Over the years we have been lucky enough to get time behind the wheels of many BMW M cars. Coupes, sedans and SUVs, some being the standard M model, others the M Competition. My memorable cars are the BMW M2, BMW X5M, M3 and M4. I do love a good sports coupe, however, BMW proved that it doesn’t just have to be a coupe to have some fun at the M Town event in Hampton Downs. The BMW X5M kept pace with the others and never missed a beat. 

The BMW M2 has been a favourite of mine for a long time – the standard one, not the Competition model. I found the M2 Competition lost some of the fun, pushing it right up to a track toy. When I heard we would be getting the latest M3 Competition sedan, I hoped I would not have the same concerns I had between the standard M and Competition as I did before.

What We Like and Dislike About The 2021 BMW M3 Competition

What we like

  • Aggressive styling
  • Powerful: Yup, it’s fast
  • M buttons
  • Engine startup
  • Exhaust noise under power
  • Smooth and comfy ride
  • Great build quality
  • Beautiful handling
  • Fine quality, luxury interior
  • Tech level and safety features
  • Headlights are amazing
  • Because racecar

What we don’t like

  • Carbon fibre seats
  • That front bumper

What’s In The 2021 BMW M3 Competition Range?

Right now the BMW M3 Competition is the only M3 you can get from BMW New Zealand. I have to say that I find this a bit unfortunate, as I feel it would be nice to have both the M3 and the M3 Competition available, so that when you order one, you know it’s a bit special. It could very well be down to the global supply issue, or the fact that spec levels are generally high here in New Zealand, so maybe no one ever orders the standard M model if left with the choice. 

The 2021 BMW M3 Competition is available in New Zealand for a starting price of $168,900 plus on-road costs. This gives you a 4 door sedan with a menacing stance and a 3.0-litre TwinPower straight 6. This beast of an engine pushes out (510hp) 375kW and 650Nm of torque. Married with the 8-speed M automatic transmission, it can launch the vehicle to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds. So that you can put all that power down on the road, the M3 Competition has BMW’s M xDrive, which allows the car to run in all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive configurations. This engine also advertised a combined fuel consumption rating of 10.2 L/100km and 232 g/km combined CO2 emissions.

The M3 Competition is available in 16 different colours, this is split into a range of gloss and frozen (matte) finishes. It’s really nice to see a good splash of colour across the options. Our review car was Isle of Man Green Metallic.

There are 7 different rim configurations that range from 18” to 20”. This car had the 20″ M forged wheels double-spoke style 826 M Black selected. The interior upholstery has just as many options as the exterior, with 15 leather options. Our review car has the Full leather ‘Merino’ in Kyalami Orange and Black.

Finally, you have the interior trims, of which there are 6 options. We had the full Carbon Fibre interior trim finish to give that performance feel. 

2021 BMW M3 Competition Standard Equipment Highlights

  • 8-Speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission with gearshift paddles
  • Adaptive M Differential
  • Automatic climate control, 3-zone control Automatic tailgate operation
  • BMW Gesture control
  • BMW M Head-Up Display (HUD)
  • BMW Laser Headlights
  • BMW Live Cockpit Professional, 12.3″ digital instrument display.
  • Carbon fibre roof
  • Driving Assistant Professional
  • BMW ConnectedDrive
  • BMW Connected+ Concierge Services
  • ConnectedDrive Services and Apps
  • Connected Package Professional
  • Harman/Kardon Surround Sound System-Instrument Panel in Sensatec
  • Lumbar support
  • M Compound brakes, Blue with M lettering
  • M Drive Professional
  • Parking Assistant Plus, incl. Parking Assistant with Park Distance Control rear, Reversing Assistant, View, Panorama View, 30 View
  • Sport seats for driver and front passenger
  • Wireless smartphone charging
  • Intelligent Emergency Call

Our Review Vehicle’s Optional Equipment

  • Acoustic Glazing – $500
  • M Carbon Buckets seats – $7,500
  • M Carbon Exterior Package – $9,500
  • Remote engine start – $790

Including the optional equipment, our review car’s retail price is $187,690

For a full list of specs and options available for the 2021 BMW M3 Competition jump on over to the BMW New Zealand website.

