New Car Review

2017 BMW M3: New Car Review

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Used 2017 BMW M3 Sedan
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author photo by Autotrader March 2017

The 2017 BMW M3 takes the regular 3 Series premium compact sedan and turns it into a dream machine. The M3 is one of those cars every enthusiast should own at least once. And this generation's abilities are astounding.

Any M3 is cause for celebration and desire. This generation employs a twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that's strong in midrange torque for breathtaking punch.

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

Older generations had a choice of body styles, but this one is available only as a sedan. The coupe/convertible version is the M4 (reviewed separately).

What's New for 2017?

The adaptive suspension that was optional is now standard. And the iDrive infotainment system has been upgraded with the most recent software (5.0). The Executive package now includes wireless smartphone charging and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

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-cylinder 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 an M-tuned 7-speed double-clutch automated manual (DCT). Both transmissions send power to the rear wheels only. An automatic stop/start feature saves fuel by turning off the engine when the car is at rest.

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

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 BMW M3 ($64,995) comes in a single trim level with a wealth of standard features, including 18-inch wheels with performance tires, an adaptive suspension, an aerodynamic body kit with flared fenders and a powerdome hood, adjustable drive settings with custom presets, a torque-vectoring rear differential, automatic wipers, adaptive xenon headlights, a sport exhaust system with quad tailpipes, keyless entry/ignition, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable/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 has Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 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 a USB slot, an auxiliary audio 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, a rearview camera, wireless device charging, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

A Driver Assistance Plus package adds side-view and top-view cameras, active blind spot monitoring, 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 Competition package hikes engine output up to 444 hp. The dynamic stability control system and Active M limited-slip rear differential have also been re-calibrated for track work. There are visual and aural dimensions to the packge as well, with special multispoke 20-in alloy wheels, an M sports exhaust system with black chrome tailpipes, and special lightweight M sports seats with additional support and seat belts with woven-in BMW M stripes.

Individual options include carbon ceramic brakes, 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, with 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 categories except for the new small-overlap front crash test, where the 3 Series took a score of Marginal (the 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 six 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 the noise is coming from a simulated soundtrack piped through the speakers (the turbos effectively muffle whatever the inline six's natural noises would be). But no one will find the M3 low on power. If anything, it's overkill.

The M3's engine propels it from a standstill to 60 mph 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 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.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Audi S4 -- A new generation for this model year. Technically, this 345-hp sedan plays one league down, facing off against the 320-hp BMW 340i or the Mercedes-AMG C43. But if the M3's performance is too much, the S4 is a refined and classy alternative.

2017 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 (or coupes) in the world.

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 -- Endowed with 469 hp, or 503 hp in the S version, and everything that needs to go with it. Available in sedan, coupe and convertible (cabriolet) form.

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

Autotrader's Advice

Maximum performance and sophistication in a practical premium compact sedan package means the M3 has to be on every enthusiast's wish list. There's really no advice required. If the funds are there, go for it.

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2017 BMW M3: New Car Review - Autotrader