BMW M3 vs M4: Performance Showdown and Comparison

Design and Styling

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, it’s essential to note the key design differences between these two high-performance vehicles. Although both cars are based on the same platform, the BMW M3 is a sedan, while the M4 is a coupe. This distinction results in unique styling for each vehicle that suits different preferences.

The exterior of the BMW M3 features four doors and a more spacious design, which offers slightly more headroom and shoulder room than the M4. This added space can be especially useful if you plan on wearing a helmet for track days or simply want a more comfortable, family-friendly car. The M3’s wide, aggressive stance and bold front grille make a strong statement on the road.

On the other hand, the M4’s coupe design is sleeker, with a two-door body style that emphasizes its sporty nature. The M4 shares the distinctive front grille with the M3, but its more streamlined profile gives it a unique edge in terms of style. As a result, the M4 may be more appealing if you’re looking for a car that stands out for its performance aesthetics.

In terms of size, both vehicles have similar dimensions, with the M4 being slightly lower in height due to its coupe design. However, their widths are nearly identical, ensuring that both cars have a commanding presence on the road.

Being part of BMW’s performance lineup, both the M3 and M4 showcase aggressive and modern styling. Features such as large air intakes, flared wheel arches, and eye-catching side skirts make these cars unmistakably M Performance models. Inside the cabin, you’ll find a driver-centric layout, with high-quality materials, sport seats, and the latest technology to ensure comfort and convenience.

Whether you choose the BMW M3 or M4, you’ll be getting a vehicle with striking design and impressive performance capabilities. The decision ultimately comes down to your preference for a sedan or a coupe and the specific styling elements that speak to your tastes.

Engine and Performance

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, you’ll find that both vehicles share the same impressive power source. Under the hood, a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, twin-turbocharged engine pumps out 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. This remarkable machine delivers exhilarating high-performance capabilities, propelling you down the road in the blink of an eye.

Choosing between these two models ultimately comes down to personal preferences and your driving needs. Opting for the M3 gives you a sporty sedan, while the M4 is a sleek coupe. Both vehicles showcase slight differences in weight and dimensions, but their driving dynamics remain more or less the same. You can expect an enthusiast-focused, engaging driving experience from either M3 or M4, as they handle sharp curves and rapid acceleration with ease.

Despite the similarities, the transmission options in these cars impact their overall performance. The standard M3 and M4 come with a 6-speed manual transmission, whereas the Competition models feature an 8-speed automatic transmission. Regardless of your choice, you can expect exhilarating driving experiences from both the M3 and M4.

In conclusion, when it comes to engine and performance, the BMW M3 and M4 both boast the same turbocharged powertrain. The crux of the comparison lies in personal preferences and driving needs with little deviation in terms of performance. Whichever model you decide to go for, rest assured that you’ll be treated to an adrenaline-pumping experience behind the wheel.

Transmission Details

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, one of the critical aspects you should consider is their transmission options. Both models come with various transmission choices to cater to your preferences and driving style.

You have the option of a manual transmission, which brings forth the classic six-speed one. As you enjoy the traditional driving experience with a clutch pedal, you will appreciate the control and engagement it offers. Many driving enthusiasts prefer the feel of a manual transmission, as it offers a greater sense of connection between the driver and the car.

In addition to the classic six-speed manual transmission, the M3 and M4 also feature an optional Steptronic transmission. This advanced transmission provides seamless gear changes and impressive performance capabilities. With eight speeds, it ensures maximum efficiency and power distribution.

The Steptronic transmission in both M3 and M4 allows you to choose between automatic and manual modes. In automatic mode, the transmission manages shifts for you, providing smooth and comfortable driving. On the other hand, manual mode lets you take control of gear changes, offering a more engaging driving experience. With the convenient paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel, you can change gears without even taking your hands off the wheel.

When it comes to transmission choices, the BMW M3 and M4 cater to a wide range of driving preferences. Whether you are a fan of the engaging experience of a six-speed manual or the versatility and ease of Steptronic transmission, these performance cars have the options to satisfy your driving desires.

Drivetrain and Handling

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, both cars share a similar drivetrain. They utilize the same powerful 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six engine with two different power outputs. The entry-level M3 and M4 models come equipped with 480 PS (473 hp) version, while the Competition versions get a higher output with 510 PS (503 hp) source.

Regarding handling, both the M3 and M4 are exceptional in their respective segments. They provide excellent performance, thanks to the stiff chassis, precise steering, and adaptive suspension. You can expect these cars to have a great balance of comfort and sportiness, ensuring your driving experience is enjoyable even during high-speed cornering.

In terms of steering, the M3 and M4 come with a variable-assist and variable-ratio setup that helps improve feedback and responsiveness. This means that you will have a better sense of the road and drive with more confidence, especially when navigating tight corners.

Currently, the base models of the M3 and M4 come with rear-wheel drive, staying true to the tradition of BMW’s driving dynamics. However, all-wheel-drive (xDrive) versions are available for the Competition models, enhancing their grip on various road conditions source. Thus, you have the option to choose between the engaging rear-wheel-drive dynamics or the added stability of all-wheel drive, depending on your preferences and location.

