Performance, practicality, and a reasonable price.
The 2021 BMW M3 Sedan and 2021 BMW M4 Coupe did not arrive without controversy surrounding their massive kidney grille designs. But if you are willing to look past the big nose, both cars have a lot to offer. Under the hood, the S58 twin-turbocharged inline-six engine produces 473 horsepower in the base guise or 503 hp in the Competition models. That grunt goes out to either the rear wheels or a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system in the faster Competition trim. Buyers can even select a six-speed manual transmission on the base models or an eight-speed automatic.
Both the M3 and M4 look to push the boundaries of performance in their segment, making them excellent options (if you can afford them). The M3 starts at $69,900, while the M4 is a bit dearer at $71,800. That's a lot of money to spend on a car, even all-rounders like the M3 and M4. So if you want similar performance for a fraction of the price, here are seven used alternatives to consider.
Calling Captain Obvious; used cars are less expensive than their new counterparts. If you can live with slightly outdated technology and less power, the previous generation BMW M3 and M4 offer tremendous value for the money. The F80 and F82 generation cars also use a twin-turbo inline-six, producing 425 horsepower. That power gets routed to the rear wheels only through a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Inside, the outgoing M3 and M4 aren't as techy as their successors, but will hardly feel outdated. You can now find these cars starting in the low $30,00 range or around $50,000 with a certified pre-owned warranty. That's a significant saving over a new one, without a massive drop in performance.
Perhaps the new M3 and M4 appeal to you because of their AWD, which makes them easier to drive year-round in cold weather climates. If that's the case, you should consider the Audi RS5. The last-generation Audi RS5 is now a performance bargain, starting at under $30,000 with high mileage. Even the most expensive examples only command around $45,000. A 4.2-liter V8 engine sends 450 hp out to a Quattro AWD system, with arguably one of the best exhaust notes on this list. There's no manual, but that's a small price to pay.
BMW's new S58 inline-six engine sounds much nicer than the S55 it replaces, but it still can't match the low rumble of a V8. The Mercedes-AMG C63 offers a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, producing 463 hp in its base form, or 503 hp in the C63 S models. AMG offers sedan, coupe, and convertible variants, and used examples now start at under $50,000, even with a CPO warranty. Slightly less analog than the M3 and M4, the C63 was still a hoot to drive, but could also play the part of the gentleman when needed.
We hope the next-generation M3 and M4 recapture the standard of driving purity set by their predecessors because during the time that the last generation models were on the market, new entrants have proven that BMW may not be the best at building sport sedans anymore. The Alfa Romeo brand made a triumphant return to the United States with the Giulia, following it up with a faster Quadrifoglio model.
Powered by a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 505 hp, the Quadrifolgio feels more natural and engaging than any modern M3. And it pulls off its long, narrow grille with more grace. Used prices for a Gulia QV now start around $45,000.
Most people who buy an M3 or an M4 will never take it to a track; they will just drive it around, putting on highway miles with the occasional backroad excursion. If you only plan to use your car on the street, why not consider the Lexus RC F? This Lexus performance coupe is more comfortable to drive every day, and it retains a better long-term track record for reliability. It also contains the best-sounding engine on this list, a 5.0-liter V8 producing 467 hp. With used prices now starting at under $40,000, the RC F should earn a spot on your shopping list.
As the lone American option on this list, the Cadillac ATS-V proves that Europe doesn't hold a monopoly on great performance sedans and coupes. Though the ATS-V's 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 464 hp is far from the most spectacular engine on this list, the rest of the car is outstanding. The ATS-V's chassis and steering rank near the top of this class, aside from the BMWs, it is the only one that offers a manual transmission. Prices begin in the low $30,000 range, or just below $40,00 with a CPO warranty.