The 2016 BMW M3 marks the second year of production for BMW's latest small super-sedan, and it's been an eventful run so far. Like its two-door M4 sibling, the latest M3 challenges BMW's M division tradition with its turbocharged inline-6 engine, departing from the model's long history of natural aspiration with no added boost. This choice led to an initial backlash from purists, but their protests have been muted as of late. Maybe that's because they've had a chance to drive the car. Once you're in the pilot's seat, it doesn't take long to realize that the current M3 is still a singular machine. As ever, the M3 is based on the 3 Series, sharing that best-selling model's basic exterior and interior design but boasting its own styling flourishes, chassis tuning and engine specs. True, the 3 Series offers a turbocharged inline-6 with the same 3.0-liter displacement, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Heavily modified, the M3's motor pumps out 425 horsepower, far eclipsing anything the regular car can muster. Throw in razor-sharp steering, a sophisticated active differential and an M-specific suspension with available adaptive dampers, and you've got all the ingredients for a world-beating high-performance sedan.
If you're shopping around in this segment, you've got some enviable alternatives to consider. The Mercedes-AMG C63 sedan wins the arms race with a turbocharged V8 that's good for up to 503 hp, and it's more athletic than ever through the bends. The Cadillac ATS-V lacks the BMW's interior polish and rear seat room, but it compensates with a brawny turbocharged V6 and perhaps the quickest reflexes in the segment. If you can make do with a bit less speed but still want a sporting edge, the supercharged Audi S4, the Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG and BMW's own 340i serve as in-between options. But with its crowd-pleasing blend of race-ready dynamics and daily-driver civility, the 2016 BMW M3 continues to lead the charge.