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  • Brilliant V8; tremendous handling yet more than adequate ride comfort; 3 Series coupe styling a success
  • Fuel range not that great; overly thick steering wheel; we still miss metallic shrill of E46 M3\'s six-cylinder

9 / 10

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

Five years after its introduction, the BMW M3 remains a brilliant compact luxury sports car – looking its best in coupe form.

A new-generation M3 is due in 2013 that will follow other cars such as the M5 and 1M from BMW’s performance division, switching to a smaller-capacity (six-cylinder) engine with turbochargers.

So the current BMW M3 is one of the last opportunities to own one of these legendary cars powered by a normally aspirated engine.

BMW hasn’t replaced the E46 CSL, but the current M3 with Competition Package will suffice – and it’s also considerably quicker than the six-cylinder CSL.

The M3 looks track-ready even when it’s standing still. The Coupe sits low to the ground on a set of superb 19-inch M light-alloys (18s are standard), designed to allow maximum airflow around the brake rotors, and one of several features included in the Competition Package.

Our test car was in Alpine White. It’s a non-metallic paint that sets the various carbon-fibre accents off beautifully.

The super light carbon-fibre roof, which was a key feature of the CSL, is now standard fitment on this fourth-generation E92 M3. It effectively lowers the centre of gravity and shaves five kilos off the weight of the car.

The quad exhaust tips that were introduced on the previous model M3 certainly look the business, but I can’t help thinking that matte black tips would provide greater differentiation over the standard M3’s polished chrome tips.

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

Apart from the side skirts, front apron and split rear diffuser, the overall body panels are clean and uncluttered, but for the characteristic gills on the front side panels of the M3, which remain a key highlight of all ‘M’ cars.

You can’t miss the special ‘M’ plate on the door sills either, or the embossed ‘M’ in the hand stitched M sport leather steering wheel, which I rate as possibly the finest sports tiller on the market for its grip and feel, while the detailed stitching with ‘M’ coloured thread is a nice touch too.

From the very moment you strap yourself into what really must be considered the best sports leather seats on the market, you know you are sitting in a truly focused performance car. It’s the way that they prevent your torso from any lateral movement even in a high ‘G’ corner, much like a racing bucket and yet with so much comfort.

This is what an M3 is all about, all the right equipment for exceptional driver control.

The interior trim isn’t what I’d call fancy like an Audi interior, but it’s sensible and uncluttered. There’s no lack of creature comforts in the M3; this is every bit the executive express with all the trimmings you would expect in a car in this price range. Highlights include Adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights, Comfort Access System, Park Distance Control (front and rear), High Beam Assist with auto rain sensors, as well as all the functionality of the latest iDrive system, which is dead easy to operate and thoroughly intuitive.

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

While Bluetooth phone connectivity is standard on the M3, and pairing with an iPhone is completed in less than a minute, Bluetooth streaming for music is not yet available on the M3. However, there is a USB interface for iPhone/MP3 connection. It’s not the ideal solution, but according to BMW Australia, the streaming issue appears to have been a homologation problem, and will soon be introduced on the 5 Series. It’s about the only problem I have found with the car, so far.

For such a focused performance machine, the M3 offers an inordinate level of practicality far greater than the likes of Porsche’s 911 coupe. There’s plenty room for two reasonably sized adults in the individualised rear seats, and that includes a good deal of legroom. And let’s not forget this car has a proper boot, with enough space for several soft bags back there.

At the end of the day though, you’re not going to put down $155,000 for an M3 for its luggage capacity or rear seat legroom. You’re going to write that cheque because you want to own one of world’s most exciting driver’s cars, outside that of a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. The fact that you can also pick up the kids from school is called spousal leverage.

And to that non-boosted gem of a V8. Tap the Start button and the four-litre V8 fires up with an angry race car-like idle, before settling down to a more subdued engine note. Floor the accelerator and you’ll find the potent 4.0-litre V8 under the bonnet likes nothing better than spinning out to 8300rpm before the need to shift cogs.

