BMW’s M division officially premieres the new 2021 M3 sedan and M4 coupe, revealing their controversial grille treatment and heavily reworked mechanical package, which includes a new gasoline 6-cyl. developing up to 502 hp and, on selected models, a fully variable M xDrive all-wheel-drive system for the very first time.
Available to order now, BMW M’s new performance pairing is planned for North American delivery next March. Prices are yet to be disclosed.
Along with the new M3 and M4 revealed in Munich, BMW also is developing the first-ever M3 Touring, though the new go-fast wagon is not planned for U.S. sale.
Also planned for launch in 2021 is a follow-up to the M4 cabriolet and a new M4 GranCoupe in an expanded lineup that will include an even more powerful track-focused CS derivative in various body styles later in the seven-year model cycle.
High visual impact is key to the styling of the new BMW M models, both of which are heavily differentiated from the lesser M340i xDrive and M440i xDrive they are positioned above. Forgoing a 35-year tradition, the M3 sedan and M4 coupe receive their own individual front end styling, which is dominated by a large vertical grille featuring seven double horizontal louvers as well as a mounting point for the front license plate.
The new grille is similar in shape to that adorning the new 4-series, but it has two distinct elements, rather than a single frame design.
The new M3 and M4 also receive a roof made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic with two raised fins running lengthways to optimize airflow, a trunk-mounted spoiler and a reworked rear bumper with a multi-channel diffuser and two pairs of chromed round tailpipes on either side.
Dimensionally, the new M3 sedan has grown: length is up 4.2 ins. (107 mm) at 188.7 ins. (4,793 mm), width increases 1.0 in. (25 mm) at 74.9 ins. (1,902 mm) and height extends 0.3 in. (8 mm) at 56.4 ins. (1,433 mm).
The new M4 coupe shares the same length, making it a similar 4.2 ins. longer than before, with width up 0.7 in. (18 mm) at 74.3 ins. (1,887 mm) while height remains the same at 54.8 ins. (1,392 mm). Both feature the same 112.5-in. (2,858-mm) wheelbase, which is 1.8 ins. (46 mm) longer than that of their predecessors.
Underneath their aluminum, steel and composite body, the Mercedes-AMG C63 rivals receive a newly developed twin-turbocharged 3.0L inline 6-cyl. – the S58, as it is codenamed.
The longitudinally mounted I-6, already used by the X3 M and X4 M, comes in two different states of tune; standard sixth-generation M3 sedan and second-generation M4 models get 487 hp, while the more track-focused M3 Competition sedan and M4 Competition coupe models boast 502 hp, a respective increase of 52 hp and 56 hp over the older S55 engine used by their predecessors.
The 502 hp of the M3/M4 Competition also represents a 48-hp increase over the earlier M3 CS and M4 CS launched in 2018.
The torque loading remains the same as before at 406 lb.-ft. (550 Nm) in standard M3/M4 models, though it is now developed 800 rpm further up the rev range between 2,650 and 6,130 rpm. In Competition models, torque increases 73 lb.-ft. (99 Nm) to 469 lb.-ft. (636 Nm) between 2,750 and 5,500 rpm.
The lift in performance endows the new M3 and M4 with sharper acceleration: BMW claims a 0.2-second and 0.1-second improvement in 0-62 mph (100 km/h) times at 4.2 seconds for standard models and 3.9 seconds for Competition models – the latter being the same 0-62 mph time quoted for the earlier M3CS and M4CS.
Top speed is nominally limited to 155 mph (249 km/h), though buyers can specify an optional driver’s package which lifts it to 180 mph (290 km/h) in combination with Z-rated tires.
Driveline developments for the M3/M4 were inspired by the latest M5 and more recently introduced M8. Standard models continue with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the Competition models forgo the 7-speed dual-clutch unit used by their predecessors for a new 8-speed, torque-converter-equipped M Steptronic automatic gearbox.
While initial models will feature traditional rear-wheel drive together with an electronically controlled Active M differential, the new M3 and M4 Competition also will offer a fully variable all-wheel-drive M xDrive from mid-2021 – the first time it has been offered on either car.
As with the system used by the latest M5, it offers three driving modes: 4WD, 4WD Sport and, with the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system switched off, RWD.
The chassis uses an aluminum-intensive double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension in combination with front and rear tracks that have increased 1.3 ins. (33 mm) and 1.5 ins. (38 mm), respectively, over the M340i xDrive and M440i xDrive at 63.7 ins. (1,618 mm) and 63.2 ins. (1,605 mm), giving the new M3 and M4 a substantially larger footprint than their direct predecessors.
Inside (above, left), the M cars build on the interior of the M340i xDrive and M440i xDrive with newly developed M Sport seats, which come with an optional ventilation function for the first time, an M-Sport steering wheel with M-mode buttons to allow you to preset the driving modes, digital instruments and infotainment functions in an M-specific design and unique trim elements.