First, an open letter to BMW: “Thank you for giving us the M4 with pure rear-wheel drive, manual transmission and in the basic performance level for testing. This is exactly how we would buy it ourselves.” “Base” is relative here, of course, because we’re talking 480 hp and 550 Nm. Especially since the manufacturer is giving the new sports car the M Race Track package for testing. For 16,400 euros. That’s in addition to the base price of 84,000 euros.
What’s in this package? Mixed tires with 19-inch front and 20-inch rear (instead of 18/19 as standard), carbon bucket seats, ceramic brakes and open top speed. As well as a promised weight saving of 25 kilograms. Lightweight construction, you think. Until you look at the scales: 1,675 kilograms. And then comes a second surprise.
The general increase in the weight of sports models can only partly be attributed to safety requirements. It is also the result of consideration for – let’s call it – affluent people who don’t want to be squeezed into narrow bodies. Accordingly, the cars are getting bigger and thus heavier, and to compensate, they are getting more power, thicker brakes and wider tires. See the 4-series/M4.
108 kilograms heavier
With the M4, lightweight construction is on the mind. Until you look at the scales: the new model weighs 1,675 kilograms.
It’s good that the 3D printer is trying to wrest a few grams from the cylinder head. It’s also good that the roof is baked from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic and the doors and front hood are made of aluminum. On the other hand, it’s a pity that this only adds a little.
Let’s briefly recall an M4 test car from 2014: The manual came without an optional diet prescription (so no 25 kg savings), yet weighed 83 kilograms less. So the comparable weight difference to the new one without the M-Race package would be 83 plus 25 equals 108 kilograms. Third hint.
With this physicality, the M4 is primarily attracted to the racetrack, where its bulky stature does not get in the way. The wide track flattened itself into the apex, always maintaining the room to maneuver to conquer the necessary space. In combination with the rigid dampers, the persistent springs prevent the mass from long-stroke movements, which conceals a lot of the weight: The chassis nips buffeting vibrations in the bud.
It’s clear that this design isn’t aimed at cruising comfort, especially since the 20-inchers on the rear axle certainly send dry greetings on bumpy highways. However, the front axle responds well to bumps; it is limited to 19 inches and has more air to bounce thanks to a 35 instead of 30 tire cross-section.
The regular M4 (480 hp) starts at 84,000 euros, the Competition (510 hp) at 91,000 euros. Competitors: Audi RS 5, Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé.
With its sturdy but not harsh basic set-up, the M4 excels above all on tracks and country roads – provided the latter are not too narrow. The two-door car nestles into the radius, links up with the racing line, and pushes itself into the exit of the bend with its hindquarters when accelerating out of the bend. In short, this is exactly what you’d expect from a purely rear-wheel-drive sports model from BMW.
If there’s enough room for it, you can allow the rear end some autonomy in line selection; for this, of course, the ESP’s sport mode (at least) must be activated. Conveniently, favorite setups can be stored on the red M1 and M2 steering wheel buttons – for example, one for goofing around and one for cornering. Even the pedal feel of the braking system can be adjusted in two stages, although the differentiation could be more noticeable.
On the other hand, the M4 becomes very clear when it comes to oversteer; it signals this to the hands even before the cheek of the enormously low-mounted seat shell announces the increase in lateral forces to the back. Angle and slip can be fine-tuned wonderfully without any surprise, especially since the mechanical lock doesn’t bully, but rather subliminally supports the traction. Drifts are wonderfully creamy and without counter-attack – the M4’s telemetry even records them on request and rates them with asterisks.
A conglomerate of struts brings noticeably more rigidity in important areas. Traditionally, the inline six-cylinder is mounted longitudinally.
In poor grip conditions on the race track, it could be electronically controlled in ten stages along the grip edge. Such features position the M4 in the direction of a touring car. Also insofar as it swings from starboard to port without fluttering in alternating curves.
At this moment, the stiffness of the chassis is felt as determination in the steering: It results from various struts – between the strut domes, to the front end and bulkhead, between the front axle beam and sills and from there back to the steel rear axle beam, which is rigidly connected to the body. Here, too, there are additional kilograms.
