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Used test: BMW M3 vs Porsche Macan

An unlikely pairing, but the Porsche Macan sports SUV has the driving chops to challenge the performance car status quo. So, is the BMW M3 or the Macan the better used buy?...

BMW M3 vs Porsche Macan Turbo

The contenders


List price when new £58,685
Price today £27,000*
Available from 2014-2018

With its potent performance and entertaining handling, the M3 is one of the benchmark performance saloons

Porsche Macan Turbo

List price when new £59,300
Price today £30,000*
Available from 2014-present

The Macan may near the M3 on pulling power, but can an SUV really compete with its driving experience?

*Price today is based on a 2014 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Put someone on stilts for the first time and they'll wiggle so much you'd mistake them for Elvis. After plenty of practice, though, they'll be capable of extraordinary composure and dexterity, somewhat like what the Porsche Macan has achieved. It may be taller than your typical performance car but it behaves like a well-honed one from behind the wheel.

2014 BMW M3 rear cornering

This brings us to the BMW M3. If the Macan can best it, it'll speak volumes about the sports SUV. Mind you, it won't be easy, because the M3 has long ranked among the performance class leaders, and this previous 2014-2018 BMW M3 is no different.

What's more, buy either of these cars at the age we're testing them here and you'll save a healthy sum of money compared with what they would have cost when new. Both will cost you well below half what the latest equivalent models would cost you new today, too.  

But enough with the sensible stuff for now. After all, these are exciting machines, so a little less conversation, a little more action, please…

2014 Porsche Macan rear


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Under the M3's bright blue bonnet, you'll find a raucous six-cylinder petrol engine. It has 425bhp and sends all of that power to the rear wheels. Manual M3s do exist, but they're very rare compared with automatic examples (like the one have here). 

If anything, the M3 feels faster than its power output suggests. Put the multitude of adaptive elements into maximum-attack mode and it's relentlessly fast. It snaps through gears by itself rapidly and competently, or you can take full control via the shift paddles if you want. The 30-70mph dash is the one you’ll use when overtaking, and the M3 can cover it in a supercar-like 3.1sec.

Put your foot down in the Macan Turbo and its 394bhp twin-turbo petrol V6 revs with clean ferocity, while the standard seven-speed automatic gearbox is incredibly capable. It doesn't aim for the enthusiastic kicks of the M3's gearbox; instead, its quick gearchanges are always silky smooth.

BMW M3 vs Porsche Macan Turbo

The Macan gets from 30-70mph in 4.2sec, meaning there's a difference of 0.9sec between it and the M3. In saying that, the margin feels slightly bigger in reality, because you have a greater sense of speed (and drama) with the M3. 

A byproduct of the M3's fiery, loud, enthralling character is that it's less relaxing than the plush Macan. The M3 is unashamedly noisier and more tiring over long distances, mainly because of the sheer volume of road noise at motorway speeds.

Ride comfort definitely favours the Macan; it's the more supple of the two cars. It’s so good on the standard suspension that we wouldn’t bother seeking out an example with the optional-from-new air suspension. That’s not to say the M3 is uncomfortable. It's tauter and the ride is choppier at most speeds, but not to a punishing extent. 

BMW M3 vs Porsche Macan Turbo

On twisty sections of road, the Macan keeps its body movements under control in a way that few other SUVs can match. It turns in to corners sharply, helping it to feel agile and light on its feet. It also has communicative, meaty steering and huge grip. Overall, the Macan represents an extraordinary feat of engineering, especially in the context of its bodystyle. 

Remove that context and drive it back to back with the M3, though, and your eyes are opened. Almost immediately, you realise the latter is a much more engaging machine; from its steering to its body control, the M3 has higher levels of poise, precision and aggression than the Porsche Macan. While the BMW M3 is a few notches short of the Macan's ease of use, it’s more than a few ahead in terms of driver appeal.