BMW 4 series VS BMW M4
BMW 4 series
- Great tech
- Terrific to drive
- Reasonable servicing
- A bit pricey
- Tight rear seats
- Needs more safety gear
- Divisive exterior styling
- Surprising practicality
- Simply epic performance
- M3 sedan looks better
- Substandard warranty
- Options can be overkill
BMW 4 series
BMW's new 4 Series blasted onto the world stage with a chonky schnozz on it that only a mother could love. If BMW didn't want anyone to look at the rest of the car, it did a cracking job of it, because everyone had something to say about the big gnashers now grafted to the 4's front end.
I was nervous about it, too, because the 4 Series has always been so elegant and the current 3 Series - on which it is based - is quite nice to look at. It also threatened to overshadow just how good a car the BMW 4 should be, based as it is on the excellent 3 Series.
And, of course, one also had to wonder if a sports coupe like this would be any good around town. Limited vision? Hard to get in and out of? A true four-seater, or just a squishy 2+2? So many questions.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Will this, er, striking new BMW be remembered as the most controversial car released in the 2020s?
It’s quite possible. After all, there isn’t another vehicle in recent memory that gets enthusiast blood boiling so quickly and so often.
Yep, the second-generation BMW M4 risks being remembered for the wrong reasons, and it all has to do with that oversized, eye-catching kidney grille.
Of course, the new M4 is more than a ‘pretty face’ - or pretty remarkable face. In fact, as our test of the Competition coupé proved, it actually resets the benchmark in its segment. Read on.
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|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
BMW 4 series7.8/10
The BMW 420i is a terrific car if you're after a bit of style and sophistication. Not everyone will warm to your car's nose, but if you get it de-chromed, like this white one, it really does look pretty good. It's a car that uses very little fuel, moves along smartly and is brimming with a decent amount of tech, even if it could do with a bit more safety gear at this price.
I reckon this car is settling well into the automotive landscape and ignoring it because of a few loudmouths think the grille is too big would be a terrible waste.
No matter what, haters are going to hate, but the new M4 Competition coupe doesn’t need any unsolicited style tips. And let’s not forget, styling is always subjective, so it’s not a matter of being wrong or right.
Anyway, the M4 Competition coupe is a damn good sports car, and it should be recognised as such. In fact, it’s more than damn good; it’s the type of car that you long to drive again.
After all, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re not looking at the exterior. And real enthusiasts will want to drive the M4 Competition, not look at it. And what a truly memorable drive it is.
BMW 4 series
The internet exploded when it became clear the big kidney grille was for real. To be fair, BMW did itself absolutely no favours by ensuring the photos of the 4 Series made the twin grille look Easter Island statue sized.
And it persisted in doing them naked, without number plates to break up the look. In the flesh, it all works, the nose is striking but not completely overblown.
BMW coupe elegance reigns supreme in profile, however, with excellent proportions, and even in base form the wheels are the right size. The slim tail-lights and sculpted tail complete the look. It's a car I think most people love looking at. Hardly anyone mentioned the grille.
The cabin is excellent, as are all of the newer BMW interiors. It's not really a base model, given the price, but the mix of Alcantara and synthetic leather is very pleasing.
The big screens for the media and instruments headline the cabin with high-tech style and while it's not avant-garde, it's sharp and feels premium, which is just as well.
Let’s get straight to the point: the new M4 Competition coupe has a rather large mouth. It’s certainly not for everyone, but that’s the point.
Yes, if you can’t appreciate why the M4 Competition coupé now looks the way it does, then BMW’s designers clearly didn’t have you in mind when they were doing their thing.
Of course, an oversized version of BMW’s signature kidney grille has been seen before, most recently on the X7 upper-large SUV, but the M4 Competition coupé is a very different beast in overall shape and size.
Now, I know I'm in the minority here, but I really appreciate what BMW has attempted here. After all, aside from the similarly styled – and arguably better-looking – M3 Competition sedan, there is literally no mistaking the M4 Competition coupé for anything else.