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

Standard fit on the M3 is a six-speed manual box, but if you want to properly exploit all 309kW and 400Nm, then you best tick the box that says; ‘M double-clutch transmission with Drivelogic’. That means seven forward gear ratios and lightning fast shift times quicker that Sebastian Vettel could manage if he were driving the manual.

While I’m all for old-school six-speed shifters, they don’t make a lot of sense if your daily drive route includes the peak hour crawl. More importantly, the M double-clutch option will get you from 0-100km/h in a blistering 4.6 seconds, down from 4.8 seconds for the manual.

For my drive out of the city, I’ve engaged full auto mode. It seems less jittery at low speeds than the Volkswagen DSG transmission, and perfect in these stop/start conditions.

That reminds me, you’ll need to get used to the Automatic Start / Stop function, which is now standard fitment across the M3 range. Basically, when you are in traffic and not moving with your foot on the brake, the engine simply cuts out. It’s a fuel saving function that also reduces emissions, so in theory it’s a worthwhile thing. In practice, it’s a little annoying, but the whole engine on/off process is entirely seamless. The moment you lift off the brake pedal, the engine fires up for a smooth getaway.

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

Up ahead, there’s some clear road so I flick the miniature ‘M’ shifter to the right, engaging manual mode, and drop the throttle for a taste of what this engine has to offer. It’s not just the sound of that V8 winding up that sounds the goods; it’s more those instant race-style shifts that will have you begging for more.

I can’t help notice how good the all round vision is in the M3. The beltline swoops low, which allows for a seemingly unobstructed view to the sides. It’s unusual these days, with so many cars being designed with high beltlines, which reduces the glass area.

You don’t have to be going quick to feel how well balanced this chassis is. It’s not any one thing either. It’s the steering response, which is perfectly weighted at any speed. It’s the lightweight suspension in the form of a double-strut design on the front axle and the five-link rear suspension, which provides that perfect balance between ride and handling. It all works so well in the M3.

There’s a reasonable level of compliance in the suspension, which provides a firm but entirely comfortable ride for passengers, and potholes are dispensed with without any harshness through the body.

Once you clear city traffic you’ll probably want to engage the paddle shifters, as the double-clutch transmission will quickly default to seventh gear in the interests of reduced fuel consumption, but I’m not too worried about that at the moment.

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

I’ve engaged ‘M Drive’ via the steering wheel button before opening up the M3 on an eight kilometre stretch of twisty road in the middle of nowhere, and the traction through these extra tight bends is off the charts. So too is the grip from these Michelin Pilot Sport tyres under what I would call extreme loads.

There’s a host of settings you can dial up for optimal driving dynamics, but there’s almost no need to fiddle around with that stuff unless you are heading to the track, so the M button will do fine.

At 8200rpm the gearshifts are impossibly quick, yet remarkably smooth. I could drive up and down here all day long just listening to the music from this DCT transmission as it rapid-fire shifts up and down through the ratio range.

Have I mentioned the throttle blip? Braking on approach to corners produces the most perfect double de-clutch you’re ever likely to hear, only the M3 has a beefed-up version with a few extra decibels thrown in for that complete surround sound experience.

There’s no such thing as body roll with an M3 either, and it doesn’t seem to matter how sharp you turn in, or how hard you push, the M3 sits bolt upright through the bends at all times.

At close to 1600kg, the E92 M3 is significantly heavier than the specialised CSL I drove, but oddly enough, it still feels razor sharp on the road, despite being choc full of luxury kit. It’s a tremendous effort by BMW engineers, and a veritable rolling study in the art of automobile dynamics.

2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review
2012 BMW M3 Review

Throttle response out of corners is what I would call potent, as is the M3’s torque-rich in-gear acceleration as the 4.0-litre V8 spins towards the 8300rpm redline.

