There are two kinds of car buyers: those who drive a car off a dealer lot and are content to leave it that way for the rest of its life and those that have the itch to tinker, personalize, and accessorize. Perhaps better than any other automaker, BMW knows how to appeal to this second type of buyer and tap into their wallet with its line of M Performance Parts. And although some of the parts in the catalog are purely cosmetic, many do actually deliver on the “performance” part of the brand name.
To find out just how much of an improvement you’ll see with BMW’s latest M Performance Parts, we took delivery of an Austin Yellow Metallic 2017 BMW M3equipped with the Competition Package and a long list of dealer-installed upgrades. Like all M3s and M4s with the competition pack, this car makes an additional 19 hp from its twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, bringing output to 444 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The competition package also includes a retuned stability control system, Active M differential, and new springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars for the Adaptive M suspension.
But our car came with an even more extreme M Performance suspension ($1,480), which gets you height-adjustable coilover springs that use the existing shocks and can lower the car up to 20 mm (0.8 inch). Other big-ticket items include an M Performance titanium exhaust system ($4,400) and lightweight wheel and summer tire package ($5,495).
The wheel and tire package includes a staggered set of 19-inch front and 20-inch rear split-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The titanium exhaust might add some power, but BMW doesn’t specify how much. The automaker says you will save 17 pounds compared to the standard exhaust, however. Whether it makes any more power, the system sounds great at wide-open throttle, though it tends to drone on the highway.
The tires and suspension shined in testing, especially on the figure eight where the modified M3 shaved 0.8 second off the time of a standard M3 Competition Pack. Road test editor Chris Walton noted how flat the car remained on the course and liked the grip of the upgraded rubber. “I was impressed with how well this M3 put the power down, and much of it must be owed to the Cup tires,” he said. The modified M3 also held 1.06 g on the skidpad, greater than an M3 with just the Competition Package (0.98 g) and our old long-term 2015 M3 (0.99 g). Both cars rode on Michelin Pilot Super Sport max performance summer tires versus the modified M3’s DOT-approved competition tires, which are streetable but not recommended in wet conditions. The M Performance Parts-enhanced M3 was also quicker on the dragstrip than the last Competition Pack M3 we tested, hitting 60 mph in 3.8 seconds (versus 4.3 seconds) and completing the quarter mile in 12.1 seconds at 118.7 mph (versus 12.5 seconds at 118 mph). Braking from 60-0 mph was nearly identical at 101 feet.
Given how good this M3 was on the track, it should come as no surprise it was also good on one of my favorite canyon roads. There, the M3 turned in crisply and just stuck in corners with no hint of understeer or oversteer. In testing, the car felt neutral to a point, with a tendency toward oversteer when pushed. But on real roads at a somewhat spirited pace, the chassis and tires complement each other to produce a car that feels well balanced and supremely nimble. The steering feels artificially weighted but accurate, and the wheel is on the meaty side but fits great in the hands, thanks to grippy yet teddy-bear soft Alcantara. The carbon-ceramic brakes offered excellent bite and didn’t fade even through a long string of downhill curves. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts precisely when you ask it to, and the paddles are long and easy to reach when you’re shuffling your hands on the steering wheel.
But unless this is your weekend canyon carver or track car, odds are you’ll have to live with it in the city, too—and in that environment it’s not nearly as fun to drive. Judging by the fender gaps, our car looked to be dropped to the coilovers’ lowest setting. On top of that, our tester came equipped with the $2,640 carbon-fiber front lip. The lip makes the front end look sporty and expensive, showing off lots of exposed carbon fiber, but front clearance is minimal. Nearly every driveway has to be taken at an angle, and even then you still might scrape if you’re not careful. Height is manually adjustable at the spring perch, so you might want to raise the car if you know you’re going into town or only lower the car when you’re going to the track. You also don’t have to spring for the carbon-fiber lip if you’re worried about scraping. But if you want the look and claimed aero benefits of the lip without the risk of damaging precious carbon fiber, BMW will sell you a matte black plastic unit for $470.
Our tester came loaded with virtually every accessory in the M Performance Parts catalog, which ballooned the MSRP to a staggering $113,715. Yes, that’s a lot more than the 2017 M3’s $64,995 starting price, but that’s only if you order everything on the menu. We specced a 2018 M3 with the dual-clutch transmission, Competition Package, M Performance Suspension, and the lightweight wheels and Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires for $81,120—and you can always add parts as you go. But if money is no object, then don’t let $337-a-piece exhaust tip finishers stop you from living your carbon-fiber dreams.
Of course, BMW isn’t the only game in town when it comes to performance parts. Aftermarket suspension companies such as Bilstein, KW, Öhlins, and many others offer coilover kits for the M3 and M4, and there are countless companies that make wheels and exhaust systems out there. But one benefit of the M Performance coilovers is that, because factory shocks are used, damping can still be adjusted from inside the car if you have the adaptive suspension. And if you have M Performance Parts installed at the dealer, your car’s warranty won’t be affected.
The BMW M Performance Parts catalog has something for everyone. If you simply want a high-performance look, BMW has plenty of decals and carbon fiber and aluminum accessories emblazoned with the M logo. If you want actual performance with measurable gains, your local BMW dealer has that, too.
2017 BMW M3 (Competition Package w/M Performance Parts)