2018 BMW M3 Expert Review

4.5 Overall Score
Performance 4.6 Comfort 4.1 Styling 4.2 Value 4.3

Editor's Overview

The 2018 BMW M3 is the rare performance-luxury sedan that can pound a track, incite envy from friends, and still needs no introduction. Once the unquestioned benchmark, BMW’s little rocket now faces more powerful and fresher rivals like the Mercedes-AMG C 63, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Audi RS 5. Still, on a track the M3 holds its own.

You'll Like The 2018 BMW M3 If...

Whether you’re a longtime enthusiast seeking the highest-powered BMW 3 Series sedan or simply want immediate access to an automotive icon, the M3 will grant your wish. Rolling up in an M3 shows you have taste, passion and a love of performance.

You May Not Like The 2018 BMW M3 If...

The BMW M3 is hardly the only game in town. The Mercedes-AMG C 63, Cadillac ATS-V and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio are all more powerful and have smoother automatic transmissions should you forgo the manual. The forthcoming Audi RS 5 has its own twist with standard all-wheel drive and a sleek yet practical sportback design.

What's New

The BMW M3 performance sedan carries over mostly unchanged for 2018. Minor changes include an updated iDrive 6.0 infotainment system with touch-screen display as standard, LED headlights replacing the former xenon units, and high-gloss black M3 badging on the seats. A special edition, the 2018 BMW M3 CS, boasts higher power, lighter weight and a global production of just 1,200 units.

Interior Features

Compared to its competitors, the BMW M3’s 5-passenger cabin is more stern and serious. Where the Mercedes easily coddles and the Audi wows with its tech-centric touches, the BMW M3 can look all business. That business is driving, and if that’s your intent it’s a good one to be in. This isn’t to say it’s uncomfortable, however. The leather-covered seats are supportive and well-bolstered, and craftsmanship is top-notch. The iDrive infotainment system now uses a touch screen on the display above the dash in addition to inputs from the rotary control below the gear shift. Speaking of, yet another reason to choose the manual transmission over the automatic is that the latter is a non-gated stub of a shift gear that can be awkward to use at first.

Exterior Features

The M3 easily looks the part of the best-performing 3 Series. Telltale signs that this is the big dog are the “power-dome” hood bulge up front and quad tailpipe outlets in back. Compared to its lesser siblings, the new M3 has a slightly wider and longer stance, and sits lower. As part of its weight-saving plan, the M3 uses an aluminum hood and, even more impressively, a carbon-fiber roof. A darkened version of BMW’s kidney grille is available, while the Competition Package adds other high-gloss black elements to the side gills and tailpipes. The rare BMW M3 CS ups the ante and lightens its load further with carbon-fiber front and rear splitters and optional carbon-ceramic brakes.

Driving Impressions

Driving -- more specifically, the ability to drive hard -- is the <i>raison d’être</i> for the M3. For the most part, it won’t disappoint. With 425 horses funneled to the rear wheels, BMW’s high-performance compact sedan can do 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds. That benchmark number matches that of the more powerful Mercedes-AMG C 63 S and is only a tick behind the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio with its Ferrari-derived engine. But the M3 is so much more than a straight-line missile. For real fun, seek out a mountain road or, if you’re truly serious, a track. It’s in these environs where the M3’s overall balance and weightier steering effort reward with point-and-shoot precision. If we have one issue with the M3, it’s the optional 7-speed double-clutch automatic transmission. It just isn’t as smooth or refined as those of its rivals. Know how to get around that? Drive it as designed and go with the standard, 6-speed manual transmission. You’ll get the full experience and save $2,900 in the process.

Pricing Notes

The 2018 BMW M3 has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $67,495. Opting for an automatic transmission is an extra $2,900. Loaded with options, a new M3 can crest the $80,000 mark. The new, exclusive BMW M3 CS that is limited to just 1,200 vehicles worldwide is expected to start over the $90,000 mark. At these prices, the M3 sports sedan starts in line with the Mercedes-AMG C 63 sedan. The Cadillac ATS-V sedan starts a few thousand below, while the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio begins closer to $75,000. Though not quite as potent, the 400-horsepower Infiniti Q50 Red Sport makes a case as a value performer at just under $54,000, as does the Jaguar XE S at slightly less. As of this writing, pricing has not been announced for the Audi RS 5, but we expect it to be near the M3’s roughly $70,000 mark. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new sports sedan. The BMW M3’s resale value has traditionally held up well over the years.

Notable Equipment

In addition to its powerful engine and track-ready hardware, the BMW M3 comes with 14-way-power-adjustable front seats with 3-stage heating, leather and cloth interior, universal garage-door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. The M3’s infotainment system bundles navigation and a 600-watt, 16-speaker harman/kardon audio system with AM/FM/CD/HD Radio and 20 gigs of hard-drive storage for audio files.

Notable Options

Optional on the M3 is the 7-speed automatic transmission, the Competition and Executive packages (see Favorite Features), and the Driving Assistance Plus package that bundles lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. A la carte options include a moonroof, power rear sunshade, active blind-spot detection, and a more comfort-oriented standard suspension. The BMW is CarPlay compatible, but is $300 extra. At this time, it doesn’t feature Android Auto. A wireless phone charger and in-car Wi-Fi are also available. One intriguing option is an experience. The M Driver’s Package ($2,500) gets you a day of high-performance driver training at one of BMW’s track facilities in California or South Carolina.

Favorite Features

COMPETITION PACKAGE

Checking this option box unlocks more power from the 2018 BMW M3 -- increasing its horsepower count to 444 and shaving its 0-60-mph time to 3.8 seconds. The package also grants a more direct steering ratio, tweaked Adaptive M Suspension, and 20-inch forged, light-alloy wheels.


EXECUTIVE PACKAGE

This package bundles additional creature comforts and driving aids into the new M3, helping strengthen its proposition as luxury car. Included are a heated steering wheel, bird’s-eye camera system, head-up display, automatic high beams and parking sensors.


Under the Hood

The M3 has a gift under the hood in the form of a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. Standard output is 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque that enable a 0-60-mph blast of 3.9 seconds and governed top speed of 155 mph. With the Competition power, horsepower is increased to 444. If you’re lucky enough to score a 2018 BMW M3 CS, you’ll get 453 horsepower, a 3.7-second 0-60-mph time, and a top speed that rises to 174 mph. The M3 is rear-wheel drive and features the Active M Differential that automatically distributes power to each wheel for the best performance. The M3 comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. Less recommendable but likely more popular is the 7-speed twin-clutch automatic.


3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6

425 horsepower @ 5,500-7,300 rpm

406 lb-ft of torque @ 1,850-5,500 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg (manual), 17/24 mpg (automatic)


3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 (BMW M3 CS)

453 horsepower @ 6,250 rpm

443 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000-5,380 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg (automatic)

Editors' Notes

“M3” could be among the two most important characters in the automotive kingdom. For decades, enthusiasts have dreamed about and salivated over them, knowing they equate to the top-dog, track-ready version of the BMW 3 Series (reviewed separately). At roughly $70,000, the 2018 BMW M3 continues to bolster the German automaker’s bottom line while fulfilling the aspirations of serious drivers and the merely badge conscious. It’s the rare high-powered luxury sedan that can pound a track, incite envy from friends and strangers, and still needs no introduction. Once the unquestioned benchmark, BMW’s little rocket now faces more powerful and fresher rivals like the Mercedes-AMG C 63, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Audi RS 5 and Cadillac ATS-V. Still, on a track the M3 holds its own.

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