2012 BMW M3 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 3, 2011

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2012 BMW M3 Buying Advice

The 2012 BMW M3 is the best car for you if you want the ultimate expression of German engineering and performance in a package more practical than a Porsche.

The 2012 BMW M3 isn’t expected to receive substantive changes. It will continue to take everything that makes the 3-Series BMW’s best-selling line and deliver more of it -- quite a bit more. The 2012 M3 will again pack a 400-plus-horsepower V-8 – other 2012 3-Series models will continue with six-cylinder engines of roughly 230-320 horsepower -- and boast handling capabilities matched by few vehicles this side of a pure racecar. Returning as a two-door coupe and convertible and a four-door sedan, the 2012 BMW M3 will continue to run with a pack of amped-up premium sports compacts that include the Audi S4, Cadillac CTS-V, Lexus IS-F, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. No 3-Series is for the budget-squeezed, and the 2012 M3’s added capabilities will again come at a steep price. Expect a base-price range of around $57,000-$69,000, before options. That’ll be about $22,000 more than the least-expensive 2012 3-Series model. 

Should you wait for the 2012 BMW M3 or buy the 2011 BMW M3? Buy the 2011 BMW M3. Waiting an extra year won’t get you an improved M3, it will only get you a slightly more expensive one due to the virtual certainty of annual price increases. Buying a 2011 M3 will also give you another year’s enjoyment of the current generation before it’s made old news by the next-generation M3, which is due around model-year 2014.

2012 BMW M3 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 BMW M3 should carry over cosmetically with the basic look it received with its model-year 2008 revision. It will likely continue in sedan, coupe, and convertible models. Like the BMW 3-Series upon which it’s based, the M3 carries a low slung and muscular appearance, with the wheels stretched dramatically to the corners of the vehicle. While the family resemblance will remain strong, the 2012 M3 will again share only its doors and trunklid with the rest of the 3-Series models.

Visual distinctions will again include the 2012 M3’s larger air intakes, flared wheel arches, a prominent “power bulge” in its aluminum hood, unique side-mirrors, quad-tipped dual exhaust, and a specific spoiler that’s claimed to reduce high-speed aerodynamic lift at the rear end. The M3 also features a carbon-fiber-reinforced roof for added structural integrity and weight reduction. The rear deck lid spoiler, mirror caps, and front splitters are likewise constructed of carbon fiber.

As in the standard 3-Series, the 2012 BMW M3 Convertible should continue to eschew a soft top for a retractable hardtop that combines the open-air allure of a convertible with the protection from the elements, noise insulation, and sleek styling of a coupe. Made of lightweight steel, the three-piece roof opens at the touch of a button and folds completely into the rear compartment.

The 2012 BMW M3’s interior will likely remain similar in appearance to the rest of the 3 Series line, with an understated look but one enhanced with richer materials and various M-specific embellishments. Buyers should again be able to adorn the 2012 M3’s cabin with specific leather treatments and a choice of wood or aluminum trim. As do mainstream 3-Series body styles, the M3 sedan seats five while the coupe and convertible will again be four-passenger cars. In all, rear seat room will continue to be at a premium for all but kids, particularly in coupe and convertible models.

Mechanical: The 2012 BMW M3 will again be mechanically differentiated from the rest of the 3-Series by its high performance-focused upgrades. Primary among these will be a lightweight and high-tech 4.0-liter V-8. Expect it to again develop at least 414 horsepower. While this engine makes for a very fast car, it tends to deliver power in a rush rather than with a Mike Tyson punch. In other words, torque isn’t necessarily its strong suit.

Torque is the force that pushes one deep into the seat upon full throttle and a high torque rating ensures lightning-quick launches at lower rpm. Expect the 2012 M3 to retain a rating of 295 pounds-feet of torque. It needs to be revved to relatively high rpm to reach full potential. Fortunately, the M3’s V-8 can reach a sky-high 8,400-rpm. By comparison, the base 2011 Chevrolet Corvette’s 6.2-liter V-8 generated 430 horses, but 424 pounds-feet of torque.

