BMW M3 5th Generation 2015 - 2018 (F80) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying Used BMW M3 5th Gen

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5th Gen BMW M3: What Owners Say

  • Twin-turbo six-cylinder engine has all the power anyone could desire.
  • Configurable engine and chassis settings allow the M3 to be as mild or as wild as the driver's mood dictates.
  • Four-door practicality, punchy engine, and sports-car chassis reflexes combine storming performance with daily-driver usability.
  • Electrically assisted power steering isn't as communicative as its predecessors' hydraulic systems.
  • Simulated engine sounds, played through the audio system, are neither M-car authentic nor particularly pleasant to listen to.
  • While quicker against the stopwatch by every metric, owners still judge the E9X M3 to be a more involving and engaging performance car.

Fifth Generation BMW M3 Facelift

The F80-generation BMW M3 had a relatively short production life, and received small updates in 2016 before getting its final (but rather modest) facelift for its last year in 2018. With its wide haunches and air-extraction vents in the front fenders, standard carbon-fiber roof, 18-inch alloys which fill those stretched wheel wells nicely, and a very aggressive body kit, the F80 M3 is immediately distinguishable from its lesser, regular 3 Series siblings.

2018 M3 F80 Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2018 M3 F80 Facelift Front Changes

From 2015-2017, the F80 M3 front-end styling remained unchanged, before receiving new headlights with a more angular LED DRL signature and shorter but broader "eyebrows" over the main light units which are also upgraded to full-LED specification with its 2018 facelift1. That's the only visible difference between the front ends of pre- and post-facelift F80 M3s, though - the front bumper, bonnet, and other body panels of this sedan remained as they were.

2018 M3 F80 Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2018 M3 F80 Facelift Rear Changes

The only change to the rear end of the F80 BMW M3 was applied after only one year in production when the 2016 model year M3 received full-LED tail lights like those fitted to its lesser siblings. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the rear DRL strips, which exchanged the older model's straight-line arrangement for one with a pronounced kink in the outer, fender-mounted section1.

Closer inspection will also reveal relocated backup lamps, moving to the lower section of the trunk-lid-mounted cluster section2. Once again, the rear bumper and sheet metal design remained unchanged.

2018 M3 F80 Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2018 M3 F80 Facelift Side Changes

Seeing as the 5th-generation BMW M3 was basically facelifted in two stages, you could use these staggered changes to determine the general age range of an F90 M3 in a side view. 2015 models featured the old-style light clusters at both ends, 2016 and 2017 models were distinguishable by their LED tail lamps1, and 2018 models feature the revised headlights as well2. For the rest, all metal panels, standard trim pieces, and body-kit addenda were identical across all model years.

2018 M3 F80 Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2018 M3 F80 Facelift Interior Changes

While the basic interior design remained unchanged through the F80 BMW M3's short production run, the details were refined with each update. Final-year cars gained new electroplated trim garnishes and matte-chrome accents around the air vents1, and an 8.8-inch color touchscreen interface for BMW's iDrive 6 infotainment system.

The most welcome interior change is also the least obvious at first glance, because the indicator stalk finally ditched its infuriating 'return-to-center' motion, and went back to the traditional 'click-into-place' self-canceling arrangement. This change also applied to high-beam assist selection, where the stalk now remained in position after switching on, instead of returning to its original position upon release.

Engine, Transmission and Drivetrain

As with all previous BMW M3s, the F80-generation employed one basic engine throughout its run, albeit with a mild power hike for special editions. It returned to an inline-six layout for the 5th-generation BMW M3, making the V8-engined E9X M3 a one-off anomaly in this model's history. And, as far as BMW M engines go, this one is said to be surprisingly reliable, with few silly design flaws and similar maintenance requirements to more-pedestrian BMW power units.

This is the first M3 to feature forced induction, with a twin-turbo setup fitted to the S55 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, along with clever tricks like variable valve timing (VANOS) and variable valve lift (Valvetronic) to stretch the power band as wide as possible. Power was transferred to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual gearbox or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (M-DCT), and no all-wheel-drive option was offered in this driver-oriented model.

3.0L Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas DOHC S55B30
425/444/454 hp | 406/443 lb-ft
425/444/454 hp
406/443 lb-ft
Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

Loosely derived from the N55 single-turbo engine which powered the high-end non-M 3 Series models of the time, the S55 employed a closed-deck block instead of the normal engine's open-deck design, received uprated internal components, a more advanced oil system, and larger radiators.

