BMW finally dropped the curtain on its highly anticipated and unusually styled M3 sedan and M4 coupe; they’re among the most compelling of all M models.
Most will first notice the gaping, fish mouth-like opening in the grille center borrowed from the 4-series sedan. And while they might quibble with the unusual configuration of the traditional BMW kidney-shaped grille, what’s most interesting for us is what’s under the carbon fiber hood.
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In keeping with M models’ long-standing tradition offering among the most track-ready cars on the market, the 2021 M3 and M4 don’t disappoint. The standard models are by themselves sterling track animals. With the Competition level, you’re about as close to a race car you can get without installing a roll cage.
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BMW Motorsports has listened to and acted on the opinions of current and prospective owners: “give me tech but let me turn it off when it suits me.” As a result, you have a car that can be thoroughly enjoyed by both novices and seasoned pros alike.
The only available powerplant is the latest 3.0L inline six-cylinder BMW S58 TwinPower Turbo. In standard form, it produces 473 horsepower. That’s a boost of 48 horsepower over the previous year’s M3 and M4 models. The S58 engine output in the Competition models delivers 503 horsepower, which is an additional boost of 59 horsepower and 73lb.-ft. of torque over the 2020 M3 Competition models and drops the 0 to 60 time to 3.8 seconds.
Buyers can select from a manual six-speed transmission (yeah) and an eight-speed automatic on standard models. The ZF-manufactured M Steptronic automatic is the only choice for Competition models. Both offer a rev-matching function to assist in downshifting, which can be switched off if you know, or are learning, how to downshift into a corner.
To provide a solid basis from which the suspension can effectively operate, BMW added front, central and back-end bracing to the already stout 3- and 4-Series chassis.
The M-specific front suspension features new aluminum wishbones and aluminum torque arm, along with several other tweaks. Also new are lightweight wheel bearings that allow for a broader range of camber adjustments. The five-link rear suspension features newly developed hubs and wishbone control arms that ensure the back half of the car handles as well as the front.
The standard Adaptive M damper system operates through electromagnetically-controlled valves that respond in milliseconds to arrive at the ideal damping force for each wheel. The damper characteristics are adjustable via the M Setup menu, where the driver can select from three modes: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus.
New for 2021 are six-piston fixed-caliper brakes with 15-inch rotors and rear single-piston floating-calipers with 14.5-inch discs. For reference, the front brake rotor diameter is equal to the maximum front rotor diameter of a Le Mans P1 prototype.
Undoubtedly a reference to the BMW colors, the calipers are painted in blue metallic. Don’t like blue? Alternatively, the calipers can be ordered in either a black or red finish. All three feature the M logo. The optional M carbon-ceramic brakes deliver even stronger braking power with greater fade resistance, enhanced thermal stability and extremely high resistance to wear. The gold-colored calipers are complemented by front 15.7-inch discs front with 15-inch disks at the back.
The M integrated braking system offers two driver-selected settings for brake pedal feel. Its brake-by-wire technology can be adjusted to either Comfort or Sport settings. The optional M Traction Control system includes a new wheel slip management function allowing the driver to adjust through 10 levels.
On the outside are the types of aerodynamic refinements you’d expected in track-focused cars: a standard carbon-fiber roof, M-specific front and side splitters, and staggered wheels setup with 18-inchers up and 19-inchers at the back, while the Competition model gets 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inchers at the rear. Wheels are forged alloy. There’s also an optional M Carbon package available on both the M3 and M4, which adds more lightweight carbon fiber aero pieces to the exterior.
On the inside, the M3 and M4 feature buttons on the center console and steering wheel that can switch on and off different performance aides. A 12.3-inch Live Cockpit Professional digital instrument cluster can be set to report on track-specific data (including a drift analyzer, I kid you not).
The interior is highlighted by the leather-lined front seats with backlit badges and supportive bolsters. A set of optional carbon-fiber bucket seats that not only are 21 pounds lighter than relative to the standard units but have slots in the right places for racing harnesses, and let’s face it, carbon seats are just plain cool.
Despite its sporting intentions, BMW M-Series buyers also expect high-end features in their cars as well. To satisfy that need, options include: LED head- and taillights, an in-dash navigation system, parking sensors, a proximity key, a Harman/Kardon audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and active safety technologies including automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
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