Over the last 37 years we have seen so many blazingly fast cars storm onto the automotive scene with authority. Cars like the turbocharged Buick Grand National, or the Nissan 300ZX, or how about the nigh-exotic Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4? Or later on we saw the Acura NSX, Honda S2000, and another Mitsubishi, this time the Lancer Evolution. As exciting as all of those cars were, and as aggressively as they made a splash in the sports car markets, they all had one thing in common: they didn’t last very long. In that entire time period, and then some, BMW’s M3, born in 1986, has continued on to its late-30s, and like a fine wine, seems to have only gotten better with age.
For 2023, they have given potential BMW M3 owners a few very difficult choices to make. Both the standard model and the Competition version come with the same incredibly powerful twin-turbocharged DOHC inline-six cylinder engine that sports direct injection as well as an aluminum block and heads. The base model comes to the table with a stout 473-horsepower at 6,250 RPM and 406 pound-feet of torque at 2,750 RPM. That power is then funneled through a wonderfully traditional six-speed manual transmission, and on to the rear wheels. However, opt for the Competition model and you get a very noticeable bump in power to the tune of 503-horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque at the same RPM respectively. In Competition mode, that power is channeled through an eight-speed M STEPTRONIC automatic transmission and then on to either solely the rear wheels, or to all four corners if you check off the xDrive option box at checkout.
The big problem for BMW M3 drivers is that you can either have the lesser powered car and shift you own gears like the M-cars of old, or the more powerful motor, but be relegated to a spectator when it comes to shifting. And sure, BMW will tell you that the auto has a manual shift mode and steering-wheel mounted F1-style paddle shifters, and even launch control, but to those that really love to drive, it won’t matter.
Whatever option package you choose, you’re going to get a seriously fast car – one that can outrun just about any of those old ‘90s and ‘00s cars that are so fondly remembered. BMW tested the M3 themselves and found that the base model with the stick can run from 0-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, while the rear-wheel drive Comp model can perform the same run in just 3.8 seconds. But the xDrive Competition model scores one for traction and outdoes both of its siblings, running to 60 in a scant 3.4 seconds. Thankfully BMW engineers were aware enough to give the xDrive a few different driving modes to cater to different types of driving styles and environments. There is 4WD, 2WD, or 4WD Sport, and thanks to a healthy dose of carbon-fiber (for the roof as well as the front seat frames), this four-door, well-insulated, posh sedan manages to only tip the scales at a relatively svelte 3,890 pounds at its heaviest in xDrive form. Also somewhat surprising is the fact that the not-so-small M3 balances that weight out nicely, splitting it 53.1/46.9% front/rear, and even manages to put up a respectable 16/23/19 city/highway/combined mpg. Sure, no one will confuse it for a Prius, but then, most Prius don’t have 500-horsepower either.
Pricing for the BMW M3 is the same as most other BMWs, in that everything comes a la carte, so pricing might begin at a reasonable $72,800 MSRP, but can inflate up well into six figures if you tack on all the fun accoutrements like the aforementioned xDrive, and the carbon-ceramic brakes that will run you a cool $8,150. But, when it comes to the M3, you’re paying for something that is more than just the sum of its very exciting parts. The M3 carries with it a rich tradition that celebrates the harmonious marriage of luxury and sport into one very special vehicle. BMW has allowed the M3 to have a legacy that has outlasted so many exciting cars over the better part of four decades, and shows no signs of slowing down, in any way, any time soon.