Editor’s note: If you’re looking for information on a newer BMW M3, we’ve published an updated review: 2018 BMW M3 Review.
We’ll say this for the all-new 2015 BMW M3 sport sedan: It’s not afraid to break with tradition. For one thing, it’s exclusively available as a sedan, with the coupe version now known as the M4 (reviewed separately). For another, it’s the first M3 to go without a high-revving naturally aspirated engine, substituting a twin-turbocharged inline-6 that specializes in midrange torque. These may seem like small matters if you’re not an M3 aficionado, but they’re highly controversial within the fold.
At the end of the day, though, the latest M3 is an awesome car no matter how you slice it. How could any enthusiast begrudge BMW for building a 425-horsepower super-sedan that’s designed to put a big grin on your face? The debate about the best M3 of all time will rage on, but the fact is, the 2015 M3 is quicker and more capable than every one of its predecessors. If you’re looking for maximum performance and sophistication in a practical sedan wrapper, the M3 has to be at the top of your list.
What’s New for 2015?
The 2015 M3 is completely redesigned
What We Like
Relentless acceleration; invincible handling; muscular styling; rich interior with advanced technology
What We Don’t
Stiff ride; fake engine noises
The 2015 M3 is powered by a twin-turbocharged inline-6 engine, and it’s a doozy. Rated at 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, it yanks the M3 to 60 miles per hour in just 3.9 seconds with the optional 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, while the standard 6-speed manual transmission gets the job done in 4.1 seconds. Notably, the 6-speed gets a new automatic rev-matching feature for perfectly smooth downshifts every time, and an auto stop/start feature saves fuel by turning off the engine when the M3 is at rest.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 6-speed wins the fuel economy race at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The 7-speed is almost as efficient, though, returning 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. For context, the previous V8-powered M3 topped out at 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2015 BMW M3 ($62,950) comes in a single trim level with a wealth of standard features, including 18-inch wheels with performance tires, an aero body kit with flared fenders and a powerdome hood, adjustable drive settings with custom presets, upgraded suspension components, a torque-vectoring rear differential, automatic wipers, adaptive xenon headlights, a sport exhaust system with quad tailpipes, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power heated front sport seats with adjustable side bolsters (and a backlit M logo on the backrests), driver memory functions, cloth and leather upholstery and a carbon fiber interior trim. It also comes with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive infotainment system with navigation and an 8.8-in widescreen display, voice controls, smartphone app integration and a 9-speaker audio system with a USB input and HD radio.
Options are mainly grouped into a few packages. The pricey Executive package includes retractable headlight washers, keyless entry and start, satellite radio, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, parking sensors and a rearview camera. The Driver Assistance Plus package adds side- and top-view cameras, active blind spot detection, lane departure warning and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic braking. The Lighting package contributes adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams.
There’s also a handful of standalone options, including carbon ceramic brakes, an adaptive suspension, 19-in wheels, a sunroof, a power rear sunshade and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
The M3’s trunk measures a modest 12 cu ft.
All 2015 M3s come standard with anti-lock disc brakes (supercar-grade carbon ceramic rotors are a very expensive option), stability control and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency telematics system, which includes automatic accident notification, stolen vehicle tracking and roadside assistance. See the 2015 BMW M3 models for sale near you
The Driver Assistance Plus package adds a variety of electronic driving aids.
The low-volume M3 won’t be crash-tested, but the 3 Series sedan that it’s based on received high marks. In government crash-testing, the 3 Series earned five stars out of five overall, including four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 3 Series its top rating of Good in all crash tests except for the new small overlap front test, where the 3 Series was deemed Marginal (second-worst of four ratings).
Behind the Wheel
In our interior evaluation of the 2015 M3, we were reminded of just how nice the current 3 Series has become. Material quality is superb, and the dashboard, doors and center console are full of eye-catching curves and surfaces. Of all the accoutrements that come standard on the M3, our favorites are the sport front seats, which feature power side bolsters that keep you planted in spirited driving. We also appreciate that the upgraded version of iDrive (with navigation and a high-resolution 8.8-in screen) is included in every M3. The one additional standard feature we’d like to see is keyless entry and start — BMW stubbornly insists on charging extra for this commonplace convenience, and that strikes us as a bit unreasonable in this day and age.
On the road, the 2015 M3 is a monster, no two ways about it. The twin-turbo inline-6 packs an enormous punch at practically any engine speed, so there’s little need to think about what gear you’re in; just punch the gas and hang on. Some may find the engine’s aggressive acceleration noises rather disconcerting, especially when they discover that it’s a simulated soundtrack piped through the speakers (the turbos effectively muffle whatever the inline-6’s natural noises would be). But precisely no one will find the M3’s power lacking. If anything, it’s overkill.
In terms of handling, the M3 feels larger and more robotic than its forebears, with relatively numb steering that’s electrically assisted for the first time. We can’t argue with the car’s capabilities, though. When you push an M3 on a winding road, you’ll discover that its limits are far beyond what most drivers could imagine. The main dynamic issue is the ride — it’s pretty stiff, even with the optional adaptive suspension in Comfort mode. For this reason, we recommend keeping to the standard 18-in tires with their more absorbent sidewalls.
Other Cars to Consider
2015 Audi S4 — The 333-hp S4 technically plays one league down, doing battle against the 300-hp 335i sedan. But if you don’t need all of the M3’s insane performance, the S4 makes for a refined and classy substitute.
2015 Cadillac ATS-V — With a 455-hp twin-turbo V6 under the hood, the compact ATS-V can get to 60 mph in under 4 seconds, and it’s one of the best-handling sedans in the world.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG — We’re not talking about the outgoing previous-generation coupe (which is still being sold as a 2015 model), but rather the upcoming current-generation sedan. Its formidable twin-turbo V8 will have the M3 directly in its sights.
Used BMW M3 — The previous-generation M3 was an instant classic with its racy V8, and we particularly like the styling on the sedan. You can easily find a certified pre-owned specimen with a warranty for many thousands less than a new M3.
If you’ve got the cash, pull the trigger. The M3 is one of those cars that everyone should own once, and the latest model’s capabilities are simply astounding.