The next generation of BMW M cars is nearly upon us. It all starts next month, when BMW says it will officially reveal the all-new M3 and M4. As we’ve already discussed on this site, the benchmark performance models will be offered in two variations; there’s the base 480-horsepower, six-speed manual trim level, while upgrading to the M3 or M4 Competition model gets you 510 horsepower and an eight-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission. M xDrive will eventually be part of the mix as well, which means performance will be elevated into a new realm.
The drivetrain details and performance capability were never really up for debate, though. Instead, it’s the styling, specifically BMW’s new vertically-oriented kidney grille design which dominates the front end, that has people talking about the next generation of BMW M.
The new grille design is present on both the upcoming road-going M4 and the M4 GT3, the latter of which is slated to replace the M6 GT3, which has proven a potent competitor since it succeeded the striking Z4 GT3 back in 2015. The M6 GT3 has a successful racing record with victories and podium finishes secured on a number of highly varied tracks worldwide, and has demonstrated its versatility as other race cars, like the M8 GTE, have come and gone. With that in mind, it’s easy to see that the M4 GT3 has some big shoes to fill, but it’s the road-going M4 (and M3) that really matter.
Although still shrouded in camouflage, it’s clear that BMW has long since committed to the bold new design that has everyone questioning the direction of the brand. This is by no means unexpected, as the language is shared with the new 4 Series coupe. BMW makes a point to note that the upcoming M4 road car and the M4 GT3 were developed in tandem, just like the BMW M8, with motorsport DNA integrally woven into the design of nearly every aspect of both cars. This is important, as one must appreciate efforts on the part of any manufacturer to maintain a connection to motorsport, but in the case of the M4 GT3, it raises yet another question.
Just like the debate surrounding whether or not BMW thought about incorporating a license plate into the design of the new 4 Series (and now the M4), the lateral core support structure beam that intersects the kidney grilles of the M4 GT3 is also stoking contention. Why have a pair of gaping grilles on the front end if the look is to be spoiled by integral structural components that can’t be done away with? What’s the point?
We’re still waiting for the M4 to shed its camouflage, and to see what the upcoming M3 looks like, but more details are taking shape. The M4 be available for the 2021 model year, and is going to use the S58 engine that debuted with the X3 and X4 M last year. The official world premiere of both the M3 and M4 is scheduled for next month. As for the M4 GT3, it is scheduled to appear at select motorsport events (like this weekend’s MotoGP race, where it was previewed alongside its road-going stablemate) in 2021, and will fully replace the M6 GT3 in 2022.
Polarizing styling aside, the performance statement of the new M3 and M4 should speak for itself, and the same goes for the M4 GT3 race car, which has an illustrious lineage to follow up on.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]