New-generation performance sedan and coupe score up to 375kW and a manual option, but wear a pair of controversial grilles
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Update, 29 September 2020: Following yesterday's leak, Australian pricing for the 2021 BMW M3 and BMW M4 has been officially confirmed. 'Base' and Competition M3 sedan models retail for $144,900 and $154,900 plus on-road costs respectively, while the base and Competition M4 coupe models are priced from $149,900 and $159,900 plus on-roads respectively.

To read the full list of standard equipment and available options, click here.


  • 2021 BMW M3 and BMW M4 officially unveiled, at last
  • 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six available in 353kW/550Nm ‘base’ or 375kW/650Nm Competition forms
  • Six-speed manual continues for the new generation, eight-speed auto also on offer
  • M Drive Professional software system offers a lap timer, 10-mode traction control, drift settings
  • Tall ‘coffin’ grilles shared between M3 and M4

23 September 2020: This is it. BMW M has pulled the wraps off the 2021 M3 sedan and M4 coupe, its hotly-anticipated, new-generation challengers to the Audi RS4/RS5, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG C63.


Click any of the photos in this story for our full gallery

Design

Arguably the most polarising styling element of the new M3 and M4 are their grilles.

Shared between the sedan and coupe (and, in time, the M4 convertible and M3 Touring wagon) the pair of ‘nostrils’ sport a horizontal-bar pattern, and are flanked by low-set air intakes and laser headlights shared with the 4 Series coupe.

Slim, vertical vents on the edges of the bumper channel air into two radiators mounted inside the wheel arches, which also house 19-inch front and 20-inch rear forged alloy wheels wrapped in 275/35 front and 285/30 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.

Down the side, headline changes include aggressive black side skirts, M-specific ‘double arm’ mirrors, ‘hockey stick’ body lines and flared wheel arches front and rear.

At the rear, a quad-tipped sports exhaust system is the salient feature, complementing a black rear diffuser.

Carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) features in the roof and the subtle rear lip spoiler fitted to Competition models. Buyers looking for an even more thorough carbon-fibre treatment can opt for the M Carbon Package, or select from an array of optional M Performance Parts.

New to the exterior colour palette are Isle of Man Green metallic (pictured on the M3), Sao Paulo Yellow (seen on the launch-spec M4) and Toronto Red metallic.


Powertrain

Under the bonnet of both the M3 and M4 is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline-six engine shared with the high-riding X3 M and X4 M SUVs. Compared to the outgoing M3/M4 duo’s ‘S55’ turbo-six, the new cars’ ‘S58’ engine is all new, featuring direct injection (running at 350-bar of pressure) and a ‘flow-optimised air intake system’.

In ‘base’ trim, the M-specific mill develops 353kW of power (at 6250rpm) and 550Nm of torque (from 2650-6130rpm) – 50Nm down on the ‘standard’ X3 M and X4 M, not offered in Australia.

Launch cars feed drive to the rear wheels only through – listen closely, purists – a six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching. An eight-speed torque-converter automatic should likely (though not officially confirmed) be offered at a later date.

BMW claims a 0-100km/h sprint time for both ‘entry-level’ M3 and M4 models of 4.1 seconds, and a 0-200km/h dash in 13.7 seconds.

Buyers keen for more grunt can opt for the top-spec Competition model, which extracts 375kW (at 6250rpm) and 650Nm (from 2750-5500rpm) from the same S58 six – 50Nm more than the related X3 M and X4 M Competition. Redline arrives at 7200rpm.

The Competition’s outputs bring BMW M’s performance twins on par with their key rivals, namely the 375kW/700Nm, 4.0-litre V8-powered Mercedes-AMG C63 S and the 375kW/600Nm, 2.9-litre V6-powered Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

Drive is sent exclusively to the rear wheels through the same eight-speed auto, enabling 0-100km/h and 0-200km/h times of 3.9 seconds and 12.5 seconds respectively.

