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

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.

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BMW iX3 electric SUV charging BMW doubles down on “power of choice” plan to provide petrol, diesel, electric options on every model

German manufacturer BMW has reaffirmed its commitment to offering buyers a choice of combustion or electrified powertrains across every model line in future as part of a philosophy labelled ‘power of choice’ by the Bavarian automotive powerhouse.

Rejecting the notion that combustion engines will cease being available for sale in a decade’s time, as some bullish European governments have hypothesised, BMW electromobility spokesman and expert Wieland Bruch told Chasing Cars that “the internal combustion engine, for many years to come, will still contribute a substantial share of overall sales” for the luxury brand.

Wieland Bruch
Wieland Bruch, BMW’s global electromobility spokesperson.

That being said, BMW has also reiterated its suggestion that by next year, the brand expects one quarter of its global sales to be electrified – meaning either full battery-electric (BEV) with no combustion support, or a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) combination powertrains, which couple an urban-range battery and electric motor to a traditional engine for long-range flexibility.

The strategy, which sees BMW hedge its bets on future vehicular energy sources more conservatively than other mainstream premium brands like Volvo, who have committed to their current generation of combustion engines being the company’s last before full electrification.

BMW’s approach is, naturally, also a counterpoint to the advent of electric-only marques, most prominently Tesla – and is a bet founded on the notion that while battery technology is becoming more sophisticated and cheaper, private buyers will continue to preference the combustion engine over the next ten years at least.

Reaffirming ‘power of choice’ comes as BMW prepares to launch their first fully-electric SUV into the market. Encapsulating what this strategy is all about, the new iX3 is a BEV variant of the brand’s highest-selling model, the X3 midsize SUV. The arrival of the electric iX3 will mean the crossover will be available in petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid electric and fully-electric forms.

BMW iX3 electric SUV next to dam
BMW’s top-selling X3 is the first model line to fill out a ‘power of choice’ offer, with the impending arrival of the iX3 BEV

Bruch said the X3 midsizer, which competes with the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, was chosen as the first vehicle to implement ‘power of choice’ due to its status as the brand’s most popular vehicle.

“The BMW X3 is our best-selling SUV all around the world, so there is a massive volume, and therefore also a massive possible contribution in terms of lowering CO2 emissions, and the X3 was [also] suitable in its lifecycle to introduce the Generation 5 EV drivetrain,” he said. That powertrain refers to the iX3’s 210kW/400Nm motor, paired to a 74kWh usable battery providing this rear-drive SUV with 459km of range on the WLTP testing cycle.

Mr Bruch says that the approach taken with the X3 lineup will be mirrored across the brand’s other model lines in future – we should expect to see petrol, diesel, PHEV and BEV versions of other BMWs soon. That said, there is still the possibility that local lineups for Australia will be tweaked to match customer demand. The iX3 has been confirmed for arrival here in mid-2021.

2020 Mini Countryman PHEV review4
The BMW Group (including Mini) will offer petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and full-electric vehicles in each model line. Pictured: Mini Countryman PHEV.

“There is a wide choice of technologies we would like to continue offering to customers. What we are showing now with the BMW X3, as the first model line to be available with all the different drivetrains, is the path we are continuing for all the model lines in the future.”

The philosophy represents a departure from BMW’s previous approach of developing lightweight electric-only platforms like the ‘Carbon Core’ chassis that sits under the brand’s i3 all-electric hatch. The high cost of such an approach was ditched in favour of making the Munich brand’s ‘Cluster Architecture’ platform electric-ready from the beginning. CLAR, as the chassis is known internally, underpins every BMW larger than, and including, the 3 Series sedan and wagon and X3 SUV.

All of that being said, the ‘power of choice’ mantra will still see outdated combustion engine technologies phased out in order to meet rigorous European Union emissions standards. Mr Bruch said all combustion BMW engines will feature 48-volt mild hybrid (MHEV) tech in future in a bid to lower fuel consumption.

The ‘power of choice’ strategy is a departure from BMW’s development of specific electric vehicles and platforms. Pictured: BMW i3.

