What is it?
The new BMW M4, replacement for the M3 Coupe, with the most iconic M Division nameplate now reserved solely for a saloon car. It marks the end of the model’s natural aspiration, the old M3’s soaring 4-litre V8 engine replaced with a 3-litre straight-six twin-turbo with more power. Prices start at £56,635.
The engine possesses 425bhp and 406lb ft of torque, enough for a 4.1sec 0-60 time (that’s for both M3 and M4) and an electronically limited 155mph top speed. Its forced induction allows these figures to combine with a claimed 194g/km of CO2 emissions and 34mpg fuel economy.
The BMW M4 weighs 1537kg, a saving of around 80kg compared to an equivalently specced E92 M3, achieved via the extensive use of lightweight materials, including a standard carbonfibre roof on both saloon and coupe versions, an aluminium bonnet and a bootlid that uses SMC plastic over a carbon frame.
There’s an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, while the electric power steering and Adaptive M Suspension (standard on UK cars) are adjustable between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes. Carbon ceramic brakes are optional. Optional technology includes a head-up display, while a free laptimer app for smartphones connects up to the car’s iDrive.
A six-speed manual comes as standard (and saves 40kg) but unsurprisingly there’s a stumpy little lever like an upside-down teardrop in our test car, indicating that we’ve got the seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission that most buyers will no doubt plump for.
What’s it like to drive?
Mooching along with its twin-clutch gearbox in auto and the dampers and steering in either of their first two modes (Comfort or Sport), the ride is good and you only really notice the suspension’s underlying firmness over bigger hits like speed bumps. In its efficiency setting the engine is just a distant murmur at lowish revs so the cabin has a refined air about it that would undoubtedly make the M4 a fine long journey or everyday companion.
The first slide is a little tentative because it seems to initiate so easily that I’m worried it might get quite big quite quickly, but not so. And once you know how easy it is, literally every corner on our Portuguese test route seems to become an opportunity to get the rear wheels over-rotating. Load up the outside-front, then with the revs somewhere in the monstrous mid-range torque plateau (1850-5500rpm), simply press the throttle. There’s no need to stamp or mash the pedal deep into its travel because the M4 is already balanced in such a way that it’s just waiting for a nod of approval from the 406lb ft to tip itself into a slide. You’ll feel the rear go light and hear the revs rise as the tail steps out of line, but catching it is easy and the brilliant Active M Differential means your right foot is then the master in deciding how long the black lines behind you are going to be.
The M4’s engine is curious. The torque and mid-range punch are not in doubt. However, BMW’s claims that it still revs like a naturally aspirated engine are open to a bit more debate. If you accelerate hard down a long straight from the mid-range and hold on until the floating rev counter in the head-up display is glowing yellow and red before flicking the right-hand paddle, then acceleration seems unabated and the noise improves. However, there is certainly no final rush to the red line and the actual substance behind the last 1500rpm feels a bit thin. Instinctively you feel like you want to change up before you even start tickling the top end, and coming out of a corner you know that you want to be in the meat of the torque rather than at the peak of the power.
It’s certainly a very different experience to the E92, where the best drives I had were when the needle seemed to be living permanently above about 6000rpm. The engine’s performance is, however, more accessible in the M4 and the throttle response is phenomenal for a car with forced induction – helped perhaps by the reductions in rotating mass thanks to a forged crank and a carbon propshaft. But there is just a tingle of disappointment that there’s not much reward for hanging on to the gears.
How does it compare?
You can read a full comparison between the two in the next issue of evo, but perhaps the BMW M4’s toughest rival to beat will be the Jaguar F-type S Coupe, a car both brilliant to drive and oozing class and desirability. Another rival with a very similar price tag is the new Porsche Cayman GTS – possibly the best sports car Porsche makes.
Anything else I need to know?
The BMW M3 saloon is mechanically identical, weighs 23kg more than the M4 and costs around £500 less. For many, its subtler looks and practicality will make it a little cooler, too.
BMW M3 and M4 promo video: