BMW M4 review
The BMW M3 Coupe is no more, buyers wanting sleek looks and incredible performance on the 3-Series platform need the BMW M4
The bold new BMW M4 is the all-new replacement for the M3 coupe. Based on the sleek 4 Series coupe, the high performance flagship is designed to go head-to-head with models such as the Audi RS5 and Porsche Cayman.
Like the new M3 Saloon, the M4 uses an all-new twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six that’s both more powerful and efficient than larger naturally aspirated V8 unit it replaces.
As ever, the powerful motor is mated to a traditional rear-wheel drive transmission for maximum driver thrills. Buyers can then choose between a six-speed manual gearbox and a paddle shift-operated seven-speed twin-clutch unit.
The M4 is easy to identify thanks to its muscular bodywork. Using the 4 Series coupe as a template, the M4 gets flared wheelarches, a distinctive power bulge in its bonnet, quad exhausts and deeper front and rear bumpers. Vast 18-inch alloy wheels complete the racy makeover.
It’s a similar story inside, where the classy interior of the 4 Series is given a sporty new look. Figure-hugging sports seats, a chunky three-spoke steering wheel and numerous M badges are the biggest clues, while eagle-eyed fans will spot the trademark grey-backed dials.
Even better, because the M4 is based on a 4 Series, it’s surprisingly practical. There’s enough room for four adults, while the boot features is well-shaped and features a decent 445-litre capacity. You also get plenty of standard kit – although like all BMW models, it’s possible to get carried away with the extensive and expensive options list.
If you want some wind-in-the-hair thrills, then the M4 Convertible could be just the ticket. Featuring a folding metal hardtop, it offers the refinement and security benefits of the coupe, but with the bonus of opening up you and your passengers to the sunshine at the touch of a button. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the bulky roof mechanism eats into boot space when the hood is stowed.
Given that the M4 is based on relatively humble underpinnings, sharing parts of its platform with the basic 3 Series saloon, BMW’s styling modifications have transformed the two-door M car into a menacing coupé.
The low-slung, muscular stance sets the car’s stall out straight away; there are three big air dams that span the width of the car underneath the BMW kidney grille and flattened headlamps, while the low bonnet and flared wheelarches increase the M4’s eye-popping stance.
In the past, the M3 always had special wing mirrors, and it’s no different with the M4. They feature cut-outs to reduce drag and channel air down the side of the car to the rear. At the back, the M4’s exhaust count weighs in with four, fat tailpipes. There’s also a slight ducktail profile to the boot lid. From every angle, the BMW looks like a properly focused sports car.
Glossy, carbon-fibre detailing inside continues the focused design theme, with a widescreen 8.8-inch display for the iDrive system. There’s a head-up display on offer, too, with two configurable ‘M’ driving modes, while the seats give excellent support for faster driving thanks to inflatable side bolsters. Our only real criticism is that with some parts carried over from cheaper BMW saloons, the M4 doesn’t feel quite as special as some cars in this class.
The rest of the cabin is pure 4 Series, which does means a thoughtfully laid-out dash, high-grade materials and excellent build quality. Plus, the low-slung driving position is perfect. The standard equipment count extends to sat-nav, a DAB radio, climate control and heated seats.
As with other 4 Series Convertible variants, the drop-top M4 gets a three piece folding metal hardtop. Yet while the set-up delivers coupe-like refinement and security when raised, it’s sluggish to lower, adds weight and eats into boot space.
All BMW M4s fitted with the dual-clutch gearbox come with Launch Control as standard. Engage it, floor the throttle and step off the brake and you’ll realise how ferociously powerful it is. It rockets off the line, hitting 62mph in just 4.1 seconds and quickly onto a limited top speed of 155mph.
Buyers wanting to go faster who want to can pay BMW to remove the limiter, allowing the car to go over 170mph.
Put the suspension and throttle in their most performance-focused settings and the M4 is an absolute blast to drive. It grips so hard in corners that you’re constantly waiting for it to understeer, but it never does. You can also adjust the steering weighting to suit conditions, but it feels too heavy in the sportiest setting, so its best left in Comfort, which delivers more than enough refinement.
As with all BMW M models you can use some of this car’s prodigious power to coax the back end into a slide – although you’ll need to be quick with your corrections because the rear tyres break away quickly.
Better still, the adaptive dampers deliver rock-solid body control and very little roll – although the ride is firm in Sports Plus. Set everything to Comfort and the M4 is almost as refined and relaxed as the standard 4 Series, making light work of long motorway journeys and congested city commutes. It can still feel a bit edgy and alert when you want to calm things down a bit, though.
The most controversial aspect of the new M4 is its engine, which features turbochargers for the first time. However, diehard M car fans have nothing to fear, as it’s sensational. The partly synthesised exhaust note in Sports Plus mode is slightly noisy and has an artificial sound, but the performance potential isn’t in doubt
Then there’s the way it revs. Despite its turbocharged design, the 3.0-litre straight-six has the same insatiable appetite for hard work as its predecessor’s naturally aspirated V8. Yet because there’s so much more torque, the M4 delivers blistering acceleration even when you keep the revs down.
As before you can specify BMW’s M-DCT seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. In auto mode this unit delivers silky smooth shifts, yet use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and you benefit from searingly quick manual changes.
With the BMW M4 being so new it's hard to say how reliable it will turn out to be. What we do know is that it shares a lot of its electrical systems and basic chassis components with the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series. With both those models boasting a good reliability track record, there’s a good chance the M4 will be reliable, too.
BMW’s standard 3 Series finished an impressive 14th in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, which is good news because it shares some of its mechanical components with the 4 Series. While many of the M4’s underpinnings are bespoke, the car is also part hand-built by M Division.
Standard safety kit isn’t in short supply, with all models featuring six airbags, lots of electronic safety nets and uprated brakes. You can also add an £825 head-up display and £370 lane keep assist.
It’s mechanically near identical to the four-door BMW M3, but the low-slung M4 is clearly the least practical of the two. The 445-litre boot is 35 litres smaller than in the saloon’s, but it’s well-shaped and features a decent-sized opening. The same can’t be said of the convertible, which features a 370-litre capacity with the roof up, and stingy 220-litre layout when it’s lowered.
Both the coupe and convertible have the same sloping rooflines, so anyone over six-foot tall will have their head rubbing against the roof. Still, there’s plenty of legroom in the back, plus the two individual seats are supremely supportive.
Obviously, those back seats are more difficult to access because of the two-door layout and you can only get two individual seats, rather than a three-seat bench. Even so, the M4 is still practical for a coupe, particularly when compared to similarly priced two-seat rivals such as the Porsche Cayman. For instance, the BMW can realistically be used as a daily driver and occasional family transport.
Compared with the old M3 Coupe – which used a large naturally aspirated V8 – the M4 uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit. As a result this car is a lot more efficient than the car it replaces, with BMW claiming the improvements amount to around a 25% increase.
Low 194g/km CO2 emissions are good for company car drivers, with higher-rate earners facing an annual Benefit in Kind bill of £7,267, which is £992 less than for the Audi RS5.
Its official fuel consumption figures looks good, too, with the M-DCT version claiming 34mpg and the six-speed manual promising 32.1mpg with the manual. Yet in the real world you’ll struggle to achieve these figures, particularly if you access the BMW’s full performance potential.
Still, CO2 emissions that range between 194 and 213g/km mean that the M4 won’t cost the earth to tax for both private buyers and business users alike. And like all BMW models, the high performance flaship is available with a great value pre-paid servicing pack – a five-year 50,000 miles plan will set you back £1,000.