A hugely accomplished thing to drive
A few of its edges have been smoothed out
What is it?
It’s a big moment. The first BMW M4 was a hit. Those of us who geek out over the lineage of performance cars saw renaming the two-door M3 in line with a motorway that passes Slough as a bit of an affront. Meanwhile those who actually spend big money on said performance cars bought almost twice as many of these as the M3 four-door it was so closely related to.
BMW knows its customers well, and M4 buyers are what it calls ‘extroverts’. Which does a lot of the heavy lifting in explaining those elongated kidney grilles, which don’t actually look too offensive in real life, where the rest of the car’s visual aggression – especially in optional Sao Paulo yellow paint – backs them up. Honest.
In meme culture they dominate the headlines, but in the world of sport saloons and coupes – of which the M3 and M4 are the epicentre – there are more pressing plot developments. Like the fact the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six up front now tops 500bhp, you can no longer have a manual in the UK, and the paddleshifters you’re left with operate a ZF automatic rather than a more assertive twin-clutch transmission.
Then there’s the swelling in price (past £75,000) and weight (now over 1,700kg). BMW says the additional weight ‘has been invested in improved safety and emissions’, which sounds like positive spin to rival ‘I actually used lockdown to grow as a person’.
But one look at the new M4 Competition's stats (503bhp, 479lb ft, 0-62mph in 3.9secs with RWD, a 180mph top speed) and the fact optional xDrive 4WD is on the way – as well as an M3 Touring – suggests this is a car that’s grown up. Plenty of people will argue it needed to. The first M4 arrived as the M3 family went turbocharged for the first time, and it wasn’t an especially smooth transition. Those early F82 M4s cars could be spiteful, and the car forged itself a reputation for being a fair old handful.
The sharper edges of its handling were blunted a little with the arrival of a facelift (or Life Cycle Impulse in BMW speak) and the more accomplished Competition version, but anyone who’d experienced an M4’s rear wheels spinning during a third to fourth upchange (in a straight line) weren’t exactly queuing round the block to see how much friendlier it had become.
Mind, the garish grille and M Drift Analyser mode of this new G82 generation might suggest the car’s retained some of its wild side – perhaps even amplified it. Time to have a go…
Our choice from the range
What is the verdict?
You can view the newly grown-up M4 in one of two ways, depending on whether your glass is half empty or full: on the one hand, the feverish excitement of the old car has been neutered and this replacement doesn’t dazzle as brightly away from the freedom of a circuit. On the other, its arrival has negated the need for a car as anaemic as the Audi RS5 overnight, proving it’s possible to be friendly and usable while still having a brilliant chassis beneath.
With the BMW M2 now adopting the size, power and swagger of M3 Coupes previous, and the M5 (and its M8 cousin) having taken a sizeable stride over the £100k barrier – adopting a limo-like serenity in the process – BMW appears to have bumped the M3 and M4’s maturity up to adopt a newfound gap in the product line-up. The fact BMW’s UK sales folk say buyers swap in and out of M4s from 911s and Vantages suggest it lives in a luxurious corner of the market very different to the highly strung homologation special roots its badge traces back to. Judged as such, this supreme all-rounder of an M4 is a triumph.