BMW’s M Division is a wonderful place. The engineers there are the cream of the crop and total car nuts. They know their nuts and bolts better than most and over the last few decades they have delivered some incredible ‘M’ cars. With the new BMW M4 Ireland is skipping the entry 480hp manual gearbox model in favour of the full fat 510hp M4 Competition model with its 8-speed torque-converter automatic with paddle shifts.
The new M4 feels like a last hurrah for petrol-only power but don’t be fooled in to thinking you can get the same performance a lot cheaper and greener from Tesla with its Model 3 ‘Performance’. Yes you can get similar acceleration (M4 0-100km/h 3.5 secs) but the M4’s dynamic driving ability is simply astonishingly. The standard 4 Series is a very good driving car but the M4 goes to the next level. So what are the ingredients? Any mechanic can pop a large engine in to a car and make it go fast but it requires serious talent to match the power to a braking and suspension system that can handle it. 510hp is clearly an excessive amount of power for a car on Irish roads – but with the M4 when used within the speed limits, on the track or autobahn its power is thrilling.
Our yellow M4 is a shocking colour and as I have no desire to own a nightclub in Ibiza I’d pass on this paint choice and go with a less law enforcement attracting colour. The exterior is striking and purposeful. Lots of light-weight carbon fibre features (optional carbon pack) and there are sporty looking quad exhaust pipes and a rear diffuser, side skirts and subtle rear spoiler. The M4 gets a wider track than the standard 4 Series and 20 inch alloys on the rear and 19 inch alloys on the rear. A unique M sculpted bonnet helps ease the appearance of the new and divisive BMW grille. Massive side skirts look great but require a reach to get your leg over.
In the cabin the sports seats are brilliant and look extraordinary – although a long day sitting in them will have your hips aching as they hug tight with a strong track focus. A chunky steering wheel and generally more sporty trim than you could shake a stick at remind you that you are sitting in something special. Rear passenger room in the four-seater is not bad thanks to the upgraded front seats but headroom remains tight. A 440 litre boot is the same as the standard 4 Series – the ideal car for doing a quick big shop!
The standard 4 Series is a rewarding car to drive as it is quite precise and nimble but the M4 takes the dial and turns it up to 11. As we always say ‘a fast car is only as good as its brakes’ and the M4 is not the lightest at 1,730kg but thankfully the M4’s huge brakes are great… you can even select the colour of the callipers. The anchors have the stopping power necessary to retard speed in an instant. The chassis houses a beautiful suspension set up. Even when riding on huge alloys the M4 is livable-with day to day. The M4 is fully adjustable so you can set the suspension dampers up to be hard – to harder – to “do I even have dampers?’ track setting, you can also choose how fast the auto gearbox shifts, the engine’s power output mode, steering and brake performance, traction settings (10 setting M Traction control) and even the exhaust volume. There is an ‘M Drift’ analyser (a nice party trick) that will compute and score your drifting ability. The M4 is a connected car – so of course there is a ‘M’ app to access other info. The engine is a petrol powered straight six with 510hp and 650nm. An active exhaust means you can burble and rasp along quite nicely in a slightly anti-social way… but this is the joy of an engine note and power. EVs can be as rapid but they are devoid of aural excitement.
We love M buttons. On the steering wheel you’ll find two red buttons. ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ allow you select from driving dynamic settings you have chosen for the car – so in our case we set M1 to be track focussed with rapid gear shifts, instant throttle responses and driving aids set to a minimum, and the M2 button was a more wet weather friendly Sport-like setting. With neither button selected the car was set to a normal/efficient mode and was very easy to drive about the place without any fear of the M4 losing the run of itself so to speak. All wheel drive ‘xDrive’ is available and the good news is it is switchable to rear wheel drive only. Our car was a traditional rear wheel drive only version. With a less than intelligent right foot the rear tyres can easily spin, losing traction and in truth buyers will need a good replacement tyre budget as the Michelin sport tyres our car had cannot be cheap!
The M4 Competition is a hoot to drive but shockingly expensive – our test car €143,333. It is however a wonderfully over the top machine… and that’s why we love it. The four-door BMW M3 makes much more sense to us, or better still the smaller again BMW M2 makes the most sense of all.