The addition of xDrive to BMW’s M cars, first the M5 and M8, and now the M3 and M4, has elevated these nameplates to new levels of previously unrealized performance. While Audi and (much later) Mercedes-AMG have both embraced adding all-wheel-drive to their performance cars, it took BMW, a brand previously obsessed with the driving experience above all else, a bit longer to jump on the bandwagon—but we’re certainly glad they did. The current generation of the M5 is the fastest ever, the M8 Competition is the fastest BMW yet, and—just as we suspected—the latest M3 and M4 are also faster and more capable than either of the models have ever been.
The confirmation of that last point comes courtesy of Motortrend, which published a list of the fastest cars the magazine tested in 2021. The G80 M3 Competition xDrive ranked tenth out of fourteen cars on the list, with an astonishingly fast zero to 60 mph time of 2.98 seconds. That puts the M3 nearly on par with the base model F90 M5, and just behind the M5 Competition. The performance also put the M3 ahead of the Chevrolet C8 Corvette Stingray, with a time of 3.09 seconds, and the Porsche 911 Targa 4S, which was clocked at three seconds flat, according to the list.
In fact, the only cars that outperformed the G80 M3 according to Motortrend were either electric, as in the case of the Lucid Air Grand Touring with its time of 2.97 seconds, the Audi RS E-Tron GT (2.88 seconds), and the Tesla Model S Plaid (2.07 seconds), or all-out performance cars like the Lamborghini Huracán STO (2.83 Seconds) and the Ferrari SF90 Stradale Assetto Fiorano (2.10 Seconds). It also bears mentioning that the 627-horsepower M5 CS can accelerate faster than the M3 Competition, but only by a few tenths of a second, with Motortrend recording a time of 2.64 seconds for the most powerful BMW yet.
Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, a rear-wheel-drive M3 Competition covered the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 125 mph and hit 60 mph from a dead stop in 3.5 seconds according to Motortrend. The difference between those two figures and the zero-to-60 acceleration time of the rear-wheel-drive and M xDrive-equipped M3 Competition demonstrate the kind of performance advantage made possible by all-wheel-drive, and just how fast a modern BMW M car is at high speed. For a benchmark comparison’s sake, the M5 CS covers the quarter mile in 10.6 seconds at 130 mph, while the M8 Competition can do it in 10.7 seconds at 129 mph, even though the M8 can accelerate to 60 just a bit quicker.
Thanks to wearing some of BMW’s most controversial design language in decades, some have seen fit to write the current generation of the M3 and M4 off after just a cursory glance. That’s a mistake according to evo Editor Stuart Gallagher, who said the latest M models shouldn’t be dismissed because of their polarizing looks in evo‘s 2021 car of the year video. Both BMW and BMW M posted record sales for 2021, and the 4 Series lineup, along with the M3 and M4, were attributed as primary growth drivers—despite being fitted with some of the largest kidney grilles we’ve ever seen.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]