What difference does ten years and two turbochargers make to the quintessential mid-engined Ferrari?
You are here
What’s this superb looking vehicle? It’s the BMW M4 Competition, the two-door twin-sister to the M3 Competition that TG’s other Ollie drove back in February and judged ‘borderline transformative, the car the M3 always should have been.’ High praise. So, different Ollie, and different car (the M4 Comp uses exactly the same upgrades but fitted in the lower, slightly stiffer body of the 4 Series that accounts for 80 per cent of M3/M4 sales). Same result? Depends how you viewed the standard car, I suppose… Well, I’m firmly in the camp Ollie namechecked in his M3 drive, who thought the standard car was ‘a bit wild, just a touch too lairy’. Which is a polite way of saying it’s downright murderous in the wet or cold and will try to swap ends during a third-fourth gearchange in a dead straight line on the M25. I speak from experience.
Well, you’re alive to type that, which is a positive sign. Indeed. Care to be reminded of what’s new and interesting in the M4 Competition? Please… The least consequential mod is a dollop more power from the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six nestled behind the now-black kidney grilles. A nice, round 444bhp marks a 19bhp increase, and tellingly BMW’s pegged the already brutal torque to 405lb, just as you’ll find in the standard M4. A token tenth is trimmed from the 0-62mph time – in the DCT-equipped car, you’re looking at a 4.0 second-dead sprint. The 155mph limiter remains steadfast. That’s all a bit arbitrary – some tangible, quotable numbers that smug Competition owners can deploy in golf club Top Trumps. The M4 was a savagely fast coupe before, and so too is the Comp. Thing is, you can use more of that shove more of the time. Which is thanks to the chassis tweaks? Exactly. It’s not so much the 10mm wider tyres upon the intricate new 20-inch rims giving you more grip as the new suspension’s settings and less snatchy active rear diff. As the wave of torque washes over the rear axle at 1850rpm (!), you’re greeted with a subtle squat from the car and then neck-straining acceleration, not throbs of protest from yellow lights on the dashboard jousting with the traction. That’s new. Yes, the car’s still unsettled by full-bore upshifts in the sportier engine and gearbox modes (M Division needs to nick back the reigns from marketing and show that fast car gearboxes don’t require a clumsy head-shunt to feel exciting) but the entire package is far less angry and recalcitrant. In the standard car, it felt like the engine, gearbox, rear axle and suspension actively didn’t like each other, and were fighting over how to interpret the driver’s commands. The Competition is more business-like. More professional, without getting anodyne and soulless. It just gets on with going quickly (which is why you buy the M car, right?), instead of scaring the ess-aitch-aye-tee out of its hapless driver.
And it stays trustworthy in the corners? I’ll admit, it took me a while to trust the car through a bend because the steering is hardly tripping over itself to deliver information to your palms, and well, this is an M4. A rear-drive, 405lb ft turbo coupe with a known penchant for giving pilots the wi-wahh-woah-willies. Needn’t have worried. There’s a much greater connection between how much power you request and what the back axle’s up to here, so you can apply gas earlier without fear of giving the podgy steering wheel a Chinese burn of opposite lock. For the first time, I had actual fun in an F30 M4, with no ‘until it did this’ caveat. It’s just a riot. An M car should have a sense of precision, rather than just being a hairy-arsed dragster. That sensation is back in the Comp. Is it as friendly as an AMG C63, all told? No, frankly, simply because the BMW’s engine’s far more heavy-handed when the boost arrives than the AMG’s honey of a V8, and the M4 is a lighter, stiffer car that ultimately feels less keyed into the road. But it’s night and day more trustworthy than before. Anything else need a tweak? The trim needs sticking down with stronger glue. Every M3/M4 of this generation I’ve driven has rattled and buzzed like a filing cabinet full of Lego falling down a stairwell. I’m convinced it has plenty to do with the M4’s ride, which, even in the Comfort setting here – the default for UK roads – is still needlessly harsh. Punishing, even. I’m not saying everything needs to ride like an old Citroen. It’s fine to have a track setting, but the other moods could easily be calmed down a bit without hurting the car’s pace. It’d probably improve it. Smaller wheels might help too… Yep, the love ‘em or hate ‘em rims a la M4 GTS are an inch bigger than the standard M4’s, and the painted on tyres hardly look compliant. Given ceramic brakes remain a £5,000 option, it’s not as if the bigger wheels are necessary to squeeze over massive brakes. An M4 Competition on 18s or 19s would easily be sweeter still. Speaking of price… Oh, it’s exactly £3,000 for the Competition pack which makes it an absolute must-have. Now the C63 and Giulia are in town, the M4 needed to massively raise its game. In the Competition, at long last, it has.