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New 2021 BMW M3 Arrives With M4 Styling, 500+ HP

… and there’s a manual transmission option as well, if you can get past the looks.

Aaron GoldWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Talking about the BMW M3 is still a bit of a mind-bender for us nowadays, because we remember when all M3s were two-doors. Today, the M3 is a four-door sedan, while the M4 is the two-door coupe, but that's really the only difference. When the new 2021 BMW M3 arrives in dealerships in March 2021, it will of course have all of the same mechanical awesomeness as the also-just-revealed 2021 BMW M4. Happy days, my friends, happy days!

We're most excited about the powertrain lineup. The new 2021 BMW M3's TwinPower Turbo straight-six remains at 3.0 liters, but now boasts 473 horsepower (up 48) and the same 406 lb-ft of torque as the last M4. What really puts a smile on our face is that all of the power gets channeled to the rear axle—and only the rear axle—through a six-speed manual transmission.

Need more horses or fewer pedals? You'll want the 2021 BMW M3 Competition, which ups the output to 503 hp and 479 lb-ft, an increase of 59 and 73, respectively, compared to the outgoing M3 Competition. The price you pay for this power (besides an extra $2,900) is an eight-speed automatic transmission, but you do get to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, according to BMW, which is 0.3-second quicker than the manual car (assuming the manual driver can shift gears quickly enough). Top speed is 155 mph, and the optional M Driver's Package ups that to 180. Said package also includes a voucher for BMW's driving school, so you can learn to use your car at such speeds.

Lest you think the sedan is for those who aren't fully committed, let us assure you that the M3 sedan shares all of the 2021 BMW M4's nifty goodies. Among them: Additional chassis bracing for the excellent new 3-Series platform on which it's built, lighter and more handling-focused suspension bits, and massive six-piston front brakes with two modes for pedal feel. BMW brags of having 10 stages for the stability-control program, presumably allowing the 2021 M3 to get nice and sideways while still having electronic protection in place.

Speaking of getting sideways, we're intrigued by the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which arrives in summer 2021. Available as an option on the M3 Competition, the xDrive system has three modes, one for normal driving, one that biases power to the rear for a sportier drive, and a third mode that runs the car in rear-wheel-drive only, and which requires stability control be shut off entirely. Wow.

One unexpected surprise is that the 2021 BMW M3 shares so many of its styling cues with the 2021 M4 coupe, up to and including the lightweight carbon-fiber roof. The M3 is slightly longer than the outgoing car (with a 1.8-inch wheelbase stretch), and it leads with the giant twin-kidney grille, which we have seen on the 4-Series coupe and really hoped to avoid here. As with the M4, its twin snouts stretch well back into the hood. Additional lower-grille space gives you some idea of the extent of the cooling system, which BMW says is designed to withstand the rigors of track use. With the same creases and extended rocker panels as the M4, it's almost possible to forget that the M3 has two spare doors. But in terms of the overall look, frankly our first impression is that we will never consider this M3's styling as appealing, let alone objectively attractive.

Inside, our first look at the 2021 BMW M3's interior reveals deeply bolstered seats that face the same basic dash layout found in regular 3-Series. An LCD dashboard is standard, as is a color head-up display. If you're actually lapping your M3 on a racetrack, you'll probably want the M Drive Professional feature, which not only times your laps but will watch for drifts and record their angle and duration. (It'll be a sad day for the world when the insurance adjusters get wind of that particular feature.)

Exterior appearance aside, there's a lot to be happy about here: a manual transmission, 500-plus horsepower, a no-compromises all-wheel-drive system—and the idea that you need not compromise on fun just because you're buying a four-door car. And that brings us to the best news of all: The four-door 2021 BMW M3 will be priced at $70,895 (including destination) for the manual-transmission model, and $73,795 for the Competition model. That's a discount of $1,900 off of the two-door M4, and a good excuse as any to start a family.

2021 BMW M3 Highlights

  • Twin-turbo inline straight-six, 473 or 503 hp
  • Available six-speed manual transmission
  • 180-mph top speed with M Driver's Package
  • Visually and functionally identical to the 2021 M4 coupe

2021 BMW M3 Specifications

ON SALE March 2021
PRICE $70,895 (base)
ENGINE 3.0 liter DOHC 24-valve I-6/473 hp @ 6,250 rpm, 406 lb-ft @ 2,650-6,130 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE TBD
L x W x H 189.1 x 74.3 x 56.4 in
WHEELBASE 112.5 in
WEIGHT 3,840 lb
0-60 MPH 4.1 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph (180 w/optional M Driver's Package)