OMG, that grille! Why is it so big? That's how most people probably want us to begin this review of the 2021 BMW M4. But to focus so much on the car's admittedly large snout would be to do a disservice to an otherwise special creation. By learning from advancements made on special models like the GTS, DTM, and CS, the second generation of BMW's M4 performance coupe rectifies many of the issues from the first-gen F82 model, including uncommunicative steering, a lackluster exhaust note, and a chassis easily overwhelmed by the engine.
BMW supplies the new M4 with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged S58 inline-six engine producing 473 horsepower in base form or 503 hp in the Competition model. The M4 is the last in this segment to offer a six-speed manual transmission, which is a huge selling point for enthusiasts who have otherwise overlooked the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and Audi RS5 Coupe. All base M4 models receive the six-speed manual while all Competition models get an eight-speed automatic, replacing the dual-clutch offered in the previous M4 in lieu of the new car's greatest change: an available M xDrive all-wheel-drive system. BMW dropped off a base M4 with the stick and RWD for us to enjoy for a few days and one thing became apparent: M has its mojo back.
The second-generation BMW M4 has big shoes to fill and it does that by bringing more power and a larger body to the table. It looks dramatically different due to an elongated kidney grille, aggressive LED headlights, and a body that is 4.6 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than the model it replaces.
The latest 3.0-liter S58 inline-six turbocharged engine is more powerful than before, producing 473 horsepower (a 48-hp increase) as standard and 503 hp (59-hp more) in Competition guise. This year, the Competition model is limited to the eight-speed automatic gearbox, but the base M4 still uses a six-speed manual. For the first time, an M xDrive all-wheel-drive system will be offered for the Competition model, increasing the number of configurations that will be available. A wider front track (by 1.5 inches) improves traction compared to the outgoing M4.
Inside, an all-new interior shares much with the latest 4 Series. However, BMW has made available some audacious color combinations and options like M Carbon bucket seats. A new 10.25-inch touchscreen interface and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster are now standard.
See trim levels and configurations:
The new M4's humongous grille has been spoken about ad nauseum ever since early pics of the prototype set social media alight, so we'll keep it brief - it's still an eyesore to many, it's still humongous, but it grew on us in person thanks in part to the dark color on our tester. If you look past the grille at the rest of the car, there is much to appreciate. The elongated LED headlights with their LED DRLs are nicely aggressive, as is the aluminum powerdome hood. Along the side, the M4's profile has been compared by some to the Mustang, but at least you get mean-looking 18-/19-inch staggered M alloy wheels. The rear aspect is quite clean and dominated by huge quad-exit exhaust outlets and stretched tail light clusters. Shadowline exterior trim and a carbon fiber roof are standard, while the Competition gets extended Shadowline trim such as high-gloss black mirror caps. This high-performance model also wears bigger 19-/20-inch staggered wheels. In all the years that BMW has made sporty coupes based on the 3 Series platform, this might be the first one that doesn't instantly endear itself to passers-by. But it may grow on them, like it grew on us.
The new BMW M4 is significantly larger than its predecessor. It's longer by 4.6 inches, wider by 0.7 inches, and taller by 0.4 inches. Long gone are the appealingly compact dimensions of the E36 and E46 M3 coupes, as the latest M4 is now 189.1 inches in length (with a 112.5-inch wheelbase), 74.3 inches in width excluding the mirrors, and 54.8 inches in height. As is normal for a sporty coupe, the ground clearance is a minimal 4.7 inches. With its automatic gearbox, the M4 Competition has a heavier curb weight of 3,880 pounds, whereas the base M4 comes in at 3,830 lbs.
Only two colors are standard on the new M4: Alpine White and the highlighter-inspired Sao Paulo Yellow, the latter being the signature color of the new-generation coupe. Unlike some other BMWs, the optional metallics are more adventurous than we've come to expect. For $550, you can opt for metallic colors comprising of Black Sapphire, Portimao Blue, Toronto Red, Isle of Man Green, and Brooklyn Grey. At $1,950, Tanzanite Blue II metallic and Dravit Grey metallic are striking choices. Finally, Frozen Brilliant White metallic and Frozen Portimao Blue metallic are the most expensive colors at $3,600 each. If the new grille design bothers you, Black Sapphire goes some way towards concealing its ample proportions, and we received many compliments on our tester's Portimao Blue paint.
