BMW M3 Unveiled, Gains Massive Grille But Retains Manual

It’s official, that much mocked large front grille is here to stay on the compact BMW performance sedan. 

BMW has just pulled the covers off the latest iteration of its legendary compact performance sedan, the M3. The thing everyone is talking about of course is that gigantic (and gigantically controversial) front end, but how is the rest of the car like? 

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, and talk about the design of the new M3. Like all M3s of the past, the latest iteration here gains some sporty aesthetic touches to complement its performance breeding. Starting from the back, quad exhaust tips shrouded within an aggressive rear diffuser gives this M3 its signature menacing rear stance. 


Moving round the side reveals the signature M-car wing mirrors and a modern interpretation of the M fender vents. The flared wheel arches that contain within it a set of staggered forged M light-alloy wheels continue to signify this sporty sedan’s performance intent. 

However, all this subtle detail has been drowned in the debate by the mostly-derided front end design. The twin-hood strakes and the M2 Competition-esque front bumper design only serves to draw even more attention to that hilariously massive front grille. For which no matter what BMW claim that the ‘frameless kidney grille and large air intakes (allow) for optimum inflow and supply of cooling air to the high-performance engine’, does not help the case of the kidney grille looking like a set of lungs instead. 


Controversial front end aside though, the new M3 does have a lot going for it for the enthusiast. Continuing on the topic of the high-performance engine, under the hood of BMW’s performance compact sedan is now a M-tuned twin-turbocharged straight six. Which in normal M3 form delivers 480 hp to just the rear wheels, but in M3 Competition trim delivers 510 hp to all four wheels through the Competition-exclusive rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel drive system. Thus capable of rocketing this four-door sedan to 100 km/h from a standstill in a hair under 4 seconds. 

Two types of transmissions are also on offer on either variant, for which most M3 buyers will probably go for the 8 speed M Steptronic transmission with its three drive modes. That said though, a very small minority of enthusiasts, who are probably currently salivating into their pants right now, will go for the six speed manual gearbox instead. A transmission option that BMW claims is not offered by any other car in the segment. 

On the handling front, the new M3 comes fitted as standard with adaptive M suspension and variable ratio M Servotronic steering. M-specific front and rear axle modifications are also included, as is the M Traction Control with M Dynamic mode. All these M parts are rounded off with M Compound brakes, whereas M carbon ceramics are an optional extra. 

As with M3s of the past, the interior is a step in the sporty direction from the normal 3 series. The usual 3 series bits are still there, such as the suite of active safety aids. However, the M3 adds M sport seats, M display settings and the all important M buttons on the multifunction steering wheel. 

BMW has also premiered its M Drive Professional on this latest M3. Tailored to the needs and wants of keen drivers who want to track their M car, this suite of systems include the ‘M Drift Analyser, M Laptimer and M Traction Control’. Even keener drivers can opt for the M Race Track Package which reduces the kerb weight of the M3 by 25 kg, and adds M Carbon ceramic brakes, special M light-alloy wheels and M Carbon bucket seats as standard. 

Prices for the M3 and M3 Competition has yet to be announced yet. However it will most likely be around the same price bracket as the outgoing M3 when it goes on sale next year.

All said and done, while the marmite snout may be a turn off for most, it is worth remembering that the rest of the M ingredients are still there on this latest M3. With the C63 AMG rumoured to be losing its signature V8 in favour for a turbocharged four-banger, the M3 may still be the king of the sporty compact sedan for a while. Also, remember that the aftermarket is already gearing up for retrofitting a normal 3 series nose on the M3, so all stylistic hope may not be lost after all. 

PRESS RELEASE: New edition of the pace-setting high-performance sports cars in the premium midsize segment:

BMW M3 Sedan: 

353 kW/480 hp; acceleration [0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)]: 4.2 seconds; fuel consumption combined: 10.8 l/100 km (26.2 mpg imp); CO2 emissions combined: 248 g/km. 

BMW M3 Competition Sedan:
375 kW/510 hp; acceleration [0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)]: 3.9 seconds; fuel consumption combined:10.2 l/100 km (27.7 mpg imp); CO2 emissions combined: 234 g/km.

BMW M4 Coupé: 

353 kW/480 hp; acceleration [0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)]: 4.2 seconds; fuel consumption combined: 10.8 l/100 km (26.2 mpg imp); CO2 emissions combined: 248 g/km.

