New 2021 BMW M3 launched with huge grille and 503bhp

The new sixth-generation BMW M3 Competition saloon gets a 503bhp straight-six engine and four-wheel-drive

BMW has officially unveiled the sixth-generation M3. It’s due to go on sale in March next year and, when it reaches the UK, it’ll face-off against an accomplished roster of compact performance executive cars, including the Mercedes AMG C 63, Audi RS 4 Avant and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofoglio.

BMW’s latest iteration of its iconic sports saloon has undergone an extensive mechanical overhaul. There’s an arsenal of extra technology, a new straight-six engine and – following in the footsteps of the M5 – an all-new four-wheel-drive system on the flagship model.

There’s no word on pricing yet, but we expect the M3 will be competitive in its market, starting from around £70,000 when it goes on sale next year.

New 2021 BMW M3: engine and drivetrain

The BMW M3 is powered by the M-division’s latest twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine. It’s the same unit found in the X3 M and X4 M performance SUV twins – and, like those cars, it’ll come in a choice of two power outputs.

BMW’s entry-level M3 will produce 473bhp, but like the rest of the company’s M range, UK customers won’t be offered this option. Instead, we’ll only get the Competition variant, which has an output of 503bhp and 650Nm of torque – enough, says BMW, for a 0–62mph time of 3.9 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

As standard, the engine will send drive to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. However, for the first time on an M3, buyers will have the option of speccing an adaptive four-wheel-drive system, which is similar in design to the system found on the latest BMW M5.

The system features a central transfer case with an electronically controlled clutch, which can automatically split the torque between the front and rear wheels in any ratio. At the push of a button, the system can also send 100 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels.

New 2021 BMW M3: chassis and platform

Upgrades over the outgoing model include an all-new adaptive suspension dampers, stiffer engine and chassis mounts, a ten-stage traction control system and enormous six-piston disc brakes.

There’s also an active differential mounted on the rear axle, which features a new electronic wheel-slip control. BMW says the system can control the engine’s torque to allow the M3 to accelerate more smoothly on wet or icy roads – although the electronic nanny can be switched off with the traction control system.

Which, rather fittingly, leads into BMW’s next addition – a drift analyser. The system can be accessed via the car’s iDrive infotainment system and provides a breakdown of the driver’s performance when oversteering. However, if consistent and precise driving is more your thing, BMW has also included a driving line coach and lap timer.

Buyers will also be able to spec a range of performance-enhancing additions, including upgraded carbon ceramic brakes and BMW’s M Pro package, which increases the M3’s top speed limiter to 180mph.

New 2021 BMW M3: design and interior

BMW’s cosmetic revisions for the new M3 follow the company’s usual style guide. There’s more aggressive front and rear bumpers, deeper side skirts and a pair of unique kidney grilles. Also, the car features a carbon fibre roof as standard, while there’s a new set of alloy wheels, measuring 19-inches up front and 20-inches at the rear.

The standard saloon’s wheel arches have also been flared to accommodate the wider wheels and tyres – and there’s a host of aerodynamically minded extras, including a new front splitter, a motorsports inspired diffuser, a dinky boot spoiler and a pair of stability fins mounted on the roof.

Buyers also get passive LED headlights as standard, although the German brand’s adaptive Laserlight headlamp units can be specced as an optional extra. There’s a choice of either red, black or blue brake calipers, along with three new exclusive paint finishes – Sao Paulo Yellow, Toronto Red and Isle of Man Green.

Inside, it’s business as usual. There’s an M-branded sports steering wheel, carbon fibre interior trim and a pair of figure-hugging black leather sports seats, which are both electrically adjustable and heated. As an optional extra, BMW also offers a pair of lightweight carbon fibre bucket seats, which save 9.6kgs over the car’s standard seats.

The standard 3 Series’s 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment screen have been transferred wholesale into the M3 – although both feature unique graphics. There’s a pair of USB ports, too, along with a roaming 4G WiFi hotspot, real time traffic information and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

Finally, buyers can choose from an extensive list of optional extras, including a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, gesture control, sun protective glazing and a carbon fibre exterior styling package, which swaps the M3’s standard air intakes, diffuser, mirror caps and spoiler for carbon fibre reinforced plastic replacements.

What does the new BMW M3 Competition have to beat? These are the best performance cars on sale right now...

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