2021 BMW M3 & M4: Legendary M Cars Still Deliver The Goods

The 2021 BMW M3 and M4 are making a grand entrance with a jab of controversy, no thanks to what many consider is a blasphemous interpretation of BMW’s kidney grille. First seen in the non-M version of the new 4 Series Coupe, it’s only natural for the M4 to have the same massive grille, but it seems the M3 sedan is sporting the same look.

“The design is resoundingly function-driven, pure and reduced without compromise,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President, BMW Group Design. “At the same time, it provides an emotionally engaging window into the vehicle character.”

Difference Between The BMW M3 & M4

The new M3 is in its sixth iteration, while the M4 is the second-generation model even though both are virtually identical underneath. Similar to a regular 4 Series, the M4 is a genuine two-door coupe, while the M3 is a four-door sedan like its 3 Series sibling.

However, the 2021 M4 Coupe is 4.6 inches longer, 0.7 inches wider, and 0.4 inches higher than the old M4. On the other hand, the 2021 BMW M3 is 4.6 inches longer, 0.4 inches wider, and 0.1 inches higher than the outgoing M3. Also, both vehicles have a 1.8 inch longer wheelbase than before.

2021 BMW M3 Competition (left) and M4 Competition.
2021 BMW M3 Competition (left) and M4 Competition. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

2021 BMW M3 & M4: It’s All About The Motor

Nothing personal, but I was flabbergasted when BMW shoehorned a V8 engine in the E90 M3. Produced between 2008 to 2013, its 4.0-liter V8 had 414 horsepower, but the E90 M3 became the heaviest M3 of all. And this fact, no matter how inconsequential it may seem – hey, more power means more fun, right? – was enough to dilute the essence of what the M3 is all about. In fact, the preceding fifth-gen F80 M3 underwent a strict diet to address the weight issue, but it still came with a big V8.

Not anymore.

For the 2021 M3 sedan and M4 coupe, BMW is harking back to the E36 M3 (produced between 1992 to 1999) and third-generation E46 M3, both of which came with BMW’s excellent six-cylinder engine. This time around, both M cars receive a 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-six motor (codename: S58), producing 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft. of torque.

BMW claims zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph, with power sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, the latter of which comes with a Gear Shift Assistant to automatically match the engine revs during downshifts.

2021 BMW M3 Competition (left) and M4 Competition.
Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

2021 BMW M3 & M4 Competition: More Power & Optional Automatic Gearbox

If you need more than 473 horses to finish the job, the 2021 BMW M3 and M4 Competition may be just what the doctor ordered, summoning a maximum of 503 horsepower and 479 lb-ft. of torque from the S58 engine. Competition versions of the M3 and M4 can rush to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Interestingly enough, the Competition has the same 155 mph top speed as a standard M3 or M4, and the S58 engine has the same 7,200 rpm redline.

Additionally, you can unlock a higher 180 mph top speed on both the standard M3/M4, including the Competition models, if you ask BMW nicely with dollars in hand.

There’s a catch, though: The 2021 M3 and M4 Competition are only available with an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission. No, it’s not a dual-clutch gearbox, but it has three automatic and three manual modes courtesy of BMW’s Drivelogic shift lever, and it can shift to the lowest gear possible by pulling the left shift lever on the steering wheel while pushing hard on the gas pedal.

BMW will also offer its M xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD) system for the M3 and M4 Competition, but it won’t come until the summer of 2021. It’s quite a wait, but BMW’s AWD system will come with a 2WD mode to enjoy some proper rear-wheel hooliganism.

2021 BMW M3 Competition.
The new 2021 BMW M3 and M4 include water and oil cooling systems designed specifically for track use. The larger front intakes, for example, help with airflow to the low-temperature and high-temperature radiators in the upper part of the grille opening. Airflow to the lower area is sent to the engine oil cooler and, in Competition models, a separate transmission oil cooler. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Chassis & Suspension

Both the regular M3/M4 and Competition have standard adaptive M suspension with electronic dampers; front six-piston brakes with single-piston floating rear calipers (carbon-ceramic brakes are optional and come with gold brake calipers); staggered alloy wheels (19-inches front and 20-inches rear) with non-runflat performance tires; dynamic stability 10-stage traction control with M dynamic mode; and M Servotronic variable-ratio steering.

The M-specific front suspension (double-joint spring strut) includes new aluminum wishbones with ball joints, an aluminium torque arm with new mounts, a forged swivel bearing with a unique spring strut clamp, and lightweight wheel bearings with a higher camber range. According to BMW, the large castor and kingpin angles, along with the wishbone control arms of the five-link rear suspension, allow the new M3 and M4 to have more precise on-road dynamics.  

The M Traction Control system, part of the optional M Drive Professional, introduces a new wheel slip limitation function of the Dynamic Stability Control system which can be adjusted through 10 stages based on the driver’s preferences and needs. The 2021 BMW M3 and M4 also have a carbon-fiber roof and quad-exhaust tips.

2021 BMW M3 Competition and M4 Competition 8
Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Luxurious Interior Treatments

Standard on the 2021 BMW M3 and M4 is a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and a 10.25-inch touchscreen center display running the latest iDrive 7.0. The infotainment system includes standard navigation with cloud-based BMW Maps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant with voice control. For good measure, the optional heads-up display now has a 70 percent larger projection surface.

Standard equipment includes power and heated front seats, ambient interior lighting, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, a premium Harman Kardon audio system, automatic high beams, park distance control, and tire pressure monitoring.

Optional features include the electric front M Carbon bucket seats, which are lighter than the traditional M seats. The use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer in the seat surface and backrest, and cut-outs in the side bolster, and below the head restraints save 21 lbs. over the standard M sport seats.

2021 BMW M3 Competition and M4 Competition interior layout.
2021 BMW M3 Competition and M4 Competition interior layout. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

2021 BMW M3 & M4: Safety Features

Active safety features include lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear collision preparation. The M3 and M4 Competition with the driving assistance professional package have adaptive cruise control with stop & go, active lane-keeping assistant, blind-spot protection, and front/rear cross-traffic alert.

2021 BMW M3 & M4: Pricing & Availability

The 2021 BMW M3 sedan starts at $69,900, while the M3 Competition begins at $72,800. The new M4 Coupe has a base price of $71,800, while the M4 Competition starts at $74,700. Add on another $995 for destination charges.

The new M3 and M4 will arrive in March 2021, but the M3 and M4 Competition with AWD will enter the market in the summer of next year.

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine. 

Photos & Source: BMW of North America, LLC.