Based on the recently redesigned regular 3-series, the 2021 BMW M3 aims to resurrect the nameplate’s storied driver engagement. BMW sounds committed to making that a reality, too; the next M3 will continue to offer a manual transmission. The new M3 features a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six that will be available in two states of tune, making 473 and 503 horsepower. However, the latter is reserved for the Competition model, which isn’t available with the manual but does adopt all-wheel drive for the first time. Likewise, the Competition version will further highlight the sports sedan’s performance potential with track-ready hardware that should challenge rivals such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and the Mercedes-AMG C63.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, the M3 is all new and represents the sixth generation of the iconic sports sedan.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We’re happy that BMW still offers an M3 that we can shift ourselves, but we’re disappointed that we can’t get the manual transmission on the more powerful Competition model. So, until we find out how good the new M3’s manual actually is—as well as the difference in performance between the two transmissions—we’re leaning towards the ultimate version, especially since it’s only a few thousand dollars more.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
As with the new BMW M4, the M3 features a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six. The normal version pumps out 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. The Competition variant is tuned to be even more powerful, generating 503 horses and 479 lb-ft of torque, but it’s only offered with the eight-speed automatic. Still, the M3 Competition now offers all-wheel drive, and this rear-biased system boasts a rear-drive-only mode that allows a different type of driving behavior—including the ability to hang the tail out as far as your ability allows. Every M3 also features adaptive dampers and adjustable brake-pedal feel. The sedan can be outfitted with even stronger carbon-ceramic brakes, too, which feature cool gold-painted calipers. While we can’t comment on how the new Bimmer drives until we get behind the wheel, we know the regular M3 will ride on 18-inch wheels in front and 19-inchers in back. The Competition version will also have a staggered set of rollers, but they measure 19 inches in the front and 20 in the back. We’ve tested an X4M Competition SUV with the more powerful version of the six, which roared to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds. With the M3 Competition being hundreds of pounds lighter, it could break into the high two-second range.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Neither BMW nor the EPA have released any information about the M3’s fuel-economy estimates. The last generation was rated at up to 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, so those figures could deviate slightly. Once we have the official numbers and a chance to test the Bimmer on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which simulates real-world mpg and is part of our extensive testing regimen, we can report our results.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Besides unique “M” badging and distinct trim details, the M3 interior is basically the same as the regular 3-series. That means the M3 has the same design, passenger space, and outward visibility as its more pedestrian counterpart. While M cars are known for their heartier performance, they also meet or exceed the materials and build quality of the top-of-the-line 3-series. Of course, the M3 has more carbon-fiber and microsuede accents for a racier aesthetic. The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that will switch to M View in the sportier drive modes; they are activated via prominent red buttons on the M3’s chunky steering wheel. Switching to M View adds a shift indicator and replaces the regular tachometer with one that’s easier to read. Interior cubby storage includes a tray at the front and a bin at the back of the center console.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The M3’s infotainment system runs through a 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s primarily manipulated via a rotary knob and buttons on the center console. The system has multiple charging ports as well as a selection of standard and optional features. Thankfully, BMW no longer requires a paid subscription for Apple CarPlay and has finally adopted Android Auto. Both are standard along with a Harman / Kardon sound system and a one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. The system can be optioned with gesture controls, a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot, and a wireless charging pad.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 M3 hasn’t been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While driver engagement is BMW’s main priority with its M cars, the sedan has a roster of standard and optional driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
BMW includes a limited and powertrain warranty that aligns with rivals such as Audi and Mercedes-AMG. It also provides longer complimentary scheduled maintenance than those alternatives, however, it’s still shorter than what Jaguar provides.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for three years or 36,000 miles -or- No complimentary scheduled maintenance