If you’re old enough to remember when BMW brought us its first-ever M3, you probably don’t want to be reminded by us that it was now 35 years ago since the Bavarian automaker changed everything with the release of that car. As a fitting tribute to that pivotal moment in automotive history, BMW has now unveiled its very latest M3 Competition Saloon and M4 Competition Coupe models.
The key to the incredible success of BMW's M models is their combination of staggering track-focused performance with everyday usability, and these latest offerings are certainly not diverting from that tried and tested blueprint.
Although BMW has tried to turn the 4 series into a separate model in its own right that's more than just a 3 Series with two fewer doors and a sloping roofline since it split the coupe off from being part of the 3 Series, these two models are still strikingly similar apart from those two obvious differences.
Under the bonnet of both cars is the same engine, but what an engine it is. The straight-six sets a new high-point for performance in these competition models with an uplift of 60 horsepower over its predecessor, and peak torque is also up by a massive 100Nm. The 3.0-litre inline-six twin-scroll turbo now produces 510 horsepower and 650Nm of peak torque, which translates to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph and 0 to 62mph time of just 3.9 seconds. However, if you go a little further and opt for the M Pro Package for your M3 or M4, the top speed then rises to an even more impressive 180mph.
Both models send all that wonderful power to the rear wheels through a specially tuned eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic, which allows both fully automatic gear changes and manual shifts with sequential gear selection. However, xDrive all-wheel-drive versions of both cars are going to be available from the summer of 2021.
Despite their impressive performance and track-ready credentials, these cars are not stripped-down hardcore race cars that forgo the likes of audio and climate control systems to keep weight down. Both cars will offer class-leading levels of standard equipment, although there will also be a lot of optional equipment available too that will be offered in six main packages of Comfort, Technology Plus, Visibility, M Carbon, M Pro and Ultimate.
As anyone familiar with the BMW M series will know, there's an awful lot more to the performance and handling of these cars than just raw horsepower and torque ratings. The M3 and M4 may be no match for something like the Dodge Challenger Hellcat in terms of sheer output, but it's the intelligent and highly advanced way the BMWs use their power that sets them apart from such blunt instruments as the Hellcat.
The M3 and M4 features the likes of adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, an integrated braking system with two pedal feel settings, DSC with M Dynamic Mode and ten-stage traction control, and enhanced individualisation of the powertrain and chassis via the Setup button.
These new versions of the M3 and M4 are a little longer and wider than their predecessors, but it's probably the revised front grille that will promote most debate amongst M enthusiasts. It won’t be to everyone's liking, but even if you don’t approve, you can't see it when you're sat behind the wheel with the great big stupid grin on your face the performance of these sensational cars is sure to put there.