By the end of 2021, two-thirds of BMW’s vehicles fitted with petrol or diesel engines will have 48-volt MHEV technology incorporated as standard – but Mr Bruch was at pains to note that unlike some other manufacturers, BMW does not lump MHEV in with their definition of electrified vehicles – they prefer to see MHEV as a natural extension of the combustion engine.

Bruch also says that ‘power of choice’ will assist BMW in dealing with the increasingly complex web of emissions regulations and targets in various markets. A variety of European countries have announced that they will pursue full or partial bans on internal combustion vehicles in 2030, while Norway plans to enact an even more bullish target of 2025.

“It is a complex game to keep track of all the different markets with all the ever-changing incentivisation schemes,” Mr Bruch said. “We carefully monitor all the markets with their announcements about when they are to ban internal combustion engines, and when they announce new inventive schemes for PHEVs, or the end of incentivisation schemes. All that, we feel, confirms our approach that flexibility for the next many years is key”

BMW iX3 electric SUV schemtatic
The Cluster Architecture platform that underpins most new BMWs was developed to be electric-ready from the beginning.

The strategy will also allow BMW to be more competitive if these quite radical plans to ban combustion engines are relaxed, Bruch claimed. “We are only at the beginning of all these complex observations, and we are now in a natural phase where sometimes announcements might have been a bit overexaggerated, and then it [may] be adjusted in future again. If the world decided climate protection is not that important, we would be prepared for that one, too.”

BMW is right so suggest that targets are easy to announce while firm bans are harder to follow through with politically – but Mr Bruch also pointed out that the Munich manufacturer’s view was that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be an excuse to slow down progress in reducing vehicle emissions.

“There is a debate to what extent the COVID-19 crisis should affect future CO2 targets, and there are some players out there who are suggesting diluting or reducing the next [European Union] CO2 targets, in favour of the crisis recovery for economics, and so on. We at BMW are not part of that group. We feel COVID-19 should not lead to any dilution or lowering of CO2 targets. We will make our contributions, and we are sticking to those targets that have been set already.”

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2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe Lead BMW 4 Series due in October with lower price of entry

BMW’s controversial 4 Series Coupe is coming to Australia in October starting from $70,900 (driveaway pricing TBA) for the entry-level 420i.

Other models coming at launch will be the mid-spec 430i starting at $88,900 (driveaway pricing TBA), and range-topping $116,900 (driveaway pricing TBA) M440i xDrive.

When it does arrive in October, the new 4 Series will face fierce competition from its usual foes like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, Audi A5 Coupe and Sportback and Lexus RC.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe Lead
We’re still not convinced by the styling.

BMW’s styling direction means that the new 4 Series will probably be the most distinctive of the lot on the road, with those long ‘beaver teeth’ harking back to the 328. The proportions are certainly classic; lower, longer by 130mm and 28mm broader at the front and 18mm at the rear.

To our eyes to design doesn’t flow like the old 4 Series or 3 Series coupes, though. The design language appears a little confused from to side front to back, we’ll wait until we see one in the flesh to comment fully.

Where the exterior styling is up for debate, the interior is not. The new 4 Series is what you expect to see; there’s the thick M Sport leather steering wheel, centrally mounted tablet screen for the iDrive and easy-to-access control station on the centre console.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe Interior
At least the interior is familiar and functional.

It’s interesting to note that, despite being an all-new car, BMW has dropped the price of entry to the 4 Series Coupe. The F32 420i was finished in luxury line exterior trim – where M Sport is now standard – and commanded an extra $1,400 even at the end of its life.

Powering the new 420i is the same B48 two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces the same 135kW, but now 30Nm more at 300Nm. It’s also equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights outside.

Inside, there are electrically-adjustable sports seats upholstered in a mix of Alcantara and man-made leather. There’s also a head-up display, digital driver’s display, wireless smartphone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. It sounds like the new vehicle represents outstanding value.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe Prodile
The designers got the proportions right – it’s 57mm lower than the 3 Series Sedan.