It also exchanged the N55's single twin-scroll turbo for two single-scroll turbos, uprated the heat exchangers for the air-to-water intercoolers with a separate cooling system and circulation pump, switched to a dual-piston fuel pump to feed the newly-liberated horses, and a featured a host of other detail changes.

As a result, the S55 is quite over-engineered, and doesn't appear to suffer from many of the issues which plagued earlier M3 engines, such as rod-bearing and throttle-actuator failures. However, it still has one key weakness which could lead to catastrophic engine failure, alongside some of the usual BMW engine issues.

In the S55's case, the one potentially fatal BMW M3 F80 engine problem relates to the timing-chain sprocket at the front end of the crankshaft, which isn't located with a Woodruff key, as has been done for many decades, but instead relies on a light taper fit and a single bolt. With a high-revving engine like this one, sudden engine speed changes could put this arrangement under excess stress, which may then result in the crank hub slipping or spinning on the crankshaft, throwing out the engine's timing and potentially causing unpleasant meetings between valves and pistons.

This is not a common problem, though, and fewer than 0.5% of owners have experienced this to the point of their engines going boom. And, if it's going to fail, it could fail at any mileage, so there isn't really any preventative maintenance procedure to avert this. Early warning signs include an illuminated Check Engine Light (CEL), a severe drop in performance by the engine going into limp-home mode, and a rough idle.

On the bright side, it appears that BMW changed the design slightly in 2017, leaving mainly earlier examples to potentially experience this failure. But, whichever vintage F80 M3 catches your eye, it may be a good idea to have the crank hub replaced with the later version as soon as possible, to reduce the chances of this disaster striking in the first place.

Replacement crank-hub assemblies are surprisingly affordable at about $250 including tensioners and a new timing chain, but labor charges could run up to ten hours, depending on the workshop performing the operation. This appears to be the only notable BMW M3 F80 motor problem, however.

2015-2018 BMW M3 Real MPG

A large part of the reasoning behind BMW moving the M3 from a screaming V8 to a downsized and boosted six-cylinder revolved around tightening fuel efficiency and exhaust-emission requirements, so it is to be expected that the fifth-generation model should post reduced fuel-consumption figures.

With the BMW M3 being a niche-oriented performance model, very few owners submitted their real-world fuel-economy figures to the EPA. However, it comes as a pleasant surprise to note that the manual BMW M3 appears capable of bettering its official combined figure.

EPA mpg (city/highway/combined)Real-world combined mpg*
3.0 DOHC twin-turbo DOHC Inline-6, 6-speed manual RWD17/26/2022.2
3.0 DOHC twin-turbo DOHC Inline-6, 7-speed DCT RWD17/24/19N/A

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.


Given the performance on offer in the 5th-gen BMW M3 sedan, it's good to know that it boasts safety equipment and crash safety to go with all the acceleration and speed. From launch, the fifth-generation M3 featured adaptive xenon headlights with automatic on/off control, rear child seat anchors, ventilated and perforated disc brakes on all four wheels with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control with multi-mode stability control, and eight airbags: two frontal airbags, two side airbags in front, curtain airbags for both seating rows, and front knee protection airbags.

Optional safety features include rearview and 360-degree cameras (the former became standard in 2018), front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights (standard for 2018), blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and high-performance carbon-ceramic brake discs.

The F80 BMW M3 was never tested as a stand-alone model by the NHTSA, but, because it is based on the F30 3 Series, the latter model's crash test data applies to the M3 as well. In 2018, the F30 BMW 3 Series received a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, with the driver enjoying four-star protection in frontal crashes, and the front passenger getting full five-star safety.

Side crash ratings were also exemplary, with five stars across the board for side barrier and pole collisions for all occupants, supported by a five-star score for rollover resistance as well.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result (2018)

Overall Rating:
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
Rollover Rating:

5th Generation BMW M3 Trims

With the BMW M3 being a range-topping 3 Series, the F80 M3 wasn't offered with different trim levels in the traditional sense. Instead, it was equipped up to a certain level to which buyers could then add optional extras or bundled option packs according to their needs. But, seeing as the F80 M3 occupied the top spot in the 3 Series hierarchy, it was well-equipped even at its most basic level.

