Gentlemen, the new era of performance luxury has arrived. At long last, the BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupes have been unveiled, offering up a bevy of high-powered upgrades and performance firsts for the German icon. But while the new releases, which are set to hit Australia in early 2021 are a major win for local fans, the rumour mill has not stopped churning. In fact, it feels with every step, the mystery surrounding the new 2021 BMW M3 and M4 grows, and for two good reasons.
Addressing the BMW M3 & M4 Rumours
“We’ve heard some rumours around the new M3 and M4 releases; a lot around drivetrain but also around the design of the cars and in particular, the radical new Kidney Grille,” Brendan Michel, BMW Australia head of product tells Man of Many. “I can confirm some of the rumours, and the big one is the new Kidney Grille design already announced on the 4-Series Coupe. The new M3 and M4s will have a similar style with a Kidney Grille as we’ve seen before, but with some radical new changes, moving away from what has been done before.”
That’s right. The polarising Kidney Grille is back and bigger than ever.
The Return of the Kidney Grille
In a BMW first, the design team has reworked the iconic aesthetic side to side, rather than up and down. “For the first time ever, the slats are going to horizontal on the new M3 and M4 releases. Apart from the Kidney Grille being larger, this also helps to give the car a wider, more aggressive stance,” Michel says. But that’s not all.
Another first for BMW is a change to the kidney frame – which is now non-existent. “With the M3 and M4, the surrounds are the same as the body colour and whatever paintwork you choose,” Michel explains. “This gives the kidney a razor-sharp edged focus. Even on top where the car has this ‘flared nostril’ look, that carries all the way through to the bonnet, where you see we’ve created two little indentations to add to the flared aesthetic and wild animal look.”
But while the new look Kidney Grille signals BMW’s intention to hit the track with a more aggressive beast, it’s sure to turn some heads. The response to the 4-Series Kidney Grille was mixed, to say the least, and even Michel admits it’s an acquired taste, but one that grows on you with time.
“I have to admit, even I was hesitant at first, but now I’ve seen the finished product and seen the car in action, I’ve really fallen in love with it,” he says. “We’ve seen what BMW has done with the Kidney Grille over the past few decades, and it’s just been so out there. It’s a lot to get your head around, but once you absorb the look of the car, it is really easy to love it. I had a similar feeling with the first X7, not that had a past edition to compare it to, but the design grew so much from the X5. Once you see it in the flesh, you realise how much it actually suits the car.”
The evolution of Kidney Grille is somewhat of BMW folklore. Over the past three years, the Munich-based design team has added separations between models, meaning that rather than sharing the same kidney shapes, each model has its own design and story to tell.
BMW M3 and M4 Performance
The theme of moving away from what has been done before appears to be one BMW is taking pretty literally. Both the new 2021 BMW M3 and M4 cop some outrageously powerful upgrades, with particular emphasis on the drivetrain. “They each receive the Next-Gen in-line 6-cylinder small-displacement 3-litre engine,” Michel reveals. “The competition model has 375kW; over 500Hp in the old terms, which for a 3-litre is just crazy. Being a twin-turbo there is lots of torque, the competition model has 650Nm which is the highest amount ever in a BMW 6-cylinder.”
The upgraded performance specs mean the new M-Series cars can achieve sprint times of 3.9 seconds, a feat made simpler by the sleek design. “Obviously, our M-engineers have taken the core 3- and 4-series chassis and sprinkled a little M-Series DNA in there, so these new M3 and M4 releases have all the elements you’d expect,” Michel says. “In typical M fashion, they just corner so well. I have no doubt that we’ll see these perform well here in Australia; after all, every generation is better than the last. The previous M3 and M4 had around 331kW, so there is definitely an improvement in power, but there is also a heap of new technology features. With these new cars, there is a lot more safety equipment, the infotainment centre has been upgraded along with the connected drive features; it’s got all the latest and greatest from BMW.”
Manual Transmission is Here to Stay
While the major talking point leading up the M3 and M4 release was the Kidney Grille, fans began to question whether we had seen the last of the manual transmission. However, as of today, Michel has put that one to bed. “With our M-owners, we do see a lot of interest in manual transmission. So, we’re really thrilled to announce that we’re still able to offer a manual transmission variant, which will be available in the second half of next year,” he says. “It almost got knocked off the planning stage in Munich, but our M-engineers fought really hard to keep it and I’m glad they did.”
The new transmission is an 8-speed M Steptronic with Drivelogic torque converter, the same gearbox that features on M5 and M8. “Really excitingly, all of the new M models have this transmission and additionally, these new M3 and M4 variants have received the xDrive treatment, so you can get that power and torque to the ground far easier,” Michel says. “The great thing about all these options we’ve added is that it doesn’t matter what kind of driver you are or what kind of experience you are after, there is a BMW M3 and M4 for you.”
Hidden Track Features
We’ve also heard some rumblings surrounding the track-specific features, which Michel was more than happy to indulge us in. The BMW Australia head of product revealed that for the first time, the M3 and M4s have copped the full driving assistant package with level 2 semi-autonomous features, which offers up to 20 seconds of hands-free driving. While it’s not quite legal here in Australia just yet, overseas, it’s been is a major talking point. As is the ridiculous new addition that no one was expecting.
“We’ve added a Drift Analyser for the new M3 and M4s,” Michel says. “With this, you can actually watch your drift back on the infotainment system and the analyser will educate you on your drift analysis. With the M guys pushing the boundaries of what new technology can do, these cars are really becoming like a computer on four wheels.”
The M3 Touring
While the new M3 and M4s are the major discussion points here, we couldn’t very well talk to the head of product at BMW Australia without delving into the M3 Touring. The factory-built wagon was announced earlier this year, marking a first for the country and massive sigh of relief from Aussie BMW fans. “We got wind this about six months ago when Munich got in contact with us,” Michel says. “They told us ‘We’re trying to get a business case off the ground for a M3 wagon, do you think Australia would be interested?’. We were a bit like “Uh yeah, of course’.”
According to the BMW Australia head of product, the response to the initial reveal far exceeded his initial expectations. “The first M3 announcement that we put out to our dealer network was that just that they were so happy BMW had made this decision. We’re pretty happy to say as well that on the day we announced it, we had customers ringing up asking to buy. We’ll be producing these ones probably late 2022, but over the next 12 to 18 months you can expect to hear a lot more about the M3 Touring.”
2021 BMW M3 & M4
While the new 2021 BMW M3 and M4 releases aren’t being released in Australia until early 2021, they won’t be the first to make the journey. According to Michel, the team has sneakily brought out a couple of pre-production model M3 and M4s into the country. The result? An insane new video that showcases the very best of what we can expect from the sedan and coupes. “The team in Munich allowed us to kick things off and do some filming,” Michel says. “They know we have a strong M following and a strong M customer base; I think Australia is in the top three in terms of take-rates – so one in five BMWs bought in Australia are M-badges. It’s huge.”
So, with the facts finally broken down and the new 2021 BMW M3 and M4s on their way down under, the BMW rumour mill might finally be laid to rest. At least until the first official track shots of the M3 Touring emerge, that is.