BMW M3 and M4 Sure Are Ugly but Might Be Worth a Ride!

Minutes to midnight between September 22nd and 23rd, BMW unveiled its long-awaited M3 sedan and M4 coupe to the world. A few were surprised since leaked photos already revealed the general looks of the new G80 and G82 M variants. Nonetheless, many were simply revulsed by the controversial front end design. Big gaping vertical openings aren’t everyone’s cup of tea apparently, but BMW’s design team obviously thinks otherwise.

What’s with those Oversized Grilles?

If you are a fan of BMW, you know how much the German manufacturer loves big kidney-shaped grilles. From proportionally large grilles of the Series 1 to truly gargantuan bars of the Series 7 and X7, BMW has made it clear that it’s a design direction that’s here to stay. That decision might have made BMW meme-worthy on many occasions but didn’t affect what truly matters — sales.

So far, non-M variants of the 3 Series have had a traditional front end design. The kidney grille was big indeed, yet elegantly flowing with the crisp headlight design. It created a visual harmony rather than disruption. The new 4 Series will keep the gaping grille even in its non-M form, though.

Although it might look like BMW has wholly lost its plot, they communicated this design previously. At the 2019 Villa d’Este, the Bavarians presented the long lost and thoroughly recreated Garmisch Coupé. Marcello Gandini’s creation had a pair of hexagonal kidneys that look eerily similar to the M3 and 4 Series’ ‘lungs.’ Next, there’s Bertone Spicup, another concept from the 1970s, and of course, the 2000CS. Analyzing these three cars, especially the Garmisch, one can notice the inspiration in this radical 1970s design study. That concept even inspired the first 5 Series.


And the Rest of the Looks?

Now that we have addressed the elephant in the room, let’s look at the rest of the new M cars.

The sedan and coupe pair looks very M-like, with complete body transformation and noticeably beefed-up panels. The hoods of both vehicles carry over facial features with two prominent bulges. Meanwhile, the rear end adds an aerodynamic diffuser and a recognizable pair of twin-tip exhausts. The only body panels shared with the conventional 3 and 4 Series are the doors and trunk lids. Even the roof is different; it’s now a naked carbon fiber panel. Mix this with a high-impact color palette, and you’ll get cars that are bound to turn heads.

The lightweight titanium exhaust system is another visual controversy. Fortunately, it is an optional extra. BMW regrouped the exhaust tips into a tight cluster that doesn’t look nearly as flattering as the stock solution. Frankly, it’s more appropriate for boy racer hot hatchbacks rather than bona fide sports cars.

M Performance Parts offer more carbon fiber throughout the exterior. Some optional extras include air intakes, side mirrors, or even a rear wing. Among functional upgrades, there is adjustable coilover suspension for even lower stances and track-optimized performance.

Meanwhile, the carbon-fiber roof further stiffens the chassis, lowers the center of gravity, and also brings the weight down. However, even with lighter panels, the M3 and M4 weigh 3,858 pounds — a staggering 350 pounds heavier than their predecessors!


Driver-Focused Interior with Hi-Tech Racing Features

The G20 generation of the 3 Series brought us back to BMW’s roots. The dashboard is oriented orient toward the driver and has that retro vibe. In my eyes, it bears a striking resemblance to E30 3 Series. Like the exterior, the interior also gets a hint of 1970s cool. Moreover, Kyalami Orange and Yas Marina Blue trim add a zesty note and spice up the cockpit. As far as G80 M-specific features go, the steering wheel is chunky, and there’s ample carbon fiber everywhere.

The real treat is new M Sport seats, which can be configured in a two-tone finish. You can also get lighter and more supportive carbon-fiber bucket seats as an option for a fully immersive track experience.

Meanwhile, the latest generation BMW iDrive comes as standard, complete with voice-activated personal assistant commands, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, that’s unlikely the focal point in cars that are all about performance. What might be is the new M-specific instrument display. You can use this display to adjust the setup to better suit your driving style. Besides, the screen also adds to that hi-tech racing feel.

High-Revving Twin-Turbo and a 6-Speed Manual: a Match Made in Heaven!

While the M3 and the M4 are sitting ducks when it comes to criticizing their unorthodox design elements, there’s virtually nothing remotely bad about what’s under the bonnet. There, the M stablemates are as pure as they can be.


Both the G80 and the G82 have the same S58 3.0-liter inline-six under the hood. BMW already debuted the engine in its X3M and X5M SUVs. In the base model, this powerhouse produces 480 horsepower. More importantly, it pairs with a 6-speed manual gearbox!

Yes, you’ve read it right! You can get the M3 and the M4 with an inline-six, a stick shift, and three pedals!

Furthermore, you can turn off electronic rev-matching, putting you in total control of the power delivery and gear shifting. As no direct competitors offer manuals, the M3 and the M4 are among the rare high-performance cars which offer pure, undiluted driving experience.

BMW M4 Engine

M3/M4 Competiton

However, that’s only the base trim we’re talking about. You can also select the M3 and M4 Competition variant. These models really push the limit in terms of power and overall performance. Competition models have 510 horsepower, 650 Nm of torque, rear-biased four-wheel drive, and an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. The ZF-sourced transmission unit provides quick gear shifts, alongside smart features like selecting the lowest possible gear when the left paddle is held for an extended period.


When it comes to numbers, BMW claims that the 0-60 sprint only takes a mere 4.2 seconds. Competition models are even quicker, with a time of 3.9 seconds. These numbers owe much to the fantastic launch control system borrowed straight from the M8. The top speed is limited to 155 mph; however, an optional upgrade package will lift the limit, enabling the M3 and M4 to go up to 180 mph. Since M cars are way more than just straight-line sprinters, BMW also revised the electronically assisted power steering to provide more feedback and precision in the bends.


The base M3 and M4 are getting 275/40ZR-18 front and 285/35ZR-19 rear tires, whereas the Competition package brings larger 275/35ZR-19 and 285/30ZR-20. The wide selection of forged wheels available serves not only an aesthetic but a highly functional purpose as well. According to the M Performance catalog, you can even upgrade the M3 and the M4 to 20-inch wheels in the front and 21-inch in the back.


Ultimately, stopping power is provided via six-piston calipers with 380mm discs and floating calipers at the front and with 370mm discs at the back. Still, performance-hungry enthusiasts would probably opt for beefier carbon-ceramic brake discs measuring 400mm at the front and 380mm in the back.

BMW M3 & M4

Should you Buy it?

For sure, the controversial designs won’t sit well with most people. Photographers, car spotters, and influencers might indeed have a tough time incorporating these features into Instagrammable photos, but that’s not what matters anyway.

Once the automotive public and people on social media get over the infamous front end design and memes start fading away, substantial facts will surface and prove what we already know: the M3 and the M4 are straight-up beasts!

As we eagerly wait for the first tests to confirm these projections, let’s say that 2021 M3 and M4 are the most controversial M cars to this day. They are also the heaviest and with starting prices north of $70,000, the most expensive ones. But, with a manual transmission option in times when automatics completely dominate the market, these two mavericks have high chances of becoming the most captivating M cars of the 21st century.

After all, the M3 and M4 have much more to offer than just an ugly big-ass-front grille…

Source: BMW

About Djordje Sugaris

Djordje Sugaris
Seeing cars as more than just machines, Đorđe is equally intrigued by mechanics and the social and cultural sides of cars. A car historian and a classic car journalist with a strong mechanical background gained from working on his own passion projects. Đorđe is all about saving the wagons and spreading love of cars and car culture!

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