The M4 is the result of a new branch of nomenclature for BMW and their M division, splitting their two-door offerings into even-numbered names, while their four-door (or 5-door) cars remain with the odd-number structure.
Like the 3 Series, which is a 4-door sedan, the high performance version is now called M3, while the 2-door 4 Series gets the M4 Coupe and Convertible, which is what we’re talking about here. It’s the true successor to the V8-powered E92 M3 coupe that came before, but now powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six.
The straight-six bit would strike a nodding chord with M car fans, but the addition of forced induction is a decision met with predicted disappointment. At least, that was the case when the car first debuted because this new M4 has been proven to be a significant step forward in almost every way to the model it replaces.
Fewer cylinders, no more natural aspiration? Its a better car for it, and dwelling on such trivial affairs detract from the amount of work that has gone into every other facet of this car’s development.
As with the previous M3, this M4 Coupe (and Convertible) goes against the likes the Audi’s RS5 and Mercedes-AMG’s C 63 Coupe. In other arenas, comparisons can also be made with the Jaguar F-Type and even the Porsche 911 Carrera. Can this hopped-up 4 Series keep up and keep the Munich’s place solidly lodged in the performance car landscape?
“Every detail is garnished with yet more detail, and the end result is fussy. The door mirrors are especially annoying.” - The Sunday Times Driving
The M4, as expected, resembles the car upon which it is based: the 4 Series Coupe. But with the flared panels, extra aero and cooling ducts, this car looks proper angry. It’s also the quite a bit larger than the outgoing M3 Coupe it replaces by length, but just as wide.
It’s flanks have been broadened to better conform with the 4 Series’ already hip-heavy shape, and it works well to accentuate the car’s stance and road presence. BMW has worked hard to maintain their trademark equal weight distribution with the M4, using carbon fibre and other composites to minimise weight over the front axle.
M cars have always maintained a tasteful application of visual aggression and the M4 pushes these boundaries a tad but doesn’t go overboard - at least in standard form, saying nothing of the ostentatious GTS. It still looks a very classy car, but one that makes it very apparent that it’s also capable of going quite fast indeed.
Engine and Drivetrain
We get that the M-Division’s hand was (probably) forced to produce a turbocharged motivator for the M3/M4. However, we do not get the noise this thing makes.” - MotorTrend
Under the bonnet sits the BMW S55 motor, a performance-optimised version of their proven N55 block with strengthened pistons, twin fuel pumps, better cooling, and a lightweight crankshaft. It’s quite a highly strung motor and can behave in a very racy manner.
As usual, the engine sits in a longitudinal orientation, and twin-turbochargers help it deliver 317kW at 5,500rpm and peak torque of 550Nm from as early 1,850rpm, making power and twist much more readily available than in the older car’s V8.
BMW has laboured to make the 3.0-litre twin-turbo feel as linear and responsive as it could, and as result engine doesn’t feel encumbered by whatever rev its occupying, with power on tap at nearly every point in the range.
The car’s soundtrack, though, has had a mixed reception. It’s nowhere near as sonorous as the older V8 screamer, but the sound is satisfying even if it doesn’t strike as immediately pleasing. But the way it delivers performance leaves its predecessor in the dust.
This S55 engine’s characteristic is more of precise power delivery than it is concerned about tyre-smoking showboats, somewhat the opposite of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe. Drive is transmitted to the rear wheels via a 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission that’s lightning quick and improves fuel economy over a manual, which unfortunately is not an option - auto all the way - and BMW claims a combined 8.3-litres/100km.
From a standstill, the powertrain combo can accelerate the M4 to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds with launch control enabled. The M4 Convertible, though, takes slightly longer to dispatch that speed from rest at 4.4 seconds.
“…far more modern cabin than its competitors. We found the 8.8-inch infotainment screen top-notch and the sport seats supportive around bends.” - CarAdvice
As is the case in many M cars, one will be instantly familiar with the interior should you already be with the car it’s based upon. In keeping with this, the plush 4 Series genetics make themselves very known in the M4, or even the 3 Series for that matter.
It’s a very functional, driver-focused cabin that maintains just enough flair to keep it from being too humourless, though you should opt for a non-black upholstery option to keep liven things up. Naturally, it’s a well built interior with top-notch materials and well thought out ergonomics, and BMW’s M-Sport steering wheel being one of the best anywhere.