And for what it’s worth, I think the tall but narrow kidney grille looks its best when fitted with a small, slimline number plate, just like our test vehicle was. The alternative Euro-style plate just doesn’t do it justice.
Anyway, there’s obviously a lot more to the M4 Competition coupé than that face, including its equally adventurous paintwork options, with our test vehicle finished in the searing Sao Paulo Yellow metallic hue. Needless to say, it’s a showstopper.
The rest of the front end is punctuated by the deep side air intakes and sinister adaptive laser headlights, which integrate hexagonal LED daytime running lights. And then there’s the heavily creased bonnet, which is also hard to miss.
Around the side, the M4 Competition coupé has a similar profile to the sixth-generation Ford Mustang, which is its least remarkable angle. It’s still attractive, though, albeit a little too smooth, even with the sculpted carbon-fibre roof panel.
Our test vehicle looked better, thanks to its optional mixed set of black alloy wheels (19/20 inches), which had the also optional gold calipers of the carbon-ceramic brakes tucked behind them. They combine well with the black side skirts and non-functional ‘air breathers’.
At the rear, the M4 Competition coupé is at its absolute best, with the bootlid’s lip spoiler a subtle reminder of its capability, while the sports exhaust system’s quad tailpipes within the chunky diffuser insert are not. Even the LED tail-lights look superb.
Inside, the M4 Competition coupé continues to be a knockout, the level of which depends on how it’s specified, with our test vehicle featuring extended Merino leather upholstery with Alcantara accents, all of which were of the very loud Yas Marina Blue/black variety.
Better yet, carbon-fibre trim is found on the chunky sports steering wheel, dashboard and centre console, with silver accents also used on the latter two to lift the sporty – and premium – ambience, alongside the tri-colour M seatbelts and Anthracite headliner.
Otherwise, the M4 Competition coupé follows the 4 Series formula, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen ‘floating’ atop the centre stack, controlled by the intuitive rotary dial and physical shortcut buttons on the centre console.
With BMW’s Operating System 7.0 on hand, this set-up is one of the best in the business, (intermittent wireless Apple CarPlay dropouts excluded).
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is positioned ahead of the driver, with a backwards tachometer the main feature. It does lackthe breadth of functionality of its rivals, but there's also a very large head-up display handily projected onto the windshield.
BMW 4 series
As a sports coupe, it's hardly a practical all-rounder but it's not a squishy 2+2 either. The rear seats are sculpted for maximum headroom and have the added bonus of holding onto rear passengers.
Six footers won't be super-comfortable but it's bearable for short trips. There are two ISOFIX points back there, too.
The front seats electrically fold out of the way for ingress and egress, but it's not an elegant process.
Front-seat passengers score two cupholders and bottle holders in the doors and a black hole for your phone and its wireless charging pad.
The boot takes an impressive 440 litres and the rear seats split and fold like good little soldiers.
Measuring 4794mm long (with a 2857mm wheelbase), 1887mm wide and 1393mm tall, the M4 Competition coupé is on the large side for a mid-size car, and that means good things for practicality.
For example, the boot’s cargo capacity is pretty good, at 420L, and it can be increased to an undisclosed volume by stowing the 60/40 split-fold rear bench, an action that can be performed by the main storage area’s manual-release latches.
That said, we are dealing with a coupé here, so the boot’s aperture isn’t particularly tall, although its load lip is, making bulky items a challenge. However, two bag hooks and four tie-down points are on hand to help secure loose items.
Things are also mostly good in the second row, where I had a couple of inches of headroom and decent toe-room behind my 184cm driving position, although headroom is basically non-existent, with my head scraping the roof.
Amenities-wise, there are two USB-C ports below the air vents at the rear of the centre console, but no fold-down armrest or cupholders to speak of. And while the rear door bins are a surprise, they’re too small to accommodate bottles.
It’s also worth noting there are two ISOFIX and two top-tether anchorage points for (awkwardly) fitting child seats to the rear bench. The M4 Competition is a four-seater after all.
