Though the phrase “iconic” is often overused, we have no problem in using the adjective to describe BMW’s storied M3. Since its launch in 1986, the BMW M3 has earned praise from owners, reviewers and even those unlucky enough to go up against them in competition. As driving enthusiasts know, the M3 is as close as you can get to a jack-of-all-trades, serving up both track-day amusement and long-distance comfort.
The 2013 model year is a semi-significant one for the BMW M3, as it marks the closing of a chapter in the car’s history. The current version, launched in 2008, comes with a raucous 4.0-liter V-8, rated at 414 horsepower, that’s simply a joy to drive hard. In the currently available Coupe and Convertible variants, we think it’s a near-ideal engine that sounds as good as it feels when you mat the accelerator. That engine goes away in 2014, replaced by a more fuel-efficient turbocharged six-cylinder, so if you want the V-8, now is the time to put your money down on an M3.
While both Coupe and Convertible are guaranteed to put a smile on the most jaded driver’s face, our preference is for the lighter, quicker and (arguably) nimbler Coupe. It can sprint from 0-60 mph in a mere 4.8 seconds, while the heavier Convertible takes almost six seconds to reach the same velocity. Either car is available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch M-DCT gearbox, which is a superb choice for those who love to drive but also have to deal with the reality of bumper-to-bumper traffic on their daily commute. As with every M3 ever built, power goes to the rear wheels only.
Though the M3 has picked up a few pounds in its latest incarnation, handling remains superb. The suspension manages to deliver a firm-but-comfortable ride, yet the car really shines when turned loose on the track. We’d stop short of calling the steering excellent, since it lacks some of the feel of earlier M3 variants, but it’s still very good and allows for precise positioning. Brakes are another strong point, delivering excellent pedal feel and returning impressively short stopping distances. If you’re looking for a car to drive to track days in comfort, churn out a day’s worth of hot laps and then drive home without fatigue, the BMW M3 has few rivals.
Even the starting price (roughly $61,000 for the coupe or $69,000 for the convertible) isn’t out of line with the car’s performance and amenities, but beware the option sheet; like most things German, pricing can elevate quickly if you go heavy on the add-ons. Some are put off by the car’s default black-on-black interior, but we find it to be intimate, not confining.
While neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash tested a 2013 BMW M3, we’d expect it to fare well, given the crash-test results of the former 3-Series its based upon. As you’d expect in a car of the M3’s caliber, a full range of airbags is standard, as is electronic stability control, traction control and rollover hoops in convertible models.
For a complete look at the 2013 BMW M3, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection