New Car Review

2016 BMW M3: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 BMW M3, like all M3 models before it, is the high-performance version of the 3 Series. Older generations had a choice of body styles, but this one is available only as a sedan. The coupe version is now the M4 (reviewed separately).

Any M3 is cause for celebration and desire, and every generation takes several steps forward. This model employs a twin-turbocharged inline-6 that's strong in midrange torque for breathtaking punch.

One unseen but crucial component is a driveshaft made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. It's as strong as steel but weighs half as much. The result is that engine power is transmitted to the rear wheels with greater efficiency. It's something the driver can feel whenever the accelerator pedal is pressed.

Maximum performance and sophistication in a practical sedan package means the M3 has to be on every enthusiast's wish list.

What's New for 2016?

As well as some minor changes to the interior trim, the LED taillights have been revised and the navigation system is improved. The previously optional Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system is now standard, along with satellite radio and keyless entry/ignition.

What We Like

Relentless acceleration; super-confident handling; muscular styling; rich interior with advanced technology

What We Don't

Fake engine noises

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The M3 has a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 engine that generates 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, or there's the option of a 7-speed M-tuned, double-clutch automated manual (DCT). Both transmissions send power to the rear wheels only. An auto stop/start feature saves fuel by turning off the engine when the car is at rest.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the 6-speed manual should return 17 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined. The 7-speed M DCT is almost as efficient, achieving 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 BMW M3 ($64,195) comes in a single trim level with a wealth of standard features, including 18-inch wheels with performance tires, an aerodynamic body kit with flared fenders and a power dome 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 tail pipes, keyless entry/ignition, 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/leather upholstery and carbon-fiber interior trim.

It also comes with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive infotainment system with navigation, an 8.8-in widescreen display, voice controls, smartphone app integration and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with USB input, satellite radio and HD Radio.

Most options are grouped into packages. The pricey Executive package includes retractable headlight washers, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, parking sensors and a rearview camera.

A Driver Assistance Plus package adds side-view and top-view cameras, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.

The Lighting package contributes adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams.

The new-for-2016 Competition package is a bigger deal. It hikes engine power up to 444 hp. An adaptive M-tuned suspension consists of new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars and includes reconfigured driving modes of Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. BMW's Dynamic Stability Control system and active M limited-slip rear differential have also been recalibrated for track work.

There are visual and aural dimensions to the Competition package as well, with special multispoke 20-in alloy wheels, an M sport exhaust system with black chrome tailpipes, and special lightweight M sport seats with additional support and seat belts with woven-in BMW M stripes.

Stand-alone options include carbon-ceramic brakes, an adaptive suspension, 19-in wheels, a sunroof, a power rear sunshade and an automated self-parking function.

The trunk measures a modest 12 cu ft.


Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). The BMW Assist emergency telematics system, which includes automatic accident notification, stolen vehicle tracking and roadside assistance, is also standard.

The Driver Assistance Plus package adds an array of advanced safety features.

The specialized M3 hasn't been crash-tested, but the 3 Series sedan (on which the M3 is based) received high marks. In government crash testing, it earned five stars out of five overall: four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 3 Series its top rating of Good in all categories except for the new small-overlap front test, where the 3 took a score of Marginal (second-worst of four ratings).

Behind the Wheel

The quality of cabin materials is superb. The dashboard, doors and center console sport eye-catching curves and surfaces. And the sport front seats are remarkable, featuring power side bolsters that keep occupants planted during spirited drives. The iDrive system (with navigation and a high-resolution 8.8-in screen) is also a great feature.

No doubt about it, this car is a monster. The twin-turbo inline-6 packs an enormous punch at practically any engine speed. Whatever gear you're in, punch the gas and hang on. Some may find the aggressive acceleration noises 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 no one will find the M3 low on power. If anything, it's overkill.

It yanks the M3 to 60 miles per hour in just 3.9 seconds with the 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission thanks to a Launch Control mode (3.8 seconds with the Competition package). The standard 6-speed manual transmission can still get the job done in 4.1 seconds. The manual also has an automated rev-matching feature for perfectly smooth downshifts.

Handling-wise, this M3 feels larger than its predecessors, with electrically assisted steering (for the first time) that isn't as tactile as the older hydraulic setups. However, there's no arguing with the car's capabilities: Push an M3 on a winding road, and you'll discover that its limits are far beyond what most drivers could imagine or would dare to reach, yet it can still be well mannered on rough roads at the same time.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi S4 -- The 333-hp S4 technically plays one league down, facing off against the 320-hp 340i sedan. But if the M3's performance is too much, the S4 is a refined and classy alternative.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V -- With a 455-hp twin-turbo V6, the compact ATS-V can sprint to 60 mph in under 4 seconds, and it's one of the best-handling sedans in the world.

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe -- It's not a sedan (although a 4-door model is probably on the way), but you'll get 469 hp or 503 hp in the S version and everything that needs to go with it with the C63.

Used BMW M3 -- The previous-generation M3 was an instant classic with its racy V8. You can find a certified pre-owned specimen with a warranty for much less than a new M3.

Autotrader's Advice

The M3 is one of those cars every enthusiast should own at least once, and the latest generation's abilities are astounding. If you have the cash, take the plunge. It's an M3.

Find a BMW M3 for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 BMW M3: New Car Review - Autotrader