The BMW M3 is a compact sports sedan and a high-performance variant of the BMW 3 Series. This model is built by BMW M, an in-house performance department that was launched in 1972. Since its initial stateside release in 1988, the BMW M3 has provided benchmark level performance for the auto industry.

2015 to Present: BMW M3

The BMW M3 is a high-performance variant of the BMW 3 Series. While the 3 Series was redesigned for 2012, BMW did not release a new M3 model until the 2015 model year. Additionally, the introduction of the BMW 4 Series (and the related M4) means that the M3 is now offered exclusively as a sedan.

The BMW M3 is a trim level unto itself, powered by a specially enhanced twin-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine making 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. This model comes paired with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The BMW M3 maintains the same styling cues as the 3 Series, but differentiates itself with special skirting and fascia changes. BMW shaves weight from this model by employing an aluminum hood and a carbon fiber roof.

Each model hugs the ground and is marked by a front fascia with the customary twin kidney grilles that flow out to wraparound lighting assemblies with LED light accents. Its front apron features a pronounced lower grille opening that is offset by incisions that automatically shut at highway speeds to enhance aerodynamics.

Side skirts and crisp character lines amplify the profile, while forged wheels are set within performance tires. At the rear are wraparound taillights, a quad-bank exhaust system and a diffuser. Every model comes with carbon ceramic brakes, an M-tuned suspension and an electronically controlled rear differential.

Inside, BMW turns the M3’s already luxurious cabin up a notch while maintaining its simplicity. Four analog gauges include a tachometer and speedometer, as well as fuel and oil pressure gauges. Between the seats is the transmission shifter; steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are paired with the dual-clutch transmission. The iDrive knob is located adjacent to the shifter. The sport seats are firm and well bolstered.

The BMW M3 competes with high-performance versions of cars built by Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, including the Cadillac ATS-V, Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 and Audi S4.

Earlier BMW M3 Models

The third-generation BMW M3 was produced from 2001 to 2006, and was available in coupe, convertible and sedan body styles. It offered a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine making 333 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission was standard and a six-speed automated manual transmission was available.

The fourth-generation BMW M3 was produced from 2008 to 2013 and available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles. It offered a 4.0-liter V8 engine making 414 horsepower, which is paired that with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automated manual transmission.