BMW M4 review

We've tested the new 510hp BMW M4 Competition Coupe!

It’s the return of a legend… sort of. BMW’s M4, linked to the long-running and much-vaunted M3 line, is back for a second outing. And you won’t miss its key aesthetic feature…

What's this?

It’s a BMW M4, the ultimate derivation of the 4 Series line. It usurps the M440i xDrive as the most potent model in the manufacturer’s mid-sized coupe range and continues a lineage that stretches right back to 1986; before the M4 was an M4, it was known as the M3. Indeed, the latter badge continues on a four-door saloon that launches alongside this vehicle, but for this review we’re focusing on the M4 alone.

It takes its styling cues from the 4 Series family, which includes that contentious set of large kidney grilles – perhaps the defining aspect of the M4’s looks. On the M4, these link to a different bonnet, which includes two sculpted shapes to tie into the grilles and indentations that appear (from a distance) as if they might be cooling vents, albeit they’re not; they’re just, well, dents. Beneath and to the sides of the grilles, large air intakes enhance the aggressive appearance of the BMW.

In Ireland, we only get the Competition model, so that means lots of black exterior detailing and black badging. This works well on the M4, though, incorporating the door mirror caps, the side sills and the rear diffuser, as well as the mismatched alloy wheels (which are 19s on the front axle and 20-inch items on the rear). All M4s come with a carbon-fibre roof as standard, while an optional pack brings in carbon fibre exterior detailing (the mirrors and a lip spoiler on the boot primarily), as well as a quite exquisite set of deeply sculpted M Carbon bucket seats inside. Indeed, the cabin is defined by more carbon detailing, including some incredibly beautiful paddle shifts on an M4 steering wheel, as well as specific displays in the digital screens for the M model and also extra switchgear for various settings on the car.

Finally, BMW Ireland is being generous in the colours offered, as there are eight no-cost colours for the M4 (and six of those are metallic shades). The signature Sao Paulo Yellow launch hue is non-metallic and one that will split opinion almost as much as those kidney grilles, but we have to say we like the colour (we’re not anything like as enamoured with the grilles, though). Overall, the M4 looks magnificent inside, where it’s a surprisingly capacious 2+2 coupe in which adults can actually sit in the back for extended periods of time, and it looks largely good on the outside, hefty rear flanks and that face notwithstanding.

How is it to drive?

As stated, we just get the Competition model. This means there’s no manual gearbox option and, furthermore, the M4 is no longer offered with the enthusiasts’ choice of a dual-clutch transmission. Installed here is an eight-speed torque-converter ‘true’ automatic only, called M Steptronic. It has already been used on the BMW M5 and M8 models, so it shouldn’t be a total shock to a BMW M fan, but an automatic-only M3/M4 could be construed as heresy by some. Thankfully, at the moment, the Competition only sends its power and torque to one set of wheels, and it’s the rear axle that receives the grunt. In the fullness of time, xDrive AWD variants of both the M3 and M4 will arrive, as will (for the first time ever) an M3 Touring estate.

But, for now, it’s this rear-wheel-drive M4 Coupe we’re focusing on. And let’s just continue with one bit of bad news: this is a heavy car. On the EU measurement, it’s 1,800kg. That’s enormous for a model line that is normally in the 1.5- to 1.6-tonne bracket and might result in a dulled driving experience from the M4 Competition. Also, BMW talked in the build-up to the drive about the M4 being the most ‘comfortable GT’-like model of M3/M4 it has yet built. The signs are ominous.

And then you drive it. And all BMW’s deliberately provocative styling, all of the weight gain and automatic gearbox issues that could turn out to be a problem… they’re all forgotten. The M4 Competition is, quite simply, epic to drive. Its twin-turbocharged, straight-six engine delivers enormous outputs of 510hp and 650Nm, enough to see it rocket from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds on its way to a limited top speed of 290km/h. This is not just a fast car; it’s a seriously, seriously fast car.

Straight-line speed has never been the M4’s reason for being, though, and thankfully it’s just as good in the corners as it is on the straights. With an Active M Differential and ten-stage-adjustable traction control part of the package, you can have the M4 Competition playing around on the throttle in all manner of corners with little effort whatsoever. Yet it’s not a frightening, spiky or unruly car with it. The rear axle finds monster traction in the dry and the cross-country speed is enormous, aided and abetted by wonderful steering, mega brakes and the sort of body control that BMW M is famed for.

It’s not quite flawless dynamically. In truth, it never quite sounds as good as it goes, although to those who say this engine and exhaust combination is boring, we say ‘pfft’. There’s a pleasant, hard-edged metallic note to the voice of the M4 as it swings past 4,000rpm that will surely keep most drivers entertained, while the quad exhausts (another M trademark) rumble and thud appealingly when the car is in Sport or Sport Plus settings. The other bugbear is that the Adaptive M Suspension three-stage damping doesn’t quite provide enough of what it says on the tin when it’s in Comfort mode – the M4 is always a bit too firm-edged on rougher road surfaces. But, other than that, this is a magnificent car to drive in a wide variety of scenarios.

When is it coming to Ireland?

It is available now, in the solitary Competition specification, for a starting price of €129,456. If you fancy it, the four-door M3 Saloon is a little cheaper, at €127,184. It provides a driving experience every inch as scintillating and enjoyable as the M4 Competition, only with more space and comfort for rear-seat passengers, plus a 40-litre bigger boot at 480 litres all-in as well. Oh, and we’d argue, nicer looks on the outside (albeit with the same monster kidney grilles).

Any juicy technology?

As part of the new ten-stage M Traction Control, there’s a M Drift Analyser function. For use only on track, this monitors your ability to perform lurid great slides (called ‘oversteer’) and then marks them on a star-rating system. It’s a fabulous bit of fun from the German company so, if you get the chance to go on a circuit and do a bit of drifting, make sure you use this setting in the M4 Competition’s infotainment to improve your scores. And ruin your rear tyres in the process... rating: 4.5/5

Get past the clunky looks, the increase in weight of the whole vehicle and the expense of the car, and you will be flabbergasted by the BMW M4 Competition. There’s no comparable four-seat coupe available right now that gives a drive anything like as good as this German two-door, save for the long-serving Porsche 911 – and that’s a different, pricier beast entirely. It might be going under a different name these days, but the M4 is more than stellar enough to justify its inclusion in the Hall of Greats with the other M3s of the past.

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