TEST DRIVE: 2021 BMW M4 Competition – Your Race Car For Everyday Driving

Today, a 6-speed manual transmission, a six-cylinder engine and rear wheel drive in a sporty vehicle is a unicorn.

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Over the past 35 years, the BMW M3 has become an icon in the compact sports cars segment. It is the epitome of racing and everyday practicality in a single product. Although the M3 initially served only as an homologation model for the German Touring Car Championship, sales figures for the first generation paved the way for further models. Last year, against all odds, BMW M GmbH achieved the best sales figures in its history through the worst pandemic in modern history. More than 140,000 vehicles from the entire M range were sold. And that’s despite the fact that it most markets the F80/F82 generations were not for sale in 2020.

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While the first test drives of the G80 and G82 prototypes took place at the Sachsenring about a year ago, we were invited last week to the BMW Driving Academy in Maisach to extensively test the production version of the new BMW M3 and M4 Competition. BMW put together a challenging program consisting of drift and acceleration exercises. The so-called performance slots were rounded off with a racetrack experience to fully exploit the racing genes of the M4.

But before we dive into the full driving experience, let’s take a look at the most important changes and similarities of the new M3 and M4 compared to its predecessor.

Purists can be relieved: Rear-wheel drive, Six-cylinder and 6 Speed Manual

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In this day and age, a 6-speed manual transmission, a six-cylinder engine and rear wheel drive in a sporty vehicle is a unicorn. BMW claims to be the last premium manufacturer still offering this recipe and the base version of the BMW M3 and BMW M4 are just providing that. Its turbocharged six-cylinder in-line engine produces a maximum output of 480 hp (353 kW) and sends of all of its power to the rear wheels. This enables a quick sprint in just 4.2 seconds from 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph). The maximum torque of 405 pound-feet is available between 2,650 to 6,130 rpm.

Customers looking for an automatic transmission will find it in the Competition models. The 8-speed M steptronic automatic transmission with Drivelogic, known from the X3M and X4M models, has been specially adapted to the even more powerful version of the S58 engine used in the M3 and M4 Competition. It replaces the M dual-clutch transmission used in the predecessor models. The increased power output of the Competition models totals 510 hp (375 kW) and enables acceleration from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.9 seconds.

TEST DRIVE: 2021 BMW M4 Competition – Your Race Car For Everyday Driving
The Drift King

While many changes, such as the design, are immediately noticeable compared to the predecessor, others are not. Particularly technical changes to the chassis or body are not immediately obvious. BMW has put a lot of effort, or let’s say weight, into these components. New stiffening measures for the body structure resulted in an additional total weight of 38 kilograms compared to the old M3 and M4.

Now you can argue that modern cars are becoming heavier and heavier these days. This is undoubtedly the case. But on the other side, these measures, such as additional stiffening elements connecting the individual spring strut towers with each other as well as to the vehicle nose and bulkhead, are aiming to take driving dynamics to a new level.

From Summer 2021, customers will have an even greater variety of models to choose from. The two Competition models will also be equipped with the familiar M xDrive all-wheel drive system for even better power distribution to all four wheels. The entire M3 and M4 model plate will be completed with the introduction of the BMW M4 Competition convertible which comes with M xDrive and the eight-speed M steptronic automatic transmission as standard.

The Exterior

TEST DRIVE: 2021 BMW M4 Competition – Your Race Car For Everyday Driving
Largest Grille On An M Car

A lot has been said about the design of the new BMW 4 Series already. And a lot more might be said about it in the future. And since the new generation of the M3 and M4 make use of the base design of the 4 Series, we will also spend a few words on it. But as design always comes down to a personal preference, I will certainly not try to convince you to fall in love with the new design and the big BMW kidney grille. To get the new kidney design out of the way immediately: I like it. Especially after seeing it in my rear view mirror on the race track. It’s a bold statement and tells that there’s something special and powerful approaching.

In general, the exterior design of the new M3 and M4 generation stands out even more clearly from the basic versions of the 3 and 4 Series. While the old F30 generation of the M3 and M4 still had a lot in common with the base models, the new models are fundamentally different. Especially the BMW M3 sedan in particular is quite different. It is reminiscent in approach of the E90 and E92 model generation, where now the M3 and M4 share the same front again.

Next to the frameless kidney grille, the front is dominated by huge air intakes for the increased cooling requirement of the engine. The front overhang is very short while the overall length of the cars increased by up to 122 millimeters. The M-specific design elements, which are intended to help the M3 and M4 achieve improved cornering dynamics, are evident on the front and rear wheel arches. The wheel arches have been significantly enlarged to accommodate the wider track and the large 20-inch wheels. The rear view in particular makes it clear how wide the track has been designed. It is further dominated by the black diffusor and the four exhaust tailpipes, each measuring 100 millimeters in diameter).