No top speed figures have been announced, though expect similar or better figures than the electronically-limited 250km/h standard and 280-285km/h optional top speeds posted by the taller X3 M and X4 M duo.

Click any of the photos in this story for our full gallery

BMW Australia will offer “all variants” of the new M3 and M4 Down Under, including both standard and Competition model grades, and both manual and automatic transmission options.

All-wheel-drive versions of the M3 and M4 Competition – featuring a switchable M xDrive system similar to the larger M5 and M8, with 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD modes, the lattermost disabling stability control and disconnecting the front axle – will join the range by late 2021.

Compared to their ‘standard’ counterparts, Competition models also gain additional engine and transmission oil coolers, joining the central cooling unit and two outboard radiators already on offer.


Chassis and Performance Features

Under the skin, the new BMW M3 and M4 score a range of performance features to sharpen the driving experience, including adaptive dampers, M-specific suspension geometry, a limited-slip rear differential, variable sports steering, a multi-mode sports exhaust, and a high-performance braking system with two different modes to tailor the brake response and pedal feel to the driver’s tastes.

While we’re discussing drive modes, three ‘M Mode’ presets are on offer in the M3 and M4 – Road, Sport and Track – which alter a range of vehicle parameters, including engine and chassis settings, braking feel, steering response, stability control and, depending on the model, the M xDrive system and the manual gearbox’s rev-matching functionality.

Pressing the ‘Setup’ button beside the gear selector enables each setting to be altered individually by the driver, with custom presets able to be programmed to the red ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ buttons on the steering wheel.

The digital instrument cluster and heads-up display layouts also change depending on the drive mode selected.

BMW M’s ‘M Drive Professional’ software system debuts on the new M3 and M4, consisting of a range of features aimed “specifically at track driving”, headlined by the ‘M Traction Control’ system that offers up to 10 modes to vary the severity of the stability control.

The M Drive Professional suite also includes ‘M Drift Analyser’, which records and displays telemetry from the driver’s “dynamic cornering manoeuvres” (read: powerslides) on track, and the ‘M Laptimer’, which records lap times and other data when on track.

Helping to cope with the additional grunt under the bonnet compared to non-M 3 Series and 4 Series models is an array of body-stiffening measures. These include an aluminium shear panel mounted to the front subframe, underbody ‘bracing elements’, stiffer rear axle subframe connections, and additional strut bracing under the bonnet.


Above and below: Tan interior is M3, blue is M4.

Interior and Technology

Inside, the new BMW M3 and M4 share much of their cabin with standard 3 Series and 4 Series models, namely their 10.25-inch central infotainment display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

M-specific interior upgrades include the aforementioned M1 and M2 steering wheel buttons, M-branded manual/automatic gear selector, ‘M3’ or ‘M4’ centre console badging, ‘M Mode’ and ‘Setup’ drive mode buttons and a red starter button.

Buyers will be presented with a choice of two seat options: electrically-adjustable, ventilated ‘M sport seats’ trimmed in Merino leather (pictured in the M3), or the new M Carbon bucket seats with removable head restraints for track use, illuminated model badges in the backrests, power adjustment and integrated pass-through holes for multi-point racing harnesses (pictured inside the M4).

Other interior features include keyless entry, push-button start, three-zone climate control, ambient LED cabin lighting, wireless smartphone mirroring, satellite navigation and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system.

A glass sunroof is also available, though optioning it sees the carbon-fibre roof replaced with a heavier steel version.

Available safety technologies include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-keep assist, front and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-change warning, traffic-sign detection, automatic parking and a 360-degree camera.


When will the 2021 BMW M3 and M4 come to Australia?

The 2021 BMW M3 and M4 will touch down in Australia in the first quarter of 2021. The brand’s local arm has confirmed that all variants of the performance duo will be offered Down Under, meaning a launch line-up consisting of 353kW manual and 375kW Competition automatic variants.

Pricing and specifications will be announced closer to launch.


Below: 2019 BMW M3 CS


Below: 2018 BMW M4 CS