How Does The 2021 BMW M3 Competition Compare To Its Competition?

This market segment used to have some clear lines; this model was compared to that model and that was it. BMW had the M3, Audi had the RS4 sedan and Mercedes had the C63. They all used to have similar motors and did the same thing. But over the years, motors have changed in some to V6’s, while others are still V8’s. We have also seen a lot of niche models appear which is blurring the lines, more options are great for consumer choice, but it also makes it harder to compare them. 

Make/ ModelEnginePower kW/Nm0-100kmFuel L/100kmBoot SpacePrice
Mercedes-Benz C634.0-litre, V8 bi-turbo375/7003.910.4355 litres$175,900
BMW M3 Competition2.0-litre, 6-cylinder twin-power turbo375/6503.910.2480 litres$168,900
Audi RS5 3.0-litre, 6-cylinder TFSI331/6003.98.8430 litres$162,500
Audi RS4 Avant3.0-litre, 6-cylinder TFSI331/6004.19.2505/1495 litres$157,900
Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 S2.0-litre, 4-cylinder bi-turbo310/5004.08.9460 litres$130,054

First Impressions Of The 2021 BMW M3 Competition

Our review car came in one of the launch colours, Isle of Man Green, which gave it a mean green street fighting machine persona. When I arrived at the dealer it was parked out front and that new bumper was there in all its glory. I can’t say I like it at first glance, it’s so very different from what I am used to seeing over the years.

Ignoring the bumper, the rest of the car is very slick. A mixture of aggressive and high-performance styling with a widebody rear that doesn’t hide the fact that this car is not your normal everyday runabout. If there was a hashtag for it, it would be #becauseracecar.

As much as the bumper shocked me from a distance, the interior also shocked me when I opened the door. The interior was orange, bright orange and black leather and carbon fibre. It looked great, just not sure it goes with the Isle of Man Green exterior.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2021 BMW M3 Competition?

What is it like, its ORANGE, a lot of orange? To be honest, I really like it, but I wouldn’t pair it up with the green exterior. Oddly enough there is no gloss orange exterior colour, just a frozen satin orange. I love the orange as it really works well with the black leather/Alcantara/plastic and the sea of carbon fibre. It just screams performance racecar.

The seats are very cool, M Carbon Bucket seats. The front looks like a luxury race seat and the rear of the seat looks like art with its exposed carbon fibre. After getting into the car for the first time, I realised that I may not be the ideal person for the M Carbon Bucket seats. I am a tall guy, once in the seat I am comfy and snug. These seats would be amazing on the track, as they would hold me perfectly from any sideways g-forces. 

The problem with these seats and my height is the side-leg supports. They are rather high and solid, so I have to lift myself up over them to get out. It’s not very comfy if you are tall and dad shaped. Getting in was much the same in reverse; you can’t just drop yourself in, you need to lift over the side and drop into the centre of the seat. You get used to it, but if you get it wrong, it hurts a lot, as there is no give in the side supports at all. 

The seats themselves have an ok level of padding, more than real race seats, but less than normal seats. Long trips might be a problem, as I imagine you would get a numb bum after a few hours on the road. The seats are heated too, which was nice on some of the cold mornings.

Personally, I would not recommend getting these seats if you plan to use it every day, it would grow old and everyone would hate them. If however, it’s just a track or weekend toy, you might be able to live with it. 

The steering wheel and driver’s display have a surprising amount of features and information available to the driver. From the steering wheel, you can control the radar cruise control, phone calls, volume, heated steering wheel, and the main information displayed on the driver’s display. At 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, where your thumbs would land, there are two red buttons. M1 and M2, the fact they are red shows that BMW gets it. They need to be red because they are special, and by pressing these buttons, you will change the dynamic feel of the car in multiple ways. Each button is predefined and customised to alter the engine, suspension, steering, braking and drivetrain to all or 2WD. That is a lot of control right at your fingertips. 