In the front, there’s a bit going on, with the centre stack’s cubby containing a pair of cupholders, a USB-A port and a wireless smartphone charger, while the central bin is decently sized. It has a USB-C port of its own.
The glovebox is on the smaller side, while the driver-side fold-out cubby is large enough to hide a wallet or some other bits and bobs. And then there are the door bins, which can accommodate a regular bottle each.
But before we move on, it’s worth calling out that the front carbon-fibre bucket seats fitted to our test vehicle aren’t for everyone. When you’re seated, they’re amazingly supportive, but getting in and out of them is a real challenge due to their very high and hard side bolsters.
Price and features
BMW 4 series
The 420i starts at $71,900. That's a fair bit of money, I think you'll agree.
You get 19-inch wheels, a 10-speaker stereo, LED headlights with auto high beam, head-up display, power front seats, lighting package, auto-parking with reverse assistant, synthetic leather and Alcantara interior, 'Live Cockpit Professional' (fully digital dash), wireless phone charging and digital radio.
The massive 10.25-inch touchscreen may be smaller than the 12.3-inch digital dashboard, but it still looks huge. BMW's Operating System 7.0. is a cracking set-up, and you can control it via either touch or the 'iDrive' rotary dial on the console. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both of them, wireless. You don't read that every day.
You also get 'BMW ConnectedDrive', with some remote services that last for three years. The subscription includes things like the endearingly weird 'Caring Car' and the far less weird real-time traffic information.
The 4 Series is available in eight colours. 'Alpine White' is the only freebie while 'Black Sapphire', 'Arctic Race Blue', 'Portimao Blue', 'San Remo Green' and 'Mineral White' are $1538 each (or part of the 'Visibility Package'). 'Tanzanite Blue' and 'Dravit Grey' are a hefty $2962.
My car for the week had the $6300 Visibility Package (metallic paintwork, sunroof, BMW Laserlight, Ambient Light, which is worth it for the amazing Laserlights alone), the $2860 'Comfort Package' (lumbar support, electric boot, heated front seats, 'Comfort Access' with 'BMW Digital Key') and an $800 black pack. All this took the price to $81,860.
Priced from $159,900 plus on-road costs, the automatic-only Competition currently sits atop the manual-only ‘regular’ variant ($144,990) in the rear-wheel-drive M4 coupé range, with xDrive all-wheel-drive and convertible options set to become available in the future.
Either way, the second-generation M4 Competition coupé is $3371 dearer than its predecessor, although buyers are compensated with a much longer list of standard equipment, including metallic paintwork, dusk-sensing lights, adaptive laser headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, a mixed set of alloy wheels (18/19 inches), power-folding side mirrors with heating, keyless entry, rear privacy glass and a power-operated bootlid.
Inside, a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation with live traffic, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 464W Harman Kardon surround-sound system with 16 speakers, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, push-button start, a wireless smartphone charger, power-adjustable front sports seats with heating, three-zone climate control, extended Merino leather upholstery, carbon-fibre trim and ambient lighting.
Being a BMW, our test vehicle was fitted with a number of options, including remote engine start ($690), BMW Drive Recorder ($390), a mixed set of black alloy wheels (19/20 inches) with Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres ($2000), and the $26,000 M Carbon package (carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fibre exterior trim and front carbon-fibre bucket seats), taking the price as tested to $188,980.
For reference, the M4 Competition coupé goes tyre to tyre with the Mercedes-AMG C63 S coupé ($173,500), Audi RS 5 coupé ($150,900) and Lexus RC F ($135,636). It’s better value than the former and has the latter two covered with its next-level performance.
Engine & trans
The M4 Competition coupé is motivated by a cracking new 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder petrol engine, which is codenamed S58.
With a huge 375kW of peak power at 6250rpm and an even bigger 650Nm of maximum torque from 2750-5500rpm, the S58 is a significant 44kW and 100Nm more potent than its S55 predecessor.
