The 2021 BMW M3 and M4 Better Be Amazing to Drive Because Damn

Are 503 horsepower and ten-stage traction control enough to make up for the grilles?

What you’re officially looking at is the 2021 BMW M3 and M4. Yes, that is the real nose and, yes, BMW actually chose those colors to debut it in. They’ve been leaked. They’ve been spied. We’ve seen the grilles. You’ve seen the grilles. Words have been said. This is what these performance legends looks like now, and we are all just going to have to live with that. Let’s move on to matters less upsetting, like the new M3 and M4’s 3.0-liter S58 twin-turbo inline-six, which redlines at 7,200 rpm and can be had in two configurations: Core and Competition.

Purists will likely gravitate towards the core models which put down 473 horsepower, 406 lb-ft of torque, hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and, most notably perhaps, come exclusively with six-speed manual transmissions. The M3 and M4 Competition, meanwhile, get 503 HP, 479 lb-ft of torque, zero to 60 times of 3.8 seconds, and can only be had with an eight-speed auto. Different strokes for different folks. 

Both the core and Competition M cars top out at 155 mph as standard or 180 mph with the M Driver’s Package.

When they launch in March, all versions of the BMW M3 and M4 will be rear-wheel-drive. Come summer 2021, however, the Competition models will be getting a rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive option, an M3/M4-first in the line’s 35-year history. That said, don’t expect AWD to turn these M machines into understeering plow-mobiles, because the xDrive systems here will essentially operate in rear-drive during normal driving and only direct power to the front axle as needed. 

Like the system in the M5, xDrive will come with three modes: default 4WD, 4WD Sport that further prioritizes the rear for more spirited driving, and a pure 2WD mode that turns off the stability control and stops sending power to the front entirely, turning the M3 and M4 back into the rear-drive drift missiles that they were meant to be.

A powerful engine, RWD, and 3D-printed cylinder head cores aren’t the only ingredients needed to make a proper M car, so naturally, BMW’s performance arm has worked its magic on the new M3 and M4’s running gear, throwing in electronically controlled Adaptive M suspension with three damper settings, two brake pedal feel configurations, two steering settings, and traction control with ten stages of varying leniency. 

The front suspension features new aluminum wishbones and tracks 1.5 inches wider than before while bracing under the hood connects the two shock towers to each other as well as to the bulkhead and front end. More bracing connects both the engine compartment and trunk to their respective subframes for maximum rigidity. Newly-developed M Compound brakes with six-piston front calipers are apparently stronger and fade less easily.

A new Setup button on the center console quickly pulls up a screen that lets owners alter drive-related settings, eliminating the need to tediously dig through menus every time you go over a pothole and realize you’ve got the suspension on “Too Firm for Road” mode.


It all sounds quite promising. And considering the quality with which the regular 3 Series now drives, I’m almost positive the 2021 M3 and M4 will be supremely competent driving machines. The ultimate driving machines, one might say. However, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I covered this reveal without actually saying anything about that styling. So here goes.

The grille is bad and should’ve stayed on the Concept. The center camera placed right in between the kidneys sticks out like a pimple in between a pair of eyebrows and does the design no favors. The interior color scheme BMW has chosen for the M4 you see in this set of pictures is just as offensive, as is the trypophobia-inducing red trim on the back of the automatic transmission paddles.

“The design is resoundingly function-driven, pure and reduced without compromise. At the same time, it provides an emotionally engaging window into the vehicle character,” said BMW design senior vice president Adrian van Hooydonk in a news release. I was just about to say something about how a car’s underlying personality is the only thing that counts but nevermind, I guess.

Oversized grilles and questionable color choices aside, the rest of the 2021 BMW M3 and M4 actually looks fine. Good, even. The fenders are appropriately swollen, the wheels look pretty cool, and the signature quad exhausts tell the world they mean business. Outside of America, BMW is even working on a Touring version. If you can get over those front ends, the 2021 BMW M3 starts at $70,895 while the M4 starts at $72,795.

In the interest of ending on a positive note, here’s a small gallery of the new M3 and M4 from their best angles.

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