The 2012 BMW M3 should again offer a choice of two transmissions, a short-throw close-ratio six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s essentially an automated manual that works without a clutch pedal. The dual-clutch manual can be set to shift automatically or the driver can take it through the gears manually via the console shift lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles. The dual-clutch tranny should again include what BMW calls Drivelogic, which offers 11 selectable programs (five automatic and six manual) to alter the shift points for more or less aggressive gear changes.

There’s no doubt the 2012 BMW M3 will again boast dominating handling. It’ll hold the curves tenaciously at high speeds yet remain agile -- what enthusiasts call “tossable” -- at lower speeds. It’s a benchmark for balanced road manners and its talents start with the M3’s rear-wheel-drive configuration. Rear-drive spreads the weight of the powertrain along the length of the vehicle and helps contribute to nearly a perfectly balanced front/rear weight distribution; the 2011 M3’s front/rear balance was 52.2/47.8 percent.

The 2012 M3 will again ride on a specially tuned all-aluminum suspension. Expect low-profile run-flat tires on special 18-inch alloy wheels to remain standard with 19-inchers optionally available. A variable locking rear differential will again help maintain traction on a wide range of road surfaces, though installing four winter tires is highly recommended for those living in northern climates.

The 2012 M3 should again offer BMW’s MDrive control system that tailor the car’s performance and handling characteristics to suit individual driving styles and preferences. It can get complex, but drivers so inclined can view a dashboard screen and fiddle with engine-management controls for livelier throttle response and adjust suspension damping to accentuate a stiffer ride for better handling or a softer one for a slightly more comfortable ride). Also available will be the ability to customize the Servotronic power-steering system to allow more or less assist at varying speeds. If you don’t want the full MDrive control, BMW’s Dynamic Damper Control should again be a separate option on the 2012 M3 as a simpler way for the driver to choose normal, comfort, and sport settings. Large and sophisticated antilock four-wheel disc brakes will again ensure swift, controlled stops.

The 2012 M3 should again come standard with BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control antiskid system, which automatically modulates the throttle and brakes to help prevent loss of control during extreme handling maneuvers. In the M3, this system can be turned off altogether for the benefit of accomplished drivers, allowing the car to be coaxed into controlled skids around curves.

Weekend racers can expect an optional Competition Package for coupe and sedan models to continue. It’ll lower the 2012 M3’s suspension by some 10 millimeters, include wider 19-inch wheels, and come with assorted chassis-control-system tweaks.

Features: The 2012 BMW M3 should again come well equipped with standard features that include a leather-trimmed interior, keyless pushbutton ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a CD audio system with HD radio.

However, some features one might expect to come standard in a premium-priced car will likely remain 2012 M3 options, either bundled in packages or as stand-alone items. These should again include such amenities as iPod and smartphone adapters, satellite radio, a split fold rear seat, a built-in garage door-opener remote, and Bluetooth hands-free cellphone connectivity.

Other options should again include a voice-activated navigation system, rear park distance warnings, heated front seats, and headlamp washers. BMW should again make available extra-cost sport seats with adjustable-width backrests to comfortably furnish maximum lateral support through sharp turns for riders large and small.

And yes, the 2012 BMW M3 should again come standard with the automaker’s iDrive control system to govern the entertainment, navigation, communication and climate control functions. It’ll likely remain an option in mainstream 2012 3-Series models, but no matter where it appears, iDrive somewhat clumsily replaces individual buttons and knobs with a single “joystick” knob on the center console and hierarchical menus displayed on a dashboard LCD screen. The latest iDrive generation works more intuitively than did the initial iterations, thanks in part to BMW’s addition of a few shortcut buttons. But it still makes performing relatively simple tasks more complicated than necessary and can be a distraction while driving.

2012 BMW M3 Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 BMW M3 were not announced in time for this review but they’re expected to remain close to their model-2011 levels. This means a 2012 BMW M3 sedan should carry a base price near $57,000, with the coupe starting about $60,000 and the convertible around $69,000. (Prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; BMW’s fee for the 2011 M3 was $875.)

