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Our experience with the BMW M3 taught us that brute power, dynamic abilities and four-door practicality can co-exist in a single package.

29 Mar 2021

The internet is rife with displeasure since the new BMW M3 and M4 were introduced.

The main topic? The understated, yet muscular looks of the previous M3 is now gone. Now a prominent and very large kidney grille takes centre stage.

This conversation on looks has somehow drowned the fact that BMW M has introduced two fire-breathing performance cars in our soon-to-be electrified world. Shouldn't we be celebrating that fact?

You're saying there's nothing wrong with how it looks?!

The main conversation topic about the M3 revolves around the sizeable kidney grille
The new M3 Competition continues to carry strong M cues, with the blistered wheel arches to fit the bigger 20-inch, 285-section rear tyres.

BMW has had a good track record in being bold with its designs. But I agree, the new M3 still takes quite a bit of getting used to, especially when the previous F80 M3 was such a handsome-looking car.

Function should follow form. BMW M says that the bigger air intakes and the larger kidney grille offer optimum airflow to the engine, which in itself is quite the powerhouse. But more on that later.

Setting up right

Inside, the M3 looks and feels special, with specific BMW M bits that adorn the cabin
Step into the M3's office and you can immediately tell this is something serious. It is louder inside - not just due to the interior being spec'd in Kyalami Orange. The M specific bits here are enough to justify spending over $400,000 on a super 3 Series.

Just like the M5, you have two buttons for quick access to performance drive modes, and each allow for preferred drive modes to be saved.

There are more buttons on the centre console. M Mode gets you straight to customising your drivetrain and powertrain settings individually, and a dedicated exhaust button if you need that kind of attention.

Two M steering wheel buttons allow you to set your favourite drive settings
This sounds a little bit confusing but you'll get accustomed to it rather quickly. BMW has its way about making an interior usable, and the M3 Competition benefits from this.

The standard M Sport seats offer plenty of adjustment and enough comfort for long drives, along with enough high quality materials to please those who want luxury.

Softer in some areas

Still, it is ridiculous to talk about comfort in a car like the M3. But compared to the outgoing car, this M3 Competition is softer in areas that matter.

Even in its strongest shift setting, the M3's gearbox still doesn't offer the snappiness of the dual-clutch box that came before
The switch to an eight-speed torque converter automatic from the previous seven-speed dual-clutch, for example, means shifts aren't as snappy, even in its snappiest shift setting.

The car also feels softer on the road compared to the previous car, even in its hardest damping settings.

All of this is welcomed. In many ways, the outgoing car wasn't easy to drive slow. With the car you see here, there's a little more refinement in the powertrain, making it easier to live with every day.

But don't for a second think that the M3 has lost its hardcore abilities. Its heart still lies a 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged six-cylinder powerhouse.

No more sexy carbon tubs in the engine bay, but the current lump makes significantly more power
With 503bhp and 650Nm of torque, the M3 Competition takes just 3.9 seconds to complete the century sprint. To put that into perspective, that's 53bhp and 100Nm more than the outgoing F80 M3 Competition Package, which is by no means a slow car.

Effective for fast road use

With peak torque coming in past 2,750rpm, the M3 is outright brutal once you get on the throttle. If your idea of a performance car is power figures and thrilling straight line acceleration, the M3 Competition has it.

For sure, it has enough brute power to fight the likes of the Mercedes-AMG C63 and the Audi RS5 Sportback, but put it through corners and the engagement it offers the driver is unlike any in its segment.

The M3 can find its way around a corner rather well, with the amount of grip it has on offer
The grippy large section Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubbers along with a communicative and taut chassis mean that the M3 manages to be predictable yet thrilling around corners.

Be silly with your inputs and the M3 doesn't falter, either. With enough spirited driving, the tyres just get sticker with more heat on them, and the M Differential does wonders in powering the inside wheel, offering added grip.

Good job, BMW M

Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres offer even more grip once you bring enough heat on them
The M3 Competition manages many feats. Offering power to please is one thing. But keeping all that power together in a rear-driven chassis and still offering a confidence-inspiring drive is nothing short of impressive.

Many still continue to talk about how it looks. As important as looks are, it is subjective. And with BMW's track record with the designs of cars like the Bangle-era 7 Series and the E60 5 Series later on, I trust that BMW has this looks thing figured out.

Only time will tell how enthusiasts will rate the new M3. But from the looks of how things are going in our car-lite world today, it won't be long before they start scouring over it.

Car Information

BMW M Series M3 Sedan 3.0 Competition Launch Edition (A)
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Engine Type


6-cylinder in-line M TwinPower Turbocharged

Engine Cap





375kW (503 bhp) / 7200 rpm



650 Nm / 5500 rpm



8-speed (A) M Steptronic with Drivelogic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)



Top Speed



Fuel consumption



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