Tested: BMW M3 is the Perfect Spec

Tested: BMW M3 is the Perfect Spec

Getrentacar.com didn't get the quickest 2022 BMW M3 for a 40,000-mile long-term test. Where the M3 Competition offers 503 horsepower and is available with all-wheel drive for quicker 60-mph acceleration and faster lap times (very important for internet one-upmanship), choosing it means you can't get a manual transmission.

We take this omission seriously. Plus, internet points matter less to us than driving satisfaction, so our long-term M3 has a mere 473 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual transmission. So far, we think it's the right one to live with for the next 40,000 miles.

Say what you will about the M3's novelty-sized snout, we think the optional Isle of Man Green Metallic paint ($550) makes up for it. Paired with the M Shadow line black inlay in the front headlights ($300) and 18-inch wheels, the exterior has the kind of presence that elicits compliments from folks in parking lots.

Inside, the Silverstone and Black Leather ($2550) and Individual Aluminum trim ($1080) adds a pleasing contrast. We also opted for the $1550 Executive Package that bundles the necessary heated steering wheel and head-up display with the power trunk and the debatable gesture control. The latter allows you to do things like changing the volume by spinning your finger in front of the touchscreen — it was one of the first features we disabled.

The $900 M Drive Professional option includes a track mode setting, 10-stage traction control (yes, 10), a feature that scores your drifts, and lap-timer functionality that works via an app on your phone. All in, our M3 came to $77,825.

The M3's break-in process asked us to keep the engine speed varied, but not to exceed 5500 rpm or 106 mph for the first 1200 miles. After that, it was time for a complimentary service visit for an inspection and new rear differential fluid, fresh engine oil, and an oil filter replacement.

Between that service and the 3100-mile mark, the owner's manual advised, "Engine and road speed can gradually be increased to a constant speed of 137 mph," but to "use the maximum speed of 155 mph only briefly, for instance when passing."

Despite these draconian restrictions, we've found plenty to enjoy in our M3. The engine feels powerful, with a brawny midrange that's satisfying to explore on freeway onramps. During testing, our M3 reached 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and vanquished the quarter-mile in 12.2 seconds at 117 mph. That's right on the heels of our test results for the standard M4, which is slightly lighter, and roughly half a second slower than the automatic-only M3 Competition.

The manual's short gearing means the engine spins at around 3000 rpm in sixth at freeway speeds, which has made some staffers wonder if there was a seventh gear. On the other hand, most passing maneuvers don't require a downshift — even those at less than 155 mph.

The steering received a few complaints about being overly sensitive and hyperactive at low speeds. Fortunately, it gets better as you go faster. The Continental SportContact 6 tires wrapped around our M3's 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels produced 1.02 g on our skidpad and a 70-to-zero-mph braking distance of 160 feet. That skidpad result is just behind the figure for the standard M4, which wore Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. We'll have to wait to draw comparisons between braking performances, as it was 26 degrees when we tested our M3.

The falling temperatures necessitated a set of winter wheels and tires. Alas, we were unable to find a set in the aftermarket, so we went directly through BMW. The winter package included four 19-inch wheels and a set of Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 tires for a hefty $3710.

Considering the car's power, rear-wheel drive, and sensitive steering, the package has fared well. We've enjoyed the driving satisfaction that is inherent in the M3 name—especially one with a manual transmission. The automatic-only Competition may be quicker, but we're happy with our choice so far. We'll see how the luster lasts over the course of 40,000 miles.

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