The BMW M3 has long been the standard against which all other sports sedans (and, depending on the generation, coupes) are measured. I was fortunate to spend a week with the 2021 BMW M3 Competition to measure it up myself. And while this sports sedan had plenty that I loved, there were also a few things to dislike. I’ve laid out the best and worst features of the G80 M3 for Bimmer enthusiasts who might be itching to get behind the wheel of this M3.
Love: The Power and Torque of the Most Muscular M3
The G80 generation of the BMW M3 in the Competition trim is the most powerful M3 that BMW has created … so far. It kicks out 503 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque which translates to a lot of smiles per gallon. And if that isn’t something to love, I don’t know what is.
Love: Drive Modes and Complete Customization
When I think of drive modes and driver customization of those modes, I truly believe that the BMW M buttons started it all. What started as a single button on the older generations has since evolved into dual fighter jet, mission launch style M buttons on the F80 M3.
Not only can you fully customize what you want your M1 and M2 buttons to enhance (or tame), but you also have a unique M Mode button on the M3. This toggle allows you to easily switch between Road, Sport, and Track — all at the touch of that M Mode button.
Love: Outstanding Infotainment System
Nowadays anyone can cram a ton of horsepower under the hood and sprinkle high-quality material throughout the cabin, but where many manufacturers drop the ball is the infotainment system. Luckily for the 2021 BMW M3 Competition that is where BMW excels.
The BMW iDrive infotainment system is one of the best found in modern vehicles. I’m not going to point any fingers in this article, but several manufacturers have even copied the system in a few spots, and I truly wish more would. It is easy to use, ergonomic, and just plain works.
Love: BMW Live Cockpit with M-enhancement
The BMW Live Cockpit is one of the crispest and clear gauge clusters on the market right now. It has nearly any data point you could wish to see. Plus, thanks to the fact that it’s an M3, the digital display gets enhanced even further.
Putting the M3 in the Sport or Track modes unlocks a unique and detailed display that showcases things like current rpm as a dual-bar graph. You also get a large, easy-to-read display with your gear position and speed front and center.
Love: That Exhaust Note
I will be the first one to tell you that I miss having a V8 under the hood of the M3, but this high horsepower inline 6 certainly does sound good when it barks out the back. And the 2021 BMW M3 Competition features a nice little exhaust button that you can hit when you want the utmost enjoyment from the M3’s audio symphony.
Love: A Manual Transmission Is (Sort Of) Available
The particular 2021 BMW M3 Competition that I tested featured BMW’s 8-speed M Steptronic transmission, which is basically an 8-speed automatic. The automatic was great, but I know some people really need to scratch the manual itch when hitting the track or to let this thing have the claim to being a “true driver’s car.”
Though you can’t get the M3 Competition with a stick shift, a manual transmission is available if you don’t mind stepping down to the base M3. Sure, we wish the manual was offered for the beefed-up comp package, but to be honest the automatic in its manual modes kept me smiling just fine.
Hate: Controversial Front Grille
Oh, the front grille of this thing. I am not even going to give in to the click bate hatred of the front grille.
Is it the best M3 front grille BMW has made? No. But there are so many other ugly performance cars out there that no one hates on as much as this front grille. I will attest it looks way better and angrier in person than any pictures can do justice.
My hatred stems straight from the fact that if I mention this car someone will comment on the grille without even seeing it. I feel instantly forced to defend the thing. The grille isn’t nearly as bad as the drama that the grille brings in the industry right now.
Hate: Center Console Nearly Ruins the Interior
I personally felt at home in the driver’s seat of the 2021 BMW M3 Competition. All of the features, settings, and, of course, power made me grin from ear to ear, but one choice almost ruined the whole interior experience.
The center console featured cheap, plastic silver scale trim which can also be found in spots on the dashboard. In my opinion, it feels out of place. And after recently driving a competitor vehicle that came with carbon-fiber trim options and cost nearly $30k less, this material choice had me pulling my hair out.
Hate: Costly Brake Package Skimps on the Calipers
This particular complaint happens to be a box that was checked on the particular 2021 BMW M3 Competition tester that I drove. The window sticker confirmed that the vehicle featured the M Carbon Ceramic Brakes package for a big chunk of change — $8,150 to be precise.
And while the front brakes feature a beautiful 6 piston big brake kit caliper, the rear really dropped the ball for the price point. In the back, you get a caliper that is comparable to any consumer car brake kit — simply painted gold. With an “M Carbon Ceramic Brake” package costing north of $8k, I’d at least expect a BBK style caliper in the rear to match the front.
Hate: For a Competition Package, Not Much Comes Standard
Here’s the deal — many of the parts you imagine should be standard on the M3 are actually aftermarket. In the video game world, this is known as the downloadable content problem. For the 2021 BMW M3 Competition, it is an in-house aftermarket problem.
If I were to mention the 2021 BMW M3 Competition and show you all of the available performance parts, you would probably have an idea of what should come standard. But the coolest stuff to outfit the M3 is found after you buy the car. Want cool, grippy carbon fiber paddle shifters? An Alcantara steering wheel, shifters, and emergency brake? Titanium exhaust? M Carbon bucket seats? Those will all be an additional purchase.
Perhaps you dreamed that all these features came standard on the BMW M3 or got added in with the Competition trim. But in actuality, the M3 isn’t going to boast these fun extras unless you drop some additional dollars. Let’s face it, you’re going to buy those parts anyway.
Hate the Grille All You Want, the M3 is Still Top Notch
The 2021 BMW M3 Competition has a bunch of outstanding features and lives up to its legacy thanks to its performance stats and available driver customization. If you can push the drama of the front grille aside, what you get is a well-engineered vehicle that is still the performance benchmark for all sports sedans on the road today.