A versatile eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) is also new and replaces the previous seven-speed dual-clutch unit.
And no, there is no six-speed manual option for the M4 Competition coupé any more, it's now standard only in the regular M4 coupé, which ‘only’ punches out 353kW and 550Nm.
That said, both variants are still rear-wheel drive, with the M4 Competition coupé now sprinting from a standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds, making it 0.1s quicker than before. For reference, the regular M4 coupe takes 4.2s.
BMW 4 series
BMW's official combined-cycle figures seem to be slowly moving towards reality. The 420i's sticker figure of 6.4L/100km was met with an indicated 6.8L/100km, which was excellent going for almost exclusively suburban and urban running.
It's a solid result, but being a BMW, it's premium unleaded only for its 59-litre tank.
With my generally unsympathetic (but not psychopathic) right foot, that means a real-world range of over 800km between fills.
The M4 Competition coupé’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 10.2L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 234g/km. Both returns are more than respectable when you consider the level of performance on offer.
That said, in our real-world testing, we averaged 14.1/100km over 387km of driving, with plenty of time in bumper-to-bumper traffic. And if that wasn’t the case, the M4 Competition coupé was being driven with ‘vigour’, so a much better return is possible.
For reference, the M4 Competition coupé’s 59L fuel tank takes more expensive 98RON premium petrol at minimum, but that’s no surprise.
BMW 4 series
As the platform has matured and BMW's persistence with run-flat tyres has yielded improvements in tyre construction, the 3/4 Series platform (and many others - the internal name for the platform is CLAR) has once again become the benchmark for ride and handling.
For some people reading this, that's a lot of blah blah blah but the main point is, it's a terrific thing to drive whether you're dawdling along in traffic, dealing with traffic calming or bombing down your favourite deserted road.
The Bridgestone tyres on the 420i aren't as ultimately grippy and sticky as the alternative rubber on the 430i but they work well in town and are quiet on the 80km/h roads so prevalent in Sydney.
The steering is absolutely lovely, providing just the right weight at any given speed and throwing in the road feel to inspire confidence.
Ride around town is compliant but with the whiff of fun if you decide to push things outside of the city.
Its capabilities are still more than worthwhile day-to-day, however, because the way it handles the need to duck in and out of spaces in traffic is extremely handy.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder is as smooth as rival Audi's. It doesn't sound like much (with a few vestigial pops in Sport mode) but it's certainly got the power to get you out of sticky situations and a transmission that's willing to play ball, whether in Sport or Normal.
Without the adaptive suspension of its 430i and M 440i brethren, this is a very smooth, easygoing sports coupe, with just enough sportiness to keep you interested, if you're that way inclined.
The new M4 Competition coupé is an absolute beast. Plain and simple.
In fact, it’s such a beast that how well you can harness its performance on public roads is very dependent on how it’s specified.
Our test vehicle was fitted the optional Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres and carbon-ceramic brakes, both of which are usually the reserve of track superstars.
And although we’re yet to experience it in such a setting, there’s no denying the M4 Competition coupé would be at home on a circuit, but as a daily driver, these options are a step or two too far.
Before we explain why, it’s important to first acknowledge what makes the M4 Competition coupé so beastly in the first place.
The new 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine is an undeniable powerhouse, so much so that it’s hard to extract its full potential without handing over your licence in the process.
But when you do get to wring it out in first and second gear, it’s an absolute delight, with a rush of low-end torque preceding a power punch that even Iron Mike Tyson would be proud of.
For that reason, we rarely bothered with anything but the S58’s Sport Plus mode, because the temptation to have it all is far too great.
The reason why that’s so easy to do is because the eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission’s three settings are independent, meaning the M4 Competition coupé won’t always be looking to hold onto the lower gears if you don’t want it to.
The unit itself is predictably charming, with the difference in quickness between this new auto and its dual-clutch predecessor almost negligible. And yes, the advantage of the swap is buttery smooth gear changes, with low-speed jerkiness now a distant memory.
