Tuesday 19th October 2021
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First drive: BMW M4 Competition. Image by Mark Fagelson.

First drive: BMW M4 Competition
Donít focus on THE GRILLES; do focus on the fact the M4 Competition is a blinding performance coupe.

 



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BMW M4 Competition

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

You need to look past the styling on this one, because the new BMW M4 Competition is as stunning to drive as it is challenging to look at. It'll cost you a pretty penny to buy these days, granted, but the 510hp 4 Series is most definitely worth every penny of the substantial asking price.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW M4 Competition
Pricing: 4 Series range from £40,460, M4 Competition from £76,055, car as tested £87,495
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive with Active M Differential, eight-speed M Steptronic automatic
Body style: two-door performance coupe
CO2 emissions: 234g/km (VED Band 226-255: £1,850 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 27.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited, option to raise to 180mph limited with M Pro Package)
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Power: 510hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 650Nm at 2,750-5,500rpm
Boot space: 440 litres

What's this?

It's the all-new, 'G82' BMW M4 Competition and no, we don't want to talk about the styling. Well, not at the front, at any rate; we said all we want to say about these... these... these things when we drove the next model down the tree, the M440i xDrive, and we've not changed our opinion since. Nevertheless, with the usual M accoutrements - like 19-inch front and 20-inch rear alloy wheels, beefier arches, quad exhausts and gaping air intakes (no, not just those two monstrosities!) - and new colours including the striking Sao Paulo Yellow you can see here, the M4 is the best looking of the entire 4 Series breed. Although it still has heavy rear three-quarter flanks and an overly fussy rear end, so it's not as appealing to behold as the M3 four-door relation that has been launched alongside it. We'll bring you a full review of that car in the coming days.

No problems with the interior, though, where BMW has added plenty of M-specific switchgear, the M-embossed gearlever for the eight-speed M Steptronic torque-converter automatic (no, it's not a dual-clutch DCT like it was in the previous-gen M4, but the true 'slusher' out of the current M5), and then lotsa carbon-fibre addenda - mainly for the dash trims, the steering wheel and those lovely shift paddles just behind it. Don't get excited, though, as the quite exquisite M Carbon bucket seats are part of a £6,750 package, that also clothes additional bits of the exterior in the material; you get the carbon roof as standard on the M4, but the door mirrors, lip spoiler and so on wouldn't be finished in the stuff ordinarily. Indeed, add a few options and the £76,055 M4 Competition can soon turn into an eighty-seven-and-a-half-grand vehicle like our test car. Gulp. You'll want those seats, though. Trust us. You'll want those seats.

Anyway, there's much to like in here, including a bob-on driving position, a quality feel to all the fixtures and fittings, slightly less padding on the BMW M three-spoke steering wheel (this is a good thing), an 'M Mode' graphical display for the standard-fit 12.3-inch digital cluster and M Head-Up Display above that really tidies up the information presented on both, and then the usual 4 Series attributes of reasonable rear-seat space for passengers for a two-door coupe and a decent boot too.

How does it drive?

When BMW does a technical presentation and says the car is a more accomplished grand tourer than ever, you start to worry for the M4 Competition. That it's also bigger (112mm longer and 19mm wider) than the old F82 is another issue, while the weight has ballooned to 1,800kg for this 510hp model, despite the carbon-fibre roof it sports up top. And then you remember the teeth-chattering ride quality on things like the M8 Gran Coupe Competition and the X6 M Competition, and your blue-and-white-propeller heart sinks that little bit further towards your stomach.

But hold on a second. Let's look at some of the technical kit on the M4. It has a new M Drive Professional system of traction control that offers not only the usual looser M Dynamic Mode (MDM) to the ESC, but also ten stages of adjustment to wheel slip on the Active M Diff-equipped rear axle if you want it. Oh, and a Drift Mode Analyser, too. Which is nice. And yes, we said rear axle; there will be xDrive M3 and M4 models along soon, but this version sends all of its colossal power rearwards only.

Said power is the aforementioned 510hp from the 3.0-litre biturbo 'S58' engine, as well as 650Nm from just 2,750rpm. This makes the M4 quick. Like, rabidly so: it'll run 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and has to be restricted to 190mph, even if you tick the 'please make my car go even more illegally fast flat out, please, kind BMW salesperson' box. To try and cope with this power, the two-stage braking system from the M8 is adopted, the M4 boasting 380mm front discs and 370mm rotors at the back. Adaptive M Suspension can cycle through three settings (Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus), while there's a sports exhaust system with the requisite four tailpipes to make the most of the engine's exertions.

