I’ve been mired in how expensive the BMW M3 has been since its debut. With options, a BMW M3 (and its M4 sibling) can easily fetch close to $100,000, and in some cases over $100,000. It’s downright crazy for a car that begins its life as a private rental 320d. However, after about thirty seconds of reflection, rather than just reckless retro-thinking, I realize that the BMW M3 isn’t much more expensive than it used to be.
When I first rode cars, the new BMW M3 at the time was the E46 M3. This, combined with the fact that it is still probably the best M3 engine ever made, makes it the gold standard for M3s in my simple mind. In 2003, when the E46 was a brand new BMW M3, the original MSRP was $46,500. Adjusted for inflation, that equates to $68,217 in 2021. The base price for the current BMW M3 is $69,900, barely more than $2,000 more than its predecessor more than a decade ago.
Even if you climb into the M3 competition, the price will only go up to $72,800, an uncommon leap for both increasing power and adding an automatic transmission. To be honest, with the added amount of power and performance to the competition, their higher prices are actually kind of a bargain.
So why does the new M3 seem so expensive to compare to the Porsche 911? One simple answer – technology.
There are a lot of things to choose from now, things that don’t come standard on the M3 but things that we, as modern motorists, don’t want to live without anymore. For example, you really love wireless charging, LED headlights, head-up displays, and hot steering wheels, don’t you? Well, to get all of that, you will have to pay an additional $3000. How about the BMW Smart Park Assist package, which offers a plethora of cameras and sensors to help you park your expensive car safely? Another 800 dollars. Do you like driving assistance features, the kind that can help you get down the highway with minimal effort, or even deal with choppy traffic? You earn $1700.
If you want some extra performance features for your high-performance vehicle, there are many expensive options to choose from. Carbon ceramic brakes cost $8,150. Cool and frankly necessary carbon bucket seats are another $3800. Do you love the carbon fiber mirror covers and trim pieces, to let your neighbors know how sporty you are? That would be another $4,700. Throw in another $1,950 for a cool color like Oxide Gray Metallic and another $2,550 for a full leather interior, and you’ll get a total of $99,450 before destination, taxes or fees. Almost none of these options existed in 2003, and after adding them all, there are six figures for the BMW M3 competition.
So a BMW M3 doesn’t have to be expensive, there are more and more technologies and options for customers to add. And before anyone claims that BMW is cheap and doesn’t include those things in the base standard price, BMW has always been that way. Even the E46 M3 was relatively simple for its base price.
However, most of these options listed above are useless for the BMW M3 experience. Sure, the safety features and parking sensors are great and the carbon ceramic brakes will help get you on the right track. In fact, though, you can get a very well-equipped BMW M3 Competition in the mid-to-high range of $70,000, with a few important options, maybe pick an interesting color or two, and you’ve got a killer car. The best part is that while it looks pricey, it’s actually not much more than it would have cost over a decade ago, when adjusted for inflation.