Looking for a turbocharged drive that can actually hold some suitcases? Then a used BMW M3 might be the best choice for you
BMW M3 review – read before buying your next car
The BMW M3 is just about the most aggressive car you can buy. From its furrowed brow-looks, its no-nonsense suspension and rabid turbocharged engine, there’s no let-up from its menacing persona. The beauty of the M3 is that, beyond its up-front attitude, you’ll find an ordinary, pretty practical 3 Series saloon car. That means 4 doors, 5 seats and a big boot.
BMW M3 design and looks
There are flicks and gills, vents and slashes, tucks and creases all over the BMW M3. Amazingly, despite being so fussy, it's an extremely handsome car. The low and wide headlight arrangement gives it a brooding face and its details exude performance.
What really makes its appearance work so well, is the car’s stance. It's low, especially at the front where it looks as if it's ready to gobble up the tarmac below its front bumper. All wheels jut out wide, with arches that looked stretched to breaking point trying to cover the broad tyres.
It’s a distinctly different car from the very first M3 from 1988. Although both cars were wider than the basic BMW 3 Series they were based on, the new car has 2 more doors and is far larger. Subsequent M3s have all been available as 2-door models like the original, until 2014 when BMW started calling the coupé version the M4.
Are used BMW M3s good to drive?
You need to be on your game to get the best from the BMW M3. It’s a bolshy car that doesn’t like to be messed around. The car’s maximum-attack attitude emanates from its engine, a powerful turbocharged buzzsaw of a motor. It thrusts the car along at such a thrilling rate while it makes a churning workman-like drone.
The dual-clutch transmission, an option added to most M3s, is equally as savage as the engine, hammering home gears and sending shockwaves through the entire car. It’s a full-on experience.
To try to harness all its rabid energy, BMW has given the M3 a firm and sporty ride, as you might expect. It’s worth sacrificing a little comfort though, because the M3’s tyres and suspension generate a lot of grip and it feels very secure when braking and aiming the car around corners. No matter how hard the tyres try, they can’t always contain the engine’s full brutality, so you have to be very meticulous and exact with the M3’s throttle.
"The car’s maximum-attack attitude emanates from its engine, a powerful turbocharged buzzsaw of a motor"
Space, storage and style
Modern BMWs always offer such a vast amount of seat and steering wheel adjustment, making it easy to find your perfect driving position. Once you’re seated correctly, not only are you better equipped to drive more safely, you feel so comfortable you can forgive its sport car-like ride.
All the gadgets in the M3 are geared towards its sporty side. There’s a head-up display that projects the car’s speed, the engine’s revs and some sat-nav information onto the windscreen so you never need to take your eyes off the road.
There are also buttons to change how severe the gear changes are, how aggressively the engine behaves, how heavy the steering is and how firm the suspension feels. Thankfully, as there are 3 grades in each system to choose from, there are some short-cut buttons on the steering wheel. Here you can select your favourite setup from the plethora of options and jump directly to your ideal configuration with one press of a button.
Beyond all the many ways to tweak the car’s performance, plus a shiny carbon fibre trim, the M3 is just like a regular BMW 3 Series. That means clear and legible buttons and controls, a simple-to-use infotainment system and a useful amount of space.
BMW M3 practicality and boot space
Although it doesn’t want you to know it, it's far too intent on expressing its performance side, the BMW M3 is a practical car. After all, it is an average-sized saloon car with 4 doors and a big boot.
The M3’s rear bench seat can accommodate 3 passengers. However, the middle seat is small and raised and only really suitable for children and short journeys. The outer seats are big enough for child seats and comfortable enough for adults.
In typical saloon car style, the boot opening isn’t very tall. Then again, the boot height is quite short, so it’s appropriate for the space. Where it really impresses is just how far it stretches back. The boot is vast enough for three big suitcases or all the paraphernalia you might need on a family day out, pushchair included.
BMW M3 running costs and reliability
Fuel, tyres, brakes, insurance, servicing and tax are all going to be more expensive for the M3 than they would be if it was just an ordinary, not-so-sporty BMW. Without that extra cost, you wouldn’t get such vast performance to play with.
The M3’s engine has one flaw, and quite a major one that can cause the engine’s timing to change. There are plenty of affordable fixes that you can make to the crank pulley to solve the issue. Beyond that single defect, it’s an incredibly durable and reliable motor.
What cinch loves
If you want a car that can be thrilling, fast, outperform almost anything on a twisty B-road and feel at home on a track day and you also want something you can fit your family into, take your friends or family out in, then you can’t do better than an M3.
What else to consider?
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Town and country drivers
Although the M3’s fury and intent courses through the car, so much so that it can never be ignored, you can still use it as a regular saloon – it has all the space and practicality of a BMW 3 Series. The beauty of the M3 is that you can also use it as a sports car, and a damn fine one at that.
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