Standard kit includes leather/cloth-upholstered sport front seats with 10-way electric adjustment and memory for the driver, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, one-touch power windows front and rear, powered door locks, self-dimming interior rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, heated electric-adjust exterior mirrors with auto-dimming function, manual tilt- and telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted controls for the cruise control and audio system, a 60:40 split-folding rear seatback, an anti-theft alarm, an integrated universal garage door opener, automatic climate control, integrated navigation, a high-end audio system with HD Radio, satellite radio preparation, USB- and Bluetooth compatibility, and BMW Connected Services.

On top of this, buyers could order a glass moonroof (although this no-cost option deleted the carbon fiber roof), carbon-ceramic brakes, adaptive M suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels in various designs, a powered rear sunshade, various interior garnish options, a 360-degree camera system, parking assistance, and a Harman Kardon premium audio system upgrade.

These are only some of the available standalone options, but many of them could also be grouped together into a Driver Assistance Plus Package (which mainly adds the semi-autonomous driving assistants and surround-view camera system), an Executive Package (which adds a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, heated rear seats, head-up display, rear-view camera system, park distance control, and extended leather trim), or the Lighting Package (which upgrades the headlights to full-LED status and adds automatic high beams).

Special Editions:

  • BMW M3 Competition Package: The Competition Package arrived in 2016 and was available as a regular trim option for the remainder of the F80 M3's life. It gained 19 horsepower over the base model, revised suspension, larger (19-inch) wheels with fatter tires, more-aggressive stability control- and differential programming, black exterior trim pieces, and revised front sports seats with more lateral support.
  • BMW M3 CS: This special edition F80 BMW M3 made its way to the United States for its final year in 2018. BMW produced a limited run of 1,200 M3 CS models, of which approximately 550 were allocated to the USA. The M3 CS featured the usual cosmetic- and chassis enhancements, such as a carbon fiber front splitter, Alcantara interior trim, and a more-aggressive suspension setup. Its main drawcard (apart from exclusivity) revolves around an improved power-to-weight-ratio, however: The 5th Gen M3 CS lost about 110 lb through the use of thinner side glass and less noise insulation, and scored an extra 29 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque over the base model, for new outputs of 454 hp and 443 lb-ft.

Fifth Generation M3 Features

Automatic ParkingON/A
Auxiliary Audio InputOS
Back-Up CameraOS
Blind Spot MonitorON/A
Bluetooth ConnectionOS
Brake AssistSS
Climate ControlSS
Cruise ControlSS
Driver Air BagSS
Front Head Air BagSS
Front Side Air BagSS
Hard Disk Drive Media StorageSS
HD RadioOS
Head-Up DisplayOO
Heated Front Seat(s)SS
Heated Rear Seat(s)ON/A
Heated Steering WheelON/A
Keyless EntryOS
Keyless StartOS
Knee Air BagSS
Lane Departure WarningON/A
MP3 PlayerOS
Multi-Zone A/CSN/A
Navigation SystemSS
Passenger Air BagSS
Power Driver SeatSS
Power Mirror(s)SS
Power Passenger SeatSS
Premium Sound SystemOS
Rear A/CSN/A
Rear Head Air BagSS
Rear Parking AidOO
Satellite RadioOS
Seat MemorySS
Smart Device IntegrationOS
Stability ControlSS
Steering Wheel Audio ControlsSS
Tire Pressure MonitorSS
Traction ControlSS
Universal Garage Door OpenerSS
WiFi HotspotON/A

Interior, Trim And Practicality

BMW M3 5th Gen Interior Overview BMW
BMW M3 5th Gen Interior Overview

The F30 BMW Series plays mid-pack in its class when it comes to practicality, and the same applies to its F80 derivative. Front headroom is generous for taller drivers at 40.3 inches, which comfortably eclipses the 37.1 inches in the contemporary Mercedes-AMG C63 sedan, and its shoulder room of 55.1 inches is very close to the Mercedes' 55.3 inches.

The rear bench sees similar dimensions between these two competitors, with the AMG eclipsing the M3 by fractions of an inch in all dimensions. The Mercedes has the advantage in cargo space and gas tank capacity, though, with 12.6 cubic feet against the 12 cubes of the BMW, and 17.4 gallons in the AMG against the BMW's 15.8 gallons.

