First Drive: BMW M4
There’s a great deal that’s new about the M4, not least the name. Previously you could have an M3 in coupe, saloon and convertible formats, but now the M3 is saloon only. The M4 takes on the mantle as the coupe will be the most popular model by far. You get a stack of bespoke exterior parts to add menace as well as a bit of downforce and there’s 85kg of weight saved over the old car with bits like the carbonfibre roof, strut brace and a lightweight driveshaft. But the biggest news is under the bonnet. The naturally aspirated V8 has been binned in favour of a twin turbocharged six-cylinder unit for the first time on an M car. As usual, it’s for the sake of efficiency: the new unit has more power and torque than the old car but emissions are down 26%.
Looks and image: As you’d expect, the transformation to M4 brings with it some extra aggression. There are big air vents at the front, a deep chin spoiler, flared wheelarches and big wheels as standard, and the result is a terrific-looking thing from pretty much any angle. Colour choice is another matter. The eye-catching metallic yellow shown here is certainly not for the faint-hearted, while more moderate shades provide a more stealthy look.
Space and practicality: The transformation to M4 gives almost nothing away to the standard car, so sadly you’ve got no excuse for leaving the loved ones behind in a haze of tyre smoke. Up front, there are excellent sports seats, plenty of head and legroom even for taller drivers and you can fit adults in the back seats too. The boot is also impressive with 445 litres, and sensibly it has a good luggage net to stop everything flying about — which it would otherwise most certainly do.
Behind the wheel: Like all the current M cars, the M4 gives you a multitude of options to play with, offering three settings for the engine, suspension, gearbox and steering. With everything set to either Comfort or Efficiency, the M4 does a pretty convincing impression of a bog-standard 4 Series. It rides well and is quiet bar the odd growl from the engine when you poke it. But frankly that’s a waste of a performance car. Turn everything up to the middle Sport mode and instantly it feels more alert. Squeeze the throttle and the response is instant, that turbocharged engine offering up strong torque regardless of engine revs, and there’s a pleasing metallic note from the exhaust thanks to some clever electronic enhancement. Push the M4 hard and the grip is hugely impressive, the optional carbon ceramic brakes very strong and its overall composure superb. It’s a genuine M car, no doubt.
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Value for money: Compared to the outgoing car, the M4 has had a notable upgrade in the amount of standard kit. You now get 19-inch wheels, Xenon headlights, the adaptive M suspension and things like folding electric mirrors as standard where previously they were options. That’s not to say you can’t go a bit nuts with the options; the desirable carbon ceramic brakes are £6,250 but the M Laptimer app is free to download at least.
Who would buy one?: There are two main types of people that will want an M4 on their driveway. Firstly there are the enthusiasts who know the history of the M cars and want a performance car that has motorsport links and can cut it on the track as well as on the road. The other type are the badge snobs who want that M badge — and possibly one of the more eye-catching colours — to let everyone know they’ve arrived.