In summary, the BMW M3 and M4 share a robust and high-performance drivetrain, ensuring remarkable handling, precise steering, and the choice between rear-wheel or all-wheel drive to suit your driving style and conditions.

Interior Comfort

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, one significant factor to consider is the comfort and quality of the interiors. As you step inside both vehicles, you will notice that each offers high-quality materials and leather seats, ensuring a pleasant experience for both drivers and passengers. However, there are differences in the cabin dimensions that may influence your decision.

Focusing on the rear seat, the M3 and M4 have differing amounts of space allotted for passengers. In terms of shoulder room, the M4 offers 51 inches, while the M3 provides nearly 55 inches 1. This difference in interior configuration extends to legroom as well. Backseat passengers in the M4 receive 34.7 inches of legroom, while the M3 occupants get 35.6 inches 1.

Considering headroom, both the M3 and M4 provide ample space for occupants, though specific dimensions may vary slightly between the sedan and coupe models. It is important to note that while some people may not notice the slight differences in headroom, others with taller statures might find one model more comfortable than the other.

Overall, the choice between the BMW M3 and M4 largely depends on your preferences. If you prioritize rear seat space and slightly greater legroom, the M3 might be a better fit for you. However, if the difference in space is not a significant factor, then either the M3 or the M4 would provide a luxurious and comfortable driving experience, ensuring satisfaction on your journeys.

Features and Technology

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, you’ll notice that both cars have similar features and technology. BMW ensures that your driving experience is complemented by advanced tech and user-friendly amenities.

You’ll find the iDrive infotainment system in both models, providing you with a responsive and intuitive interface right at your fingertips. The 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine provides 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, ensuring a thrilling drive on the road.

In terms of display, you can enjoy a high-resolution screen that displays essential information such as speed, navigation, and entertainment options. With the Head-Up Display, crucial driving data is projected onto the windshield, allowing you to keep your focus on the road ahead.

As for connectivity, both the M3 and M4 are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can easily sync your smartphone to the car’s system. The Harman Kardon surround sound system adds to the luxurious ambiance, providing an immersive audio experience.

Safety features are also abundant in both models, with advanced technologies such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert ensuring a secure and comfortable drive. You can also opt for optional features such as the M Carbon Ceramic brakes and the M Driver’s Package, which enhances the performance capabilities of these vehicles.

So, when choosing between the BMW M3 and M4, rest assured that you are getting a cutting-edge driving experience with the latest features and technology. Whether you prefer a sporty coupe like the M4 or a dynamic sedan like the M3, both options offer a confident, knowledgeable, and engaging ride.

Performance on Track

When it comes to performance on the racetrack, both the BMW M3 and M4 are impressive vehicles with plenty to offer. Their twin-turbo straight-six engines deliver a substantial 503 hp, making them ideal candidates for unleashing their full potential on a high-speed circuit 1.

In terms of acceleration, opting for the Competition package on either the M3 or M4 will shave 0.3 seconds off the 0-60 mph sprint, bringing it under the four-second mark 2. This improvement is primarily due to the eight-speed automatic transmission, which makes the vehicle easier to launch at high speeds.

On the track, handling plays a crucial role in determining which car would suit your needs better. While both models boast excellent handling capabilities, the BMW M3, being a sedan, might offer slightly more stability and practicality for daily driving. The M4, on the other hand, is a performance-oriented coupe with a slightly sportier driving experience 3.

Regarding overall performance, the newer BMW M4 does seem to have a slight edge over its predecessor, the E90 M3 4. This can be attributed to the M4’s increased power, which translates to higher top speeds on straight sections of the racetrack.

Ultimately, your choice between the BMW M3 and M4 will come down to personal preferences and intended usage. Whether you’re seeking a track-focused machine or a versatile performance vehicle for everyday driving, both models can offer you a thrilling and enjoyable experience behind the wheel.

Comparison to Other Models

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, it’s important to consider other competitors in this segment like the Mercedes-AMG C63, Audi RS 5, Jaguar F-Type, and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Understanding how the M3 and M4 measure up against these rivals can help you make a more informed decision.

Firstly, the BMW M3 and M4 both feature a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, producing 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the Mercedes-AMG C63 has a 4.0-liter V8 that produces up to 503 horsepower, while the Audi RS 5 sports a 2.9-liter V6 with 444 horsepower. The Jaguar F-Type and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio come equipped with engines that produce 575 and 505 horsepower, respectively. In terms of sheer power, the BMW siblings hold their own but may not always come out on top.

In terms of handling and driving dynamics, the BMW M3 and M4 are known for their balanced chassis and exceptional performance. The Mercedes-AMG C63, with its rear-wheel-drive configuration and powerful V8, offers a thrilling driving experience that’s hard to match. However, the Audi RS 5, with its all-wheel-drive system, provides better traction and grip, making it a great option for those who face inclement weather conditions. The Jaguar F-Type and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio both offer their own unique driving experiences – the F-Type delivering a more sports car-oriented ride, while the Giulia Quadrifoglio brings in Italian flair and a more focused driving experience.

