The next generation M3/M4 is coming.
BMW's high-performance M division has been taking BMW 3 Series models and fully realizing their sporting potential since 1986. Each M version of the 3 Series has gotten faster and more sophisticated, but the essential ingredients are the same: Take a basic model, upgrade the engine, rework the suspension, improve the brakes, improve the aerodynamics, add a limited-slip differential, then let it loose on the roads and racetrack.
The seventh generation BMW 3 Series has been with us for a while, which means it's time to get excited about what should be the fastest M3 model yet. Now that the two-door 3 Series has diverged in name to the 4 Series, but uses the same platform, that means the M4 is close as well. We've seen plenty of spy shots and details about the new models have leaked through, so it's time to put all that information together in one place. This is everything we know, or suspect, about the 2021 BMW M3 and M4.
The first BMW M3 was based on the E30 chassis code generation of the 3 Series. The last generation of M3 was the first to get its own chassis code and was designated as the F80 generation. That coincided with the introduction of the M4, which was designated F82 for the coupe model and F83 for the convertible. The new models also get their own chassis codes, and the 2021 BMW M3 is the G80 while the M4 is designated G82. The convertible's code hasn't been confirmed, but we suspect we wouldn't lose our houses if we bet on it being the G83.
There's no V8 engine for this generation, again, which will disappoint some. Like their predecessors, the new BMW M3 and M4 will be powered by a straight-six engine. The M division's S58 engine bound for the M3 and M4 is based on the BMW B58 engine that's been around since 2017 and currently serves duty in the new Toyota Supra. In S58 guise, though, it gains a second turbocharger and, in the current X3 M and X4 M models, makes 473 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. We expect similar figures for the 2021 M3 and M4.
When Frank Van Meel was head of the BMW M division, he revealed there would be four levels of the M performance cars. That will consist of the 'basic' M car, the Competition version, a CS (Coupe Sport) version, and the return of the legendary CSL (Coupe Sport Light) model. We've seen BMW's M division drop a more powerful Competition version alongside the standard model at launch with its versions of the X3, X4, X5, X6, as well as with the M8. For that reason, we wouldn't be surprised to see an M3 and M4 Competition appear at launch alongside the regular cars. We expect the power bump from the Competition version to take it over 500 hp and to compete directly with the V8 in the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
The CS and CSL models will probably come later, with the CS version bringing more track prowess along with the extra power. We suspect the CSL would only come to the M4 as it is a hardcore lightweight version, and the M4 has already shed two doors worth of heft.
BMW's Research and Development boss Klaus Frolich is promising manual versions of the next M3 and M4, and there are reports of them actually being in the works, so we can safely say at this point manual M3 and M4 cars will be available. The rumor mill has it that manual models with rear-wheel-drive will have the name "Pure" attached to them and that they will be the base models. This brings us to a significant change in the M3 and M4 lineup.
The new BMW M5 and M8 got an all-wheel-drive system developed by the M division. It's lighter than the usual BMW xDrive system and features fully variable torque split between the front and rear axles and can even decouple from the front axle entirely to become rear-wheel drive. Both the M3 and M4 are slated to arrive with the system and we know regular rear-wheel-drive drivetrains will still be available. However, whether that will be the case on the CS and CSL models, we'll have to wait and see.
Aside from the M2 and current M4, all other M models now have torque-converter automatic transmissions. It has been confirmed by BMW M boss Markus Flasch that the M3 and M4 will also have an eight-speed torque-converter. It seems the dual-clutch transmission's days are numbered as technology has caught up with the weight and shift-time advantage it used to have over the more traditional fluid coupling technique. As well as being as fast-shifting as dual-clutches, torque-converters are more durable, so this is not bad news.
An issue with folding hardtop cars is the extra weight added by the mechanism. We'll have to see how that works out if reports are correct that BMW is planning on switching the retractable hardtop to a power-operated soft top system. What is likely, though, is that convertible M4 owners will benefit from increased trunk space and better ease of use, although they may have to put up with a little extra road noise.
If you saw the pictures of the BMW Concept 4 from the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, it is possible you may have noticed the carbuncle of an oversized grille. There was a big outcry of horror from enthusiasts over the unsightly front end of the car. Still, BMW has stuck by the preposterously large grille as a design decision with Senior Vice President BMW Group Design, Adrian van Hooydonk saying: "The BMW Concept 4 embodies the aesthetic essence of the BMW brand. It combines perfect proportions with a clear and precise design."
We're hoping that BMW has found a way for the grille to work with the new M4 design because shots have leaked of what looks suspiciously like a pre-production model 4 Series sporting the buck-tooth monstrosity. We don't like it, but we'll be more than happy to eat our words if it works in the overall design.
BMW confirmed in a press release that the M3 and M4 would debut this year. We suspect it will be towards the end of the year as Flasch said that they would both go into production at the end of 2020 and make it to dealers in early 2021. There's no word on price, but the now-retired M3 last cost $66,500, while M4 still starts at $69,150. The M4 CS starts at $103,100, so that gives us an idea of what to expect in terms of a price difference for the even higher performance models.