn’t have to mean stingy, and cheap really can be cheerful, as these fantastic used small cars prove
Audi TTS long-term test
The Audi TTS is a stylish coupé with fun at its core, but does it still have a place in a world dominated by high-riding SUVs? Our deputy editor is living with one to find out