The new M3 is improved in more ways than one.
The 2021 BMW M3 has arrived after a long buildup fraught with official teasers, unofficial leaked images, and countless spy shots. Now that it's here, the topic of conversation is squarely aimed at the massive front kidney grille, which is borrowed from the 4 Series Coupe and shared with the M4.
While some people are ready to dismiss the car based on the front end styling alone, it's worth noting that the new M3 improves on its predecessor in every measurable way (yes, including grille size), likely putting it back near the top of the performance sedan pantheon.
There's only one place to start when talking about the new M3's styling. As expected, the M3 adopts the same front end as the M4, which first debuted on the latest 4 Series Coupe. BMW enthusiasts who disliked the large kidney grilles on the 7 Series and X7 will feel the same about this new front end, but perhaps the rest of the car's design can win them over. Plus, a European front license plate does wonders to mask the grille's size.
Like the grille, the rest of the M3 is more aggressive than ever before. It features massive scoops and creases, car-inspired extended side sills, flared wheel arches, a lip spoiler, and enormous quad exhaust pipes. Standard M3 models ride on giant staggered wheels, 18-inches upfront, and 19-inches at the rear, with Competition models getting even larger 19- and 20-inchers. Several bold paint options are available, including the launch color, Isle of Man Green Metallic.
Inside, the M3 looks as we expected. BMW took the base 3 Series and added the usual M bits. There's a different steering wheel with red M1 and M2 buttons, a new shifter with surrounding M drive mode controls, and more bolstered M sport seats that are available with ventilation for the first time. BMW also offers more aggressive M Carbon bucket seats (pictured on the M4), saving a whopping 21 pounds compared to the base chairs. Their race-inspired design allows drivers to install multi-point seat belts on track days, and they even come in an outrageous combination of black, teal, and neon.
Along with the crazy seats, BMW will fix one of our biggest gripes with the current M portfolio, the paddle shifters. The paddles on the current crop of M cars feel too small, but the M3 offers extended carbon ones that look much better.
As anticipated, the M3 borrows the S58 twin-turbo inline-six engine from the X3 M and X4 M. In the M3, it produces 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 48 hp over the outgoing model. The M3 Competition dials up the power even more with 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. BMW says the base car hits 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, with the Competition taking only 3.8 seconds. Extra attention has been paid to the exhaust on this model as well, so we expect it to sound much better than the outgoing M3.
Customers who buy the M3 core model will row their own gears with a six-speed manual transmission sending power to the rear wheels only. Competition models get an eight-speed automatic, sending the grunt to an M xDrive system. The all-wheel-drive system features an Active M differential, which can disable the power to the front wheels, enabling a RWD mode for smokey burnouts.
BMW priced the base M3 at $69,900, with the M3 Competition ringing in at $72,800. These prices make the M3 less expensive than the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Audi RS5 Sportback. The base Mercedes-AMG C63 slightly undercuts the M3 (albeit with less power), but the more powerful C63 S costs more than the M3 Competition. Options and packages will push the M3's price much higher, but at least on paper, the M3 looks like the most well-rounded vehicle in its segment.