As we expected from the spy photos, both the 2021 BMW M3 sedan and the M4 coupe share the extra big grilles introduced on the new 4 Series. But if you can look past the controversial nose, the new M3 and M4 have a lot to offer those seeking a more traditional BMW M car experience, as well as those out for pure performance.
Besides the enormous kidney grilles, which now have horizontal slats rather than metallic studs, the M3 and M4 have larger versions of most of their body panels. The fenders are much wider, and the rear bumper has gained a large rear diffuser, as well as four prominent exhaust tips. The front fenders get vertically-oriented vents, and the deep side skirts match the rear diffuser. The exposed carbon fiber roof returns, a long-running M-car signature. This roof can be replaced with a painted steel roof if the customer wants a sunroof.
Lurking behind the nostrils of the M3 and M4 is one of two versions of the S58 twin-turbo straight-six that was first introduced on the BMW X3 M and X4 M. On the standard M3 and M4, it makes 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, and the Competition versions make 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The former will get the M3 or M4 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and the latter will get the job done in 3.8 seconds. The base M3 and M4 come exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, making them the sole manual offering in the segment. That manual transmission is also 50 pounds lighter than the eight-speed automatic that comes with the Competition models. The manual transmission comes with rev-matching, but that can be disabled. Both standard and Competition cars get rear-wheel-drive standard, but the Competition will have the option of all-wheel drive next summer. The all-wheel-drive system is like other BMW systems in that it operates in rear-drive mode until it detects slippage. The system can be set to stay in rear-wheel drive with assists turned off. Both drivetrains feature electronically controlled limited-slip differentials.
Naturally, BMW has also upgraded the M3 and M4 chassis to handle the extra power. The cars feature extensive bracing among the shock towers and subframes. Stiffer M suspension with different damping settings is standard. Lightweight forged wheels are fitted, with the base models getting 18-inch front wheels and 19-inch rear wheels. The Competition gets 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rears. Standard brakes for both model types are 15-inch rotors with 6-piston calipers at the front and 14.6-inch rotors at the rear with single-piston calipers. Available as an option are carbon ceramic brakes with larger 15.75-inch rotors at the front and 15-inch ones at the back. Another performance option is the M Drive Professional package. It includes a traction control system with 10 settings that control how much tire slip is allowed before traction and stability control systems intervene. The package also includes a lap timer and a “Drift Analyzer.” The former records lap times, and the latter records what happens when you drift, such as angle and duration. This information can be shared via the available iPhone app.
The interior of the M3 and M4 is, unsurprisingly, pretty much like that of the 3 Series and 4 Series. No wood trim is available; only aluminum or carbon fiber. A 12.3-inch instrument display and 10.25-inch infotainment screen are standard equipment, as are sportier seats. BMW does offer a new set of optional carbon fiber power seats, which together will save an extra 21 pounds. They also have cutouts for racing harnesses. Some bold interior colors are available, too, such as Kyalami Orange in the pictured M3, and Yas Marina Blue in the pictured M4.
The M3 and M4 should go on sale around March next year, and the all-wheel-drive Competition versions should be available in the summer. Pricing for the base M3 starts at $70,895, and $73,795 for the M3 Competition. The base M4 starts at $72,795 and the M4 Competition starts at $75,695.