Sporty but exceptionally comfortable
Wants for little
You'll have years of smile-inducing driving ahead of you
It's a sports car that you can take to the garden centre
What you'd expect for this money
The power bulge in the M3's bonnet hides a 4.0-litre V8 engine with 415bhp. That's enough to get you from 0-62mph in around five seconds, whichever bodystyle you choose. What's more, the engine belts out a fantastic noise when you rev it and there's no let-up in the surge of acceleration until you hit the speed-limiter at 155mph.
The M-division won't use run-flat tyres, so BMW is in the slightly odd position where its performance cars are actually more comfortable than many of its big sellers.
However, the best part of the M3 is its handling; the steering is precise and well weighted, while the chassis is grippy and beautifully balanced, and the throttle responses instantaneous.
A huge range of adjustment makes it easy for all drivers to make themselves at home behind the wheel, while the M3's sports seats provide just the right balance of comfort and support.
The saloon and coupe are also genuine four-seaters, with enough space for four tall adults, whereas lanky teenagers will wish they had more head- and legroom in the back of the convertible.
It's a similar story with the boots; the saloon and coupe give you lots of room for luggage, whereas the convertible's load space is significantly smaller, and less than half the size of its more practical siblings' when the roof is down.
Owners of the previous-generation 3 Series saloon, which the M3 is loosely based on, rated it just average for mechanical reliability in the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
Fortunately, that model did better in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring five out of five for adult occupant protection and four out of five for child safety.
The saloon and coupe models come with front, side and curtain airbags (the convertible misses out on the latter), while all M3s feature ISOFIX child seat mountings, stability control and brakes that dry themselves in the wet.
The M3 is an outrageous performance car that can also serve as a family car - especially if you opt for the saloon. Just bear in mind that it's outrageously thirsty and heavy rear tyre wear is inevitable.