2022 BMW M3 Competition Versus 2021 BMW M4: Bavarian Creampuffs, Sweeter than Ever

2021 BMW M3 And M4 Revealed: Aggressive Looks, 503 HP, And A Manual


The new BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe are so freakishly brash and potent they should probably come with a warning label. “Handle with Care,” perhaps, or “Do Not Exceed Maximum Dosage.” But not “Slippery When Wet,” at least for top “Competition” models, which will add optional all-wheel drive (AWD) for the first time in the nameplates’ history when they show up as 2022 models later this year. 

In a cool tech twist, these 503-horsepower xDrive versions let confident drivers dial up a rear-drive mode to forego any help from front wheels and highlight their own cornering or tire-smoking skills. This level of driver customization is like having two cars in one, both with faultless driving dynamics.  

With almost nothing to criticize in elite power and athleticism, detractors have cruelly focused on the face: The M3 and M4 take BMW’s classic twin-kidney grille and flip it into a vertical orientation at a scale that’s made many car writers and fans flip out. The  XXL-grille does initially come off as overwrought, but quickly becomes part of the car’s brazen personality. Once drivers are aboard, they’ll be having too much fun to worry about those flaring nostrils.  

These M cars thunder to 60 mph in as little as 3.4 seconds and soar as high as 180 mph, the latter requiring an optional, $2,500 M Driver’s package. (That package includes a free professional driving class from BMW; amateurs are hereby urged to sign up).  

The Competition models hit dealers in August as 2022 models, but the already-on-sale regular rear-wheel-drive M3 and M4 won’t change much for ‘22. To sample each, we tested a 2022 M3 Competition back-to-back with a 2021 M4.  

The Classic BMW M-car Formula 

Yet in keeping with a tradition that began in 1986, with the first “E30” M3, these Bimmers are more than weekend toys. The M3 sedan, especially—4.6 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than before, on a 1.8-inch longer wheelbase—balances track-worthy performance with practicality and comfort like few luxury cars. The back seat is adult-sized, the ride taut but livable and a Comfort setting to ease the blows around town is included. A 13.0 cubic-foot trunk (which feels larger in practice) is ready for any summer vacation.  

A great BMW begins with a great engine. The automaker’s latest, twin-turbocharged inline-six is a technical powerhouse, including a racing-style “closed-deck” design to deliver epic power with reassuring durability. In Competition versions, the engine makes a staggering 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque from just 3.0-liters of displacement, a record size-to-power ratio for any compact BMW.  

 

Other Competition upgrades include staggered, 19-inch wheels in front and 20 inches in back; both are 1-inch larger than on standard models.  

One big trade-off will keep prospects up at night: Sedan or coupe, Competition models can only be had with a new eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission. The standard M3 sedan we tested brought a six-speed manual shifter that sent its entertainment value through the roof; it’s also available with the automatic, which is less fun but can shit faster than a human, an important consideration for track day hot-lappers. 

2021 BMW M3 and M4 vs all the high-powered sport sedans and coupes |  Engadget

How Much Do The 2022 M3 And M4 Cost? 

That M3 Competition starts from $73,795, or $75,695 for the M4 Competition. The aforementioned xDrive AWD adds $4,100, which helps harness these cars’ monstrous power and extend their all-season prowess. Our M3 Competition checked out at $99,595, including an $8,100 set of carbon-ceramic brakes.  

A standard M3 starts from $70,895, or $72,795 for the M4. (All prices include a $995 destination charge). Those rear-drive-only models still bring a hearty 473 horsepower and scoot from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds. Our standard rear-wheel drive, non-competition M4 still rang up $99,545 all-in, though again with some superfluous options—including carbon brakes, and a $4,700 M Carbon Fiber Exterior Package—that we’d pass up to ease the sticker shock.  

We took to hilly, winding terrain in New York’s Hudson Valley for marathon workouts in these Bavarian brutes. More than expected, the 503-horsepower M3 Competition felt noticeably quicker than the regular 473-hp M4, especially at higher speeds. It’s so forceful that we suspect BMW is sandbagging on how much power the Competition actually sends to its four wheels. BMW itself cites a ripping 3.4-second launch to 60 mph, aided by that four-wheel-traction.

