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2021 BMW M3 revealed: The OG sport sedan returns with 473 hp and a controversial face

Yep, it's got that grille, but it sounds like the M division has cooked up quite a machine this time around.

2021 BMW M3
Here it is!

The BMW M3 is a legend. Despite its pretty-much-agreed-upon fall from grace in 2014 with the F80-generation model, the M3 has always been the one to beat. Now, the kooks (I mean that in a very flattering way) inside the M division are ready to show us the car meant to remedy any love lost with the last M3. Meet the 2021 BMW M3. If you're looking for the 2021 BMW M4 Coupe, you can read all about the coupe right here.

Big grille hides big power

Let's get this out of the way, right away. The rumors and leaks are true and it should not be a surprise that the 2021 M3 adopts the vertical "kidney" grille design. I have to put kidney in quotes because these are hardly kidney-shaped any longer. But here they are in all their glory. I don't care for it, but I've certainly accepted this is the future for BMW design.

The grille shouldn't turn you off completely, though, because the 2021 M3 sounds like a proper riot. Behind the big ol' grille sits a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine that pushes 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. The power figure, like the grille, isn't surprising; this S58 engine debuted in the latest X3 M and X4 M and makes the same number of ponies. If that's not enough, the M3 Competition tosses in 30 hp more and torque rises to 479 lb-ft. The S58 houses an absolutely mesmerizing number of improvements, from a 3D-printed core for the coolant passages and weight savings, to a High-Precision Injection system designed to make power more efficiently and fancy electronically controlled exhaust.

All of the engineering marvels found in the engine connect to a six-speed manual transmission with rev-matching standard. Hooray! The more powerful Competition model gets an eight-speed automatic transmission as the only option, but it sounds like the manual is the one you want, Competition niceties aside -- BMW pointed out the three-pedal setup saves 50 pounds compared with the automatic. Once power travels through either transmission, it makes its way to the rear wheels. But, if you can wait a few months after the M3 initially goes on sale, you'll be able to option a specially tuned xDrive all-wheel drive system on the M3 Competition. That's right, this M3 is going AWD, should you desire.

In front of six-piston brake calipers and 15-inch brake discs up front sit 18-inch wheels wrapped in 275/40ZR18 performance tires. The rear receives single-piston calipers and 14.5-inch brake discs, while 19-inch wheels help beef the M3's stance up with 285/35ZR19 performance tires.

As for the rest of the design, it's not too shabby, and honestly, it's a bit tame-looking for the BMW's M division. The sedan's longer, wider and more sculpted than its 3 Series brethren. The hood scallops either do very good things if you dig this new grille, or they make the giant gills look even larger since they accentuate them vividly. Standard M3s get quad exhaust outlets finished in chrome, while the Competition models receive a glossy black finish for the tips. It's just a little bit of jewelry for a subdued, but handsome, rear fascia overall.

Technology finds a home inside and out

Of course the latest snappy computers and gizmos are present in the 2021 M3. You can't hide from technology when it comes to modern cars, and BMW packed plenty into the M3. The adaptive M suspension provides 10 "stages" for the driver's liking, while BMW said it sweated the details when it comes to the traditional chassis tuning. Aside from the improvements baked into the standard 3 Series, the M3 boasts new aluminum wishbones with ball joints, a new torque arm, mounts and swivel bearing for the front suspension. Meanwhile, the five-link independent rear suspension gets some love, too, with its own wishbone-style control arms.

But where the 3 Series and M3 have disappointed in recent years is the steering, with an utter lack of soul on display. The M Servotronic steering system is an effort to remedy that with two specific settings just for steering: Comfort and Sport. The same sort of customization is present in the brake system, which adjusts pedal feel based on the driver's selection. This is the kind of technology you don't see, but you most certainly feel behind the wheel.

Fundamentally, this doesn't look new, but there are a lot of goods packed in.


Inside the M3, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster greets you with a small and chunky steering wheel that surely is a delight to grip. To the right is a 10.25-inch infotainment display running the latest iDrive software, which includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And while a slew of driver-assist and active safety features are on board, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and automatic emergency braking, a few presses of the M Mode button shut them all off when the driver selects Track mode. With it engaged, you won't receive a peep from any onboard assists. Combined with a 10-stage traction control system that permits gradually more wheel slip and fewer interventions from the electronics, the M3 sounds like it can be quite a pure machine, should you choose. There's even a new digital track coach to help you become a better driver on your favorite circuit.

The cockpit as a whole certainly looks (and probably feels) the part. Leather, aluminum trim or optional carbon fiber bits turn the typically more luxurious cabin into one focused on sport from my eyes. And the seats, they are something. They're newly developed with integrated head restraints, an illuminated badge, special perforation to keep drivers cool and lovely Merino leather trim. If that sounds neat, the optional carbon-fiber reinforced plastic seats are even better. They shave 21 pounds from the car thanks to the lightweight material's usage.

2021 BMW M3 price and availability

The sport sedan will hit dealers stateside in March 2021 in normal and Competition trims, while the AWD model will wait until next summer before it boards a boat for the US. That means you have less than a year to save up $70,895, or the starting price after a $995 destination charge. And remember, that's before you add any options.

We think the latest G20-generation 3 Series rights some of the wrongs the F80 unfortunately committed. Now, it's up to the G20 M3 to see if it can permanently shake the ghosts of its past. We're rooting for you, BMW, because, after all, the M3 should always be a benchmark for sport sedans.

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