When considering comfort and interior features, the BMW M3 and M4 offer a pleasant mix of luxury and practicality, with the M4 being a four-seater and the M3 having a full three-person backseat. The Mercedes-AMG C63 boasts a luxurious cabin with high-quality materials, while the Audi RS 5 provides the latest tech gadgets to enhance driving and entertainment. Both the Jaguar F-Type and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio have impressive interiors, but bear in mind that the F-Type, being a two-seater sports car, may not offer as much practicality.

All these cars command a premium in the market, and it’s essential to consider the brand value and ownership experience. Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, and Alfa Romeo all have their own unique personalities and brand traits that may appeal to you. Finally, keep in mind maintenance costs and resale values, which can vary across models and brands.

As you compare the BMW M3 and M4 against their competitors, it’s crucial to consider your personal preferences, needs, and budget constraints. Ultimately, the right choice will be the one best suited to your unique requirements.

Weight and Size Differences

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, you might be curious about their weight and size differences. These factors can have a significant impact on driving dynamics and overall performance.

The BMW M3, being a four-door sedan, is slightly heavier than the two-door M4 coupe. According to duPont REGISTRY, the M3 with a six-speed manual transmission weighs 3,690 lbs with a full tank of fuel, while the M4 with a dual-clutch transmission weighs 3,615 lbs with an empty tank.

This weight difference of 75 lbs can have a small impact on performance. For example, the M4 can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, slightly faster than the M3, which takes 3.9 seconds. Although the difference is minimal, it might matter to enthusiasts looking for the highest level of performance.

As for size, the main distinction lies in the number of doors and the roofline. The M3 sedan features four doors and a longer roof, whereas the M4 coupe only has two doors and a shorter, sportier roofline. That said, both cars are built on the same platform and share similar dimensions, making them equally agile on the road.

In summary, when considering weight and size differences between the BMW M3 and M4:

  • The M3 is slightly heavier than the M4
  • The weight difference can result in marginally quicker acceleration for the M4
  • The M3 has four doors and a longer roof, while the M4 has two doors and a shorter roofline

Ultimately, you should carefully consider how these weight and size differences may influence your driving experience and choose the model that best aligns with your desires and needs.

Fuel Economy

When comparing the BMW M3 and M4, fuel economy is an important aspect to consider. Both of these vehicles offer impressive performance, but you will find some differences in their fuel efficiency.

The BMW M3, with its starting MSRP of $75,295, has a similar fuel economy as the BMW M4 which starts at $79,095. Although the M3 and M4 have different body styles, they both share the same engine and powertrain options. As a result, their fuel efficiency is quite comparable.

To give you a better idea of their fuel economy ratings, let’s look at some numbers. The 2021 BMW M3 Competition model has a 3.0 L, 6-cylinder engine with an automatic (S8) transmission. Its fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. On the other hand, the 2021 BMW M4 Coupe has a 3.0 L, 6-cylinder engine with a manual 6-speed transmission, offering slightly different fuel efficiency numbers of 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

When comparing the two models, it is important to note that factors such as driving style, road conditions, and weather can affect the actual fuel economy achieved. Overall, both the BMW M3 and BMW M4 offer respectable fuel efficiency for high-performance vehicles, making them appealing choices for those seeking both power and reasonable fuel economy.

Pricing and Incentives

When considering the BMW M3 and M4, it’s essential to understand the pricing differences between the two models. The base M3 starts at $69,900 while the base M4 is slightly more expensive at $71,800. If you’re interested in the Competition versions, there is a roughly $3,000 premium over the base models, which improves the performance and reduces the 0-60 mph time by 0.3 seconds InsideHook.

For those who prefer an all-wheel-drive (AWD) option, it’s available only for the M3 Competition and M4 Competition models. Keep in mind that the AWD models come with a price increase of $4,100 compared to their rear-wheel-drive (RWD) counterparts (Car and Driver).

In your search for the best deal, be sure to check for any available incentives provided by BMW or local dealerships. These incentives may include rebates, low-interest financing, or leasing options that can make owning one of these performance vehicles more attainable. To discover if there are incentives in your area, you may want to consult CarGurus or other automotive research websites for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

As you continue your research, remember that pricing may vary depending on factors like additional options, packages, and your location. It’s crucial to compare the MSRP, as well as invoice pricing, to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible (

With a clear understanding of the pricing differences and available incentives for both the BMW M3 and M4, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on which model suits your driving preferences and budget.


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Georg Meier

BMW technician since 1996. I began my automotive journey in 1993 as an apprentice mechanic at Automag, the world's oldest BMW dealership in Munich. With years of experience and dedication, I garnered a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of BMW and MINI vehicles. The love/hate relationship with the brand led me to found BIMMERIST where I share expertise and insights with fellow enthusiasts.

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