When it arrives later in the year, the M4 Competition xDrive with its all-wheel-drive system could end up being the quickest M4 of all, not that the rear-wheel-drive variant we had on our test drive can be accused of being slow. The base M4 can race from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. With the M Performance package, the top speed is raised to 180 mph. With its increased outputs of 503 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged inline-six, the M4 Competition will reach 60 mph in an even quicker 3.8 seconds. It has the same top speed but only comes with the eight-speed automatic transmission, whereas the base M4 has a six-speed manual. All versions direct power to the rear wheels, although an all-wheel-drive version of the M4 Competition is on the way and should produce an even quicker 0-60 mph time. Regardless of the configuration, the M4 is a massively quick sports coupe that will get you into trouble soon if you aren't careful. However, it doesn't quite set new performance benchmarks as the older Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe will reach 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.
Powering the new M4 is an upgraded version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged S58 six-cylinder engine used in the X3 M and X4 M. In the base M4, outputs are 473 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque and this variant uses a six-speed manual gearbox. The M4 Competition manages 503 hp and 479 lb-ft thanks to a boost increase and is now only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Compared to last year's M4 Competition, the new one produces 59 hp and 73 lb-ft more.
The redline of 7,200 rpm is pretty high for a turbocharged engine, providing a mix of pleasing low-down torque and the option to really rev out the power plant when you're in the mood. Both M4s will shove you back into your seat at will and are mind-blowingly quick in the city and at highway speeds. The S58 isn't quiet when stretched, and it sounds much more distinctive than the S55 it replaces. At the top of the rev range, we can almost hear some similarities to the E46 M3's legendary S54 engine. The M4's transmission feels similar to past BMW manual boxes, with slick gear changes that feel slightly notchy. BMW includes an auto rev-match feature with the manual box, making drivers feel like a superstar behind the wheel. We didn't have a chance to sample the Competition with its eight-speed automatic transmission; it's a smooth operator by all accounts, but lacks the special motorsports feel provided by the outgoing dual-clutch.
Many enthusiasts maligned the previous-generation BMW M4 because it lacked the driver connectivity provided by classic M3 models. Though this new M4 is far from a modern-day E30, it feels like a return to form for the M Division. We were shocked by how light BMW has made the M Servotronic steering in its comfort setting. BMW steering, especially in the M cars, tends to be quite heavy, but the new M4 feels far less cumbersome. In sport mode, the steering gets considerably heavier, though we found it to always deliver a direct response regardless of setting. Some diehard enthusiasts may yearn for more feedback through the wheel, but the M4 feels more communicative than the Mercedes C63 or Audi RS5.
The Adaptive M suspension provided a similar surprise by offering a softer ride than we remembered in the previous M4. We wouldn't call it cushy, but the M4 is soft enough to be a daily driver. As with the steering, the suspension offers multiple modes, including Sport and Sport Plus for greater rigidity. Sport Plus is pretty firm for daily driving, but keeps the M4 stuck like glue to the road. Grippy Michelin PS4S tires add to the M4's planted feel, meaning you can go hog wild with the throttle before the rear wheels finally lose traction. Should you wish to go sideways, the M4 includes a nifty M Drive Analyzer that gives a score out of five based on several factors, including drift angle and distance. We didn't have the chance to try it out on public roads, but if you have access to a track, it could be fun aiming for a five-star drift (though BMW says it's notoriously difficult). Though this car offers savage performance when asked, its party trick is the ability to remain quiet and livable most of the time, with a well-insulated cabin. Once you've set the car up how you like it, you can save those settings to the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel for quick access.
Though the Competition model is quicker with the eight-speed automatic, we urge buyers to consider the base M4 with its six-speed manual transmission. The M4 is one of the few performance coupes left on the market with a manual option, and it's a pretty great one. BMW has perfectly positioned the pedals for heel-toe downshifts, which are made even easier with some computer assistance. The clutch feels easy to modulate in traffic, and doesn't need to be ridden in first gear to maximize smoothness. If we had one complaint, BMW's placement of reverse to the left of 1st gear can yield a missed shift from 3rd to 2nd or 1st to 2nd, but more time in the car should alleviate this issue. This manual transmission is a unicorn in today's market, and we recommend getting it before it inevitably goes away.
Regardless of whether you choose the manual M4 or the automatic M4 Competition, the same EPA-rated gas mileage figures of 16/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined will apply. Surprisingly, the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe - with its larger V8 engine - is more efficient, returning 17/26/20 mpg. A 15.6-gallon gas tank is equipped to the BMW, which should be enough for a range of about 296 miles in mixed driving conditions.
The high-tech, driver-focused cabin of the new BMW M4 is a good mix of attractive design, upscale materials, and functionality. It can look a bit somber in black, but you can easily change this by upgrading to some of the more outlandish color choices. There's a good amount of space for those in front, and optional M carbon bucket seats provide superb support through the corners at the expense of comfort. Quality has taken a big step up from the outgoing M4, and extended Merino leather upholstery with numerous M flourishes comes as standard. The combination of a digital gauge cluster and a slick central touchscreen makes accessing the coupe's various connectivity features easy. Before ticking any options, you'll get to enjoy features like tri-zone automatic climate control, multi-color ambient lighting, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, and parking sensors.