And when you are firing through the ratios, the booming sports exhaust system comes to the fore. Pleasingly, it’s ready to go every time the ignition is switched on, but to enjoy maximum crackles and pop on the overrun, the S58 needs to be in its Sport Plus mode.
Handling-wise, the M4 Competition coupé is one of those sports cars that begs to be driven harder and harder every time you attack a corner as it pushes its 1725kg kerb weight through bends with playful poise.
While I really enjoy the rear-wheel-drive dynamics, I still can’t help but wonder what the rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive version will be like when it launches, but that will have to wait for another day.
In the meantime, traction can be the M4 Competition coupé’s biggest issue, with the operative word being can. Yep, those Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 can be a handful in mixed conditions, be it in a straight line or through the twisty stuff.
Don’t get us wrong, semi-slicks are amazing when they’re hot and being used on a dry surface, but on a cold or wet day, they struggle to grip when the throttle is liberally applied, even with the rear limited-slip differential doing its best work.
For that reason, we’d be sticking with the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres, which serve up the level of adhesion you’d hope for in everyday driving – unless you’re a weekend warrior.
In fact, if you are thinking about tracking the M4 Competition coupé, a lap-timer is built in, while a drift analyser will help you improve your slip angle and drift time if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a skidpan, but we digress.
While we’re talking about our test vehicle’s options, it’s worth pointing out it’s a similar story with the carbon-ceramic brakes. Again, they’re mega on a track day, but they are overkill when you’re just out and about on public roads.
The standard steel brakes would be my pick. They’re powerful in their own right and still have two settings for the pedal feel, with the progressiveness of Comfort getting our vote.
Speaking of the word comfort, the M4 Competition coupé has come along in leaps and bounds when it comes to ride quality. Previously, it was unbearably stiff, but now it’s relatively comfortable.
Yep, the sports suspension is tuned superbly, doing its best to deliver a pleasant experience. Simply put, high-frequency bumps are dealt with firmly but quickly, while broken surfaces are also met with composure.
Of course, the adaptive dampers on hand are working their magic in the background, with the Comfort setting understandably preferred, although the Sport and Sport Plus alternatives aren’t that jarring when you need that little bit of extra body control.
The speed-sensitive electric power steering is yet another notch in the M4 Competition coupé’s belt, which is at its best in its Comfort setting, offering a nice amount of weight while being very direct.
Naturally, this set-up can become heavier in Sport and heavier again in Sport Plus if that’s your thing. Either way, feel is rather good. Yep, the M4 Competition coupé is good at communication – and many, many other things.
BMW 4 series
The 4 Series hasn't been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP and the 3's five-star rating can only be a guide because of the very different structure of the 4.
Sports cars rarely fare well in the sometimes complex rules so carmakers tend to keep them away from the clutches of crash testers.
Neither ANCAP nor its European counterpart, Euro NCAP, have given the M4 Competition coupé a safety rating yet.
That said, its advanced driver-assist systems do extend to front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with intersection assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist (including emergency), adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, road-sign recognition, high-beam assist, active blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert, Reversing Assist, park assist, rear AEB, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, and tyre-pressure monitoring.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems, with the latter coming with 10 stages.
BMW 4 series
Servicing is entirely reasonable at $1650 for a five-year/80,000km package that covers the 12 month/16,000km servicing regime.
At $330 per service, it includes things many carmakers don't, such as brake fluid and spark plugs.
You can go full noise with the 'Plus Package', which costs $4500 and chucks in brake pads, rotors and even windscreen-wiper replacement. That doesn't seem like terribly good value to me unless you drive like a lunatic.
As with all BMW models, the M4 Competition coupé comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years behind the premium standard set by Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Genesis.
That said, three years of roadside assistance is also included with the M4 Competition, which has service intervals of every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first).
To sweeten the deal, five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plans are available from $3810, or $762 per visit, which is fairly reasonable, all things considered.