The M3 has long been the perennial favorite of the BMW range, at least for sports-minded drivers. With its sporty two door sports coupe styling and non-nonsense handling, it was a car designed with the track in mind and then made available for a reasonable price to the masses so that they could experience the feeling of being a racing driver while heading to work or the convenience store.
For 2015, the designers at BMW decided that that kind of fun deserved a higher number, kind of like turning it up to 11, so they renamed it the M4. The M3 is now a sedan and will only be available as such. No convertible option, no coupe model. If you still want an M3 coupe or convertible, you have two choices, buy a used prior-year model or grab the 2015 M4.
The new M3 comes with 4 doors and increased safety functions which include:
- airbags for just about every extremity – regardless of where you’re sitting during the impact;
- child seat anchors – because launching children through a windshield during a sudden stop went out of style back in the early 80’s;
- a clever brake-drying system to make sure your ventilated and ABS equipped brakes are always ready to stop you well before you actually hit anything; and
- a post-collision safety system just in case those fancy brakes don’t stop you.
With all of those safety and family-friendly features, has BMW watered down the edge-of-your-seat, pucker factor ten M3 down into the perfect sedan for taking the kids to school or driving to the train station? Has the M3 suddenly become just like any other sedan on the road?
No. Oh so very emphatically, no. What BMW has done with the revamped M3 is manage to create a car that your wife will look at and say “Seems very safe and family oriented. Yes, let’s get one”. If you manage to conceal the look of boyish glee in your eyes and get out of the dealership lot without doing a burnout, you’ve just achieved the unthinkable – you’ve bought a car that will go from 0-60 (that’s 0-96kph for those of us in Canada) in 4.1 seconds and has a top speed of 262kph. Your 25 minute commute to the train has never been more fun, even though the commute is now only 4 minutes long at that speed.
So how did they do it? How did they turn a sports car into a sedan and manage to make it still feel like a sports car? They relied on magic, pure, engineering magic. While the old M3 had a great, fear inspiring V8 engine, the new sedan sports a turbo-charged inline-6. Hang on, 6 is less than 8, right? Surely this car must be slower. No again, friends. The car is also lighter than the previous M3s and, with the turbo-charged inline-6, it actually manages to generate an additional 111 pound-feet of torque. That’s like firing a hamster out of potato gun. He’s going to go like mad straight off the line and he’s going to keep going until something pops up to stop him. Thankfully, in the case of the new M3, an electronic limited-slip differential will allow you to (relatively) easily navigate around obstacles which a Mach 3 hamster would have serious issues with.
You’ve also got a choice in transmissions. You can opt for a pure manual, three pedal transmission which, incidentally will provide you with better fuel efficiency of about 21 mpg or 11L/100km for those of us who have embraced the metric system. Alternatively, you can pick up an automatic transmission that is based on ESP. The automated dual-clutch system somehow always knows which gear you’re going to need next, instantaneously. Choosing the automatic transmission doesn’t even hurt the fuel efficiency too much; it drops by about 1mpg.
Because we live in Canada and only have 6 weeks of the year where the roads aren’t either frozen over or sopping wet, tires are important. The M3 has a choice of tires. You can get the standard 18” tires which are, by default, summer tires or the 19” wheels which is sort of like fitting tank treads and, in conjunction with the onboard safety features, will significantly reduce the pucker factor when driving in the wet or icy conditions our roads are in about 90% of the time.
The verdict? The new M3 is a solid, stylish, year-round car which your wife will let you buy and will be perfectly happy driving to the store or school. You, on the other hand, will have a car you can spend the weekends doing doughnuts in and setting new lap times of the circuit from home to the train station and back. The M3 hasn’t lost its sporty appeal; it’s just been very cleverly disguised.