The M4 comes with seating for four, no matter how you spec it. While most modern coupes torment their rear occupants with a lack of space, the M4's accommodations are surprisingly roomy. The backs seats offer 34.7 inches of legroom compared to 35.6 inches in the four-door M3. Headroom is slightly less generous with 35.8 inches compared to 37.8 inches in the M3.
Up front is the best place for taller occupants to sit, though there is a big decision to make in terms of seats. The base chairs in the M4 are pretty comfortable, while still offering bolstering that holds the driver firmly in place. These seats include heating and ventilation as an optional extra. For $3,800, the M Carbon Bucket seats offer a racier feel, hugging the front passengers like an overexcited grandmother. While we love how these seats look and their significant weight savings, they feature an odd bulge on the base that we found uncomfortable for long trips.
The base BMW M4 gets standard extended Merino leather, aluminum Tetragon interior trim, and a three-spoke leather-wrapped M sport steering wheel with multi-color stitching. Those seats and other interior elements can be had in plain black or numerous vibrant color schemes like Yas Marina Blue/Black with yellow accents, Silverstone/Black, and Kyalami Orange/Black. These same color schemes can be paired with a full Merino leather interior for an additional $2,550. Our tester included the outrageous Yas Marina Blue and yellow interior option, which was broadly enjoyed by all who laid eyes on it.
Customers can order added-cost trim inlays like carbon fiber, Individual Black Piano Black, a BMW Individual interior with aluminum fabric high-gloss inlays, or BMW Individual fine-wood with a Fineline black/silver open-pored effect. Opting for the carbon fiber interior on the Competition model comes with the added benefit of larger paddle shifters. On both models, you can spec M carbon bucket seats with illuminated M4 badges and Alcantara side bolsters for $3,800.
For what it is, the BMW M4's 12 cubic feet of trunk space isn't too bad considering the four-door M3 only beats this number by one cube. In our M4 review, we found the trunk suitable for most jaunts to the grocery store. By comparison, the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe can only manage 10.5 cubes There's enough space to accommodate seven carry-on suitcases in the trunk. To free up more space and accommodate larger items, the rear seats can be dropped in a 40/20/40 split.
For stashing smaller items, there are cupholders for those in front, side bins and cupholders in the front doors, smaller bins for those at the back, and a center-armrest storage compartment. We should note that the cupholders in the center console can get in the way of a speedy transmission shift. The glovebox is a reasonable size.
At a price of over $70,000, the new BMW M4 is hardly cheap, so you'd rightly expect it to come generously equipped straight out of the box. For the most part, it does. Both front M sport seats offer 14-way power-adjustability with four-way power lumbar support, power side bolsters, a driver's side memory system, and three-stage heating for both occupants. Those in the back will also benefit from the coupe's three-zone automatic climate control system.
Other welcome convenience items include keyless entry, hands-free opening of the trunk lid, push-button ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror (as well as an auto-dimming driver's side exterior mirror), a universal garage door opener, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The multi-color and adjustable interior ambient lighting has been stylishly integrated into the cabin's design. To keep the driver and passengers as safe as possible, the BMW gets a rearview camera, front/rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, and active blind-spot detection. Available options include a power moonroof, ventilated front seats, remote engine start, and a head-up display.
The M4 is all about the driving experience, but the technology is still strong with BMW's iDrive 7 software. We find this iteration of iDrive to be highly intuitive, though certain tasks require a deep dive into menus. A rotating knob controls the 10.25-inch screen, which includes navigation as standard kit. The system offers a touchscreen and voice recognition as well, plus wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. BMW includes a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system as standard on all trims. A 12.3-inch digital instrument display shows vital information, but lacks the customizability found in Audi or Mercedes screens.
As with any brand new model, it's quite early to accurately assess the reliability of the new BMW M4. For now, there have been no early recalls and J.D. Power is yet to provide a rating for this high-performance coupe.
BMW's usual four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and four years of roadside assistance applies. Three years or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance as well as a 12-year rust perforation limited warranty are also inclusive with the purchase of every new M4.
No BMW M4 safety review has yet been done by the NHTSA or the IIHS, and the same applies to the new 4 Series upon which the M4 is based. We see no reason that they won't return strong crash-safety scores in forthcoming crash reviews, though.
The new BMW M4 Coupe isn't short on safety kit. All the new M4 variants will come with dual front airbags, front side airbags, and an active knee protection system. As expected, dynamic stability control is standard, plus the M4 has a brake drying function.
