2015 BMW M3. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
At just the right angle, I look at the 2015 BMW M3, and I wonder: “Is this even related to the popular 3 Series Sedan?”
Well, yes and no.
BMW estimates that the M3 is 80 percent new or re-engineered components, from the exclusive twin-turbo straight-six power plant to uniquely engineered Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires that connect with the road to the weight-saving (and centre-of-gravity-lowering) carbon-fibre roof, the M3 is reconceived as the ultimate sports car, yet still livable on a daily basis.
But just look at the thing! How is this beastly, snarling black and blue bruiser at all related to the tame, everyday 3 Series? The transformation is heroic, large breathing intakes below the front bumper feeding the intercooler that cools the two turbos, bulging wheel arches filled by staggered-width 19-inch wheels, these with seemingly floating spokes over the huge drilled rotors, dark tinted windows, quad pipes out back, more aero effects tucked under the rear bumper and this Yas Marino metallic blue that screams unruly high performance machine. It clearly means business.
But before we get to the business, let’s talk about the mundane. Despite being a hot rod of discernible menace, the M3 is also a practical family sedan. The trunk isn’t huge, but it’s reasonable for most ordinary needs, and the back seat is spacious, with easily accessed child-seat anchors, wide door openings and sunshades on the windows to keep the interior a touch cooler on hot, sunny days. Without child seats installed, the two outboard seats are nicely sculpted with sufficient legroom, headroom and rear vents for second-row passengers (the middle seat is typically awful).
The front seats are more aggressively bolstered, but with a wide range of power adjustability to go along with the manual steering wheel tilt and telescoping functions and two memory positions. They are adaptable to a variety of body types (me at 5’10” and my wife at 5’), though the fixed headrests sometimes intruded on my comfort zone. I also appreciated the adjustable inflatable bolsters that you can trigger to squeeze in on your torso to hold you in place during high cornering forces.
2015 BMW M3 dashboard, steering wheel, gauges. Click image to enlarge
The steering wheel seems to be a unit that BMW has designed based on molds of my own hands, so perfect is its form, the red, blue and light blue stitching tightly bridging the seams and the paddle shifters an easy reach for fingers resting on the back of the spokes at three and nine o’clock. On the front of the wheel are controls for Bluetooth phone, voice command, audio, cruise control and two buttons for customized drive settings. The gauges are simple, speedo and tach, with ancillary gauges to the sides and information display between them. With the optional head-up display (part of the $4,500 Premium Package) I found myself rarely referring to these gauges. The head-up display can be customized, but the default speedometer is wisely complemented by a speed limit information box (at $350, it will surely pay for itself in traffic ticket savings), and at the other end of the spectrum the M Display mode replaces the speedo with a bright, colourful tach, gear indicator and shift lights.
The centre stack features BMW’s sharp display, the interface controlled by the iDrive controller on the carbon fibre–trimmed centre console, with preset buttons for favourite audio, phone or navigation destinations and traditional dials for the automatic climate control. I’ll leave iDrive reviews to other BMW reviews, and suffice to say I find the system brilliant and now completely second nature. The technical carbon-fibre trim is complemented by rich, quality leather, all of it tightly fitted, stitched and flowing as an organic whole, if a little dark and monochromatic overall.
2015 BMW M3 seating & trunk. Click image to enlarge
Still, this cabin is all business, the business of driving pleasure, and just to the left of the iDrive controller reside the transmission shift lever and driving mode selections. It’s an odd transmission setup that you must leave in Drive or Reverse when shutting down, automatically engaging Park. The three bars aft of the shifter tweak the transmission responses, the steering wheel on the left firm up the electrically assisted steering, and the button with a little gauge offers sharper throttle response and a quicker ramp-up of power. The blank in the middle is occupied by the adaptive damping when that option is selected. Then there is the traction control button. I stayed away from that one – the M3 is plenty fun even with it on.