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BMW M4 2014 review

BMW's M3 Coupe is now known as the M4. The high-revving V8 is gone, replaced by a lower-capacity, forced induction 3.0-litre straight six. For some, this has meant the end - how could the M4 possibly be any good? Turbos are terrible! Won't someone think of the wannabe racing drivers?

The list of complaints go on and on. As usual, these complaints are coming from people yet to drive it. We'll cut to the chase: the old M3 was tremendous fun, the M4 is even more tremendous fun. In fact, it's a much better car all round. Just a year ago, that seemed barely plausible but having driven it and uncovered a car of towering and broad abilities, the death of the king has given rise to something even better.

VALUE

Let's not beat around the bush, this is an expensive car. Kicking off at $166,430 before on-roads, it's a good $20,000 more than the car it directly replaces, $40,000 more if you count the stripped-out M3 Pure. Your money buys you many of the things you might find in the BMW 435i – comfortable leather seats, in this case racy M sports seats – keyless entry and start, DAB digital radio, an up-spec Harmon Kardon stereo, TFT dash displays, an 8.8-inch screen, the delightful slim-spoked M steering wheel with paddle shifters, sat-nav, rear and surround view cameras, electric seats, dual zone climate control and heated 'merino' leather seats.

Our car also had an $800 roller sunblind for the rear window, no-cost option wood trim, adaptive LED headlights ($2360), heads-up display ($1700), full leather merino upholstery which extends to doors and some trim, internet bridging with your mobile ($200) and Connected Drive Freedom which has telematics and real-time traffic information in the sat-nav.

DESIGN

The M4 is based on the 4 Series coupe, but it won't be mistaken for a 420d. M cars aren't always easy to spot, but this one will be – alongside the striking Yas Marina blue, you get an unpainted carbon-fibre roof, 19-inch split-spoke alloys, rear spoiler and superbly angry-looking front and rear bumpers.

The four exhaust exits clearly mark out the M4 for those following while the aggressively-grilled front will let others know you are coming. It sits lower than the 4 Coupe, too. Inside is mostly standard 4 Series, with the exception of the excellent M sports seats. They're a bit racier than the old E92 model and look far more the part, and include a slightly naff M logo that lights up at night.

SAFETY

Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, corner braking control, pre-tensioned and load-limiter seatbelts as well as Active Crash Protection (winds up the windows, pulls the belts tight) are along to protect you in case of an accident or help you avoid one. The 3 Series, on which the 4 Series is based, scored five ANCAP stars.

INFOTAINMENT

An 8.8-inch screen coupled with iDrive controls the entertainment system which includes DAB digital radio, USB and Bluetooth and Professional sat-nav. The images are crisp and clear, with the added bonus of real-time traffic info on the sat-nav and, if you like scaring your passengers, you can dial up the power and torque meter.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The M4 is propelled by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six, as distinct from the twin-scroll turbo six found in the 435i. With the extra turbo, BMW has found a staggering 317 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque. Coupled with the seven-speed M-DCT double-clutch transmission driving the rear wheels, this will fire the M4 to 100 km/h in a scant 4.1 seconds. Claimed fuel use is 8.3L/100km on the combined cycle - but you won't get that if you're in 4.1 seconds to a hundred mode.

Both figures are significantly better than the V8-powered E92, especially the fuel economy which is helped along by stop-start. As with any M car, there's an array of switches to adjust suspension, engine, gearbox and steering. Each has three modes - comfort, Sport and Sport +, each with the appropriate level of aggro dialled in (or out). Two M buttons on the steering wheel allow you to access your favourite settings with a single press of a button.

DRIVING

On our test loop, there is a pair of corners that sorts out the handling balance of any car. The method is to pile into the corners at a speed our backside says is quick but not too quick. Our observations are generally, "Yep, there's the understeer," and a mental note is taken.

It's worth getting to know the M4 because it has an incredible amount to offer, most of it deliriously fun.

Four attempts in the M4, with increasing levels of bravery required, failed to unstick the front end. Licence and self-preservation denied us going any faster. What these two corners say about the M4 is incredibly important – it has so much front grip that on the road it will require some extremely silly driving to unstick. If you want to go crazy, head for the track, because at the speed you will come off, you'll want fewer things to hit.

The brakes are incredible – huge, cross-drilled discs with excellent feel and a mightily impressive resistance to fade. Getting off the brakes and booting it out of a corner is easy with all the tech switched on, with the M-Diff helping bring the front end around and the dynamic traction control sorting out the wheelspin. The old car could do this, but now you can do more, do it faster and do it better.

What the old car didn't do as well was accept your decision to throttle back and cruise. While it was never bad at it, the M4 can be considered for a long journey. While the bellicose growl from the exhaust quietens, you will still hear some tyre roar from the fat, sticky rubber.

The ride is smooth in Comfort, but never betrays you – if you suddenly jump on the throttle, it's never going to be too soft to make that corner or pull off an optimistic overtaking manoeuvre. Whereas the old M3 was always at you to pile on the revs and get going the M4 will pootle along comfortably. It will quietly nag you, though, with whistling turbos and chuffing wastegates.

With the initially-dizzying array of engine, gearbox, steering and suspension options, it's easy to quickly home in on a configuration that suits your ability and the roads you tackle and slowly build up your confidence. It's worth getting to know the M4 because it has an incredible amount to offer, most of it deliriously fun.

Verdict

It's difficult to compare the performance of the M4 with "normal" cars. It feels in many respects like a Ferrari of the not-too-distant past. It is in another league compared to its predecessor and will probably show the bigger, V8 twin-turbo M5 the way in the real world.

The risk with all the tech on board a car like this is that it could remove the driver from the equation and the driving decisions that make the difference between a good drive and a great one. And that's not to denigrate any of those other cars – both the current M5 and former M3 are breath-taking but it would be hard to deny the M4 will eat at least one of them for breakfast while sizing up the other for an early lunch. It may not have the soaring V8 sound of the old car or the crushing precision of the M5, but pound-for-pound it's got to be the best performance car on the road.

Pricing guides

$69,938
Based on 18 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$61,990
Highest Price
$88,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M6 4.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $99,800 – 126,170 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M6 Pricing and Specs
M3 4.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $56,000 – 70,840 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M3 Pricing and Specs
M3 Frozen Silver L.e. 4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $60,300 – 76,230 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M3 Frozen Silver L.e. Pricing and Specs
M3 Pure 4.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $45,200 – 57,090 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M3 Pure Pricing and Specs
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$61,990

Lowest price, based on 13 car listings in the last 6 months

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