When the all-new BMW M3 sedan was unveiled alongside its M4 coupe sibling, one camp of Bimmer fanatics were appalled to find that the sports sedan featured those, er, unusual grilles. Another camp loved the bold new look. Somewhere in the middle were the true BMW fanatics, who said that the styling doesn't matter as long as the performance is up to scratch. So is it? Well, on paper, the answer is definitely yes. A 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six sends power to the rear wheels, and a manual gearbox is still the default option. Furthermore, with the base version providing 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, you've got more grunt than Audi's recently refreshed RS5 Sportback. But in trying to be the everyman's sports car, has the sharp-edged, incisive sports sedan become a bit dull? Our M3 review reveals all.
Everything is new. BMW's S58 3.0-liter twin-turbo was first tested in the X3 M and X4 M before being fitted here, but you also get new styling, a fresh interior, a more advanced infotainment system, and the option of features like a drift analyzer and ten-way adjustable traction control. The sixth-generation M3 will also be offered with all-wheel drive for the first time, but only as a 2022 model.
See trim levels and configurations:
There have been countless arguments about the styling of the M3's front end, and we do find it frustrating that the M3 looks like a 4 Series, but those vertical kidney grilles are said to improve airflow and cooling. On the extremities of the front fascia are intake vents that cool the brakes and enhance downforce. LED headlights are standard and can be had with Laserlight tech or in Shadowline spec with darkened shrouds. M-specific mirror caps and a carbon fiber roof add aggression to the car, while a textured hood aims for the same effect. At the rear, a prominent diffuser houses four exhaust tips while the trunk features a subtle lip spoiler. 18-inch wheels are fitted up front while 19s are at the back. Optionally available are 19-/20-inch staggered sets. On the Comp model, the exhaust tips, mirror caps, trunk spoiler, and Competition badges are all finished in high gloss black. The wheels are also a unique design, called 826M, replacing the standard 824M wheels on the regular model. Carbon exterior accents are optional, as is a power sunroof, but you lose the carbon roof with this glass panel.
Cars are swelling, and the 2021 BMW M3 is not immune. To show this, here are the dimensions of the current G80 M3 with the outgoing F80 M3's dimensions in brackets: length is now 189.1 inches (184.6), width is now 74.3 inches (73.9), height is now 56.4 inches (56.1), and the wheelbase is now 112.5 inches (110.7). Curb weight has also increased from a maximum of 3,653 pounds in the old car to 3,840 lbs in the new M3. The Comp model is heavier still by 50 lbs, and you can bet that the AWD model that is on the way will be even heavier than both RWD models.
Whether you get the Competition model or the regular version, just two colors are available at no charge: the polarizing Sao Paulo Yellow and BMW's traditional Alpine White. Also available are metallic finishes that set you back an additional $550: Black Sapphire, a favorite among those who've seen it in the sun, Portimao Blue, Toronto Red, the stunning Isle of Man Green, and Brooklyn Grey. Spend $1,950 and you can have Tanzanite Blue II or Oxide Grey. Matte finishes cost even more - Frozen Brilliant White and Frozen Portimao Blue cost $3,600 each, and Competition models also gain access to Dravit Grey Metallic ($1,950), but if even these aren't enough, you can commission Individual paint.
Options here include Signal Green, Speed Yellow, Porsche's Miami Blue, Fire Orange, Mint Green, Rosso Corsa, and Santorini Blue. Ruby Red, Twilight Purple, and Macao Blue are among the prettiest metallic options, while Frozen Dark Grey, Frozen Black, and Chalk are also on offer. Brass and Urban Green can be optioned as well, but these are nasty. Regardless, we'd avoid them for the price alone: Individual colors cost around five grand.
As we mentioned earlier, a switchable AWD system is coming to the M3 for the first time later this year as a 2022 model, but in the meantime, both the M3 and the M3 Competition are RWD-only sedans. Both feature a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged straight-six engine, with the former producing 473 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque while the latter model is boosted to 503 horses and 479 lb-ft. Regardless, both models will top out at 155 mph unless you spec the M Driver's Package, which unlocks a top speed of 180 mph. In terms of straight-line acceleration, the Competition model is typically the quickest, doing the benchmark 0 to 60 mph sprint in a scant 3.8 seconds, while the regular model does the run a little slower with a time of 4.1 seconds. But if those figures don't impress you much, remember that BMW and its compatriots traditionally underestimate these figures. In fact, the base M3 has been shown in independent dyno tests to produce as much power at the wheels as the Competition model claims at the crank. Basically, these cars are damn fast.
