There comes a time in most enthusiasts’ lives when they have to make a tough decision. Pick up a practical performance sedan, or settle on the sleek coupe? While coupes used to be the “cooler” choice, the G80 M3 has the distinguished honor of being one of very few performance sedans you can get with a manual transmission in 2023. Trying to decide between them is a great problem to have, and we’re more than happy to help you suss it out.
The Fundamentals: G80 M3 or G82 M4?
Let’s get it out of the way now: you lose no perceivable performance by opting for the four-door M3. Likewise, you gain nothing perceivable by opting for two fewer doors on the G82 M4. Ten pounds, half an inch of width, and 1.6 inches of height are all that separate the two. You’ll still get the choice of xDrive or a six-speed manual if you want it. Both can be had with gratuitous carbon fiber additions and squeaky (albeit heat-resistant) carbon ceramic brakes.
But it would be a mistake to think that they’re identical from the driver’s seat. The M3’s rear seats grant it a bit more greenhouse and a less intrusive C-pillar than the M4. That has some significant benefits when it comes to visibility. Secondly, you’ll need to wait for a 2024 BMW M4 if you want the latest display and iDrive software. The M3 also offers a little bit more shoulder room and a third of an inch more headroom, which could matter if you’re planning to don a helmet if/when you take the vehicle to a racetrack. Finally, the M4 is slightly more balanced, edging just slightly closer to 50/50 weight distribution than the M3.
Should You Buy an M4?
The most significant reason to buy an M4 is style. The radical front end design complements the coupe and convertible style well, better than the more squared-off stance of the sedan. Ultimately, the M4 is technically a less compromised performance vehicle than the M3, even if only by a hair. So, if you don’t plan to use the back seat frequently, it’s the better choice.
The M4 suffers from much more competition than the M3, which could make deciding on the M4 a bit more challenging. Opposition comes from the usual places, like the Audi RS5. But the M4 also faces competition from other options like the Camaro ZL1, Jaguar F-TYPE, and new mid-engine C8 Corvette. While it walks a unique balance between edginess and refinement that is hard to replicate, another vehicle could offer a more focused approach to what you’re looking for.
Should You Buy an M3?
The M3, being a sedan, is clearly the more practical choice. It sports a completely useable backseat and a slightly larger trunk, and is easier to live with in parking lots (smaller doors = smaller wingspan). No one will claim that the M3 or M4 are conservatively styled, but noticeably flared rear fenders on the M3 add even more personality.
Deciding on buying an M3 – especially a manual – is much easier than cross-shopping an M4. There simply aren’t many performance sedans these days. The rapidly aging Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and upcoming four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG C63 are the closest competitors and offer clearly distinct experiences from the M3, and not all for the better. Perhaps the most appropriate competition is the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing, but it would be hard to convince me that it’s a better overall car than the G80 M3. The M3’s limited challengers make me think it could hold its value a little bit better than a G82 M4, but that isn’t something to count on.
So, Should I Buy an M3 or M4?
Drive both and drive the competition, especially if you’re looking for an M4. While the M3 and M4 are very similar vehicles, they occupy separate niches. Decide what matters most to you in your next performance vehicle and make a decision – you can’t really go wrong with either.