While you won’t find any fancy red brake calipers from Brembo or AP Racing on the M3, the single piston swing-caliper stoppers over steel rotors rein in speed exceptionally well and you won’t have to worry about brake fade – there isn’t any.

Cruising back to the office in ‘D’ (auto mode), you start to realise just how accomplished and flexible the M3 really is. This is the everyday supercar that does it better than most sports cars costing twice this amount. The bonus is that you don’t have to take the family SUV to sport on Saturdays.

Driving an M3 is a special kind of experience. It almost leaves you speechless with joy; in its ability to perform at the peak of the graph, on so many levels.

BMW M3 Sedan: $141,700 (Manufacture’s List Price)

BMW M3 Convertible: $173,300 (Manufacture’s List Price)

2012 BMW M3 Review
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  • http://www.roberts.com.ph Roberts

    If BMW can replace the old fashion interior then the M3 will be a perfect car.

    • Jester

      Great car – everything is great except that centrally located hump on the dashboard, with the GPS screen. That just looks disguisting.

  • DDH

    I don’t think choosing Alpine White makes you less obvious to the rozzes!

  • F1MotoGP

    I take the Lexus IS-F

    • Homer

      Come on F1 that’s a wind up isn’t it? You’re not related to Camry Lover are you?

      • Cheyl

        everything is fine until i look at the interior, huge huge let down… what an overpriced machine too.

        I will take ISF too.

        • Pinky

          you two can take the ISF and deal with feelin inadequate at every coner your turn and every time you park and get out of the car – trust me we are all thinking the same thing “ain’t got enough money for an M3 or C63 – loser”

          • MF

            Chill Pinky, you can spend your money on whatever you want. But for me, my hard-earned cash will go to a good value for money car. Buying a C63 second hand is not a bad idea either.

          • isf rules

            Hey DINKY you wouldn’t be able to afford the front wheel of a ISF so leave this forum to someone who can afford a M3 or ISF or C63! The ISF is my pick after driving all 3 because it gives you the best bang for your buck, its quicker than the M3,has better features,looks way better (the m3 is ugly)and being a lexus it will be more reliable!

  • mrxandthexfactor

    SU.CK 5
    Love that plate

    • ElecEng

      U.SU.CK M8 would be better =P

  • Justin

    The i6 engine might not be as powerful but I’d still take it over v8, sounds better and it is a proper race engine, no comprimises in efficiency or emissions

  • http://Juicedpixels.com Juiced pixels

    That’s lame not having Bluetooth audio, even my Mazda has that.

    • John O’Neill

      LOL it does have bluetooth

  • Armando McGillacuddy

    Great car, it’s a shame about the price. You can buy a loaded one with every option for ~$80k in America. The extra cost here just can’t be defended, no amount of convincing about government taxes, subsidizing bogan commodores, or anything along those lines would convince me enough to spend that kind of money on a 3 series, no matter how brilliant it is (and it is brilliant).

    • Al Juraj

      Isn’t it a shame by the time you managed to buy a 335i here, you find out you could have gotten an M3 in America?

      • Suntory Time

        Actually US$60k will get you into an M3 in the states, & US$100k will get you into an M5… crazy huh?

        Truth is though, their wages are lower than ours & these cars are truly incredible to drive (based on personal experience as regards the M3). So if you’ve got the cash flow, do it!

        • Pinky

          Wrong about wages my friend.
          Their base wage is lower yes but for middle and upper management it is massively higher.
          M3 drive away with all the options is $67K a nice demo model you can pick up for 60K!

          • pENCIL nECK

            I’ve lived & worked in L.A. the higher wages you speak of concerning middle and upper management are not across the board, by any stretch of the imagination. Plus there are other things like health care that consume much of that gross income.

    • Suntory Time

      Lay off the “bogan Commodore” line, it’s getting old & is a retarded way to reason.

      The Commodore is a fine vehicle that offers features & dynamics, that were once upon a time, only available to those that could afford euro sports sedans.

