A few years ago BMW decided they wanted to remove the 3 series Coupe and instead rename it a 4 series. Roll on a year or two and the M4 is announced. Fast forward a few more years and you get to 2017 where there are now 4 variations of M4 available, the M4, M4 Competition Pack, M4 CS and M4 GTS.
Last week I was lucky enough to get behind the wheel of a MY17 BMW M4 fitted with the DCT gearbox.
Initial impressions after a quick 10 minutes behind the wheel and that is that the M4 is a fast, engaging, hugely desirable, good looking car that even offers some practicality for those who occasionally need to carry luggage or rear-seat passengers.
The biggest change from the e92 M3 is the power plant. BMW have moved away from a high-revving 4.0 V8 and instead opted for a straight six twin-turbocharged unit. For many purist, this new turbocharged engine just can’t live up to the e92’s naturally aspirated V8 for both drama and character. But if you look past it’s lack of a good soundtrack, the new M4 can deliver on the road pace that will keep supercar owners on their toes, all while offering luggage and passenger space.
What’s even better is, that like all BMW M cars, the M4 is really engaging to drive. The rear-wheel drive handling demands respect in any kind of adverse conditions, which I happened to find out, but the upside to that is that when you are on it, the car is very rewarding to drive.
For 2017 BMW has announced another series of small upgrades to the ‘regular’ M4 including standard fit LED headlamps and rear lights, upgrades to the infotainment system interface and some minor interior trim detail changes.
So after a good blast around South Wales these are my first thoughts on a MY17 F82 BMW M4.
As I mentioned above the new M4 features BMW’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder engine that improved both performance and economy compared to the previous generation M3’s V8.
In its latest form the M4 pushes out 425bhp and 550Nm of torque as standard, or 444bhp if you opt for the Competition Package. But if you wanted a little more the GTS edition offers 493bhp and 600Nm of torque or alternatively the recently announced M4 CS offers 454bhp and 600Nm of torque.
Having only driven a standard M4, so far, the 425bhp is more than enough for every day driving on the road in my opinion and easily becomes a handful in wet conditions in any other mode than comfort.
Power delivery from the new engine is a different question entirely. BMW has fitted two relatively small turbos, each working on three cylinders, to ensure they spool up quickly and try to reduce as much turbo lag as possible.
Even though the turbos are small, they still have an effect on the way the car responds. No matter how minimal the lag is, there’s no question that this is a less responsive engine than a naturally aspirated one and therefore comes with less urgency to a throttle prod than previous generations that I have experienced.
However on the road, generally, it doesn’t matter. Yes, sometimes there is small delay between asking for a lot of the available performance and getting it. But I found that if you were paying attention and had full control of the gearbox (manual mode on the DCT) then you can much more easily work around any lag.
I think what impressed me the most with the engine was that it is very smooth, revs very high for a turbocharged engine and actually surges towards the red line rather than running out of puff at about 5500-6000rpm. Also at higher revs, the engine definitely responds more closely to that of it’s natural aspirated counterpart. So as I said, keep control of the gearbox and you really can workaround any lag.
So engine noise is something I’m still undecided on. Inside the cabin it is definitely more noisy than our M140i but I do feel a lot of that noise is amplified through the speakers in to the cabin.
I’d say the engine noise is loud, or atleast the exhaust system is with the valves open is loud, but I don’t think it sounds the best now I’ve come away and driven the M140i again. I do think the new B58 engine has a nicer tone to it than the S55 unit used in the current M3/4.
As I only had a short time in the car, naturally I left it in it’s noisiest mode which is called Sport+. So it made as much noise as possible, which adds to the experience of the car.
When you jump in to the car you have a choice of three modes for the electrically assisted power steering and a firmness on the adaptive dampers. The mode options are Comfort, Sport and Sport+. I personally didn’t have any problems with any of the modes on UK roads.
The steering is much weightier in its latter setting but feel remains similar in all modes, the only difference being that the signals reach you at a different amplitude.
Actually controlling the body movements of the M4 is easy and the cars feels compliant, even over some terrible road surfaces and bumps, which is somewhere the M140i falls down. The suspension set up on the car really helps the car turn in with a real willingness, considering it is quite a heavy car, tipping the scales at around 1600kg. Once you have turned in you can really manage the power with the throttle pedal and lean on the rear diff to get you out of the corner at speed.
Being completely honest the M4’s road manners were delightfully surprising, but don’t think I’m saying that the M4 is just another sensible, soulless 4 series.
The car I drove was fitted with the new 7 speed Dual Clutch gearbox. Noticeably quicker shifts than the ZF 8 Speed auto in the M140i, it was more responsive and I actually found when in auto it was better at working out what you were trying to do.
I’m not sure if I was buying if I would go manual or DCT. Maybe I need to get behind the wheel of a manual.
Throughout the interior fit and finish quality are predictably high, the ergonomics are still superb and the cabin is a very nice place to sit. With trimmings of carbon fibre everywhere and seat logo’s that light up, you don’t just feel like you’re in a standard M4.
The test car I drove had the HUD fitted to it, which not having had one before I would have said its not worth it. Now having used it, it is a great option and allows you to keep an eye on your speed and road speed limits without taking your eyes off the road.
Really though, the most important thing on the interior is two little buttons that sit on the left hand side of the steering wheel and are labelled M1 and M2 .This allows you set up the car however you want it, by assigning specific settings from the car’s menu of adaptive options. I would highly recommend this as it means you spend less time faffing trying to set it up and more time enjoying the car and driving it.
The new M4 feels like a generational step forward. Not only is the new M4 more powerful, lighter and cleaner than the old M3.
All of the key ingredients for a very enjoyable car to drive are still there: a front-mounted engine and rear wheel drive. Yes things have gone electric and turbocharged, but given that Porsche dropped a 4 pot in their new Boxster and Cayman, you have to thank BMW for sticking with a straight six designed engine and if you can look past the fact it’s turbocharged and pumps sound into the cabin I would recommend you do so, just because of how much more usable the available power and torque now is on the road.
The new BMW M4 is a real weapon on the road.