By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 3/1/2011
BMW's original M3 high-performance compact coupe was created in 1986 as a road-going version of its 3 Series-based German Touring Car Championship race car, and it arrived Stateside two years later. Powered by a pumped-up 192-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, it quickly carved a reputation as the ultimate performance iteration of BMW's iconic 3 Series. Second- and third-generation M3s packed six-cylinder engines, the latest (2006) model boasting 333 horsepower. The 2010 fourth-generation M3 moves up to a high-revving 4.0-liter V8 with 414 horsepower under its domed and vented hood. While we love Mercedes-Benz's C63 and Cadillac's Corvette-powered CTS-V, BMW's M3 compact muscle machine remains the gold standard of this rare, expensive and exhilarating class of car.
If you are already a BMW 3 Series or M3 enthusiast, this 2010 M3 is easily the best yet. If its hefty sticker is within your reach, you'll delight in its raw performance, racer-like handling, sophisticated electronic features and, yes, its long-established and well-deserved king-of-the-hill reputation.You May Not Like This Car If... What's New for 2010 Driving It Driving Impressions
The M3 is terrific fun on a race track and nearly as much when driven sanely on public roads. If you enter a turn a bit too fast it remains predictable, the steering tracks precisely and the big brakes provide remarkable fade-resistance, even during sustained hard driving. The race-bred V8 hits its amazing 8,400-rpm redline almost too quickly in the lower gears before its throttle shuts off to prevent over-revving; but shift before it reaches that point, however, and the M3 can rocket from rest to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and on to a computer-limited top speed of 155 mph. You won't often be able to safely use all this exhilarating performance on the road, but just knowing it's there will make you smile.Favorite Features
Dynamic Stability Control
Selectively applies brakes and reduces power when needed to maintain stability but can be switched off. Its Start-Off Assistant prevents roll-back when launching on a hill, Cornering Brake Control stabilizes when braking in a curve and brake pre-loading builds up instant pressure when it senses an emergency stop may be imminent.
Optional M Double-clutch Transmission with Drivelogic
This seven-speed gearbox operates like two separate transmissions handing off to each other from ratio to ratio. There's no clutch pedal but 11 shift programs (five automatic, six manual), and it can be shifted on the fly with the throttle on the floor (no interruption of power) through either its shift lever or steering wheel paddles.
The leather-covered steering wheel's spokes incorporate controls for audio and phone and the available MDrive button, and the black leather-trimmed center console presents a trio of switches for the electronic driving programs (Power, DSC and optional EDC). Accent trim is carbon fiber, M-car logos decorate the door sills, instruments are specific "M style" and the tachometer warning zone rotates upward to the maximum 8300 rpm as engine oil temperature increases. The front seats are available with backrest-width adjustments and optional folding rear seats open the interior to the 15.2 cubic-foot trunk. The available Navigation system requires BMW's newest -and much improved – iteration of its iDrive system.Exterior
The M3's purposeful face flaunts its trademark BMW twin-kidney grille between quad xenon headlamps and above three large intakes that feed high volumes of air to its engine and brakes; hence, it foregoes the fog lamps found on other 3 Series models. It sports signature M-car front-fender gills with tri-color M3 logos and sharp character creases over pronounced rocker sills. A discreet decklid spoiler reduces both aerodynamic drag and rear lift, while a split diffuser beneath the rear bumper mimics the front air intakes' shape above four serious circular tailpipes.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2010 M3 is the only car in its class with a carbon-fiber-reinforced composite roof, and its chassis and suspension are aluminum for light weight and near-50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution. Its powerful four-wheel disc brakes utilize large (14.2-inch front, 13.8-inch rear) vented and cross-drilled rotors inside low-profile performance tires on 18-inch M-Style wheels. Also standard are M-Servotronic speed-variable power steering with Normal and Sport modes, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Start-Off Assistant, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), brake pre-loading and brake drying, a premium audio system with single-disc CD and auxiliary input jack, six airbags, BMW Ultimate Service, BMW Assist and Roadside Assistance.Notable Optional Equipment
The 2010 M3s offer BMW's M twin-clutch 7-speed transmission with DCT Drivelogic and 11 separate shift programs (five automatic, six manual). Other significant options include 19-inch wheels and tires, Electronic Damper Control (EDC; with Sport, Normal and Comfort modes), M Drive with steering-wheel button to instantly activate a set of pre-programmed dynamic variables, front-seat backrest-width adjustment, fold-down rear seatbacks, Navigation system with iDrive, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, USB-enabled port for iPod and iPhone control and Technology and Premium Packages that include groups of the above.Under the Hood
The 2010 BMW M3's light-alloy 32-valve double-overhead-camshaft 4.0-liter V8 delivers 414 high-revving horses and 295 pound-feet of torque, with 85 percent of the latter available from 3,900 through 6,500 rpm. It is 24 percent more powerful than the last-generation M3's inline six-cylinder engine, yet weighs seven percent less. Its compression ratio is a high 12.0:1 and its redline an astounding 8,400 rpm. A separate throttle butterfly for each cylinder - a feature adapted from the M's racing heritage - provides immediate reaction to the accelerator pedal at any rpm and double-VANOS variable camshaft management delivers fast valve timing adjustments to enhance power, torque, fuel economy and emissions all at once. It drives through a standard six-speed manual transmission or a new optional twin-clutch seven-speed that can be shifted automatically or manually with steering-wheel paddles.
414 horsepower @ 8300 rpm
295 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (Sedan and Coupe), 13/20 (Convertible, manual)
The 2010 M3s start at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $57,500 for the sedan, $60,500 for the coupe and $69,000 for the convertible. That range is roughly equal to those of the more powerful Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Lexus IS F and Cadillac CTS-V. On the resale side, the M3s will lead the competition in residual value. Be sure to check our Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers are actually paying in your area.