Bucket SeatsSS
Cloth SeatsSN/A
Leather SeatsSS
Leather Steering WheelSS
Woodgrain Interior TrimON/A
Silverstone, Extended Merino Leather Seat UpholsteryON/A
Sakhir Orange/Black, Extended Merino Leather Seat UpholsteryON/A
Sonoma Beige, Extended Merino Leather Seat UpholsteryON/A
Black, Extended Merino Leather Seat UpholsteryON/A
Golden Brown, Extended Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Nutmeg, Extended Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Opal White, Extended Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Amaro Brown, Extended Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Cohiba Brown, Extended Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Silverstone, Full Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Sakhir Orange/Black, Full Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Black, Full Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Sonoma Beige, Full Merino Leather UpholsteryON/A
Anthracite/Black, Cloth/Leather UpholsterySN/A
Black/Silverstone, Full Merino Leather UpholsteryN/AS

2015-2018 BMW M3 Maintenance and Cost

As with all high-performance BMWs, we'd recommend changing the F80 M3 engine's oil and oil filter every 5,000 miles, regardless of whatever BMW's onboard CBS (Condition-Based Servicing) system may suggest. The S55 is still a very highly-strung engine, and keeping its lubrication system in top condition and its other maintenance up to date is the key to ensuring a long service life.

The cabin air filter is the only item to require attention every 20,000 miles, but if the car is used in dusty conditions, you may want to shorten this interval. Remember to also at least inspect and blow out the engine's air filter at the same time, if the car sees plenty of dust. The good news is that, thanks to its electric power steering, you don't need to worry about replacing power steering fluid.

Spark plugs are supposed to last at least 30,000 miles. We'd stick with this recommendation for most usage cases, and replace the engine's air filter, brake fluid, differential oil, and transmission oil on the 7-speed M-DCT at the same time.

Hard-driven cars, or those subjected to track use, will benefit from shortening the spark-plug replacement and engine air filter change interval to 20,000 miles, and supplementary brake fluid replacement should ideally be performed between track activities or at least once a year.

Fifth Generation BMW M3 Basic Service

The S55 engine has an oil capacity of roughly 6.9 liters including filter (7.4 quarts), and BMW-approved 0W-30 full-synthetic oil with an OEM-standard oil filter should set you back between $75 and $125, depending on your oil brand of choice. An OEM air filter costs about $48, and a set of OEM spark plugs will set you back about $240.

2015 - 2018 Gen BMW M3 Tires

Front Tire Size:
Front Wheel Size:
18" x 9"
Rear Tire Size:
Rear Wheel Size:
18" x 10"
Front Tire Size:
Front Wheel Size:
19" x 9"
Rear Tire Size:
Rear Wheel Size:
20" x 10"

Check Before You Buy

2015-2018 BMW M3 recalls were few and far between, and most of them were quite easy to remedy. The list starts with a recall campaign for the rear subframe bolts on 2015-2017 M3s, which may loosen and increase the potential for a loss of control of the vehicle. Check out NHTSA Campaign Number 16V653000 for more details about this recall.

The next recall involves the driveshaft slip joints on 2015 and 2016 BMW M3s, which may not have been adequately lubricated from the factory. This could cause the propeller shaft to seize, cutting off the stream of power to the rear wheels, and possibly leading to a loss of control, according to NHTSA Campaign Number 15V782000.

Another recall related to the 2016-2017 BMW M3's drive shaft, which may separate from a connecting flange, again resulting in a loss of drive and increasing the risk of a collision. According to NHTSA Campaign Number 18V713000, the cure for this problem is the fitment of a new drive shaft, so check that this recall has been carried out as required.

2015-2018 BMW M3 Common Problems

Valve Cover and Valve Cover Gasket Leaks

This problem isn't limited to the S55 engine but is endemic to most modern BMW engines. The valve cover is made of plastic, its gasket is made of rubber, and they both develop oil leaks over time. The gasket will be the first to go, but when you lift off the valve cover to replace the gasket, the chances are that the brittle valve cover could crack and create a new leaking point. For this reason, we recommend replacing both the valve cover and its gasket at the same time.

Mileage: Gaskets can start leaking from 50,000 miles, and the valve cover can crack from 100,000 miles.

Cost: The OEM valve cover gasket costs about $40, the valve cover costs about $580, and labor should amount to about $1,000 at an independent workshop.

How to spot: A burnt-oil smell and possibly smoke coming from a hot engine, visible traces of oil leaks down the side of the cylinder head.

Leaking Oil Pan Gasket

As with the valve-cover gasket, the rubber oil-pan gasket is also likely to develop leaks with advancing age. This problem is less prevalent than valve-cover gasket leaks, however, but replacing it is a major undertaking - including removing the front subframe to gain access.

Mileage: These gaskets usually start leaking around the 100,000-mile mark.