If we might be permitted to start with a couple of 'downers', the Comfort suspension setting is pointless. It feels no less brittle at low speeds than Sport, transmitting cat's eyes and larger imperfections in the road's surface into the car with a sharp thump. You also get a lot of the detail of the road surface from it at town pace, but it soon becomes apparent that this is not one of BMW M's latest hard-riding aberrations. In truth, at most speeds above 25mph, the Sport suspension does a fine enough job of providing the sort of taut, firm level of comfort that cars of this performance bracket normally do. Step the suspension up into Sport Plus and the compliance becomes noticeably less forgiving, but if there's to be a Comfort mode offered then it needs to provide more supple contrast to the other two settings you've already got.

And our other beef is that the S58 isn't the greatest-sounding straight-six BMW has ever committed to production. But then, that's a tough crowd to be up against (S54, anyone?) and we'd actually say the M4 Competition has a decent soundtrack; snarling up to its lofty 7,200rpm rev limiter and providing good, bassy notes in the lower rev range, where it is aided and abetted by rumbles and thuds from the exhaust system.

From this point on, it's a eulogy. This is one of the best M3s, and by obvious extension M4s too, that we've ever driven. It forms a stark contrast to those early F82s, which had the propensity to be right spiky and unapproachable buggers when they originally launched. The M4 is none of that. It is engaging and accessible, it clearly conveys when its rear end is about to transition from grip to slip, and when its massive Michelin Pilot Sport 4s at the back to let go then the resulting slide is graceful and wondrous, rather than vicious and terrifying.

It is what all good M3s of the past have always been: a car which commands respect from its driver, but never demands it through menaces and fear like the F82 could. We'll gloss over its motorway manners - it's a fine enough long-distance cruiser but that's really not the point of an M4 - and get straight to the meat of the test. On technical, challenging and intricate roads, the Competition positively invites you to get lairy and loose with its throttle response (which is razor sharp), its monster engine (which has seemingly no lag, considering its whopping outputs) and its fancy traction control system. Set into 'M2' mode (everything dialled up to maximum and the ESC down to 2/10 in terms of its level of intervention), the car is a revelation.

It dances and frolics through corners, limber on its feet and not in the least bit indicative of its goliath 1.8-tonne kerb weight. You'll adore the way its body undulates up and down on the suspension, with no abruptness to its vertical movements. You'll delight in the wheel travel, the M4 keeping as much of its vital contact patches in touch with the tarmac as it can at all times. You'll positively revel in some of the best BMW steering we've tried in ages, glorious M2 CS notwithstanding, because there's no artificial, hefty 'gloop' to the M4's set-up - instead, there's just sumptuous weighting, rapier-like responses that are connected to a front end every iota as eager as the one on the old M4 CS, and a consistency and faithfulness to everything it does that's wholly refreshing in the EPAS age. The brakes are mega too and the gearbox? The M Steptronic never lets you down. Not once. You'll only fox it if you ask it to do something utterly daft, like go from eighth to second when you're doing well into three figures, and you could just as easily do something similar (and terminal to your engine) on a six-speed H-gate if you're that much of a numpty.

Linked all together, the M4's drivetrain and chassis combination is a sparkling automotive jewel. It doesn't feel like it is relying on its electronics to get you through, because when you do switch off some of the safety nets then you get even more exhilaration and exuberance from the Beemer. And the engine might not quite have the greatest voice in the world, but its speed and its charisma will see you through. Just like Dave Grohl maybe isn't the best singer in the world of rock yet everyone loves him anyway (and rightly so), the S58 can be forgiven for its occasionally gravelly and uninspiring acoustics because it bestows thoroughly ludicrous pace on the M4 Competition. It rips through second, third and fourth in such a ferocious manner that you need to be very, very careful not to put your licence in serious jeopardy, every time you go near the throttle. This is not just a fast car; it's an [expletive deleted] fast car.

In short, this M4 is thoroughly 'right' straight out of the box. It feels like a brilliant sports coupe and one that would be as much fun on track as it undoubtedly is on the roads. That there should be other, more focused models to come, like a CS and maybe even a (whisper it) GTS, is an incredibly exciting prospect indeed. We can't think of a similar two-door coupe that'll offer its driver a more comprehensively wonderful driving experience than the M4 Competition serves up, save for maybe a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 or its GTS offspring. Make no mistake about it: on this extraordinary early showing from the G82, the BMW M4 is right back on the top of its game and the benchmark in the four-seat performance coupe marketplace once more.

Verdict

It's expensive. It's wearing a fright mask. And the Comfort damping makes no difference at all to the way the car soaks up (or doesn't soak up) lumps and bumps in the road. Aside from that, the new BMW M4 Competition is an utterly majestic thing, as scintillating and remarkable as many an M3/M4 before it. If you can afford its asking price and you can stomach its looks, you will not find anything out there which drives much better than this beguiling BMW M car.

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 9 Mar 2021









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2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.

2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.2021 BMW M4 Competition UK test. Image by Mark Fagelson.








 

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