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2021 BMW M3 and M4 detailed: rear-drive and manual to stay

John Law

BMW has finally unveiled the all-new M3 and M4 packing twin-turbo straight-six power, the option of a manual gearbox and rear-wheel-drive, with Australian arrival likely for the first quarter of 2021.

As you can see from the pictures; those grilles have indeed made it to production. It’s the styling that will be most divisive, as the spec sheet does read rather well.

We are still waiting on the full reveal of the M3 Touring and M4 Convertible, but we hope it won’t be long.

2021 BMW M3 M4 Rear
Their best angle, and probably what you’ll see most of on the road and track.

Headlining the spec are the outputs of that ‘S58’ in-line six. Twin-turbos mean it will be good for a maximum of 375kW and 650Nm in top Competition trim. However, BMW will also offer non-comp M3 and M4s.

The availability of a six-speed manual gearbox will make purists happy, though self-shifting means outputs are slightly muzzled. 353kW and 550Nm, to be exact. Still, that’s 22kW up on the outgoing Competition-trim F80, though the torque is identical.

0-100km/h times are, naturally, a little stunted with the manual ‘box, BMW claiming 4.2 seconds versus the 3.9 claimed by the automatic Competition M3 and M4. BMW will, for the first time, offer all-wheel-drive on the new M3 and M4 to rival the Audi RS5 Sportback, though those cars will arrive later in 2021.

2021 BMW M3 M4 Lead
But those grilles made it to production. Maybe they’ll grow on us?

Torque is available between 2,650RPM–6,130RPM for the ‘regular’ M cars, with Competition vehicles having a slightly narrower torque band for their 650Nm, between 2,750 and 5,500RPM. Both make peak power at 6,250RPM though, and redline at 7,200RPM.

The six-speed manual gearbox offers stress-free shifting with automated rev-matching on downshifts. The eight-speed automatic is the same found under the X3M and X4M and has several ‘Drivelogic’ shift modes.

BMW’s M xDrive system that will arrive late next year will be full of switchable modes – like the one found in the current M5 – including Sport, Sport plus and the ability to switch off the front axle, but only with DSC off.

2021 BMW M3 Profile
2021 BMW M3 Profile

For the new generation M cars, BMW has specified adaptive damping as standard on all models. Also switchable brake settings debut, with the ability to choose a more or less sensitive pedal to suit the conditions, something seen on BMW’s M8.

But we should mention the elephant in the room – the exterior styling. Naturally, our full judgement will be held until we see the new vehicles in the flesh. Still, it seems peculiar that BMW has grafted the 4 Series’ divisive grille onto the M3 Sedan, separating the M car from its G20 underling.

It’s a shame, too, because that busy front end doesn’t look like it will flow nicely with the otherwise rather near-perfect proportions of the M3. As for the M4, its appearance is sleek, with that extended carbon lip adding some menace. The overall visual is more mini 8 Series than coupe 3, though.

2021 BMW M3 Good bit
But boy does the M3 look incredible from this angle.

What a choice of launch colours though – the M4 sporting the new Sao Paulo non-metallic and the M3 in the fantastic Isle of Man Green metallic.

Inside the M cars are both business-oriented – driving business that is. There are fewer flashy materials than you’d find on the equivalent Mercedes-AMG, but inside BMW’s latest iDrive system are some intriguing M Drive Professional functions.

Those include a ten-stage traction control system for track driving, lap timing and – for the hooligans – a drift analysis program. Exactly how that world we’ll find out soon.

2021 BMW M3 M4 Interior
2021 BMW M3 M4 Interior

Of course, the M1 and M2 buttons remain on the steering wheel and can be configured to suit the driver’s needs to switch from track to road preferences easily.

Few M cars are bought solely as track cars, though, and BMW offers a wide array of niceties. Those include a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, wireless Apple CarPlay, keyless entry, tri-zone climate control and leather upholstery with optional front-seat cooling.

While a carbon roof is standard, those wanting a little bit of open-air action will be able to option a steel roof with a sunroof at no extra cost.

2021 BMW M4 Profile
The M4 looks like a mini-M8 to us.

BMW Australia says that the new M3 and M4 will be arriving in the first quarter of 2021 in rear-drive non-comp trim, with powerhouse all-wheel-drive Competition cars to follow later in the year.