Speaking of which, there’s the M1 and M2 mode buttons on the wheel for easy access, allowing you to assign key flavours of the drive modes into a personalised profile. The seats, too, provide good support and feedback during the drive while remaining quite comfortable.
Clearly, BMW wanted to keep the M4 an everyday usable sports car and the rear seats, while nothing special, do permit adults to sit behind even a larger front occupant without being mangled after a short journey. Add to that the 445-litre boot capacity and you have an entirely liveable performance car.
Behind the Wheel
The new M4 is lighter than the coupe it replaces and as a result feels more alert and agile. However, the steering is now electrically, not hydraulically, assisted, so some feel has been lost. - EVO
As the numbers already allude to, the M4 is a very quick car, and it delivers power with stunning veracity as BMW cleverly integrated each turbocharger to serve three cylinders each and can thus spool more up more easily, and nearly never leaving one waiting for grunt. It’s not as instant as a naturally aspirated engine, but the lag is nearly nonexistent.
The Adaptive M Suspension works beautifully between offering a more comfortable or firm ride depending on which mode is engaged, helping the car to cope imperfect surfaces but can transform it into a very focused machine in its most performance-oriented setting.
The front-engine, rear-driven layout of the car will naturally make it more susceptible to power oversteer than most but the car controls its yaw well until the point where a considered and considerable amount of power is thrown at it, wherein the standard M Sport differential lets the car slither about in very rewarding fashion.
Switch it all back into Comfort, though, and the bloodshot fury of the M4 dissembles into a car that’s as relaxed and refined as any other 4 Series is on the road for your journey back from the mountain pass or race track. A brilliant thing.
Safety and Technology
“The M4 is a hotbed of hi-tech parts, but it's all been tried and tested by BMW. It's also packed with cutting edge safety kit, plus is backed by an upgraded braking system and staggering grip.” - AutoExpress
ANCAP hasn’t specifically tested the 4 Series nor the M4 as of yet, but very similar 3 Series scored a 5-star rating, receiving a near flawless score of 36.76 out 37. The M4 features airbags for the driver and front passenger, head airbags in the front and rear, and curtain airbags for all four occupants.
Further, the car comes with a plethora pre-collision features such as a rear view camera, 360-degree camera, lane change warning system, pedestrian detection, and autonomous emergency braking at low speeds. There’s also adaptive LED headlight, cruise control, and head-up display.
An 8.8-inch infotainment display is linked up to BMW’s intuitive iDrive system and here the Navigation System Profession is supplied as standard, offering 3D maps and Connected Drive functions to supply real-time traffic, internet connectivity, and access to the Concierge service. Audio is delivered through a 16-speaker 600W system by Harman/Kardon.
There are compromises from generation to generation, and as we debate the merits of new versus old, the case of the M3 and M4 prove that BMW has executed a storming successor to the E92. In nearly every way, the new car is more performative and more widely talented car than the last.
It still remains as visceral as the last to drive, though it has lost some of its predecessors’s theatre, and there’s no doubting that the M4 is a better GT car than the old M3 Coupe, with its high-speed refinement and large boot.
For now, though, the pendulum still remains on the side of it being a focused performance car, but the tide may be shifting as cars like the M2 from within BMW’s on stable are encroaching on turf previously exclusive to the M3 (now M4).
The Sunday Times Driving - 4/5 - “The figures don’t tell you all the story, because when you put everything in Sport Plus mode and plant your foot into the carpet, the car sets off like a disturbed shark. I honestly haven’t enjoyed driving a vehicle as much as this for month.”
CarAdvice - 9/10 - “The 2014 BMW M4 has raised the bar by outdoing its predecessor in almost every way,”
MotorTrend - 3.5/5 - “What’s less obvious is how utterly livable the car is otherwise, in everyday driving. There are precious few high-performance coupes or convertibles that can walk that same tightrope with as much dexterity as the BMW M4.”
EVO - 4.5/5 - “In pure specs terms however, the M4's standard offering perhaps bests its rivals. iDrive remains one of the best in-car entertainment systems you can get, while the special M-Sport seats are nice to look at and fantastically supportive and comfortable.”
AutoExpress - 5/5 - “The M4 is a fast, engaging, and hugely desirable, even offering a dose of practicality for those who occasionally need to carry luggage or rear-seat passengers.”