The driver’s display combined with the HUD also gives the driver a huge amount of information as if they were a fighter pilot. The main driver display shows the speed, RPM, fuel, temperature, current speed limit, the status of the performance settings. When used in conjunction with the cruise control it shows all of the cars around you, even the lanes beside if you’re on a motorway. It took me a while to get used to the volume of information, feeling almost drowned at first, but adapting to it quickly.

It’s strange how they have set up the car to drive versus how they have set up some controls on the inside. There are quick buttons for getting you into Sport or Sport Plus mode on an array of features across the car, but to change the aircon temp felt cumbersome and old. I always found I would set the temp, set to auto, and then after a while, I have to up the fan speed manually, as it didn’t get to the temperature I expected the auto function to. We test lots of cars, so we know when something isn’t working how everyone else works. Thankfully during most of the test, we had some really great weather, so it was window down to hear all that great sound. 

The remote was set up with a proximity auto-lock and unlock feature. This was kinda cool for the first few times, but then it became annoying. I guess it would depend on the person, might be good for people who tend to forget to lock their car. I quickly disabled this after I had to go back into the house to grab a jumper for my daughter after putting her in her car seat, she was not impressed when the car locked itself as I quickly went back into the house. 

As you can see in the photo of the rear seat there was a decent amount of space for my daughter’s car seat, almost 4 now, she has long legs and throws them everywhere. Not ideal when the M carbon seat has two big holes through them, allowing her to poke the passenger (Mum) in the back. Another good reason for me to not go with the M Carbon seats.

The boot is the same size as the rest of the 3 Series range, with 480 litres of space. This can be extended by dropping down the seats in the rear so that you can get longer or more space to carry a load. Either side of the boot has some nice pockets for smaller items than would otherwise roll around the boot. The M3 doesn’t come with a spare tyre, the only thing under the floor of the boot is the battery. You do get a puncture kit, that has a gel pack that is injected into the wheel to give you enough use so you can make it to a repair station.

What’s The 2021 BMW M3 Competition Like To Drive?

As you would expect from the M3, the ride is firm but it was still comfortable. Normal drive mode has a nice level of travel to the suspension, even for 20” low profile tyres and M carbon bucket seats. I know my local roads well, actually, the word road is too strong a word in some places, maybe large areas of uneven ground covered in tar is a better description. But the M3 handled it well. When the sport levels are increasing as too is the stiffness of the ride, thankfully neither Sport or Sport Plus is back-breaking levels of hardness, but just right to get that increased level of handling performance.

In the predefined M2 mode the car rips off its Jekyll mask and becomes Hyde. I was astonished at the difference in the engine and throttle control, going from a sporty car to a full-blown muscle car. Let’s just sidestep to the engine; a 3.0L straight-six with BMW Twinpower turbos attached. That creates 375 kW of power and 650Nm of torque and is fed into the car via BMW’s 8-speed M automatic transmission, which is mind bendingly fast-changing through the gears. The fact that you can just plant your foot on the floor and stay alive is a credit to the technology under the hood. The spool up of the engine once you stamp on the throttle is instant, in most cases, you feel the rear wheels slip just a little as it bites down, and then once it grabs it launches forward at a furious pace. 

The noise you get when you do this is also very rewarding. It’s been some time since I have been in a 6-cylinder car and said, “oh yeah, that sounds so good”, the right mix of power and aggression. Under power, the engine just roars and once you let off you get a string of exhaust reverb popping and cracking as you slow down. Downshifts could be a bit more dramatic, but I was happy with the rest so I won’t complain.

The handling of the M3 Competition is surgical, it can’t be faulted. Even in Normal drive mode, the steering is light yet precise. But in Sports mode the steering becomes one with your arm, where you want the car to go, it goes, corners pipped right on the edge, instant change of direction made with minimal effort. The steering is so good and so rewarding, that you do feel you are at one with the car and that you could start to push it further and further.