Cost: About $44 for the gasket, but up to $1,000 for labor.

How to spot: Oil leaking onto the ground, increased need for top-up oil.

Oil Filter Housing and Gasket Leaks

Once again a common problem with modern BMWs, the oil-filter housing is made of plastic and has a finite life. Its gasket is also made of rubber, so the failure mode is much like it is for the valve cover and its gaskets, with the difference of the possibility of oil and coolant mixing in the oil system, potentially leading to engine failure.

There's also a possibility of oil contamination and subsequent degradation of the serpentine belt, which could then disintegrate and lead to bigger engine issues. Fortunately, this is quite an easy fix, as these components are fairly accessible.

Mileage: From 50,000 miles for the gasket leak to manifest, and from 80,000 miles for the filter housing.

Cost: Almost $300 for the oil filter housing, about $29 for its gasket, and about $200 in labor.

How to spot: Low engine oil level, oil spots on the serpentine belt, and visible oil leaks from the filter area.

VANOS Solenoid Failure

This problem can arrive as soon as 70,000 miles, or sooner if oil changes are neglected or deferred. This is again a common BMW issue and is by now a fairly easy problem to solve as well.

Mileage: From 70,000 miles.

Cost: About $400 including labor to replace a VANOS solenoid or $200 for an OEM solenoid valve repair kit.

How to spot: Inconsistent performance, hard starting, rough idle, illuminated CEL.

Noisy Differential

As was the case with its predecessor, the F80 BMW M3 is equipped with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, which sends power to the wheel with the most traction. This is accomplished via clutch packs in the differential and usually work seamlessly. However, deferred diff oil changes will lead to contaminated fluid, which will then manifest a grinding or groaning noise in tight, low-speed turns. Changing the oil will most likely solve this problem, but it could become permanent if left unattended.

Mileage: Between 40,000 and 60,000 miles.

Cost: About $220 for OEM limited-slip differential oil.

How to spot: Grinding, groaning, or rubbing noises from the rear axle in tight turns.

Ignition Coil Failure

Interestingly, fewer F80 M3 owners reported this problem than E9X M3 drivers did - most likely because the S55 engine doesn't rev anywhere near as high as the older car's S65 V8 does. Misfires still appear at higher mileages, though, and can become more prevalent if the spark plugs weren't replaced at the scheduled intervals. This is not a catastrophic problem, however, and can be repaired quite easily.

Mileage: From 60,000 miles.

Cost: About $63 per ignition coil pack.

How to spot: Misfiring, rough running, lack of power, hard starting.

Less Common Problems And Problem-Free Areas

Regardless of the transmission in use, the 2015-2018 BMW M3 is not known for having troublesome gearboxes. Clutch wear on manual transmission cars is reported as acceptably low, and, provided their transmission oil and filter are changed on a regular basis, there are very few reports of BMW M3 F80 DCT problems, too.

The 2015-2018 BMW M3 doesn't yet appear to have any serious electrical issues, the starter systems account for almost no BMW M3 F80 start problems, and there is nothing notable to report regarding their alternators, batteries, and charging systems, either.

Which One To Avoid

Because earlier examples of the F80 BMW M3 presented the most teething troubles, 2015 and 2016 models are arguably the least desirable of its breed. But, because most of its issues have been sorted out through recalls, there's no reason to be too wary of a 2015/2016 M3, provided the potential crank hub issue has been addressed and its maintenance is up to OEM standards.

Which One To Buy

The pick of the fifth-generation BMW M3 range has to be a 2018 model, with whichever transmission you prefer. Most issues with this model have been eliminated by the end of its run, and the equipment updates applied for its final year make this the most-desirable vintage. It looks the best of them all, with its new headlights, the touchscreen interface brings iDrive so much closer to palatability, and the subtle trim enhancements inside the cabin add a bit more class.

5th Gen BMW M3 (F80) Verdict

Many BMW M-enthusiasts bemoaned the absence of the fizzy V8 which graced its predecessor, and the numb (but accurate) electrically-assisted steering feel came as a shock to those who remember its predecessors, but the reality is that the F80 BMW M3 reflected the design trends and legislative needs of its time. It's still fun to drive, if in a different way than its predecessors, is very quick in a straight line, and exploring its handling limits still requires a capable driver. In other words, the F80 M3 is still a proper enthusiast's car - just evolved to suit modern requirements.

M3 F80 (5th Generation) Alternatives

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