How We'd Spec It: 2024 BMW M2, M3, and Our Other Ideal M Cars

hwsi ideal bmw m car
How We'd Spec It: 2025 BMW M2 and Our Ideal M CarsBMW

The reveal of the new 2025 BMW M4 CS has stirred up some water-cooler conversations among our staff about how we'd spec our ideal M car. However, that means only ones that are currently available on BMW's online configurator, which ironically doesn't include any CS or CSL variants. Not to be deterred, four of us raced back to our respective desks and began building a fantasy spec the likes of which include a Zandvoort Blue M2 sports coupe, a hefty but mighty X3 M Competition SUV, a manual M3 sedan loaded with options, and a 617-hp M8 Gran Coupe that flirts with the $170K mark. Who chose the best M car? That's up for you, dear reader, to decide.

Jack Fitzgerald's $71,145 BMW M2

When Ed. swung open the door to his office and yelled, "Give me the best M car you can! On the double!" there was only one M car in my mind. For as long as it has existed, the BMW M2 has held the title of "Best M Car" in my book. It's smaller and lighter than the M3 sedan, more playful than the M4 coupe, and it's better balanced than the big boys like the M5 and M8. I'd happily take my 2024 model with the no-cost Zandvoort Blue paint and staggered bi-color wheel setup. Inside, I went for the standard Cognac Vernasca leather seats. I've got no intention of subjecting myself or my passengers to the pain of dealing with BMW's M Sport seats. I added the $150 aluminum trim option, so that I wouldn't have to look at a sea of piano black. I'd also spend $650 on the lighting package, $200 on a heated steering wheel, a further $2600 for the carbon-fiber roof, and finally $2500 for the M Driver's package. And, most importantly, I'd stick with the standard stick-shift gearbox that's Free.99. Three pedals all the way, baby! A final $850 on BMW's extended warranty for peace of mind brings my ideal spec M2 coupe to a grand total of $71,145. Not too bad if I say so myself. –Jack Fitzgerald

Eric Stafford's $86,095 BMW X3 M

Did you know the 2024 BMW X3 M, with its $76,495 base price, is the least expensive M car behind only the M2? It's true. Paired with the $7000 Competition package, the X3 M also has the largest bandwidth and is arguably the best value of any M-badged Bimmer. While C/D's most passionate readers will surely decry Shame! in the comments below, please allow me to explain why my ideal M car is a high-riding SUV that doesn't offer three pedals.

Regarding the X3 M's lack of a manual transmission, the same is true for all of BMW's current Competition models. Moreover, the X3 M Comp is also the most affordable way to pair the 503-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight-six with all-wheel drive; starting at $83,495, the X3 M version costs between $1800 and $3800 less than than the AWD M3 and M4 Competition, respectively. Plus, the SUV has a roomier back seat and considerably more cargo space, which are more valuable to me on a daily basis than lap times at the racetrack.

My X3 M Competition is still no slouch when it comes to performance, with the one we last tested ripping to 60 mph in a 3.2 seconds, stopping from 70 mph in 152 feet, and posting 0.96 g on our skidpad. Other than less cornering grip, those results give me bragging rights over Fitzgerald and Fry's manual, rear-drive M cars. Sorry, lads. And before we get into the actual options I chose for my M-rated X3, I must point out that another big selling point is that my '24 model doesn't yet have BMW's dashboard-spanning displays. Some might like the tech-centric setup, but I think it looks tacked on and more likely to appear obsolete in a few years versus the more traditional design in my car. Oh, and the X3 M doesn't have a polarizing mug, so chalk that up as another W.

