ROAD TEST: 2021 BMW M3 & M4

By Shari Prymak

The BMW M3 has long been the go-to performance car for those seeking a thrilling, track-ready driving experience blended into a practical, everyday package. It combines the best attributes of a sports car with the sensibility of a luxury sedan, without comprising much on either end. It many ways, it represents the essence of the BMW brand, which has long touted its focus on building ultimate driving machines. Now in its sixth generation, the latest M3 aims to continue that mission using a familiar formula with a few new twists.

As was the case with the previous generation model, the M3 is only available in a traditional four-door sedan body style. Those looking for a 2-door coupe or convertible can take a look at the mechanically identical M4. Although a sedan is often viewed as less sporty, the M3 has a rather aggressive, purposeful look to it that’s far edgier than what you get with the standard 3-Series models. In addition to the usual performance touches such as the quad exhaust pipes, aggressive body kit, flared fenders, and sportier wheel designs, the major change is with the polarizing front grille design. Say what you will about it, there’s no doubt it gives the M3 an eye-catching look.

The standard version of the M3 comes equipped with a twin-turbocharged straight-six producing a strong 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. In this spec, the M3 comes equipped with a standard 6-speed manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive. The higher trim M3 Competition offers the same engine with a more powerful 503 horsepower and 473 lb-ft of torque. The Competition also replaces the manual gearbox for a standard 8-speed automatic and a choice between rear-wheel drive or  optional M all-wheel drive. Other performance hardware includes an electronic M differential lock, M adaptive suspension, and high performance brakes for optimal stopping power.

After sampling both models, it became clear that the M3 is every bit the performance weapon it aims to be. The Competition version in particular offers an incredible driving experience with a razor sharp chassis, responsive steering, and immense power. With the 8-speed automatic delivering fast, immediate shifts, the twin-turbo engine is capable of launching the Competition to 100km/h in as little as 3.6 seconds, and it feels every bit that quick. As thrilling as it is, the standard M3 might just be the more entertaining back road partner. Although the lower tune and 6-speed manual might hold it back a tick when compared to the Competition, it more than makes up for it with its engaging nature and wonderful classic BMW shifter feel. 

The M3 has taken a major step forward when it comes to the interior. Not only is it top-notch in terms of luxury, fit and finish, but the level of on-board tech has reached new heights. In addition to the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, the M3 includes a full digital gauge with custom display modes. There is also a new drift mode analyzer, various settings for the different performance parameters, plus M1 and M2 buttons on the thick, M-coloured steering wheel to save your favorite settings. The standard seats are incredibly comfortable and supportive, but if you want to go all-out, the M3 also offers far more aggressive M Competition seats backed with carbon fibre for a more race car feel.

BMW aimed to take the M3 to new heights with its latest generation model and I believe they’ve largely succeeded. Thanks to the expanded range of variants and drivetrain configurations, the M3 is now more versatile and appealing than before with something to satisfy almost every type of enthusiast. It remains one of the most well-rounded performance sedans in the luxury segment and, more importantly, a proper ultimate driving machine.