The 430i packs more punch with 190kW and 400Nm coming from its two-litre turbocharged engine. Those outputs are up 5kW and 50Nm from before, it’s also the most potent rear-wheel-drive 4 Series Coupe coming to Australia.

Strangely, the price is up by $6,500 for the 430i where the 420i dropped. Additional standard equipment includes Vernasca leather-appointed seats, adaptive M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist and 360-degree camera system.

Topping out the 4 Series range is the sole six-cylinder for Australia, the M440i xDrive. Powered by the brand’s three-litre turbocharged B58 engine, outputs climb by 45kW and 50Nm compared to its predecessor. Serious extra motivation, which means BMW saw fit to hook an xDrive all-wheel-drive system up to the ZF eight-speed auto.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe Front 3/4
But the M440i xDrive will get to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds, says BMW.

Still, that means 0-100km/h should be dispatched in 4.5 seconds, or faster than Audi’s S5. For the $116,900 (driveaway pricing TBA) asking price, BMW also throws in different 19-inch alloys, a sunroof, ambient lights, limited-slip differential on the rear axle, laser headlights, power tailgate and a harman kardon stereo.

For now, the M440i xDrive will be the quickest 4 Series, but the all-new M3 and M4 due to be revealed in September will eclipse these numbers.

Naturally, BMW offers a selection of options packages for the new 4 Series. The M carbon exterior package adds carbon mirror caps and splitters and is available on all models.

2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe rearend
We hope it drives well, too.

The 420i and 430i will be available with a visibility package that throws in a sunroof, ambient lighting and laser headlights. There’s also the comfort pack offered that adds seat heating, digital key functionality and a power tailgate.

For keener drivers, BMW’s M Sport plus package adds a boot-lip spoiler and M seatbelts. 430i models also get a limited-slip differential, while the 420i gets the uprated M Sport brakes.

Of course, a raft of customisation will be possible – from paint colours to interior trims to wheel design. Exact pricing details on packages and extras will be confirmed closer to the all0new 4 Series’ arrival in October this year.

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BMW M3 Touring G31 2021 BMW M3 Touring: no more dreaming, it’s happening

BMW has announced plans to make motoring enthusiasts everywhere froth at the mouth by developing the first-ever (factory sanctioned) M3 Touring.

Enthusiasts have clamoured for the combination of a highly-strung motorsport-derived engine with hallowed small M car handling since the first E30 M3, and now BMW is making it a reality.

In the 32-or-so years since the debut of the M3, there have been a couple of home-made M3 touring projects. Usually, based on the E46 and E91, there are also a few F31 examples floating about.

BMW M3 Touring E46
BMW’s skunkworks E46 M3.

However the G31 won’t be the first factory-produced M3 touring, BMW toyed with the idea when the original E30 M3 came out but that car, sadly, never made it into full-scale production. There is also an E46 M3 Touring concept that was, again, never sold.

There have been only two other M wagons, both 5 Series based. It’s difficult to forget the achingly beautiful E34 M5 Touring with classic BMW styling and innovative concepts like interchangeable hub-caps for the alloy wheels.

Following the E34 came a period of sedan-only M5s, before the fire-breathing E61 M5 Touring, powered by a screaming naturally aspirated V10, burst onto the scene in limited production numbers.

BMW M5 Touring E34
One of two official Touring M cars.

The small teaser image provided highlights the M3 Touring’s dual twin-tips, rear-diffuser, pumped-up rear bumpers and flared arches. You won’t be mistaking the M3 for a 320d, then.

As for why it’s taken BMW so long to furnish us with an M3 Touring, we’re not sure. But the excitement surrounding the M3 Touring will surely help it when it comes to facing the king of this category – the Audi RS4 Avant – and the second-to-arrive Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate.

Some might argue that BMW’s X3 M has already filled this practical high-performance niche – we beg to differ. Although the touring will share the new twin-turbo S58 inline-six and the brand’s cluster architecture with the X3, it’s unlikely the taller SUV will be able to keep up on the track.

BMW M5 Touring E61
The second M Touring, this one with a V10.