Both versions of the new BMW M3 come with an evolved version of the B58 motor fitted to the M340i, M240i, and other warmed-up sub-M cars. As this is fitted to proper M cars, the engine now gets an S prefix to become the S58, but there are plenty of geeky changes beyond the name. Regardless, what you need to know is that in-gear acceleration is phenomenal even at low rpm. Acceleration from a stop is effortless, and there's a remarkable amount of traction even on full-bore starts, suggesting that BMW is limiting boost in the first two gears and upping the ante as you go faster. In fact, torque is so good in high gears that you can even drift the Competition model (with its shorter ratios) in fourth gear.
Along with the 473 hp and 406 lb-ft provided by the base car, both versions get adaptive suspension and an M Sport differential, but the really exciting news is the addition of a ten-way adjustable traction control system. This means that, even in the Comp model with its 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, novices can learn to get the most out of the car without making an embarrassing call to their insurers. That said, an optional Drift Analyzer also rates the angle, duration, and speed of your drifting maneuvers, so we have no doubt that many will lose it trying to achieve five stars. But if you want to just relax, the old F80 M3's spiky torque delivery is no longer present, giving you plenty of confidence even in the rain.
The standard manual gearbox in the base M3 is also an improvement over old BMW sticks and is quite reassuring to notch home, but with a very light clutch feel. Novices will like the automatic rev matching on downshifts, though. Sadly, the Competition model can only be had with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic from ZF. It's excellent and predicts gears brilliantly. It's also smooth when you want it to be and lightning fast when you need it, but we can feel a noticeable delay compared to the old dual-clutch system. Again, the new auto is fantastic, but if you look for flaws (as is our job), you may pick up a touch of hesitation. If you haven't experienced the old DCT, the ZF auto is still going to blow your mind.
These are rear-drive BMWs, so balance is excellent. As you'd expect, provoking drifts is quite easy when you turn everything off, and the standard launch control system on both manual and auto models does a remarkable job of not smoking the tires. The steering is impressive too, proving well-weighted and incredibly accurate without being twitchy, but like almost all modern electric systems, you can't feel a bloody thing through the wheel. Run over road imperfections and the adaptive suspension smooths out any harshness, but you also can't feel these through the wheel, and it takes a little bit of time to get on equal terms with the steering and to trust it.
Nevertheless, we must commend BMW on creating a more usable and easier-to-live-with machine. You get minimal road noise and a supple ride while losing none of the stiffness that makes going around corners so enjoyable. However, we do wish there was more drama from the engine and exhaust, both of which sound a little dull. The available M Performance exhaust will help fix this problem, but based on what we've heard of this system, it's still not a necessarily pleasing tone that comes from the engine and down the pipes. That's what you get from turbocharging an engine.
Braking is unbelievable too, with adjustable feel, brake drying, and brake-fade compensation all working to ensure that you get the most out of every track day, but carbon ceramic brakes are available if you really intend to use this car to the full.
On the whole, the M3 and M3 Comp offer unbelievable grip, loads of fun, and astonishing ease of use, but things like the automatic rev matching system on the manual, the insulated cabin on both cars, and the fact that an idiot could drive either car fast mean that some of that all-important driver engagement is impossible to find. When the AWD Comp model drops later this year, we suspect that driver engagement will become even scarcer. Still, both cars are more fun than the equivalent Audi, but that's the bare minimum we expect of Bavarian machines.
According to the EPA, both versions of the M3 will achieve the same gas mileage figures of 16/23/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Both are also fitted with 15.6-gallon gas tanks, so you can expect an average of around 296 miles per tank. The Audi RS5 Sportback is a little better, achieving 18/25/21 mpg on the same cycles, and with a marginally smaller tank measuring 15.3 gallons, it will achieve around 321 miles with mixed driving.
As you'd expect, the interior of this BMW is a great blend between luxury and sportiness, featuring a pair of high-definition screens, tri-zone automatic climate control, loads of leather, and a meaty steering wheel with M-specific buttons to save your preferred driving settings on. It really makes a strong first impression on a test drive. Ambient lighting and heated front seats are standard, and there's plenty of space in either row. However, the optional buckets make it difficult to avoid scraping as you get in or out. Overall, it's a great place to be with loads of space and more tech. It's also less generic than modern Audi and Merc offerings, and it truly feels like a special version of a regular 3 Series - exactly as it should.
