However, as it enters its fifth generation, the legendary machine faces the biggest shake-up in its long history. It’s been given a turbocharged engine for the first time, plus the M3 Coupe is no longer – it’s now called M4, with the M3 badge reserved for the saloon. The new M4 Coupe certainly has all the ingredients to succeed, including a heady 425bhp power output, race-bred suspension and lots of other high-performance upgrades.
But how will it fare against two equally impressive rivals? The Audi RS5 is the four-wheeled equivalent of an iron fist in a velvet glove. It mixes sleek styling and an upmarket interior with thunderous V8 pace.
Then there’s the Porsche Cayman S. It can’t match the BMW and Audi for versatility, but it sets the benchmark for driver thrills. So sit back and relax as we pull the gloves off in this knock-out encounter.
Click on the links above to read each in-depth review, then read on for our verdict.
Despite claiming very similar performance stats, our trio takes a different approach under the skin. The BMW uses turbochargers and a traditional front-engine and rear-wheel-drive layout – which results in playful handling.
Audi mates a naturally aspirated V8 to a four-wheel-drive system for a secure, but lifeless, driving experience. And the Porsche gets a balanced mid-engined layout and traditional flat-six motor.
All of our contenders have a range of selectable driving modes, but the BMW’s set-up (below) is confusing. The steering, engine and chassis have separate Efficiency, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes.
Models with the DCT auto box also have three different shift strategies. Fortunately, you can mix and match them via steering wheel-mounted M1 and M2 buttons.
The M4 shares its mechanicals with the four-door M3, while Porsche offers the Cayman’s engines in the Boxster roadster. But the Audi’s V8 is the most widely used, appearing in the RS5 Cabriolet, RS4 Avant and R8.
Fans of fast BMWs should rejoice, because the new M4 is one of the best M cars yet. It wraps up supercar-rivalling performance in a practical four-seater body. It’s not cheap, but few cars provide as much performance per pound.
It's a narrow defeat for the Cayman, which still sets the standard for driver involvement. The Porsche is also great value in this company and is powered by a charismatic engine. But it can’t match the M4’s impressive all-round abilities.
Although the Audi feels outclassed in this encounter, it’s still a likeable and capable machine. Its muscular V8 is a gem, and its four-wheel-drive system allows you to have fun regardless of the weather conditions. It’s well equipped, too.
|BMW M4||Porsche Cayman S PDK||Audi RS5|
|On-the-road price/total as tested||£59,145/£67,515||£51,245/£64,751||£59,870/£62,640|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)||£29,573/50.0%||£23,316/45.5%||£24,906/41.6%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£3,634/£7,267||£3,042/£6,085||£4,129/£8,259|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£3,594/£5,990||£2,916/£4,861||£3,511/£5,851|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||42/£529/J/£265||41/£466/J/£265||45/£574/L/£485|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£1,000 (5yrs/50k)||£480/£610/£480||£44pcm (3yrs)|
|Engine||6cyl in-line/2,979cc||Flat 6cyl/3,436cc||V8/4,163cc|
|Peak power||425/5,500 bhp/rpm||321/7,400 bhp/rpm||438/8,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque||550/1,850 Nm/rpm||370/4,500 Nm/rpm||430/4,000 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||7-spd auto/rwd||7-spd auto/rwd||7-spd auto/Awd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||60 litres/sealant||64 litres/sealant||61 litres/sealant|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||445 litres/N/A||150 l front/275 l rear||455/829 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||12.2 metres/0.34Cd||11.0 metres/0.30Cd||11.6 metres/0.32Cd|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (unltd)/3yrs||3yrs (unltd)/3yrs||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||Variable/153||20,000 (2yrs)/36||Variable/121|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||10th/24th||6th/6th||12th/23rd|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|0-60/30-70mph||4.5/3.5 secs||4.0/3.5 secs||4.4/3.6 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||1.9/2.7 secs||2.8/3.7 secs||2.5/3.3 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th||3.2/4.0/6.0 secs||4.3/5.2 secs/N/A||4.6/5.7/7.7 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||155mph/2,000rpm||174mph/2,000rpm||155mph/2,400rpm|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||65/49/61/68dB||65/56/68/77dB||68/45/55/68dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||21.1/4.7/278 miles||26.0/5.8/366 miles||21.6/4.8/290 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||309/194g/km/31%||251/190g/km/30%||302/246g/km/35%|
|Adapt. dampers/cruise/active control||Yes/yes/yes||£971/£267/£1,368||£1,710/yes/£900|
|Ceramic brakes/leather/heated seats||£6,250/yes/yes||£4,977/£1,428/£284||£5,250/yes/yes|
|Metallic paint/xenons/sports exhaust||Yes/yes/no||£588/yes/£1,530||£614/yes/£890|