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Driven: BMW M4. Image by BMW.

Driven: BMW M4
Fast. Mean. Handsome. But is the BMW M4 a true great?


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3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: seriously fast, really attractive.

Not so good: some of the old magic has been lost.

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW M4 Coupé DCT
Price: from £56,650; car as tested £59,145
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, seven-speed DCT automatic
Body style: two-door, four-seat coupé
CO2 emissions: 194g/km (Band J, £490 first 12 months, £265 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Power: 431hp at 5,500- to 7,300rpm
Torque 550Nm at 1,800- to 5,500rpm

Our view:

Normally, when reviewing a car, the idea is to detach your personal feelings from the process and try and write for the target buyer, even if you've got no interest in the vehicle in question. It then ensures you treat a Peugeot 108 as fairly as a Ferrari 458 Speciale, or a Volkswagen Sharan on the same sliding scale as a Black Series AMG Mercedes. Otherwise, you'd just end up giving five stars to anything with 500bhp-plus and one star to the sort of cars that the vast majority of people actually end up owning, which isn't much use to anyone.

With this BMW, though, it's hard for me to separate my personal feelings out. I have a long association with the marque that has focused on the M cars specifically and - lucky sod, I know - there's not a variant of M3 I've not driven. Aside from the madcap V8 GTS and the current saloon model with which this M4 Coupé shares its drivetrain. The Wife even owned an M3 for a time, a 2002 'E46' model in Steel Grey with Imola Red leather, 19-inch wheels (gasp!) and the SMGII gearbox (shock horror!). So there's a vested interest here that makes me one of those swivel-eyed loons who is immediately suspicious of forced induction M Division product, and whose opinion you can therefore probably roundly ignore in total safety. Nevertheless, here it is: I don't like the new M4 much at all.
It doesn't help that I went on a pre-production passenger ride in both the M3 and M4 in 2013 and wasn't really that fussed by them. Impressed by the anal retentiveness and attention to minutiae of the on-paper spec, no doubt, but when push came to shove-in-the-back torque, it felt like it was lacking. Maybe the airfield setting diminished the sense of pace but I wasn't on the verge of swearing the first time the M4 lit up fully in the hands of a DTM driver, no less.

Still, The Boss went on the 'proper' M3 and M4 launch and came back raving, and I know he's got at least as much experience in M cars as I have, so I was really looking forward to a week with an M4 DCT. In signature Austin Yellow metallic, a colour as divisive as Techno Violet, Phoenix Yellow or Laguna Seca Blue. Especially as it involved a 500-mile return trip to Scotland, involving plenty of glorious northern British moorland roads en route.

One thing I did like when I saw the M4 back in 2013 was the look of it and nothing has changed now. I was always a fan of the preceding V8 model, the E92, but some found it too safe. You couldn't accuse the M4 of any such thing. It looks fabulous from all angles, particularly so with contrasting black alloys. The interior is even better, feeling very different from the cabin of the next 4 Series Coupé down the pecking order. The fat steering wheel with paddle shifts that are perfect in terms of haptics, the gorgeous bucket seats, the clear, crisp and concise digital displays everywhere including in the excellent head-up screen; yup, there are no problems with the M4's aesthetics.

And in the first 50 miles or so, when you're just getting to know the M4 - prodding and probing at its abilities, using maybe 60 per cent throttle openings at most and simply exploring the lower slopes of its pace - things are hugely promising. It sounds ridiculously good and it builds speed with an alacrity that speaks not of 431hp, a mere 17hp up on the old V8, but 550Nm; a good 150Nm more than the M3 has ever had. Feather the accelerator and boom, the M4 is suddenly pulling a good many more mph than it was mere seconds ago. And yet it cruises in such a docile manner, providing a firm but comfortable ride on its 19s, that you begin to wonder how BMW M can keep improving vehicles from generation to generation. In the time it took to get up the A1 to the foot of the A68, during which it stunned me by returning around the quoted 34mpg combined figure, I'd mentally signed on the dotted line to have an M4.

The problems, though, came as soon as the roads got interesting. First of all, the M4 needs 'setting up' to drive fast. Not an issue that's specific to the BMW in the modern day, nor is it the first in the M coupé lineage to require such button prodding; the old V8 had variable settings. On the M4, throttle response, steering weight, the firmness of the dampers and - with this DCT model - the speed of gearshifts can all be tweaked. Traction on but with the car basically tuned to 'Ferocious', all manner of holy hell broke loose.

The speed is utterly mind-boggling. Summon up the courage to plant the throttle in its sharpest mode and if there's grip, the M4 veers into another dimension of pace. It's near-hypercar acceleration, which is ludicrous for a four-seat machine that's distantly related to a 420d SE. Sounds great too, the twin turbos thankfully not muting the savage shriek of the straight-six. There's plenty of information flowing back to you through the steering wheel and there feels like there is no body roll whatsoever. Brakes? Mammoth. Gearbox? Super-rapid. Grip and traction? Ah.

No M3 has ever been a pussy cat to drive, all of them commanding respect, and yet their responses were clearly telegraphed at all times, allowing the confident driver to build rapport with the car and perhaps get close to pushing the envelope of handling. The M4, on the other hand, felt positively evil on occasion and its bonkers pace means it can get the unwary into trouble far faster than an old M3. Even in the dry, the enormous thump of the torque makes the fixed back axle (its sub-frame is bolted directly to the chassis) squirm alarmingly. Semi-damp surfaces were even worse, so in the wet it's probably nigh-on untameable. Bumps in the road were frequently terror-inducing moments. There are a lot of bumps in the roads that snake over the Cheviot Hills.

In the end, quick as it was and great as it looks, the M4 came across as way too much torque in too light a package. Empirically, there is no question the M4 beats any of the M3s that have gone before it. It's quicker, it's louder, it's better on fuel, on a smooth racetrack it would murder whichever predecessor you threw up against it and I certainly wouldn't argue with the fact it's one of the best-looking Ms yet.

But if you asked me, as a BMW fan, which of the compact M cars going back to 1986 I'd have, the M4 would be last on the list. It felt murderous at times, rather than simply a car that demands respect. Unless you're The Stig reborn, turn the traction control off at your - and probably a lot of other road users' - peril. As a fan of BMW M, I find that lack of joined-up thinking unforgiveable and it ruins the fine equilibrium that M cars usually possess. Quantifiably superior to the M3s that have gone before? Yes. Subjectively better? No. What a shame.


Audi RS 5: well, the BMW has nothing to fear here. As stylish as ever from Ingolstadt, it remains one of the most inert high-performance cars you'll encounter.

Lexus RC F: far more flawed than the BMW, not least by a comically long eight-speed gearbox, but its normally aspirated V8 is a real USP.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 S: the real headache for Munich. A much more cohesive installation of a twin-turbo engine in a junior exec body shell, mainly because Affalterbach has always dealt in massive torque.

Matt Robinson - 13 Jul 2015    - BMW road tests
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2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW M4. Image by BMW.


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