Having been launched in 2020 for the 2021 model year, the latest generation BMW M3 saloon isn’t exactly old but the Munich-based manufacturer is already working on a mid-cycle refresh for the performance model. Our paparazzi agents in Germany just sent us a batch of spy photos with the refreshed performance car and surprisingly, the M3 Touring is also being tested with a Life Cycle Impulse (LCI).

LCI is what BMW calls the mid-cycle facelifts for its models and these two prototypes feature fully camouflaged front ends. However, there doesn’t seem to be any changes to the front fascia as the bumper looks the same as the one on the current model. There are some tweaks to the internal graphics of the headlights, though – something that won’t necessarily bring operational benefits but it’s more likely just a visual upgrade.

Gallery: BMW M3 saloon and estate facelift spy photos

It’s a little surprising to see the M3 Touring also being prepared for a refresh. The speedy estate was introduced in June last year and is still very much a fresh product on the market. However, it seems that it will also receive the same design tweaks as its saloon sibling earlier in its life cycle - hopefully, it could also get the carbon fibre roof of the saloon. As a side note, both the saloon and estate prototypes in the gallery above don’t have changes to their rear ends compared to the cars you can find at BMW’s dealers today.

Interestingly, the trial vehicles also have their dashboards covered with a blanket, which could hint at upgrades to the equipment. This is surprising considering the M3 received BMW’s latest curved display setup for the 2024 model year. A switch to the company’s iDrive 9 infotainment system doesn’t seem unlikely at this point given its recent launch in the X1 M35i.

As for the engine under the bonnet, the M3 uses BMW’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six engine good for 473 bhp and 406 pound-feet of torque in standard form. The power is channelled to the wheels through either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. In Competition guise, these figures are boosted to 503 bhp and 479 lb-ft of torque and we expect the six-cylinder mill to carry over without changes for the facelift.

As for the long-term future of the performance model, for the next-generation vehicle, we could see it switch to fully electric power. If BMW decides to go that route, this would likely mean the end of the combustion era for the M3 as BMW M boss Frank van Meel confirmed the firm would prefer to use just one powertrain.