      The only person that refers to the Commodore as a bogans car, is an actual bogan with a complex.

  • Ed

    I’d sell both my kidneys for this thing

    • Cheyl

      lose your life for this car? think again…

  • Al Juraj

    Aside from the lack of streaming Bluetooth, another wrong thing about the car is the M-DCT price. It’s $7,500 more than the manual! But nonetheless, it’s simply brilliant.

  • john

    The series 2 commodore update has streaming bluetooth capability. If holden can get this too work surely BMW can!

  • Dave S

    Any cars that is RWD that still comes with a manual gearbox gets a thumbs up with me.

  • MB

    Being a 2008 C63 driver I would still have a C63 over a M3 9 times out of 10. The only time (for me) that the M3 is better than a C63 is on the track but as a daily (not that I use it daily) the C63 has it all over the M3.

    M3 is still a great car, it would be good to bring out a newer CLS but I suppose the one the 1 series M is going it is pretty close.

    • Suntory Time

      Love your car, and are just wondering? How does the C63 ride? I keep reading conflicting reviews as regards the ride quality of the the C63, please, do tell.

    • Jimmy

      Have you driven the M3 as well? If so, how do they compare/what are the differences?

      • http://Porsche MB

        @ Suntory Time

        I have heard complaints aobut ride too usual from people upgrading from say a noraml C Class to an AMG expecting the same sort of ride. I have no complaints but the I have heard the change to Conti’s to Pirellis vice versa makes a difference.

        @ Jimmy

        Friend has a Black 4 door M3 with red interior including the dash (just awful) updated from a 335i with the M3 to use the power you have to hit this button or that button with the C you just put your foot down (bar changing the button on the transmission)

        As before the C is a better day to day proposition over the M3 but the M3 has it on the track even with C63 LSD. However how often do you drive on a track compared to open road.

        Besides the C sounds alot better than the M3, whihc is very addictive.

        • Suntory Time

          Yep, makes sense about the ride, & btw the C63 really does have one of the best exhaust notes, it’s classic V8 muscle.

          Every time one goes by, me & my wife (it’s great when your wife understands) quickly put our windows down to take in the noise.

        • Camski

          Speaking of, are you running the Continental’s or the Pirelli’s?

          Been through one set of rears and still have the PZero’s.

          A friend has the E90 M3 as well as a modified C63 (complete suspension overhaul + LSD) and the modified suspension makes a huge difference; read: improved. Rides better, handles better, better grip off the line etc.

          The suspension setup was about $10K, I suppose you could also toss up getting the C63, use the savings from the M3 (probably only really applies to E92 price) to do the suspension on the C63 – bit more win-win there. Bar any warranty you void in the process.

          In other news….. Philip Island 2011 AMG track day coming up :)

          • http://Porsche MB

            Have been through 1 set of Conti’s & 1 set of Pirellis since 2008 with a little of 30000km on the dial and a few track days

            Currwently running Conti Contact Sport 3 thinking of going Bridgestone next.

  • ElecEng

    Great review. Thanks for your efforts in bringing quality review of these great (and some exotic) cars.

  • The Voice of Reason

    Would love to know more about the loan car form you had to sign… were you accepting responsibility for loss or damage to the car (that would already be covered by their insurance anyway?)

    BMW dealers have turned this into a nice little earner, no doubt. The forms I have seen state that you are responsible for the first $X thousand for “any damage to the car”. So when I asked if I was liable if someone ran up the back of me whilst I was stopped at a red light, the answer was: “yes”.

    Just one of the reasons why I refuse to buy BMW – almost all their dealers do this.

    Interestingly, didn’t have to sign anything when I drove a Benz, they just take a copy of my licence.

    • M

      You can check with your insurer – it is likely you would be covered under your existing policy meaning you do not need to engage the BMW one – worked for me…

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

    As a motoring journo, we still sign the same forms.

    • Suntory Time

      That’s lame, I mean they’re getting good advertising because of your work, yet you’re treated like someone of the steet?

