Driven - Mar 2021

The BMW M3 & M4 Competition

Say what you want about the looks, this is still a proper M car! Shaun Korsten reports from launch in the Western Cape

It’s been the butt of the joke and the subject of enormous social media ridicule ever since BMW unveiled the concept version of the new M4 in late 2019. Some went as far as saying this is the end of the BMW – a bit over the top, I know, but BMW loyalists are apparently a tough crowd to please.

Yes, the styling isn’t BMW’s finest work and their riposte to all of you calling for the designer’s head to be on the chopping block will be ‘you’ll get used to it’. And admittedly, I think I have…it’s purposeful and aggressive – it doesn’t look like anything on the road. I think that was their main objective and they got it spot on. But my opinion on something that I’m sure you all have your own isn’t the point of this review. So, let’s get into the meat of things.

Under the bonnet, there’s still a six-cylinder twin turbo sending power to the rear. The all-wheel drive (xDrive) model should make landfall by the end of the year. Outputs of 375kW and 650Nm are significantly higher than the F80 generation – 44kW and 100Nm to be exact. Our market is of course only getting the Competition version which means it is paired exclusively to eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Which rules out the possibility of getting your hands on the manual version, but how many of you were actually going to buy the manual?

But let’s talk about the gearbox quickly: the previous F80 M3 used a M-DCT ‘box that was very responsive and rewarding when driving spiritedly but less so in traffic and day-to-day situations where it would be cumbersome and jerky. And while you do lose out on the rather enjoyable snap-like response when changing a gear, the new eight-speed ZF is an all-round improvement. It manages the hustle and bustle with more comfort than before, and the changes on upshifts and downshifts are still dramatically quick! The whole experience has been numbed slightly but I’m sure the majority of owners will appreciate this move.

The route we followed on launch took us through picturesque towns like Tulbagh and Ceres in the Western Cape and trotting along at the indicated speed limit was a pleasant and enjoyable experience. The adaptive M suspension and electronic controlled dampers did a great job of soaking up most imperfections, but the harsher bumps will be quite jarring in the cabin. On both the M3 and M4, standard fitment is 20-inch wheels at the rear and 19-inches upfront.

The interior is what you would expect from a BMW: inch-perfect build quality, top-tier materials with tasteful finishes and a smorgasbord of tech. In my opinion, BMW has been the segment leader for years in interior ergonomics and quality. Although, the crown of tech king must be given to Mercedes-Benz as I am still disappointed at the lack of configurability on the digital drivers display. Nitpicking aside, the cabin truly is a wonderful and luxurious place to be in – but now with a splattering of carbon fibre all over the place.

Our final destination was a private racetrack in the Cape Winelands where we were able to get a short, 3-lap stint around the circuit in both models. If you’re wondering, I didn’t notice any discernible difference between the M3 and M4. The the first I noticed was how composed it felt around the corners – there was just bucket loads of traction and grip. Although the G80 is carrying an additional 150kg in weight over its predecessor, the strengthening to the chassis meant the body always felt composed and it coped with strain and pressure extremely well. You can get an M Race Track Package that sheds 25kg.

The steering is now electronically controlled and unfortunately it is another numbing aspect to the new M3 and M4 . But in saying that, it is lazar sharp and extremely accurate and gives you a sense of confidence in your ability to correctly position and react to the car.

On the straights, you will reach a 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds – although I suspect that it is slightly quicker than that. BMW have also integrated a new braking system with two settings for pedal feel and response.

All in all, the new BMW M3 and M4 Competition are truly fantastic drivers’ cars that push the yardstick even further – they remain the brand to beat in this segment. With Mercedes-AMG opting for a 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain for the next generation C63, I’m sure we can all look past the Halloween mask and appreciate these types of cars before they are all gone.

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