Last refreshed in 2021, the BMW M3 is an uber-sport version of BMW's compact sedan the 3-Series. Like the car upon which it is based, the M3 is a 5-passenger, 4-door sedan. For 2022, BMW finally listened to dealers and owners in northern climates and added all-wheel drive as an option. Rivals include the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Audi RS5 Sportback, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, and Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63.
For 2022, the BMW M3 is offered in three trim levels: base M3, M3 Competition, and M3 Competition xDrive. All use a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that produces 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque in the standard model and 503 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque in the M3 Competition and Competition xDrive. Rear-wheel-drive is standard across the board with all-wheel drive (xDrive) available for the Competition model only. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard in the base M3. An 8-speed automatic is optional on the base and standard on the Competition or Competition xDrive.
Standard on all models is forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and brake assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert. The base coms with 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels with performance tires, adaptive suspension, LED headlights, carbon-fiber roof, leather upholstery, and 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Competition models get 19- and 20-inch wheels and gloss black exterior trim. Prices range from $72,000 to $78,000.
Regardless of engine, the M3 is ferociously fast. The competition model, with its new for 2022 xDrive all-wheel drive system, can race from 0 to 60 MPH in a scant 3.2 seconds. That's about as fast as a production car comes. Anything faster and you are going to want a competition license and professional training. The engine pulls like a freight train at any speed but is particularly impressive in mid-range passing response.
Unfortunately, the automatic transmission can be a bit reluctant to downshift -- even when in Sport model. Drivers can rectify that by switching over to manual mode and shifting with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. It's nice that BMW offers a manual, even if it is only on the base.
As you might expect, fuel economy is not a strong point. The Competition carries a combined EPA rating of 18 MPG and a city/highway rating of 16/22 MPG. These numbers are slightly below most competitors, but only by a MPG or two. Of course, premium-grade fuel is required. On the bright side, it is easy to average better than the EPA numbers if you can mind your right foot and steady-state highway cruising is likely to yield about 25 MPG.
Handling is unparalleled in the class, in fact the M3 is generally the class measuring stick. Competition models are true 4-door sports cars, with lots of grip and minimal roll in corners. You would be hard-pressed to find a sedan that could match the M3 on a winding canyon road (thou they are very hard to find in the Midwest). Unfortunately, BMW's steering calibration somewhat mutes the excitement. Though the car reacts quickly to driver inputs, Comfort mode is a bit too numb for daily use and Sport mode a trifle too firm. It's a minor complaint, but perhaps BMW could offer a Normal setting that strikes a middle balance for daily driving.
With tenacious road holding potential generally come a hard ride and that's somewhat the case here. Though not punishing, all models ride is significantly more impact harshness than most drivers would desire. Adaptive suspension is standard, but even in Comfort, the ride comes across as rough on Chicago's imperfect roads. At the same time, the low-profile tires are magnets for rim damage in spring's pothole season.
With all-wheel drive being newly available the M3 might seem ready for all-season use. That couldn't be further from the truth as all models come with performance tires that provide little traction in snow. To be a truly all-weather vehicle, buyers must opt for snow tires in the winter. Interestingly, drivers can disable the all-wheel-drive system, sending all power to the rear wheels for tail-out antics.
Interior noise levels are acceptable, but not luxury-car quiet (as you might expect). Wind noise isn't as much as a problem as tire noise. The exhaust note is adjustable but hearing it roar is one of the few pleasures left in this soon-to-be-electrified world.
Inside, the M3 is all BMW, meaning top-notch materials, impressive build quality and a modern, but classic design. Drivers face a digital instrument cluster that's crisp and readable day or night. It is a shame that BMW didn't try to mimic traditional analog gauges, but the current modern setup is mirrored across the model lineup. There's a high-mounted center screen for the infotainment system. It can be operated by touch or a console-mounted dial. It's amazingly complex, but extremely powerful once mastered. A nice touch on M3s are little steering-wheel-buttons to instantly launch pre-programmed performance modes.
There are two types of front seats. Base models come with a more standard deeply contoured bucket that's adjustable in a dozen ways and not too constrictive. Competition models get a carbon-fiber seat that is hard and extremely shaped to hold passengers in place. They are effective but can grow tiresome on longer trips and increase the difficulty level to a 10 when getting in and out. Thankfully leg room is ample and head room good. Visibility is hampered by thick pillars and smallish side-view mirrors.
If you are coming from a traditional midsize sedan, you might find the rear seat a bit confining. Actually, the M3 offers one of the most commodious rear compartments in the class. Leg room is ahead of most competitors and the true sedan roofline means actual rear seat head room (all sarcasm intended).
From gesture controls to a digital personal assistant, BMW's 3-Series is about as forward-tech as you are going to find in the industry. It can be overwhelming at first (though thankfully most of it doesn't get in the way of the business of driving).
The M3 offers 13.0 cubic feet of cargo space, a bit larger than most competitors. In fact, only the Audi RS 5 Sportback, which is a hatch, offers more space. Inside, there are plenty of places to store items, from the sizable underarm storage bin and generous door pockets. But the wireless cell-phone tray isn't quite large enough to jumbo-size cell phones.
Bottom Line -- Long the standard amongst true sport sedans, the BMW M3 doesn't disappoint. It's a delight to drive hard and doesn't become tiresome in stop-and-go driving. The deeper you dig into its features, the more rewarding it becomes. Be warned, Competition models might be a bit much for all but the hard-core enthusiast.