2021 BMW M3 blows past the 500-horsepower mark, introduces AWD for the first time

After months of teasers and speculation, BMW finally unveiled the new-generation M3, confirming what we already knew from the spy shots: the high-performance model features a pair of oversized kidney grilles in the front, a big departure from the standard 3 Series it is based on. The 2021 BMW M3 is also the first of its kind to be offered in two power versions: a base M3 and a more powerful M3 Competition model. Also a premiere for the nameplate, the 2021 BMW M3 is available with an xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

The 2021 BMW M3 looks polarizing

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Polarizing isn’t the best word to describe the whole car, but the front fascia is definitely of the "love it or hate it" variety. From the first day we saw this new grille on prototypes, fans have been arguing whether the massive kidney grilles are an improvement or not to the M3’s sporty design.

While some welcomed the change, a lot of gearheads argue that this M3 looks downright ugly.

But whether you like it or not, the new grille design that extends from the nose all the way down to the splitter is here to stay. To be fair, BMW has used a similar grille design on some of its classic models, so it’s not entirely against tradition.

The grille isn’t the only design feature that’s brand-new for the M3. The engine hood also boasts dramatic changes. Instead of just one center bulge, the hood now features two individual raised sections that "flow" into the upper kidney grilles. They’re set apart by the same line that separates the kidneys at the top. Each bulge features its own vent toward the nose, so the M3 looks much more menacing than before.

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Apart from the grille and the hood, the new M3 is pretty much an evolution of the previous-generation sedan. The grille is flanked by large headlamps on each side, while the bumper includes a a big grille in the center and vertical vents at the corners. The big different here is that the lower vent is split into two elements by the tall grille. The M3’s profile is also of the evolutionary variety, retaining the beltline and the flared fenders of its predecessor. However, it now also features a heavily sculpted area above the side skirts and new gills on the front fenders. Unlike the front end, the rear fascia is almost identical to the regular M3 save for the trunk lid spoiler and the more aggressive diffuser with 3.9-inch quad exhaust pipes.

2021 BMW M3 Competition Exterior
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The Competition model looks very similar to the regular M3. Features that set it apart include the badge on the front grille and the black spoiler on the trunk lid. The new M3 comes standard with carbon-fiber roof, but you can opt for a steel roof with integral glass sunroof. New, exclusive paint finishes include Sao Paulo Yellow, Toronto Red Metallic, and Isle of Man Green Metallic.

The 2021 BMW M3’s interior is a 3 Series with sporty extras

The 2021 BMW M3 Debuts With Massive Kidney Grille, Up To 503 Horsepower, And AWD Interior
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Not surprisingly, the M3’s interior is heavily based on the 3 Series. So expect to find everything BMW introduced on the compact sedan for the 2019 model year, but also look for a few extras.

The M3 is fitted with new, electrically adjustable M Sport seats, fine-grain Merino leather trim, and an M-specific infotainment display and control unit.

The options list includes seat ventilation for the very first time, but you can also replace the sports seats with new M Carbon bucket seats with integral head restraints that can be dismantled for track driving.

The 2021 BMW M3 Debuts With Massive Kidney Grille, Up To 503 Horsepower, And AWD Interior
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Three-zone automatic climate control, LED interior lighting, ambient lighting, a hi-fi audio system are all standard, as is the BMW Live Cockpit Professional. The latter is fitted with could-based navigation and maps, the intelligent Personal Assistant, and smartphone integration. There’s also more driving assist systems than before, with Park Distance Control, Front Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Speed Limit included as standard. Options include Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Navigation function, Emergency Lane Assistant, BMW Drive Recorder, Head-Up Display with M-specific content, and Parking Assistant with Reversing Assistant.

The 2021 BMW M3 is the first to pack more than 500 horsepower

Just like its compact SUV siblings, the X3 and X4, the 2021 BMW M3 is available with two versions of the company’s S58 engine.

The twin-turbo, 3.0-liter inline-six mill cranks out 473 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque in the regular M3. That's 48 horses more than the old M3, while torque remains virtually unchanged.

That’s also 19 horsepower more than the old M3 CS model. The 2021 M3 charges from 0 to 62 mph in 4.2 seconds, most likely in AWD trim and with the automatic transmission.

If the M3 isn’t powerful enough for you, BMW now also offers an M3 Competition model with more oomph. The revised S58 engine in this model delivers an extra 30 horsepower and 74 pound-feet, for a grand total for 503 horses and 479 pound-feet of twist. These figures make it notably more powerful than the old M3 Competition Package and M3 CS (59 and 49 horsepower, respectively), as well as the most powerful M3 model ever produced. The M3 Competition comes with a higher engine red line at 7,200 (versus the 6,250-rpm limit of the regular model) and it’s also three tenths quicker from 0 to 62 mph at 3.9 seconds.

The 2021 BMW M3 Debuts With Massive Kidney Grille, Up To 503 Horsepower, And AWD Exterior Wallpaper quality
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BMW continues to offer two transmission choices with the M3. The availability of the eight-speed automatic is not surprising, but the fact that the sedan is still offered with a six-speed manual is. But the really big news here is that the M3 is finally available with an all-wheel-drive system. Following in the footsteps of the M5, the compact M3 can be fitted with an M xDrive system with a rear-wheel bias. It locks up with the Active M Differential at the rear axle and turns the sedan into a four-wheel-drive vehicle when needed. This setup improves traction and stability, but the rear-axle bias of the system will surely keep old-school drivers happy.

When is the 2021 BMW M3 coming into dealerships?

The 2021 BMW M3 Debuts With Massive Kidney Grille, Up To 503 Horsepower, And AWD Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The new-generation BMW M3 is set to hit U.S. dealers in March 2021. The xDrive AWD models will arrive a bit later, starting with the summer of 2021. Pricing information is not yet available.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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