That S58 pumps out some pretty impressive numbers in Competition trim – 375kW and 650Nm to be exact. If the Touring shares everything else with the M3 Sedan and M4 coupe, it’s likely to be offered with the choice of eight-speed auto or six-speed manual transmission. 

While the M3 Touring exists to offer more practicality to the M car prospective, the wagon is still having its suspension, engine, brakes and gearbox honed on the fearsome Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Frankly, here at Chasing Cars, we can’t think much that gets us more excited than a 375kW, rear-wheel-drive, Nurburgring-honed wagon with a limited-slip differential.

BMW M3 Touring G31
The next-gen Touring. We can’t wait.

The M3 Sedan and M4 Coupe will be revealed in September this year, though BMW has not confirmed whether the Touring will be as well, just that the M4 Convertible will be ready next year.

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2021 BMW 545e Lead 2021 BMW 545e Sedan is a PHEV with a smooth straight-six

BMW has announced a new PHEV powertrain for the handsome 5 Series line-up. The 545e teams a silky smooth inline-six with an electric motor for a combined output of 290kW.

This is supplemented by an electric-only range of over 50km and combined fuel consumption claimed as low as 2.1L/100km. Not bad for a three-litre ‘six.

The Bavarians say the 5 Series has sold “nearly 50,000” PHEV models, making it the most popular choice, even though BMW offers this same drivetrain in its trendier X5 SUV.

2021 BMW 545e Snout
The blue headlight accents tell you it’s a PHEV.

As for whether the electrified ‘six will make it to Australia to replace the now-defunct 540i, we’ll have to wait and see. If the 545e joins other 5 Series models here, the vehicle will face tough competition from Mercedes-Benz’s new E300e and Audi’s A6, though that car has no PHEV option.

BMW has spread its eggs quite wide, not just focusing on all-electric vehicles like the iX3 and Concept i4, but also on sneakily sliding electrification alongside otherwise mainstream cars, a sort of preparation for future mobility, if you like.

Vital statistics for the 545e are as follows – up front is a familiar ‘B58’ turbocharged three-litre straight-six that produces 210kW on its own. The combustion engine is teamed with an 80kW synchronous electric motor for combined system outputs of 290kW and 600Nm.

2021 BMW 545e Front 3/4
It’s faster than the petrol-powered 540i, too.

In combination with a ZF eight-speed torque-converter gearbox and xDrive all-wheel-drive, the 545e should complete the standard sprint in 4.7 seconds, or one tenth faster than the 540i xDrive sedan.

Compared to the 250kW 540i, the 545e improves fuel use drastically. Claimed consumption for the combustion ‘six is 7.7L/100km, the 545e is claimed to sneak under 2.5L/100km. This isn’t just affected around town, on the freeway the larger battery size of the 545e will allow sailing at higher speeds for further fuel saving.

The 400V lithium-ion batteries are, however, situated under the boot floor of the 545e which encroaches on luggage space slightly. Boot volume shrinks from 530L to 410L.

2021 BMW 545e Boot
Although the batteries do eat into the boot space.

Switchable drive modes naturally rear their head, and drivers will be set to Hybrid mode by default, which uses a combination of two power sources without restriction pace too much. Selecting Sport mode means all 290kW will be available to the driver, though we presume fuel consumption will suffer somewhat. 

Double pressing the Hybrid button activates Eco Pro which will dull responses and prioritise electric power. BMW claims the 545e can travel up to 57km on battery power alone, and reach 140km/h, or more than quick enough to hurt your license in Australia.

A unique jingle, designed by Hans Zimmer, will greet drivers when they switch on the 545e, BMW says. There is also an exterior acoustic warning engineered into the 5 Series, which activates below 30km/h to warn pedestrians of its presence. 

2021 BMW 545e Profile
The 545e is smart enough to know when you’re in low-emission zones.

In European settings the navigation system is smart enough to know when a driver has entered a low emissions zone and, BMW says the vehicle will default “the drive system to purely electric mode” without human intervention.

It’s all pretty intelligent, but whether the 545e will join the rather popular 530e here in Australia is yet to be confirmed. We hope it does, because right now the Australian 5 Series range is sorely lacking the brand’s signature petrol ‘six.

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