  • K20A

    E92 M3 with Comp. Package, in Alpinweiß.. pure ecstasy..

    Agree with the first comment though, still prefer the driver slanted interior of the E46 (which I think will go down as one of the best interior layout in history). Also agree with the comment re: ‘the hump’. Never got easier on my eyes ever since the car was launched in 2004.. much prefer smoother ‘monobloc’ design employed by Audi / Mercedes.

    Here’s hoping that F30 will bring back driver focused interior.. and please BMW, get rid of the ‘hump’!

  • M

    Just purchased one – truly incredible car – nicely understated (unless you really know what it can do) – rides as well as a 335iMsport. Owned an ISF previously – the M is the real deal – in comparo with C63, RS5 etc – it boils down to personal preference – Aus speed limits are too limited and our over-regulated road conditions are too restricting to dictate any huge difference. Only complaint is the DCT can be damn jerky from start – am learning though…

    • Andrew

      If you bought the latest model I’d be very curious whether that stop-start ‘feature’ can be turned off if desired? It sounds like a royal pain!

      • M

        Can be turned off – and needs to be in stop-start conditions (which defeats the purpose) – can be quite jerky then add the off-the line jerkiness of the DCT and traffic lights can be painful…but I’m learning…

  • GGG

    Little confused. All pics referred to manual vehicle but review discusses DCT?

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

    Pics are all of the M DCT – no manual pics in the review.

  • bob

    Still best all around high performance sport coupe in my eyes.

    ISF – No. IS250 with a body kit. At least the M3 looks quite a bit different than the regular 3 series. LFA sure, but not ISF
    S4 – Was once upon a time, but not anymore
    C63 – The closest in my eyes. Overall performance, on par. Sounds amazing…but you need a spine reinforced with steel to drive it…especially on the wonderful pothole filled streets of Sydney

    • Camski

      The IS F looks equally (if not a little overdone) different to it’s donor car as the M3 and the 3 Series platform it comes from.

      I think you’ll find the RS4 is the competitor to the M3, the S4 lines up more directly with the 335i/IS350. Currently, the RS5 offers a similar (however trackwise, worse off) package to the M3 in the engine and overall package departments (+AWD in the RS5).

      C63 – define “performance”, there are positives and negatives of both the C63 and M3 when compared with each other. Suspension is acceptable, even in Sydney’s CBD. That’s down to personal opinion though. Only really “painful” or “tiring” after a long journey of 3hrs+ of bad roads. The M3 ride is definitely a plus, quite comparable to that of a grand tourer supercar like the Ferrari California.

      • bob

        You’re right, missed the RS4. But it’s no longer in production. The RS5 adds around $18k to the drive away price (taken from websites, I’m sure it can be negotiated). That’s comparing coupe to coupe. The M3 Sedan is over $30k cheaper. Only major diff I can see is the AWD, as the standard features are pretty much the same.

        I’m not knitpicking here. You could say that someone who is looking at these cars could afford it if it was $150k or $180k, but regardless, $30k is alot of cash.

        C63 – again, I meant overall performance…the package as you referred to earlier. I actually prefer the looks of it, and the engine note (hands down one of the best).

  • Shak

    I had one blitz me at the lights today. This is one of those cars that you would let overtake you just to hear it wind up to its redline. It is simply a different sound. It isnt boomy, but it isnt too metallic. Just right IMO.

  • http://www.reviews66.com/category/bikes/ jibjam

    i love BMW cars and bikes, BMW has no match really

  • Nick

    For 172k …. would take none of these pretenders…. Only one wise choice THE NISSAN GTR

    • bob

      It’s a nice car, but I reckon it’s ugly as sin, and doesn’t have the level of refinement that the Euro sports coupes do…at least not yet.