Along with the $7000 Competition package that I already mentioned (30 extra horses, 21-inch wheels with performance rubber, louder exhaust, and more supportive front seats), I'd pair the bi-color rollers with the $650 Marina Bay Blue metallic paint, as I think BMW M cars look especially good in blue. The Comp option also includes extended Merino leather upholstery; the Sakhir Orange/Black combo looks most striking to me without being ostentatious, and the gray open-pore wood is the only trim I think doesn't cheapen the cabin. I don't much care for the priciest optoins, like the M Driver's package, as I've already participated in a professionally instructed track day, and I definitely don't need to go faster than 155 mph in any SUV. My only desired add-ons include the $200 heated steering wheel, $250 darkened headlights, $500 front ventilated seats, $500 wireless charging pad, and $500 engine-mounted brace. With all that, the total of my ideal new M car comes to $86,095. Still not convinced with my selection? Well, feel free to shout about it in the comments. Eric Stafford

Carter Fry's $99,825 BMW M3

Well, it’s official. After one year of hard work and determination, I am the newest editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine. To celebrate my recent pay raise, I’m ballin’ out on a new 2024 BMW M3 that comes standard with a manual. In this dream scenario, I only have a few, albeit important, requirements for my ideal M car; it has to look cool, the interior has to be a pleasant place to be, and I want to be able to track the thing at a moment’s notice (in that order).

First, let’s tackle the appearance, starting with the paint color. My immediate instinct was to go with the bright Toronto Red Metallic for $650 simply because I think red is the best car color. Unfortunately, if we skip to the track-capability requirement, I need the $8500 M Carbon ceramic brakes, which only come with yellow brake calipers. I’m definitely not going for the red-and-yellow McDonald’s spec, so I've chosen the $1950 Dravit Grey metallic—a wonderful shade of gray. I think the simple M Double-spoke black wheels for $1300 pair nicely. Then to keep this sedan looking fresh, I opted for the M Carbon Exterior Package ($4700), the M Shadowline Lights ($300), and the Extended Shadowline Trim package (free).

Again, I'm keeping it simple inside and choosing the black upholstery because it looks good and, to me, dark cabins just feel cozy. I would upgrade to the Full Merino Leather for an extra $2300, and since we’re at it, the $1080 Individual Aluminum trim too because it puts aluminum on the steering wheel but keeps carbon fiber spread throughout the cabin, a very nice balance if you ask me.

My other favorite options are the $1450 Executive Package, which adds niceties like a heated steering wheel and ambient interior lightning. I also ticked the box for the no-cost sunroof and the $350 front ventilated seats because they're one of my favorite modern features. Finally, I want that M Track Mode and M Laptimer, so I'd pay $900 for the M Drive Professional package. With all that, my perfect BMW M3 comes out to $99,825. Wow, I even managed to keep it under six digits. Look at all the restraint I have! –Carter Fry

Caleb Miller's $167,755 BMW M8 Gran Coupe

Don't get me wrong, the M2 and M3 are a blast to drive, especially with a manual transmission. But I've always been attracted to long, luxurious cruisers with potent powertrains, so for my ideal M car, I chose the 2025 M8 Competition Gran Coupe, which starts at a whopping $140,975 and packs a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 producing 617 horsepower.

With such a stratospheric starting price, I decided to splurge a bit, because what's a few extra thousand (theoretical) dollars. While I typically tend towards greens and blues, I couldn't resist the $1950 Aventurin Red metallic paint. I paired this with intricate 20-inch wheels that feature two star-shaped five-spoke designs layered over each other. Behind the wheels are carbon-ceramic brakes, worth the $8500 price for their immense stopping power with such a large but rapid vehicle. I tossed in the M Driver's package, an extra $2500 that raises the top speed from 155 to 190 mph and includes access to a one-day track-driving course.

For a flashier look, I added the $5400 M Carbon Exterior package, which puts carbon-fiber trim on the front bumper, sideview mirrors, tailpipe surrounds, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser. That also forced me to include the $100 Driving Assistance package, which has automated parallel parking, blind-spot monitoring, and a 360-degree camera view.

Inside, I chose black Merino leather with Sakhir Orange Alcantara, a snazzy look that cost $3500. I swapped out the racy carbon-fiber trim for Ash Black Silver Wood for $1080. I also threw in $350 for the front and rear heated seats, which really should be standard on a $140K vehicle, but Michigan winters led me to concede to BMW's price gouging. I also specced the 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system ($3400) for the ultimate audio experience.

All told, my M8 Competition Gran Coupe came out to $167,755. A hefty price for sure, but one that brings a lot of car, with 553 pound-feet of torque, a 2.7-second sprint to 60 mph, and over 1.0 g of cornering grip but also a comfortable, spacious, and well-appointed cabin. –Caleb Miller

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