The M3 and M4 share many things in common. It’s actually more so a change in marketing than a change in BMW M models. The major difference is simply that the M3 is a sedan while the M4 is a coupe. For some, that may be the only piece of info to make a decision. However, coupe vs sedan does bring about a number of other differences between the cars. In this article, we discuss BMW M3 vs M4 driving experience, size, weight, handling, performance, and more.
M3 vs M4 Background Info
Looking back to the E90 generation BMW 3-series the M3 was simply the M3 regardless of door count. The E90 M3 is a sedan while the E92 M3 is a coupe. M4 models made their first appearance in 2015 in the form of the F82 M4 coupe. Prior to that, the 4-series didn’t exist. The 3-series was simply available in a coupe or sedan.
In other words, the M4 models are basically an M3 coupe simply with a new badging/marketing strategy to differentiate door count. Again, this is the only major change between BMW M3 vs M4 models. However, there have to be some differences between a sedan and a coupe other than door count, right?
Many associate coupes with being lighter, sportier, faster, and so on. Does this hold true with the M3 vs M4? Is one really faster than the other? Are the differences significant enough to sway your decision one way or the other? We’ll answer all of these questions and more as we move through this M3 vs M4 comparison.
M3 & M4 Generations
Before diving in let’s lay out a bit more basic info about the BMW M3 vs M4. We’re going to skip M3 models older than the E90 generation since that’s the most recent generation prior to the M4. Here’s the list of the M3 and M4 years and chassis codes:
- E90 M3 (2008-2013)
- E92 M3 (2008-2013)
- F80 M3 (2015-2018)
- F82 M4 (2015-2020)
- G80 M3 (2021+)
- G82 M4 (2021+)
As you likely noticed, the chassis codes even remain similar despite the badging changes for the M3 vs M4 in 2015 with the G-chassis. They’re also available during the same time periods with the exception of the F80 M3.
There were some emissions requirements moving into 2019 that the F80 M3 couldn’t easily accommodate. As such, BMW stopped selling the F80 M3 as of model year 2018 while the M4 continued until 2020.
Anyways, the important thing here is simply the differences in generations. Yes, the F80 M3 is very different from the G80 M4. However, that’s not the focal point of this article (though we will cover some differences in generations). We’re looking to compare the same chassis BMW M3 vs M4 to paint a comparison between the two models rather than different generations.
As a side note – check out our BMW M3 buyer’s guide if you’re looking to learn more about the differences between the E36, E46, E90, etc M3 and M4 models.
BMW M3 vs M4 Dimensional Specs
Below are some basic details about the BMW M size and weight differences.
*Curb weight numbers assuming RWD with an automatic transmission. 6MT options save about 40-50 pounds across the board. G80 & G82 AWD models will add about 100-150+ pounds.
All in all, these numbers are nearly identical across the same generation M3 vs M4. The main differences are when looking at the F80/F82 vs G80/G82. Despite the minor differences there are some important factors.
Roughly 10 pounds separate the BMW M3 vs M4 when similarly equipped. This holds true for both the F and G chassis. Though, you’ll notice the G80/G82 gain 300+ pounds over the older gen. Anyways, 10 pounds isn’t anything that should sway a decision one way or the other.
A manual transmission M3 without a sunroof can easily weigh about 75 pounds less than an automatic transmission M4 with a sunroof. Point is – the M3 vs M4 weight difference is minor compared to other add-ons and accessories.
BMW M3 vs M4 Height
The height between the BMW M3 vs M4 is where things get a bit more interesting. M4 coupe models clock in about 1.6″ shorter than the M3 sedan. That effectively lowers the center of gravity, which is an upside for handling.
Does it really make that much of a difference, though? Probably nothing notable. The overall center of gravity doesn’t change as much as the 1.6″ height difference suggests. Heavy parts like the BMW M3 vs M4 engine, transmission, etc. maintain roughly the same height and center of gravity.
That’s not to say the shorter height isn’t still an advantage to the F82 or G82 M4. It does give a slight edge, but it’s much like the weight difference. It just isn’t significant enough to make it a huge factor.
M3 and M4 Engine, Transmission, Features
This is a very quick topic since there really isn’t much to talk about. The M3 & M4 share the same engine, transmission options, technology, and optional features. Again, the main discrepancy is when looking at newer or older generations. Here’s a quick overview of BMW M3 vs M4 engines, transmissions, power, and more.
|6MT, 7-Spd DCT
|6MT, 7-Spd DCT
You’ll notice all of the specs are identical across the BMW M3 vs M4. The only change comes for 2021+ G-chassis M models with a new engine and transmission options.
Otherwise, both the M3 and M4 are available with an automatic or 6-speed manual. They’re also each available in competition trim. However, the competition models are only for automatic models.
BMW M3 vs M4 Performance
You likely guessed it already. The two M models use the same drivetrain, weigh about the same, and are very similar size and dimensions. Add it all together and we have two cars that deliver nearly identical performance. The M3 isn’t going to blow the M4 out of the water, or vice versa. One might be a little faster one day and the next day the other takes the win.
As a matter of a fact, the M3 and M4 deliver the exact same performance according to BMW specs/data. The G80 M3 and G82 M4 manuals both clock 4.1 seconds 0-60 while competition models come in at 3.8 seconds. F80/F82 M3 vs M4 models both hit 4.1 seconds with manual and 3.8 seconds in competition spec.
Numbers from BMW are pretty conservative. Magazines and external testers usually get faster numbers and may find the M3 or M4 to maybe get a 0.1 second edge. However, those differences don’t come down to the M3 vs M4. It’s more so a matter of conditions, temperature, traction, so on so forth.
We discussed handling a little bit previous when talking about height and weight. This is where the M4 does have a slight edge thanks to weighing 10 lbs less and the roof sitting 1.6″ lower. Regardless, add these together and it still isn’t a meaningful difference.
Put the same driver in both cars and race the BMW M3 vs M4 around a track and they’ll deliver nearly identical results. Maybe the driver makes one tiny error in the M4 that gives the M3 the edge, or vice versa.
Once again, they’re close enough that it’s simply a drivers race. Both the M3 and M4 will deliver similar lap times, steering feel, feedback, and more. There really isn’t a notable difference to report and it’s simply a driver’s race.
BMW M3 vs M4 Summary
In 2015, BMW released the M4 for the first time ever. Rather than being a totally new car, the M4 is essentially an M3 with two doors instead of four. That does bring about some minor differences between the BMW M3 vs M4, though.
The M3 and M4 sport slightly different looks. For example, the F80 M3 has more rear fender flare than the F82 M4. There are small differences such as this that a trained eye may pick up on, but most will recognize them as the same car other than the coupe vs sedan portion.
Otherwise, the M4 roof does sit a little lower and tips the scales about 10 pounds lighter than the M3. Although, none of it adds up to a notable change in real world performance. With the same engine, transmission, and similar dimensions these cars deliver nearly identical performance. It’s simply a driver’s race.
There isn’t a right answer as to whether the M3 or M4 is better. For one person the M3 sedan may be the best option for its practicality. Someone who doesn’t need 4-doors may see the M4 as the better purchase. Either way, it’s really hard to go wrong with any BMW M model.
What’s your experience with the M3 vs M4? Leave a comment and let us know!