Those that know me well should be downing a few drinks as they read this. In celebration of course. But maybe it’s early-onset dementia, or the fact that this 2021 BMW M3 Coupe is finished in handsome Isle of Man Green Metallic and not the bilious grey launch colour, or perhaps Bavaria’s designers were right all along (have another drink on me), but I find myself not hating the M3’s most controversial styling feature. Much has been said about the expansive fascia on BMW’s enthusiast sedan, and vanishingly small amounts of it proved positive, but I find myself bucking the trend. Here. Right now. For this specific model only.
It’s not that the new M3 – the four-door performance version of the BMW 4 Series – is classically good looking. Style is subjective, yes, but that’s not to say the consensus doesn’t follow some broad trends. All the same, continued exposure and comely paintwork have me feeling oddly warm’n’fuzzy feelings towards the sedan’s copious grille.
Anyway, it’s not like the regular 2021 M3 Sedan’s 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six is lacking in power. 375 kW and 650 Nm of torque go straight to the rear wheels.
While I’ve no doubt that BMW’s automatic makes for the fastest 0-100 time – 3.5 seconds, the automaker claims – not to mention suitably slushy driving around town when you don’t want a German monster. Well, once I turned off BMW’s active rev matching, anyway. It gives a hefty hoof-full of throttle as you downshift, which is probably useful on the track but makes you seem like a try-hard to every other driver around you the rest of the time.
Happily switching it off is one of BMW’s long, long list of options and settings in the M3. We’re a far way from the days when a normal mode and a sport mode were your big driving decision, and the pages of settings, various buttons, and general tweaking potential here is vast and frankly overwhelming.
Thankfully there are two little red preset buttons on the steering wheel, each of which can summon your carefully-configured array of drivetrain and other settings. That meaty-rimmed wheel leaves a good first impression, and the 8-speed takes that baton and runs with it.
It’s not a light, playful transmission as you’d find in a Miata, instead responding well to a firm hand as you slap it between positions. Strong-arming through the cogs as the turbo howls up to the redline never gets old.
Even in the default settings, things are firm and agile. There’s a little roll in more urgent corners, but it’s only really noticeable when you tap into Sport mode and realize it has disappeared completely. Grip is never in question, and if the rear end gets playful then it’s almost certainly because you’ve provoked it yourself.
The R141 000 carbon ceramic brakes aren’t cheap, but they’re entirely dependable. BMW manages to avoid that grabby feeling that some rivals suffer in return for their extra stopping force, too. Pull back from the more aggressive drive mode settings and, while the M3 is never going to be mistaken for a cosseting 330i, nor will it shake your teeth loose on every scrap of less-than-perfect asphalt.
Inside, the cabin is familiar but outfitted with a host of performance trim. The Carbon Fiber package lavishes it on the centre console, dashboard, doors, and elsewhere, to match the striking roof. Spend more on the M Carbon Bucket Seats, meanwhile, and you get a set of impressive sports thrones. Their white and grey leather is an acceptable taste, as is the hump at the front between your thighs. BMW says it lends support in more urgent track conditions, but it still feels weird to me.
BMW’s iDrive system supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, gets a set of USB-A and USB-C ports, a sizable 12.3-inch touchscreen, and a fully digital driver instrument display that shifts layout according to your drive mode. A Harman Kardon audio system is standard, too. This is all familiar fare if you’ve been in a recent BMW.
In the back, there’s actually a reasonable degree of room for adults. Just like in the normal 3 Series. I’m 1.83m and could fit there without needing to clamshell my legs or chop off any limbs completely. There are dedicated USB ports and other controls.
As for safety, there’s blind spot warnings, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, and front and rear parking sensors, all as standard. The only option is the M Shadowline Lights package, and even then that’s more an aesthetic change than a functional one.
With its sticker price of R2 067 788, as pictured in this article, the M3 Sedan lulls you and your wallet at first. BMW’s options, of course, bring the real heat: all-in.
I’d like to say you could skip most of the add-ons and still have the same overall experience, but a lot of them contribute so specifically to the M3 Sedan that I’m not sure the savings are worth the sacrifice. Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, spending lavishly on one of the few life’s pleasures is justifiable. After all, you probably won’t be thinking about the price tag when you’re slamming through the gears and listening to the inline-six sing its magical song.