Like a regular 3 Series, the M3 will comfortably seat five individuals, but those in the back will not particularly enjoy sitting in the middle seat if they're adult-sized. Still, there's loads more headroom than in the back of an RS5 Sportback, and there's enough room for your legs to make long journeys tolerable. In the front, headroom and legroom are even better, as you'd expect, but if you spec the optional M Carbon bucket seats, ingress and egress are hampered by heavily bolstered sides. Nevertheless, these are among the best racing-style seats we've sat in, as you can adjust the width and severity of the bolstering. That said, the carbon accent in the center of the seat panel can be a little annoying when you try to heel-and-toe in the base model. If you expect to do a lot of driving, we'd stick with the standard heated seats and maybe add ventilation as an option. These are plenty supportive enough and are certainly a bit better after a few hours behind the wheel. Whichever seats you opt for, visibility and the driving position are excellent, regardless of how tall or short you may be.
The M3 is available with a Yas Marina Blue/Black Merino leather option that features a bright yellow accent at no charge. The more conservative among us (those with 20/20 vision) can alternatively opt for Silverstone/Black, Kyalami Orange/Black, or plain Black. If you want extended leather in these color combos, it'll cost you $2,550 extra. Individual leather (which has no pricing info currently available on the build site) offers the option of full Merino leather in Ivory White, Merino Tartufo, Fjord Blue/Black, or Fiona Red/Black.
As for trim elements, you get Aluminum Tetragon as standard with carbon fiber being a $950 option. Individual Piano Black, Individual Aluminum fabric with a high-gloss finish, and Individual fine-wood cost $1,080. Competition models also get M stripes on the seatbelts as standard.
As you'd expect, Audi's RS5 Sportback with its liftback design is more spacious in the cargo area with 21.8 cubic feet of volume, but the M3 isn't too bad for a conventional sedan, offering 13 cubes. That's enough for four adults to pack a medium-sized suitcase each, but if you need more volume, the rear seats can be folded in a 40/20/40 split.
In the cabin, a pair of cupholders are available in each row, along with spacious door pockets that can fit additional drinks (properly, we should add), and your pocket contents. A large center console space gives you a spot for your phone and keys while a generous center armrest and a decent glovebox allow you to fit any sundry items.
We've already mentioned some of the M3's optional performance enhancements like a drift analyzer, but what about the standard features? Well, you get adaptive suspension, auto stop/start, launch control, power-folding heated wing mirrors, a 12.3-inch digital driver display, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, ambient lighting, power-adjustable front seats with heating and power side bolsters, automatic LED headlights with auto high beams and adaptive brake lights, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, tri-zone automatic climate control, brake drying, and brake fade compensation. Active blind-spot monitoring, forward collision detection, and lane departure warning are all included too.
Options are almost as plentiful, with evasion assist, traffic jam assist, lane keep assist, and a head-up display on offer. Also available are things like Icon LED adaptive headlights with Laserlight, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, customizable traction control, a lap timer, remote start (automatic only), and a power tailgate. A sunroof is also offered, but then the carbon roof is swapped for a steel one.
BMW has just released its brand-new iDrive 8.0 system in the electric i4 and iX, but the BMW Operating System 7 unit you get here is pretty good too. It features a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and a pair of USB ports. Audio is pumped out with confidence via a Harmon Kardon surround sound audio setup boasting 16 speakers. It also features voice control and navigation, but gesture control is optional, as are wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot. As you'd expect, the system is nearly flawless and offers easy-to-understand menus with a very responsive screen that is joined by a rotary iDrive controller and redundant steering wheel buttons.
Thus far, the all-new M3 has been subject to two recalls this year. The first, in February, was for the possible loss of braking assistance and ABS while the second came in April and was for a front seatbelt buckle that may malfunction. Hopefully, these recalls are the beginning and end of any reliability concerns.
Should anything go wrong in your time owning one of these, BMW offers a warranty that includes limited and powertrain coverage for the first four years or 50,000 miles. You also get better maintenance coverage than Audi thanks to three years or 36,000 miles of complementary care.
No official BMW M3 crashworthiness review exists as specialized performance cars such as the M3 are rarely crashed if there is an ordinary vehicle that can be crashed instead. Thus, the NHTSA has not yet evaluated the M3, but fortunately, the regular 3 Series sedan forms an excellent base, achieving an overall rating of five stars. These sentiments are mirrored at the IIHS, where the 2021 G20 3 Series won the 2021 Top Safety Pick award, achieving the best possible rating of Good in every test carried out.
As standard, you get front, side-impact, overhead, and knee airbags in the M3. You also get the obligatory rearview camera, along with front and rear parking sensors, forward collision detection, active blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, auto high beams, and adaptive brake lights. Safety enhancements you can add include Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight, lane keep assist, traffic jam assist, an automatic parking system, a head-up display, and an evasion aid.