If you like to add some more carbon fiber parts to your M car, there is now an optional M Carbon exterior package available which consists of air control elements in the front bumper, exterior mirror caps, a rear spoiler and a carbon diffuser.

Driving the BMW M4 Competition

BMW spared no effort in designing a challenging and fast circuit where the dynamic driving characteristics of the M4 Competition can be fully showcased. The track on their training grounds in Maisach is 2.1 kilometers long and was composed of tight turns, quick chicanes and fast straights. However, before we were able to get behind the wheel, a quick briefing by a professional instructor is mandatory and explains the track layout as well as the pre-set configurations of the cars.

TEST DRIVE: 2021 BMW M4 Competition – Your Race Car For Everyday Driving
M1 and M2 Buttons

In order to experience the different personalities of the M4 to its fullest, the M1 and M2 button on the steering were programmed with different settings. During the first rounds on the track we used the M1 settings which kept the engine in “Sport”, the chassis in “Comfort”, steering in “Comfort” and brake in “Sport”. For the latter part of the track experience, we got to know a more aggressive character of the M4. The engines setup switched to “Sport Plus”, chassis, steering and brake were set to “Sport”.

As always, a professional driving instructor was in front to lead myself and another M4 Competition behind me through some fast laps on the track. The first laps were meant to get acquainted with the track layout and the setting of the car. Gradually, we approached higher speeds and were able to experience how straightforwardly and powerfully the BMW M4 Competition unleashes its performance. Nevertheless, there was still some room for a slightly more aggressive and sporty pace.

For the second part of our track experience I pressed the M2 button on the steering wheel and the M4 switched into the pre-programmed setup. While the engine was set to “Sport Plus”, the rest remained in “Sport” mode. As soon as I accelerated out of the first corner, the M4 oversteered slightly, but could be easily handled, thanks to the great traction available at corner exits. While I could stay on the throttle I was able to adjust the driving direction with smooth, precise steering inputs.

Now that’s fun! And the M4 was now in its element.

TEST DRIVE: 2021 BMW M4 Competition – Your Race Car For Everyday Driving
Fun On The Skidpad

Speaking of the steering inputs, the M engineers have certainly improved upon the F80/F82 recipe. The steering rack was updated and is certainly more precise, heavier and with more road feedback. Acceleration on the long straights of the racetrack was another discipline in which the new M4 shines and sets itself apart from its predecessor. The sheer and constant power delivery of the S58 engine was brutal in Sport Plus, but harmonized seamlessly with the 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The automatic keeps the car in the best possible rpm range for maximum power delivery.

It’s hard to imagine that it could be done better using the shift paddles.

At the end of the long straight, the standard M compound braking system slows down the M4 mercilessly, while the extremely precise steering allows me to maneuver the M4 perfectly into the curve. Thanks to the great steering feedback, I was able to position the M4 with millimeter precision and thus also achieved higher cornering speeds lap after lap.

Price and Availability

The first units of the all-new BMW M3 and M4 arrived at the dealerships around the world already some time ago. The official market launch is just a few days away and the first customers should receive the keys to their new M models soon. If you also want to call the new M3 or M4 your own soon, you have to pay at least $69,900 for the M3 or $71,800 for the M4 in the United States for the purist base version with a six-gear manual transmission.

An uplift of $2,900 will get you the respective Competition model with the 8-speed M steptronic automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive models, equipped with the M xDrive system, will become available from Summer 2021 onwards (pricing yet unknown).

Over the course of the year, the BMW M4 Competition convertible with M xDrive will complete the model range for the time being. As we know, also the first-ever BMW M3 Touring is in the making and scheduled to arrive in 2022. By then, the M3 and M4 model plate will be the most diverse ever, offering customers the widest possible choice.

Should I Buy One?

The new generation of the BMW M3 and M4 takes driving dynamics and performance to a new level. It lives up to the spirit of the M3 models and combines everyday practicality and racing performance in an impressive form. If you approach your new M3 or M4 in your driveway, you can either decide to go grocery shopping or head to the racetrack. The car is capable of doing both in a great manner. Just ignore the grille for now and go for a test drive.

 

2021 BMW M4 Competition

Exterior Appeal - 8
Interior Quality - 9.5
Steering Feedback - 9.5
Performance - 9
Handling - 9
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 9
Price Point - 8.5

8.9

The new generation of the BMW M3 and M4 takes driving dynamics and performance to a new level. It lives up to the spirit of the M3 models and combines everyday practicality and racing performance in an impressive form. If you approach your new M3 or M4 in your driveway, you can either decide to go grocery shopping or head to the racetrack. The car is capable of doing both in a great manner.