BMW’s iconic performance cars head in a bold new direction for 2021.

The BMW M3 and M4 are icons, and inarguably two of the most important performance cars in the German automaker's portfolio. But the latest iterations are not the performance vehicles you once knew – for better or worse. Both designers and engineers took a bold new approach in creating the 2021 BMW M3 and M4, now in the sixth generation.

The biggest talking point for the new M3 and M4, obviously, are those massive dual kidney grilles propped up front and center. But behind that controversial snout hides a new twin-turbocharged straight-six capable of producing up to 503 horsepower (375 kilowatts) in the Competition model and allowing for a 0-to-60-mile-per-hour sprint of under four seconds. Coupled with an updated cabin design – complete with brand-new sport bucket seats – and loads of fresh technology, and the new M3 and M4 promise to be more than just polarizing silhouettes.

Exterior: What A Face

2021 BMW M4 Exterior

BMW designers weren't kidding when they said the M3 sedan and M4 coupe would have a bold personality. The pair of performance cars, as mentioned, get massive dual kidney grilles that extend vertically from the base of the hoodline to the bottom of the bumper, similar to what we've already seen on the entry-level 4 Series. The big kidneys join aggressive full-LED headlights (with BMW Laserlight available as an option), and a large vent at the base of the bumper that extends nearly the width of the front fascia.

Both the M3 and M4 come standard with a carbon fiber roof – or an optional, no-cost moonroof – M-specific front and side splitters, and staggered wheels (18s in front and 19s out back). The higher performance Competition model gets 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inchers at the rear. There's also an optional M Carbon package available on both models, which adds more lightweight stuff to the exterior, and a Shadowline option that drapes the exterior mirrors, rear spoiler, and tailpipes a darkened finish.

2021 BMW M4 Exterior
2021 BMW M3 Exterior

New color options include Isle of Man Green metallic paint on the M3 pictured here, as well as Sao Paulo Yellow on the M4. But buyers can also choose from other hues like Alpine White, Black Sapphire, Brooklyn Grey, Oxide Grey, Portimao Blue, Toronto Red, Tanzanite Blue II, Individual Dravit Grey, Individual Frozen Brilliant White, and Individual Frozen Portimao Blue.

In terms of size, the new M3 and M4 are both a bit bigger than their predecessors and both have an identical 112.5-inch wheelbase. The M3 is 4.6 inches longer, 0.4-inch wider, and 0.1-inch higher than its predecessor, while the M4 is 4.6 inches longer, 0.7-inch wider, and 0.4-inch higher than the previous model.

Performance: Rear-Wheel Drive, Manual

2021 BMW M4 Exterior
2021 BMW M3 Exterior

The new BMW M3 and M4 use the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine. That unit is good for 473 horsepower (353 kilowatts) and 406 pound-feet (550 newton-meters) in the standard M models, allowing a 0-to-60-mile-per-hour sprint of 4.1 seconds. The more powerful Competition models, though, get 503 hp and 479 lb-ft (650 Nm), running to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Those horsepower and torque figures mark an improvement of 59 hp and 73 lb-ft of torque compared to the previous models. Both versions have electronically limited top speeds of 155 mph (250 kmh) or 180 mph (290 kmh) with the optional M Driver's package selected.

Both the M3 and M4 come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while the Competition offers an eight-speed automatic only, with power sent exclusively to the rear wheels… for now. BMW says an xDrive version of the Competition models will be available in the US later next year. The rear-biased all-wheel-drive system is similar to the M5’s system, with an active M Differential at the rear axle and the ability to choose between 4WD and 4WD Sport modes, with the latter option sending more power to the rear. And if you really want to get loose, turning off the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) transfers power to the rear wheels exclusively.

Gallery: 2021 BMW M4

In the center console, just to the left of the iDrive controller, is a new model-specific M Mode button. Unlike traditional tactile drive mode buttons found on other cars, the single M Mode option gives you access to a dedicated M Mode settings screen where you can adjust things like the engine, suspension, and steering. Drive mode options for the engine include Efficient, Sport, and Sport Plus, while drive mode options for the chassis are Comfort, Sport, or Sport Plus, and the M-specific power steering are selectable in both Comfort and Sport. The exhaust system, meanwhile, gets a special M Sound button that improves the note synthetically.

Other than the obvious engine and drivetrain upgrades that the M3 and M4 get over their base counterparts, the two also get model-specific exhaust, braking, and suspension treatments. Upgrades to the underbody include new front and rear axle subframes and additional underfloor bracing, as well as adaptive M dampers. The front brakes are six-piston fixed-caliper brakes with 14.9-inch discs, while the rear set are single-piston floating-calipers with 14.6-inch discs.