We're not going to harp on about the divisive styling for two reasons: firstly, styling doesn't change a bad car into a good one, nor vice versa, and secondly, those grilles don't look too bad in the metal and have grown on us - in our opinion anyway. Styling is subjective, but performance and capability are pretty much either good or bad. This car, overall, is good. It's more comfortable than ever, it's smoother and easier to drive, and it still provides immense thrills when you're giving it stick. The aural feedback of the turbocharged engine and its exhaust are average, and there's no feel from the steering wheel, but those are common characteristics these days, and finding cars that make these systems sound and feel good is a rarity. The M3 does have its own problems that it has made for itself though. The old DCT was a touch quicker than the current automatic transmission, and the excessively light clutch pedal on the manual gearbox combined with auto rev matching make this a less engaging car than its predecessor.
The effect is that, next to the F80 M3, the G80 feels a little too refined, too luxurious, and too easy to drive fast. That may disappoint purists and expert drivers, but it's something that all BMW M3 generations since the E36 has been criticized for. The new M3 may not be razor-sharp compared to the old one, but it's still the ultimate all-rounder and feels damn incisive compared to the equivalent Audi or Merc. And with the 2022 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio not much different from the 2021 one, the Bimmer hasn't got much to worry about from Italy. So is the M3 still the benchmark? Yes, just with more tech and luxury than ever before.
The price of the BMW M3 starts at an MSRP of $69,900 for the base model before a $995 destination charge and other fees and taxes, while the M3 Competition starts with a base price of $72,800. The RS5 Sportback, on the other hand, starts at $75,400. Add every possible physical option to the Competition variant (excluding Individual color offerings), and the BMW M3 will cost $105,880 in the USA.
The 2021 BMW M3 4-door sedan is available in two trims in the US: M3 and M3 Competition.
In the regular M3, your twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight-six generates 473 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, all of which is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual. Features included in the base price are 18- and 19-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, an M Sport differential, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio setup, keyless entry, ambient lighting, and tri-zone climate control. Also included are a 12.3-inch driver info display and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display, heated front seats, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Competition model ups the ante and is tuned to deliver 503 horses with 479 lb-ft of twist, but this model sends its power to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Coming later this year as a 2022 model is an AWD version, also only available with an auto. This will increase the number of configurations available. The Competition gets 19- and 20-inch wheels in a unique design as standard and also boasts M stripes on the seatbelts, plus gloss black finishing for the exhaust tips, kidney grilles, mirror caps, trunk spoiler, and rear apron.
Available for both BMW M3 models is the Parking Assistance package that adds an automatic parking system for 800 bucks. Also offered is the Executive package with gesture control, a head-up display, Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight, wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a heated steering wheel, and a power tailgate. This costs $2,800 on the manual base model and three grand on the M3 Comp, as this model also gets remote start with this package. The M Carbon Exterior package with various carbon accents is $4,700 and looks fantastic. Standalone highlights include the M carbon bucket seats at $3,800 a set and M carbon ceramic brakes for $8,150. The M Driver's package is one we highly recommend, giving you an advanced driving course and the full 180 mph of speed potential for $2,500.
Obviously, the Competition model is the most attractive to those obsessed with bragging rights, but the 473 horses provided by the base M3 are still plenty. More importantly, this model comes as the purest expression of a G80 M3, sending its power to the rear axle via a proper manual gearbox. We'd add the M Drive Professional system for $900, giving you the drift analyzer and a lap timer. We'd also add the M Driver's package, and unless you're a little portly, the M carbon bucket seats. The Executive package is also worth adding for a better mix of performance and practicality. Assuming you stick with the standard color and trim options, this build will cost you $76,100.
This is the last year in which you can buy a C63 with a V8, and it's almost worth buying for that reason alone. But the C63 is getting on a little, although that does mean a cheaper base price of $68,600. In base form, the C63's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 generates 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque and has very similar interior specs to the M3: a 12.3-inch digital cluster and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display reside in a leather-clad cabin accented by aluminum. But as for the way they perform, these cars couldn't be more different. By comparison, the C63's infotainment system is not up to scratch, and the focus of this car leans more towards comfort than carving corners. It's still astonishingly good, but the fact that only an automatic gearbox is offered should tell you all you need to know - buy the C63 if you want a comfortable but crazy cruiser, or buy the M3 if you want more engagement and less interior glitz.
While the C63 looks soft alongside the M3, the M3 looks soft against the Giulia Q, one of the segment's top competitors. With a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, the Italian keeps up with the M3 Comp in terms of acceleration and beats it in terms of outright speed, achieving a maximum of 191 mph. Of course, as an Italian car with some American influence, the ergonomics and quality of the materials and digital systems are not on par with what Germany offers. Sadly, another downside is that we don't get a manual gearbox option as Europe does, but as above with the C63, reviews have shown that the quirky Alfa is the one to have for the most thrills while the Bimmer is the one to have if you want a bit more comfort and convenience.
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