On the other hand, it is precisely these elements that make a 4 Series an M4. Its low-torsion nature and rigid body make it a joy to drive. The sports coupe follows the asphalt closely, doesn’t let itself be embarrassed by bumps or centrifugal and centripetal forces with fickleness – and flatters the driver.
It’s comparatively easy to control, avoids pitfalls, but always allows for moments of conquest, especially on moguls. In other words, actually harmless situations in which you think you have to correct, wrestle and balance.
It takes 4.3 seconds for the manually shifted M4 to accelerate to 100 km/h from a standstill. It just about reaches this before you have to shift into third gear.
Driving eustress, if you will, because the correcting, struggling and balancing has exactly the desired effect. Because the M4 reacts bluntly, but doesn’t overshoot the mark. And because it is very easy to guide from the wrist. Bliss all around, until after a while a small imbalance is noticed deep in the structure: the wire to the front is more indirect than to the rear.
Anyone who demands more power from the steering at this point inadequately outlines the problem. It’s more about the foreboding in the feedback – that moment before the front tires slip, when the asphalt pores slowly refuse to support the tread blocks. You want to feel this more clearly, because the M4 really does have a tendency to understeer. On the other hand, speed is not linked to ride quality. And it can build up speed in no time at all.
As in the predecessor, the three-liter six-cylinder engine starts off powerfully at low engine speeds in the intake range and builds on a rich base torque. After that, the pressure buildup of the two turbos is smooth, with the transition between thrust and load briefly feeling like a kind of register supercharging even at higher engine speeds. In fact, both mono-scroll superchargers blow simultaneously, one supplying cylinders one to three, the other four to six.
n combination with the asymmetrically designed manifolds and seventies pipes, the result is a homey sound: before the engine starts to hammer like a racing engine, it is reminiscent of the roaring, overdriving roar of the blessed M88 from the M635 CSi – which plays the melody of longing of an in-line six-cylinder par excellence. At the same time, the level is pleasantly restrained; sporting goods manufacturers will certainly change that on request.
Presses the uiuiui trigger
Only quick hilltops, like this one on the test track, can lever out the very stiffly designed M4.
The three-liter can rev up to 7,200 rpm, but the maximum output of 480 hp is already available 950 rpm before that. Although the engine is designed to be rather long-stroking, the power develops in a multi-layered manner: Nothing is discharged abruptly like a thunderstorm, but it starts to pour like in high summer. As soon as the water-cooled superchargers press their overpressure into the system after a brief pause, the thrust gradually increases – all the way up to those gripping engine speeds that push the uiuiui trigger.
Almost like a close-ratio sports transmission, it goes on energetically from gear to gear – thanks to the short gear ratio: 130 km/h already corresponds to 3,000 rpm. An eco design looks different, which is why the average consumption of 10.8 l/100 km in the test shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The longer-ratio automatic version would probably be more economical; nevertheless, we advocate manual transmission for the M4. And we’re not even aiming at its weight advantage of 25 kilograms. Rather, sports coupes in this configuration will soon no longer be available, and that can’t be stressed often enough. So if you put one aside, you’ll have hot stuff parked in the garage.
Advantages and disadvantages
- Good space in the front
- Very low integrated seating position
- Sturdy workmanship
- Simple operation
- Sufficient payload
- Usable trunk
- Poor clarity
Unusually designed instruments
- Very wide body
- High curb weight
- Functional suspension comfort
- Very well supporting bucket seats (option)
- High rev level on the long haul
- Good responsiveness
- Powerful pull-through
- High revving pleasure
- Manual transmission!!!
- Involving handling
- Tight traction
- Wide limit range
- High fun factor
- Precise steering
- Numerous assistance systems
- Sensitive traction control
- Well-tuned sports ESP
- Stable braking system
- Acceptable in terms of performance and driving pleasure potential …
- … high consumption measured against CO2 targets
- Long maintenance intervals
- Good standard equipment
- Very high price
- Expensive sport options
- High insurance premiums
Negative: the high weight as well as the wide body. Other than that, we celebrate the feedback-friendly chassis, the inspiring handling, the tight six-cylinder – and the manual transmission.