Buyer's Guide

2021 BMW M3
Select a Different Model (2 Available): Base Sedan
Fuel Economy $ 16 / 23 mpg
Horsepower 473@6,250
Torque 406@2,650
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  • Standard six-speed manual transmission
  • Available with AWD for the first time
  • Track-tuned Competition variant


  • Frightening front-end styling
  • Decent infotainment
  • Uninspired interior layout

The M3 isn't a sport sedan—it's the sport sedan. BMW's iconic performance car is a legend, one that's earned global fanfare and once set the benchmark for an entire segment. From the original E30 onward, BMW has evolved the M3, increasing its performance with each generation. Now a new M3—the G80 generation—has arrived for 2021 wearing controversial styling. Regardless of how it looks, the M3 legend continues with more power and performance than ever before.

M3 vs. M4: What's the Difference?

BMW rebranded the 3 Series coupe into the 4 Series a few years back to better differentiate the two-door models. That's never been clearer than in these cars' newest generations. While the 3 Series remains agile and involving, the 4 Series becomes more of a grand touring car than a sport coupe. Will the M3 and M4 also feel as different as the 3 Series and 4 Series?

We don't think so. Hardware and options are essentially identical, with the rear doors and a few trim choices being the main differentiators. From behind the wheel, the M3 and M4 could have distinguishing factors, but we expect them to be minimal. Given the performance focus, the M4 will likely drive just like a two-door M3.

What Engine Does the M3 Have?

The M3 is powered by BMW's S58 twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, which produces 473 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque in standard form. It's paired to a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels exclusively. BMW says the M3 will hit 60 mph time in 4.1 seconds, on to a top speed of 180 mph.

In the M3 Competition, engine output rises to 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. The Competition is only offered with an automatic transmission, but BMW's xDrive AWD system becomes available. Considering the car's performance, fuel economy isn't all that bad, earning a 16/23 mpg city/highway rating from the EPA regardless of which transmission is chosen.

How Quick Is the 2021 M3?

The M3 has always been quick and thrilling, but its latest iteration transcends into a new performance bracket. In RWD Competition spec, we measured it hitting 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds, and crossing the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 125.6 mph. For perspective, a 2016 M3 Competition we tested needed 4.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, and did the quarter mile nearly a second slower, in 12.5 seconds at 118.0 mph. The M3's all-around competency was demonstrated by its performance in our figure-eight test, which measures acceleration, braking, and handling. We consider anything that completes the test in under 24.0 seconds to be a supercar—territory which the M3 Competition's 23.8-second, 0.85 g average firmly places it in.


The standard 3 Series earned an IIHS 2020 Top Safety Pick designation, which should bode well for the M3. As standard, the M3 is equipped with automatic high-beams, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring. Optional driver-assist and active safety features include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, emergency steering assist, and automatic front emergency braking.

Cargo Space and Interior Room

The M3's trunk offers 13.0 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Split-folding second-row seats expand cargo capacity for larger items.

Front-row headroom measures 40.6 inches in the M3, which compares to 38.6 inches in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Second-row headroom is 37.8 inches in the M3, a bit more than the Giulia's 37.6 inches. Front-row legroom measures 41.6 inches in the BMW, a bit less than the 42.4 inches in the Alfa. Second-row legroom is 35.6 inches in the M3, similar to the Quadrifoglio's 35.1 inches.


As standard, the M3 is equipped with a 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen running BMW's latest iDrive system. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, as is built-in navigation. The 12.3-inch digital gauge display has M-specific performance readouts, and a head-up display is optional. A Harman Kardon premium audio system is standard equipment.

What Is the BMW M3 Competition Package?

M stands for motorsport, and the new M3 Competition package makes the most out of every lap on track. Horsepower increases to 503 from 473, and torque to 479 lb-ft from 406. But the M3 Competition package does more than just increase engine output. It also adds hardware like a separate transmission oil cooler for sustained high-performance driving. In a first for the M3, AWD becomes available on Competition models.

The Competition package also increases the M3's racy style. Outside, it has 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels (an inch larger than standard) and extended black trim details. Inside, the seat belts are adorned with iconic M color stripes. The only catch is that the M3 Competition isn't available with a manual transmission—eight-speed automatic only—but that could be worth it for track-day junkies. Need even more performance? BMW offers a catalog of extras to make the M3 look and drive quicker.

Key Competitors:

Engine Name
Engine: 6-Cyl Turbo 3.0 Liter
Transmission Name
Transmission, 6 Speed Manual (LS58)
Base Sedan
Premium Performance Car
Standard MPG
Body Style
Fuel Type
Unleaded Premium
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IIHS Best Pick
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
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Not Rated
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Not Rated
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Not Rated
Amount Description Expiry Date
$2500 BMW announces a Military Program for cash customers. 12-31-2021
$500 BMW announces a Military Program for customers who Lease/OwnersChoice/Retail Finance/Select Finance through BMW Financial Services that is good towards a purchase or lease of select models. 12-31-2021
$0 0.9% Financing available for varying term lengths : 36, 48, 60 Months - BMW announces APR rates on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 06-30-2021
$1000 BMW announces Lease/APR Credit on select models for eligible College Graduates. 01-03-2022
$0 1.9% Financing for a maximum term of 72 Months - BMW announces APR rates on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 06-30-2021