Following the footsteps of the BMW M5, the 2021 M3 and 2021 M4 get a smart all-wheel drive setup for the first time ever

All-wheel drive has come a long way since its inception. In fact, it evolved to such an extent that it has become synonymous with performance, be it delivered by a supercar, sports car, or hypercar. BMW’s own stable is a good place to observe how AWD is trickling down Munich’s performance lineup. After the current M5, the new M3 and M4 also get the M xDrive treatment.

Rear-wheel drive is still standard, but you can have your new M3/M4 in AWD guise now

The BMW M3 And M4 Can Finally Be Optioned With AWD Exterior
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Rumors about the M3 and M4 getting a real-wheel drive setup have been swirling on the internet since 2018. As it turns out, they were true, because BMW will officially let you opt for its M xDrive setup - made famous by the current M5 - inside the new M3 and M4.

It won’t be available right off the bat, though. BMW says customers can specify the all-wheel-drive setup from the summer of 2021. At the same time, we’re told the setup has been tweaked and adapted for use inside the M3 and M4.

The BMW M3 And M4 Can Finally Be Optioned With AWD Exterior
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This means that the hardcore, track-day loving customer can still get his fix of rear-wheel-drive fun, while those looking for a more efficient way of laying down those 473 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of twist can do so with the the M xDrive setup.

But how does M xDrive work inside the M3 and M4, exactly?

2021 BMW M3 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Inside the new M3 and M3, the M xDrive splits the power and torque between the front and rear axle. In addition, the Active M differential on the rear axle further varies power and torque between the two rear wheels according to available grip levels, driving style, and weather conditions.

Because the M xDrive and the Active M diff are connected to the car’s DSC (dynamic stability control) system, both the M3 and the M4 can run in pure RWD mode.
2021 BMW M3 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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It’s also worth noting that the M xDrive is naturally rear-wheel-drive biased. What this means is that in 4WD and 4WD Sport modes, the setup sends power to the rear wheels by default and only engages the front axle when the situation requires it. That’s pretty basic and most likely the way most customers are going to enjoy the new M3 and M4.

Furthermore, for those who want a pure RWD experience, perhaps on the track or when the road gets twisty (provided they know what they’re doing behind the wheel), switching off the DSC turns the M3 and M4 into pure rear-wheel-driven machines unassisted by electronic nannies.

Final word

2021 BMW M4 Coupe Exterior
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It’s pretty obvious that in developing the new M3 and M4, BMW opted not to ignore driving enthusiasts and people who actually take their cars to the race track. The six-speed manual, the tweaking of the turbo’ed inline-six engine to behave and hopefully feel like a naturally-aspirated mill (as discussed here) and the introduction of an M xDrive setup that can still let the casual powerslide lover enjoy the car in pure RWD mode are signs that BMW is staying true to its ‘ultimate driving machine’ creed.

At at the same time, the carmaker understood that these days, customers have the hots for things all-wheel drive but still want to enjoy that M gusto, albeit in a safer, less hardcore and more user-friendly medium. The M xDrive provides that, too, but at the same time, it will be interesting to see how the market receives the M3 and M4. For now, what’s written on paper looks good for the two M cars.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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