      But if you’re looking for pure performance/bang for buck, then yes, the GT-R is better.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford

    I would hardly call the M3 a pretender – you only have to see them in action at the Nurburgring 24 Hour to see that. The 2011 model GT-R is $185,000 plus OR’s, and it’s not the most comfortable daily driver.

  • http://www.magazinmachete.ro Machete

    Love the M3 , true very good car.

  • david

    its embarrassing to people who buy European cars when they see the price overseas. What a waste of cash. You’d think you were buying the time machine version in Australia!!!

  • Devil’s Advocate

    I agree with many comments about the V8 rumble of the C63 sounding better than the M3. The AMG is like an old school muscle car that is just a little more refined. However as mentioned in the article when it comes to spine tingling noise, the E46 M3 CSL when driven in anger just blows you away. I know Austraila is generally a “V8 loving nation”, but there are some non-V8 engines out there that can sound really good.
    If the noise of that amazing straight 6’s metalic snarl under WOT doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck then you are not a true “motoring enthusiast”! :-)

  • Mudg M3

    Excellent review. There’s not a lot of reviews around that truly describe the latest M3. Just took delivery of a brand new M3 yesterday and this article was one that swayed me towards buying one. The M3 is the real deal. The interior is perfect. there’s nothing else you need. I’ve never sat in a more comfortable seat. For those who *think* the interior is dated or boring, tell me what other buttons/dials you need to play with when your tacho is bouncing off 8300rpm and you’re hanging on for dear life?? BTW, the bluetooth audio streaming is now available in the M3. My iphone plays music via Bluetooth, or via USB when i connect it inside the centre console. You can also upload about 12Gb of music into the hard drive….. If you’re think about a 335 or an S4 or anything else around the $120-$130k mark, haggle your finance company for a better deal and stretch yourself to get an M3 – you wont regret it.

  • Carlos

    M3 is now available in 4 door version. So much more practical than the Nissan GTR. The Mercedes only comes in Automatic which is ridiculous in a sportscar. The M3 manual sedan has it all for me.

  • http://www.theskincareshop.com.au Patrick

    I must say this is one of the most amazing cars I have driven, it is hard to say what is better in the same price range. (even though we are ripped off in Oz something shocking)

    I have driven the Audi S5 amazing and for similar money as the M3 you feel how should I say more class for your buck but the sound of the M3 is awesome. I have a black 4 door in the garage at the moment 7 speed auto.

    It makes you want to play no doubt and have emptied the tank twice now in under 300km but the loud peddle has been well loud most of the time.

    Just a damn shame Oz has way too slow highways, but the twists and turns of Milaney QLD is just an awesome time to be had.

    Love it love it love it…….

  • fah5

    Having owned a 6 speed manual M3 for some 4 years, all I can say that it a totally brilliant car. It is just so flexible, with the ability to go through a round about, in 6th gear, doing 30kph, and then still being able to pull away, as long as you don’t stomp on the accelerator. Whilst it is an out and out high proformance car, it is just so user friendly. I have owned both a 911 and a boxster (admittedly, the first of the series), but for me, this car is just the right combination of speed, road behaviour and value for money.

  • car nut

    I would pick the BMW M3 e92 over the C63 amg coupe/RS5/ISF anyday. Primarily because the m3 is around 150 kg lighter than the others and the ride quality is also a lot better than its competitors. Also, the 4 litre v8 revs to 8300 rpm, that’s so bonkers for a small v8 engine.

BMW M3 Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$86,460 - $98,250
Dealer Retail
$83,620 - $99,440
Dealer Trade
$66,400 - $78,600
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
400Nm @  3900rpm
Max. Power
309kW @  8300rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
11.9L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
245/40 R18
Rear Tyres
165/40 R18
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Sport Seats
Control & Handling
Sports Suspension, Traction Control System
Voice Recognition System
Xenon Headlights
Optional Features
Power Sunroof
Control & Handling
19 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Damper Control
Premium Sound System
Competition Package
Service Interval
12 months /  25,000 kms
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Inner Guard
Country of Origin