  Engine Horsepower Torque Transmission 0-60
2021 BMW M3 Twin-Turbo Inline-Six 473 406 6-Speed Manual 4.1 Seconds
2021 BMW M3 Competition Twin-Turbo Inline-Six 503 479 8-Speed Auto 3.8 Seconds
2021 BMW M4 Twin-Turbo Inline-Six 473 406 6-Speed Manual 4.1 Seconds
2021 BMW M4 Competition Twin-Turbo Inline-Six 503 479 8-Speed Auto 3.8 Seconds

Interior: Big Bolstered Buckets

2021 BMW M3 Interior

A number of features from the standard BMW 3 Series and 4 Series – and really, the rest of the lineup – carry over to the inside of the M3 and M4. Most notably, both vehicles get the same central touchscreen and digital instrument cluster found elsewhere in the range. Only now there are subtle touches to indicate the pair's more sporty nature, like a new red stop-start button in the center console, optional carbon fiber trim pieces, appropriate M badging throughout the cabin, and red M Mode buttons on the steering wheel that allow the drivers to cycle between Road, Sport, and Track settings.

New sport seats also set the M3 and M4 apart from their base siblings. The radically styled, Merino leather buckets are brand new and have massive side bolsters, integrated head restraints with an illuminated model badge, and M-specific perforation for better ventilation (a first on the M3 and M4).

Those buyers wanting something even more supportive, though, can select the optional M Carbon seats. Those seats shed 21 pounds over the standard buckets thanks to a lightweight carbon fiber construction, and they feature a new integrated headrest, even more aggressive side bolsters (now wrapped in Alcantara), a seat-bottom bolster, and an illuminated M badge. Plus, you can get the optional M Carbon bucket seats in some wild colors, as pictured in the M4 Competition below.

2021 BMW M4 Interior
2021 BMW M4 Interior

Full Merino leather comes standard on either seat option, available in colors like black, Yas Marina Blue and black, Silverstone and black, and Kyalami Orange and black. There's also an extended Merino leather option that drapes the upscale cowhide on other parts of the interior, available in all of the same colors.

Front legroom in the new M3 actually decreases slightly compared to the previous model, dropping from 42.0 inches to 41.6 inches. But headroom grows a bit from 40.3 inches in the previous M3 to 40.6 inches in the new one. In the M4, front legroom also decreases from 42.2 inches in the previous model to 41.7 inches here, but front headroom improves from 39.8 inches to 40.3 inches.

Technology & Safety: Subtle Upgrades

2021 BMW M4 Interior
2021 BMW M3 Interior

The BMW M3 and M4 get the same 10.3-inch central touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster found elsewhere in the range. Only now the digital instrument cluster has M-specific graphics, and the central touchscreen displays the aforementioned M Mode option. The latest iDrive 7.0 operating system also carries over with standard features like navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and BMW's personal voice assistant. A head-up display is available, but only as an option.

The M3 and M4 also get an optional M Drive Professional feature, which helps drivers analyze driving lines and times on race tracks. Even better, baked into that M Drive Professional feature is an M Drift Analyzer, which records the duration of a drift, distance covered, and the line and angle, displaying a final rating on the Control Display after each drift. Users can also download an iPhone app that corresponds with the M Drive Professional and M Drift Analyzer to give them a bird's-eye view of the track and access to a lap time comparison chart, as well as data like speed, accelerator position, and total G forces.

Gallery: 2021 BMW M3

The M3 and M4 get a standard Active Driving Assistant package, which includes lane departure warning, speed limit information, active blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear-automatic emergency braking. But the Competition models get BMW's more advanced Driving Assistance active safety suite as an option. That package includes features like full-speed adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, active lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and high-speed automatic emergency braking.

Pricing & Availability: Coming Soon

The 2021 BMW M3 will cost $69,900 to start, while the new BMW M4 starts at $71,800 (not including $995 for destination). The more powerful BMW M3 Competition, meanwhile, starts at $72,800 and the M4 Competition begins at $74,700. BMW has not released pricing on the all-wheel-drive M3 and M4 Competition models, as those won’t arrive until later in 2021.

  Price
2021 BMW M3 $69,900
2021 BMW M3 Competition $72,800
2021 BMW M4 $71,800
2021 BMW M4 Competition $74,700