No matter the version, these BMWs dazzle. The engine spins fairy-tale silk, and never feels remotely stressed. The full boatload of torque is available anywhere between 2,750 and 5,500 rpm, and the engine practically floats to its 7,200-rpm redline. Handling is a sticky delight: The M3 Competition gobbled mountain curves at 120 mph and more, feeling like an athlete who’s just getting warmed up. 

The new M’s even steer more sensitively than before—useful for fans who insist recent BMW’s have felt cold and synthetic. For some BMW diehards, the six-speed manual shifter will be an easy call. It’s not the best-feeling shifter in the land, with a bit of rubbery looseness in its action. Still, controlling a car with this level of modern performance through an old-school stick and clutch is an increasingly rare thrill. The manual adds a selectable rev-matching function for easier gear changes.  

As for the automatic, it’s quick and effortless if not quite as snappy as the previous-generation M3 and M4 models’ dual-clutch automatic.  

The cabin also ups the personality in comparison to often staid-looking BMW interiors. The Competition options list includes surprisingly vivid choices in interior trims, leathers, and colors. Our M4 featured a snazzy two-tone combo of Silverstone (an icy gray shade) and full black Merino leather, for $2,550. A thick slab of the steering wheel is leather-wrapped and stitched with signature red-and-blue M thread.  

The BMW’s conjoined dual display screens look sharp and work smartly through the iDrive rotary-knob controller. They include M Performance readouts that would pass muster in a Michael Bay action movie.   

A weight-saving carbon-fiber roof is standard on all versions. Optional, M Carbon bucket seats feature dramatic carbon-fiber frames, illuminated M logos, and guides to install multi-point racing belts. They’re ideal for track days, but wildly impractical day today, with soaring side bolsters and a thigh separator on the cushion that makes ingress and egress a gymnastic exercise fit for Simone Biles. We’d skip this $3,800 upcharge on the regular M3 or M4, especially when buyers can jump to the hotter Competition versions for just $2,900.  

As with their vivid interiors, these M cars also offer a zestier color palette than many BMW’s, including such shades as our M4’s Brooklyn Gray Metallic (beautiful), Isle of Man green, and Frozen Portimao Blue. 

New BMW M3 vs BMW M4 2021 - which one is better? (design & exhaust sound) -  YouTube

A Dizzying Array Of Driving Modes 

The Competition’s biggest annoyance is going overboard with show-offy, selectable driving parameters. There’s a cereal aisle of choices for the engine, transmission, stability controls, AWD, steering, and even brakes. Fortunately, a pair of red programmable switches on the steering wheel—labeled M1 and M2—let drivers store favorite combinations. But few owners would complain if BMW edited and simplified the options.  

On the plus side, the optional Drift Analyzer brings a rare bit of cheeky mischief from a usually deadly-serious BMW. The system, part of the optional $900 M Drive Professional package, practically dares drivers to destroy tires with lurid slides on the pavement. This onscreen wingman monitors the length, time, and steering angle of intentional drifts—just like in Forza Horizon or the Fast and Furious movies—and scores them like a movie critic, with up to five stars. It also includes a racing lap timer and associated app for Apple smartphones and devices.   

These BMWs offer the brand’s voluminous roster of electronic driving aids, though most are optional. An extra-cost Driver Assistance Professional brings Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, active lane-keeping, blind spot detection, evasion aid, and the Emergency Stop Assistant, which lets the BMW pull itself onto the shoulder and dial for help if a driver is incapacitated.  

An optional self-parking system adds surround-view cameras and a Drive Recorder that can capture or export up to 40 seconds of front and rear-camera video; triggered either by a driver or automatically in a collision. The latest, optional BMW head-up display is another keeper, with a 70-percent larger viewing area and cool displays like a multi-color tachometer and shift light indicators.  

BMW has been trying to outrun hungry competitors, along with slumping sales of sedans and coupes. The latest M3 and M4 definitely look ready to outrun any rival. This rich duo puts a cherry—appropriately flambéed—atop 35 years of M-car evolution at BMW. 

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