The much-anticipated and long-awaited BMW M3 Sedan and M4 Coupe have finally arrived, after releasing their restyled 3 and 4 Series mates in 2020. Like so many popular models, these are cars with a strong, loud following, and any update brings a mixture of angst and anticipation.
The good news is that the latest M3 and M4 are more capable than ever. Longer, slightly wider and taller than their predecessors, the high-performance variants of the 3rd and 4th Series have a power boost in both the standard and competition models. The base M3 gets a 473-hp six-cylinder engine, while the Competition is served by a 503-hp version of the same engine. Only the Competition model is available with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Notably, the Base M3 is now the only third-series variant still available with a six-speed manual.
Related: 2021 BMW M3 competition review: 85% shine
For better or worse, both the M3 and M4 got the more prominent new front grille, which has already sparked a lot of discussion since it debuted with the launch of this generation; Let’s just say its design is very polarizing. BMW says the grille serves a useful purpose with the M3 and M4, providing additional cooling for the engine and the brakes when drivers feel the itch for some aggressive driving.
We recently spent some time with the new M3 Competition sedan and were beyond impressed with its performance and handling. But not everything is perfect behind her massive snout. Here are five things we love and four things we didn’t care about about the new M3.
For the full Cars.com review of the BMW M3, click the link above to read Aaron Bragman’s full review. For a quick look at what works and what doesn’t, read on.
The things we love
1. Sweet Turbocharged Six-Cylinder Engine
Perhaps no more acceptable engine configuration has ever been fitted to an M3 or M4 than a twin-turbocharged inline-six. In the base M3, the 3.0-liter straight-six engine is good for 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. That’s a 48-horsepower bump compared to the base models of the outgoing M3 and M4. In the competition model tested, the M3 generates 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, which is 59 horsepower more than the models they replace. Acceleration is explosive, yet the M3 can be quite civil when driving around town.
2. Changing priorities
Base models of the M3 are available with a six-speed manual transmission – something we’re happy to see. Unfortunately, this makes the M3 the only 3 Series variant still offered with a stick change, and even so it’s not available with the Competition model. We’d be even more disappointed with this if it wasn’t for the fact that the eight-speed automatic transmission is so closely matched with the engine that you never have to speculate on its options. Transitions are smooth and easy, and a choice of six modes allows you to adjust the transitions to your liking.
3. The first M3 with all-wheel drive available
The redesign marks the M3’s first all-wheel drive availability, promising increased traction and drivability in any type of weather. Available only on competition models and with the eight-speed automatic transmission, the system has three powertrain modes: all-wheel drive for normal driving, 4WD Sport for more aggressive driving, and two-wheel drive, which sends power only to the rear wheels and disengages stability control.
4. O Tech Loads
Almost everything about performance is electronically adjustable in the M3 Competition. Selecting drive modes goes the full spectrum from a comfortable start to full on-track performance, adjusting throttle response, steering, brakes and suspension accordingly. Other tech features include an electronically controlled exhaust that offers a different soundtrack depending on the mode, standard wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the latest version of the iDrive multimedia system already praised in previous reviews. Optional is the semi-autonomous BMW Extended Traffic Jam Assist drive system.
5. Comfortable functional seats
The M sport leather seats are stylish, firm and supportive, with plenty of power adjustments to fit in all the right places. Electric ventilation is available for the first time. The optional M carbon seats have additional bolsters to keep drivers in place and save 21 pounds without giving up the power adjustments. It is also designed to accept either racing straps or a standard shoulder strap.
Things we don’t like
1. Size doesn’t always matter
Despite a 1.8-inch increase in wheelbase and an extra 4.6 inches in overall length, the M3’s rear seat still doesn’t fit. It’s okay for short distances, but limited leg and headroom is likely to draw complaints from rear passengers on long trips. On the plus side, there’s more than enough room up front, and limited rear seat space is a fraction of the price paid for the M3’s compact overall dimensions.
2. Passive steering
While the M3’s steering is very fast and precise, we were disappointed with the idling feel of the wheel. It’s particularly frustrating and noticeable given the M3’s choppy performance and handling. We were somewhat frustrated with the directive not feeling like he wanted to come to the party.
3. Road and wind noise
We found road and wind noise to be more pronounced in the M3 competition than we had expected, especially with increased speed. Some of this is probably due to pavement noise coming into the cabin from the big, sticky 19-inch summer tires at the front, and 20 inches in the rear.
4. Exorbitant price
The starting price for the M3 is $70,895 including destination. The competition offering starts at $73,795 with larger wheels and tires, a standard automatic transmission, and other tidbits. Our test car has other options including specialty paint and an Executive Package with a heated steering wheel, power unlock box, adaptive LED headlights, and more, bringing the total to $93,495.
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