Choosing the dual-clutch seven-speed automated manual transmission will likely cost around $2,900.

As for other options, expect to pay around $500 for heated front seats, $1,100 for a power moonroof, $2,100 for the navigation system, $1,000 for Dynamic Damper Control, and $750 for the OnStar-like BMW Assist system with a Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone adapter. The 2012 BMW M3 should again be subject to the federal gas-guzzler tax gas-guzzler tax levied on passenger cars that exceed specified fuel economy limits. Payable as a one-time charge at the time of purchase, this tax will likely be $1,300.

2012 BMW M3 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2012 BMW M3 weren’t released in time for this review but don’t expect much change from the model-2012 ratings. This means a 2012 BMW M3 should be rated at 20/16 mpg city/highway with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

BMW requires premium-octane gasoline for the M3.

2012 BMW M3 Release Date back to top

The 2012 BMW M3 should go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2011.

What's next for the 2012 BMW M3 back to top

While the standard BMW 3-Series models will be redesigned as model-year 2013 releases, don’t expect the next all-new M3 to come any earlier than model-year 2014 or even 2015.

That fifth-generation M3 should live up to its reputation as a street-ready racer, though it will probably be tweaked to help BMW meet stricter fuel economy and emissions regulations being phased in here and in Europe. Still, as what’s a relatively low-volume car, BMW doesn’t necessarily have to geld this galloping horse in order to meet its corporate average fuel economy requirements.

Along with assorted weight-reducing measures to help boost fuel economy, there’s a strong chance the current V-8 will be replaced by a twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine. By example, the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 in the 2012 Nissan GT-R coupe generates 530 horsepower and there’s little reason for BMW to stick with a V-8 if a smaller, lighter, more efficient six can put up similar numbers. U.S.-market versions of the redesigned M3 could also adopt the stop-start function that’s already included in M3s sold in Europe. It saves gas by shuting down the engine during deceleration and at idle.

2012 BMW M3 Competition back to top

Audi S4/S5: These are Audi’s high-performance versions of the A4 sedan and A5 coupe and convertible. Unlike the rear-drive-only M3, they come standard with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive. Fortunately the system is rear-biased under normal circumstances to impart a livelier, rear-drive feel through the curves. For all but the most accomplished drivers, AWD can be a good thing in a powerful car, affording traction advantages on both dry and slippery roads. Expect the 2012 S4 and S5 convertible to retain a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that for 2011, generated a quick-enough 333 horsepower and 325-pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices should remain a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto-shift manual. The S5 coupe has used a 354-horsepower V-8, though reports say Audi may replace it with the supercharged V-6 for model-year 2012. Expect prices to start around $48,000 for the S4 and around $56,000 for the S5 coupe and $60,000 for the S5 convertible.

Cadillac CTS-V: The hot-rod alternative to Cadillac’s impressive CTS models comes in sedan, coupe, and station wagon form. The last is an unusual combination of practicality and flat-out performance. The 2012 CTS-V should retain a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 with at least 550 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Numerous performance upgrades are along for the ride to sharpen up the CTS-V’s handling and braking. A long list of features is standard, with wood trim, a suede-covered shift knob, and heated/cooled Recaro sport seats optional. Expect all three versions of the 2012 CTS-V to start around $63,000.

Lexus IS-F: An Asian alternative in this bracket is the hot-rod version of the otherwise sedate IS compact-sedan line from Toyota’s luxury division. The IS-F has been available only as a sedan though a coupe could join the line for model-year 2012. Expect the IS-F’s 5.0-liter V-8 to continue with around 416 horsepower and 371-pound-feet of torque. As of model-year 2011 the car was available only with a performance-calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission. A sport suspension lets the IS-F sit lower than the standard IS and is accompanied by beefed-up brakes and an antiskid system tuned for added performance. The IS-F is plenty fast and for model-year 2011 Lexus modified the suspension to erase some impact harshness and improve control. Expect a 2012 IS-F base price around $61,000.

2012 BMW M3 Next Steps