BMW M4 Competition Coupé: 

375 kW/510 hp; acceleration [0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)]: 3.9 seconds; fuel consumption combined: 10.2 l/100 km (27.7 mpg imp); CO2 emissions combined: 234 g/km.

High-performance cars with authentic allure boast cutting-edge racing-car technology and a character profile in the tradition of the original BMW M3 presented 35 years ago. Market launch from March 2021.

New BMW M3 Sedan and new BMW M4 Coupé with unequivocally performance-focused vehicle concept. Tuning work conducted alongside testing programme for the BMW M4 GT3 racing car. Familiar M blend of dynamism, agility and precision meets everyday usability and long-distance capability.

Extra variety in the powertrain offering. Authentic performance experience in the new BMW M3 Sedan and new BMW M4 Coupé thanks to six-speed manual gearbox not offered by any rival. BMW M3 Competition Sedan and BMW M4 Competition Coupé with eight-speed M Steptronic transmission. Competition models also available with M xDrive all-wheel-drive system for the first time, est. from summer 2021.

Six-cylinder in-line engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology, high‑revving character, maximum 375 kW/510 hp and up to 650 Nm (479 lb-ft). Two turbochargers, optimised direct injection, cooling and oil supply adapted for track use, model-specific exhaust system with electrically operated flaps for emotionally stirring engine soundtrack.

Model-specific six-speed manual gearbox with Gear Shift Assistant for extremely dynamic driving situations. Latest generation of the eight‑speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic and three shift programs. M xDrive links up with Active M Differential, rear-wheel-biased setup, three selectable modes: 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD for pure rear‑wheel drive and deactivated stability control.

Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled shock absorbers and M Servotronic steering with variable ratio are fitted as standard. M‑specific front- and rear-axle modifications. New integrated braking system with two settings for pedal feel and response. M Compound brakes as standard, M Carbon ceramic brakes optional.

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including M Dynamic Mode and, for the first time, integrated wheel slip limitation and M Traction Control adjustable through ten stages.

Forged M light-alloy wheels – front: 18-inch, rear 19-inch (Competition models with M xDrive – front: 19-inch, rear 20-inch). Performance tyres optional.

Extremely stiff body structure and chassis mounting thanks to measures including model-specific bracing elements for the engine compartment, a front axle subframe with aluminium shear panel, underfloor bracing elements and a rear axle subframe with a rigid connection to the body.

Two body variants with their own individual exterior designs and an emotionally engaging aesthetic. BMW M3 Sedan and BMW M4 Coupé with performance-oriented body features: M-specific version of large, vertical BMW kidney grille, powerfully sculpted wheel arches with eye‑catching M gills, prominent side sill extensions with attachments to the front and rear aprons, carbon-fibre roof with aerodynamically optimised fins, plus rear spoiler and familiar M tailpipe pairs. New, exclusive exterior paint finishes. M Carbon exterior package and BMW M Performance Parts available as options.

Ergonomically optimised sports-car cockpit with M-specific displays and controls. Newly developed M sport seats and fine-grain Merino leather trim with extended features fitted as standard; optionally with seat ventilation. New M Carbon bucket seats with structure-based design available as an option.

M-specific control/operating concept with Setup button for direct access to the settings for the engine, chassis, steering and braking system – and, depending on the model and specification, also M xDrive, Gear Shift Assistant and traction control. Two individually composed overall setups can be activated using M buttons on the steering wheel.

M Mode button enables the intervention thresholds of the driver assistance systems and the displays in the instrument cluster and optional Head-Up Display to be configured individually. ROAD and SPORT settings are available as standard; additional TRACK mode for track driving added when M Drive Professional is specified.

Premiere of M Drive Professional (including M Drift Analyser, M Laptimer and M Traction Control), for a particularly intense performance experience on the race track.

Significantly expanded selection of driver assistance systems. Park Distance Control, Front Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Speed Limit Info fitted as standard. Options include Driving Assistant Professional with Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Navigation, Emergency Lane Assistant, Parking Assistant with Reversing Assistant, BMW Drive Recorder and BMW Head-Up Display with M-specific displays.

BMW Live Cockpit Professional with fully digital display grouping, BMW Maps navigation system and BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant as standard.

M Race Track Package available for the first time reduces vehicle weight by around 25 kilograms thanks to features including M Carbon ceramic brakes, special M light-alloy wheels and M Carbon bucket seats.

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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