BMW unveils next generation M3 sedan and M4 coupe

New performance models scheduled to reach showrooms in March 2021

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BMW M4
BMW's new M4 coupe Competition model | BMW photos

BMW has unveiled the latest iteration of two automotive icons, the M3 sedan and M4 coupe, each available with as much as 503 horsepower and, during the summer of 2021, each available with M xDrive on Competition models.

Pricing starts at $69,000 for the M3 and at $71,800 for the M4, with cars reaching dealerships in March 2021, BMW’s North American headquarters announced.

The new M3 sedan represents the sixth generation of the model that debuted 35 years ago as the E30 M3, with US sales beginning two years later. The new M4 coupe is part of the second generation of that model. 

Each, BMW said, will deliver “uncompromised street and track capabilities for which the model line has become well-known.”

New BMW M3 sedan with Competition setup

The cars are powered by twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder S58 engines producing 473 horsepower in standard guise and up to 503 horsepower in Competition models. The cars will be available with a traditional 6-speed manual transmission, “something that is rare in the car’s segment,” BMW noted.

The alternative transmission will be an 8-Speed M Steptronic gearbox.

In standard guise, BMW says the cars will accelerate to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. Top speed is 155, or 180 when equipped with the M Driver’s package. Competition versions will hit 60 in 3.8 seconds.

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M3 on the track

The cars’ design was “function-driven, pure and reduced without compromise,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW Group design. However, he added, “At the same time, it provides an emotionally engaging window into the vehicle character.”

The new cars are 4.6 inches longer than the previous versions and ride on wheelbases 1.8 inches longer. 

“The front end of the new M3 displays the most aggressive differentiation from its non-M sibling,” the company noted. “Like the new M4, the front end is highlighted by the large and deep frameless BMW kidney grille designed to feed the massive amounts of air needed for fulfilling the cooling requirements under the most rigorous conditions. 

“Cooling for the engine and brakes is provided by large additional intakes on either side of the kidney grille. These two-section apertures feature brake air ducts on the inside and air supply for the remote coolant radiators to the outside. At the outer edges of the front bumper, the vertical intakes for the Air Curtains accentuate the width of the car.”

A feature of design and engineering is the presence on the M3 and M4 of a roof made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic to lower the center of gravity and with a pair of fins running longitudinally over the CFRP roof optimize airflow. 

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M4 coupe with Competition package

Inside the new M3 and M4 are new sport seats with Merino leather trim and pronounced side bolsters and integrated head restraints, although there are optional electric M Carbon buckets designed to “combine racing functionality with lightweight design and comfort over long distances.”

A new Setup button on the center console allows the driver to select from among seven powertrain and chassis settings. An M-mode button on the console can be used “to adjust the responses and characteristics of the driver assistance systems and the displays in the instrument cluster and optional Head-Up Display to deliver a driving experience suited to the situation at hand.”

Cars with the new M Drive Professional technology include a Track mode.

“This new option helps the driver to make consistent progress in pursuit of the ideal line and the perfect lap,” BMW said. “Features include the M Drift Analyzer which records the duration, distance covered, line and angle of a drift with a rating shown on the Control Display.

M3 Competition version

“Other functions include the M Laptimer, which provides a comprehensive amount of performance information, shown on both the optional Head-Up display and in the instrument cluster, beyond just recording lap times.  As well as checking their current lap time, the driver can also keep a constant eye on how much quicker or slower they are than their fastest lap of the current session.

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“The Control Display shows the number of laps completed so far, the distance covered and the duration of the driver’s current stint. The driver can also analyze the data recorded during their track outing in detail using the BMW M Laptimer app on their Apple iPhone – and share selected information with the online community. 

“Among the resources available are a bird’s-eye map view of the track, a lap time comparison, data from the car’s sensors such as speed, engine revs and accelerator position, and graphics showing the lateral and longitudinal acceleration values attained.”

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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