That being said, it’s clear the all-wheel-drive mode has been disengaged and the rear-wheel-drive has taken over when you switch to M1 or M2. The normal mode gives you huge confidence in all weather, without a second thought towards it. But the M modes lets the drive train ease off and revert back to the BMW’s of old, where the rear-wheel-drive is more fun to drive. 

Braking is another thing that you need to get used to in the M3 Competition. From the first drive, I nearly lost some of my teeth at the first traffic light. The brakes are good and when they bite in, they bite hard. Sadly this car must have been one of the cars used at the recent BMW M Town events around the country, as the brakes have been thrashed pretty hard. This was clear by the groves in the rotors too. None of this affected the ability of the brakes in any way, however, it did affect the sounds of the brakes. This meant that for most of my review I had a $180K car with very loud squeaky brakes, which is not ideal. But it’s good to keep in mind if you do plan to track it, always best to have another set of rims/tyres and pads/rotors. So you don’t have to live with squeaky brakes while you drive around town or to the supermarket.

Night driving is astonishing. The BMW laser headlights are so crisp and bright that you often feel like they are set to high beam. The distance they light up the road ahead of the vehicle is also impressive. It made me wonder how we had managed to see anything in the dark with the dim candles we all have in our current cars. 

Now on to fuel consumption, not the fun stuff, but what it will cost to run. BMW advertise that the new M3 Competition gets a combined fuel consumption of around 10.2 l/100km. That’s not a bad figure considering the car that it is. At the end of my week with the M3, my combined consumption was 12.2 l/100km. This is also not a bad figure, considering the car this is and how I have been driving it. Which is to say in a very professional and responsible way. However, this did require some more spirited driving to fully examine the full offerings of the M3 Competition. 

Fred’s Point Of View

I was expecting great things from the latest 2021 M3 Competition. Not good things, great things. If there was a shortlist of iconic cars, for me the M3 is up there with the E Type, the Dino 246 GT – among a handful of others.

I spent a week in the car after John, and I have to say, this latest version of the M3 delivered, and then some. Okay, not on the looks at the front; personally, it’s gone too far into wacky. But it’s the rest of the design and the car’s dynamics that redeems it.
What really nailed it for me was – naturally – the driving experience. As John has mentioned, the performance is simply so addictive, it’s impossible to not love this car, if you are a car kinda person. And it’s not just the performance, it’s the overall driving dynamics. Steering? Brilliant feedback, direct and quick. Brakes? Amazing. Engine sounds? Let’s just say a 6-cylinder should not sound this good, and that’s massive understatement.

The handling too was almost faultless. I managed to find the right places for some spirited driving, and man can this car stick, go, and stop.

The interior gave me a headache initially, all that orange burning out my retinas. But after a week? I loved it, and now any other colour is a huge let-down. That Isle of Man Green was a huge hit with every single person who saw it, whether or not they were a car lover.

Looking for an M3 Competition owner? Looks for the driver with the biggest grin.

In the end, for me the decision was simple; the 2021 M3 Competition is a brilliant performance car.

2021 BMW M3 Competition Specifications

Vehicle TypeSedan
Starting Price$168,900
Price as Tested$187,690
Engine3.0-litre 6 cylinder twinpower turbo
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
375/650
Transmission8-speed M automatic transmission
Spare WheelN/A
Kerb Weight, Kg1698
Length x Width x Height, mm4794 x 1903 x 1433
Cargo Capacity, litres480
Fuel tank capacity, litres60
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 10.2
Real-World Test – Combined – 12.1
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity Kg,
unbraked/braked
No tow rating
Turning circle, metres12
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 years or 100,000 kilometres
Safety informationAncap Rating – 5 starsLink
Rightcar.govt.nz – 3 Stars – NHG374
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Handling
10
Infotainment
8
Interior
9
Performance
10
Ride
8
Safety
8
Styling
8
Value
7
Vehicle Technology
9
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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