The 2021 BMW M3 and M4 have been officially revealed, with a turbocharged inline-six in two different states of tune and the option of all-wheel drive for the first time.
It also has a manual transmission. The entry-level M3 and M4 puts power from its 353kW and 550Nm engine to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual, making them very rare beasts in the performance car world.
The Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS4 are automatic only, while the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio only has a manual option in Europe, meaning three-pedal rivals for the M3 are thin on the ground.
None of the Mercedes-AMG or Audi RS rivals to the M4 coupe have a manual – for a German performance coupe with a stick shift, you’ll need to look at the Porsche 911.
BMW M boss Markus Flasch told Australian media the manual was “very, very important” for his team, and drove the decision to steer clear of 48V mild-hybrid technology.
“It would have been difficult to offer it with mild hybridisation. Keeping the manual was one of the reasons not to go for 48V,” he said.
Mr Flasch described the manual as the “connoisseur’s version” of the new M3 and M4.
The M3/M4 Competition and their eight-speed automatic pack more torque than the manual base model because the transmission can’t handle the full 650Nm.
But it’s still no slouch in a straight line, hitting 100km/h in 4.1 seconds from standstill, thanks in part to the fact it’s 25kg lighter than auto.
Although manual rivals are in short supply, Mr Flasch says there’s a market for three-pedal performance cars in some parts of the world. In the USA, around 30 per cent of M3/M4 sales are expected to be manuals.
The M3 and M4 will launch with rear-wheel drive in both base and Competition guises, before all-wheel drive Competition versions follow later in 2021. Also coming in the middle of 2021 is a convertible version of the M4, while the first M3 Touring is on track to launch in 2023.
Mr Flasch says there was no plan to develop an M3 Touring originally, before a team of his engineers presented a fully-developed prototype that was too good to ignore.
“We will bring for the very first time an M3 Touring, a car that we are very proud of – a car where we surprised our entire organisation,” he said.
“This car wasn’t planned. Our engineering team made it happen, they surprised me on a Monday morning. There were not too many questions to be asked, we made the decision to bring this model forward.”
BMW has already locked in the M3 Touring for Australia, too.
“We plan to introduce the M3 Touring and will advise arrival timing closer to the launch date,” a BMW Australia spokesperson told CarExpert.
BMW had considered an M3 Touring in the past, even going so far as to develop a feasibility prototype of the E46 M3 back in 2000.