A guy in a gas station parking lot with a stern look that quickly turned to a big smile asked if we could switch cars. Another onlooker boasted he had the best BMW ever made but that mine looked pretty good.
Unsolicited commenters hated the matted exterior color and split “kidney grilles.” Other onlookers couldn’t offer superlatives fast enough.
And so it is with the 2021 BMW M3 Competition, the debut of the model’s sixth generation. It’s a track-oriented, sports car thinly disguised as a family sedan.
The M3 is far removed from its dullard relatives, those pedestrian BMWs parked in suburban driveways and counted on to transport children, grocery bags and golf clubs.
The M3 is a boastful, polarizing family member. It needs to perform. It’s fast, loud and too handsome for its own good.
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2021 BMW M3 Competition: Visual Beauty
It also needs to be seen. The Frozen Marina Bay Blue exterior paint matched to a Kyalami Orange interior is the least conspicuous color scheme available.
Need more flash? Try Twilight Purple, Fire Orange, Voodoo Blue or Velvet Orchid. They redefine pretentiousness.
The M3’s turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 engine has 503 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. It advances with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. (All-wheel drive will be available in next year’s model). Gas mileage averages are 16 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway.
Like other components, the M3’s engine growl is polarizing. It’s loud but not pleasing, a raspy cough not the soothing baritone of late-night radio station jazz host.
Further annoying, for increased economy, the BMW’s engine shuts off at stoplights. It’s a good idea and it works smoothly in others vehicles. The M3 restarts with a jolt as if something is wrong,
Carbon fiber is nearly everywhere, including in the unyielding, race-oriented, shell-shaped front seats with oblong holes and grabs handles. They’re best only for competition purposes, a nuisance and uncomfortable in daily driving.
The pass-through front seats are handy if a backseat passenger is interested in providing a lower back massage to the occupant in the corresponding front seat.
The 2021 BMW M3 weighs less than 3,800 pounds. Its combined power and lightweight status equate to superior performance — 0-60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. It’s part of a small, select varied speedy group that also includes the Bentley Bentayga, Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.
Technologically, BMW has joined competitors with top-tier offerings. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as are a Harman/Kardon sound system and a one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio.
Also available as options are gesture controls to assist with distraction-free infotainment system changes. A subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot and a wireless charging area further modernize technology.
Many BMW owners buy the German manufacturer’s vehicles as status symbols. The M3 Competition is likely a BMW owner’s purchase as an upgrade from the standard of the well-established 5-series sedan.
Value is not a strong BMW trait, with the M3 an ideal example. The base MSRP is $73,795. The purchase price, $104,245. Consider a few option examples: carbon-fiber brakes ($8,150), M Carbon Exchange Package ($4,700), M Driver’s top speed increase package ($2,500), carbon interior trim ($950).
The new generation BMW looks great and drives with as much authority as any BMW. But the M3 belongs on the open road or on a track. The German Autobahn seems right. A steady, long haul at 90 mph in the Utah desert would showcase the car at its best. Let’s go.
The legacy of the manufacturer’s slogans, “Ultimate Driving Machine” and “Designed For Driving Pleasure” would be upheld.
So buy the M3 Competition and celebrate far away from big-city commuting, urban shopping malls and other daily driving routines. Take the BMW somewhere where automotive high performance is best appreciated and have at it.