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2021 BMW M3 spied

BMW's high-performance sedan cops a grilling with a new, 4 Series-inspired front end. Its reveal is edging ever nearer.

1 month ago
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William Stopford
Journalist

Prototypes of the next BMW M3 are shedding their camouflage as we edge closer to its debut, expected to be before year’s end.

The most immediate visual change from its predecessor is the tall double-kidney grille borrowed from the upcoming BMW 4 Series and M4.

The more aggressive headlights, too, bring the M3 sedan closer to its coupe siblings. While the previous M3 and M4 have similar front end styling to each other, their less powerful 3 Series and 4 Series counterparts are also quite similar visually.

That’s changing in a big way, as the new 4 Series goes in a dramatically different direction from the 3 Series with its controversial new grille.

There’s just enough swirly wrap on these M3s to conceal design elements like the bumpers and side skirts. A honeycomb-like insert is visible on the front intakes of the red M3 in these photos, which differs to the M3 on either side. The red M3, however, appears to have the same wheels as the grey car.

Behind the M3 and M4’s imposing grille sits a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six, as seen in the X3 M and X4 M, which is expected to produce 353kW of power in base trim and 375kW in the Competition. The latter should also have around 600Nm of torque, like the X3 M Competition.

That’s a bump from the 3.0-litre turbo inline six of the fifth-generation model, which produced 331kW of power and 550Nm of torque in all variants bar the CS, which had 338kW of power and 600Nm of torque.

In a move that should satisfy purists, the M3 Pure will retain the option of a six-speed manual transmission. Automatic variants will feature the M5’s eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission instead of the current model’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The most significant mechanical change will be the availability of all-wheel drive, a first for the M3 line. Buyers will have the option of both regular rear-wheel drive and the xDrive M all-wheel drive system seen on the M5, which will help get power to the ground and likely shave some time off the M3’s 0-100km/h sprint.

The previous generation had a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds, or just 3.9 seconds in CS trim.

The latter is already lineball with the Mercedes-AMG C63 S and Alfa Romeo Giulia QV, which means the addition of all-wheel drive and a bump in power could see the Bimmer overtake them.