2021 BMW M3: Bold Design, Same Proven Formula

The legendary BMW nameplate is true to form with an available 6-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive model.

The BMW M3 has always been a driver’s car. With ample power, a balanced chassis, phenomenal feedback, great handling and practicality, it is the ultimate all-around sportscar. The car represents what the relationship between driver and machine should be — connected. Although BMW’s magical hydraulic steering had to make way for comfort and apparently the reduced effort demanded by the majority of its consumers (we’re guessing non-enthusiasts), the fundamental driver engagement that the M3 is known for, largely remains. Fortunately, for the latest iteration of the iconic sportscar, BMW still offers a model with a manual transmission and conventional rear-wheel drive. The great news suggests that the company is still committed to preserving their crown jewel’s legendary status.

BMW will offer two models, the standard M3 and a higher performance M3 Competition variant. Both trims utilize a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 engine that features a closed-deck block and forged, lightweight crankshaft. The S58 powerplant, also found in the X3 M and X4 M, produces 473 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 406 lb-ft of torque between 2,650 and 6,130 rpm in the entry-level model. The Competition trim receives an upgraded form of that same engine that generates 503 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 479 lb-ft of torque between 2,750 and 5,500 rpm. Both engines have a 7,200 rpm redline.

While a 6-speed manual transmission is available, unfortunately, it will be restricted to the entry-level model. BMW’s Gear Shift Assistant will provide rev-matching downshifts, but the system can be completely turned off for a more engaging experience. An 8-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission will be the only drivetrain available on the Competition trim. The quick-shifting automatic will not be offered on the base car.

A rear-drive configuration will be standard on both models and an M xDrive option will be available sometime next summer on the M3 Competition. The all-wheel drive system will be rear-biased and will also feature a rear-wheel drive mode, like the larger and more potent M5. BMW claims that the standard M3 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, while the more powerful Competition model can complete the run in 3.8 seconds. However, based on BMW’s history of underestimating the performance of its cars, we’re guessing that they are significantly quicker. The top speed in both cars are electronically limited to 155 mph. However, an optional M Driver’s Package raises that limit to 180 mph.

Both cars use BMW’s Adaptive M suspension, which features electronically controlled shock absorbers. The adjustable system offers three modes — Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. For steering, the M cars get an upgraded M Servotronic system that includes a Comfort and a Sport setting. While it is still the electrically assisted power steering setup despised by purists, the M-tuned variable ratio system should provide a good amount of feedback and precision. The base M3 will come standard with the M Compound brake package that makes use of six-piston fixed-calipers on the front and single-piston floating-calipers on the rear. The front rotors measure out to 15.0 inches, while the rear come in at 14.6 inches. An optional carbon-ceramic brake package provides the upgraded braking material along with 15.7-inch front and 15.0-inch rear discs. The high-performance sedans will also feature adjustable brake pedal pressure through two modes — Comfort and Sport.

While the foundational mechanics of the new sixth generation M3 remain familiar, the massive vertical kidney grilles are uncharted territory and understandably controversial. Whatever your stance is on the design, that exterior attribute on its own profoundly distinguishes the M variant from the standard 3-series model. Additional M3-specific design cues include a sculpted hood with indentations that resemble vents, carbon-fiber roof, rear diffuser and extended side skirts. The new car also gets 100 millimeter quad exhaust tips, aerodynamic side view mirrors, flared wheel arches and fender gills with M badges. The design enhancements come together on an M3 that is 0.4 inches wider than its predecessor and 2.4 inches wider than a standard 3-series car.

Forged light-alloy wheels are included with both cars. On the base model, 18-inch front and 19-inch rear sizes come standard. The standard set of rubber includes 275/40ZR-18 front and 285/35ZR-19 rear tires. The Competition package gets larger 19-inch front wheels wrapped in 275/35ZR rubber and 20-inch rear wheels with 285/30ZR tires. An optional M Carbon Exterior Package extends carbon-fiber to the front air intake inlays, rear diffuser, exterior mirror caps and rear spoiler.

The interior of the M3 provides a good mix of simple designs, luxury, high-end materials and sporty characteristics. What is essentially a standard 3-series cabin, is given the M treatment with M buttons, M logos, a thick steering wheel, carbon-fiber trim and of course those special M Sport seats. While the standard seats provide plenty of support for high-speed cornering, BMW offers an aggressive racing-inspired set from the M Carbon Bucket package. The carbon-fiber seats with cut-outs include an illuminated M badge just like the standard seats. Those seats also save 21 pounds over the standard set.

Technology features include a 12.3-inch digital gauge display located directly in front of the driver and a 10.25-inch high-resolution touch screen display for the iDrive 7.0 infotainment system. A cloud-based navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Harman-Kardon audio system come standard. Wireless charging, WiFi hotspot, gesture control and a heads-up display system are optional.

The M3 will start at a reasonable $70,895, while the Competition model will only cost an extra $2,900 for a grand total starting MSRP of $73,795. Both cars will arrive in dealer showrooms in March 2021.

2021 BMW M3


PRICE$70,895 (Starting MSRP)
$73,795 (Competition Starting MSRP)
BODY STYLE4-door sedan
ENGINE TYPE3.0 liter twin-turbocharged and
intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6
POWER473 hp @ 6,250 rpm
503 hp @ 6,250 rpm (Competition)
TORQUE406 lb-ft @ 2,650 – 6,130 rpm
479 lb-ft @ 2,750 – 5,500 rpm (Competition)
DRIVE TYPERear-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION6-speed manual
8-speed M Steptronic automatic (Competition)
LENGTH189.1  in
WIDTH74.3 in
HEIGHT56.4 in
CURB WEIGHT3,840 lbs
3,890 lbs (Competition)
53.1% / 46.9% (Competition)
WHEEL DIMENSIONS18-in x 9.5-in Front
19-in x 10.5-in Rear
19-in x 9.5-in Front
20-in x 10.5-in Rear
285/35ZR-19 Rear
275/35ZR-19 Front
285/30ZR-20 Rear
0 – 60 MPH4.1 sec
3.8 sec (Competition)
TOP SPEED155 mph (electronically limited)
180 mph with M Driver’s Package



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