BMW's Active Driving Assistant bundles together forward collision warning, active blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, speed limit information, and automatic high beams. The Active Protection System includes a fatigue/focus alert feature and post-crash braking. Finally, front/rear parking sensors are standard. A rearview camera is included, while dynamic cruise control can be upgraded to adaptive cruise control. Other options are a head-up display, a traffic jam assistant, and a parking assistance package.
Some buyers may miss out on the 2021 BMW M4 because they can't get over the size of the grille. That's a shame. Those who look past the nose (which is functional for cooling, by the way) will get to enjoy one of the most complete sports coupes on the market today, and one of the only ones to offer a row-it-yourself manual. With the number of manual sports cars quickly dwindling, the new M4 stands out as a bullseye for enthusiasts. It offers more comfort than before, outstanding cabin technology, and an experience that connects the driver to what's happening around them. An M2 Competition feels a bit more ragged at the limit, but the M4's civility makes it the better daily driver of the two.
If we were in the market for a luxury performance coupe, the M4 might shoot to the top of our list with the manual transmission. The Audi RS5 and Mercedes-AMG C63 do not offer this feature, making the M4 stand out as a unicorn. Even with the eight-speed automatic, we think the M Division has answered any leftover question from the previous M4, creating a car that enthusiasts can lust over. Adding all-wheel-drive later in the year will broaden the M4's appeal, and open it up to sales in colder climates. For the first time in a long time, BMW's M Division is back to producing the ultimate driving machine.
For the standard 2021 BMW M4 Coupe, expect to pay $71,800 in the USA before options and a destination/handling charge of $995. The BMW M4 will cost $74,700 in Competition guise. This is still a bit less than competitors like the Audi RS5, which begins at $75,100 in the US, while the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe will cost you at least $70,650. With all the extras equipped and depending on how much you're willing to spend, the price of the BMW M4 Competition will approach nearly $110,000.
The new BMW M4 is currently available in a choice of two trims, the M4 Coupe and M4 Competition Coupe. Both are powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine. In the base M4, it produces 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, while the Competition variant manages 503 hp and 479 lb-ft. Both versions send their power to the rear axle, but the M4 has a six-speed manual and the Competition uses an eight-speed automatic.
The standard M4 comes with 18-/19-inch alloy wheels, a quad-exit sport exhaust system, Shadowline exterior trim, and LED headlights. Inside, there is extended Merino leather upholstery and both front sports seats are heated and power-adjustable. The highlights here include three-zone climate control, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster.
The Competition model gains the more powerful engine and an automatic transmission, dropping the 0-60 time to 3.8 seconds. It rides on larger 19-/20-inch alloy staggered alloy wheels and has extended Shadowline exterior trim with Competition badging.
There are several packages that add to the appeal of the new M4. On the base model, the $800 Parking Assistance package adds an automatic parking aid as well as a drive recorder. $2,800 will buy you the Executive package with its head-up display, gesture control, wireless charging, heated steering wheel, and more. The $4,700 M Carbon Exterior package will add M carbon mirror caps, an M carbon rear spoiler, and upgrades side air inlets. To raise the M4's top speed, the $2,500 M Driver's package box must be ticked, and BMW will throw in a high-performance driving class that takes place over a day. Some notable standalone items include the $3,800 M carbon bucket seats and M carbon ceramic brakes at an eye-watering $8,150.
The M4 Competition adds the $1,700 Driving Assistance Professional package (an option curiously not offered on the standard M4) with an emergency stop assistant, an evasion aid, traffic jam assist, and a steering and lane control assistant.
The M4 is already a pricey proposition before options, but it can reach outrageous territory if you check enough boxes. We'd exercise restraint by sticking with the base M4 and enjoying its slick six-speed manual transmission. From there we'd be careful with our options, budgeting $550 for a bright paint color, $1,300 for upgraded wheels, $800 for the parking assist package, $350 for ventilated front seats, and $900 for M Drive Professional. This modestly-optioned M4 will set you back $75,700, opposed to our decadent tester's $93,795 as-configured price. Most of the optional carbon fiber looks gaudy to our eyes, though the $950 interior carbon is a must-have if you are getting an automatic M4. Those M Carbon Bucket seats are awesome, but we recommend trying before you buy for $3,800.
If you need more practicality, the 2021 BMW M3 will be happy to oblige. It offers almost an inch of extra rear legroom, a substantial two inches more rear headroom, and 3.6 inches more shoulder room at the back that enables the M3 to carry an extra passenger. Plus, the trunk is 13 cubic feet in size, beating the M4's trunk by one cube. There are no compromises in terms of performance, though, as both the M3 and M3 Competition will keep up with the equivalent M4 in a straight line. Over the last few years, the M3 sedan was the more subtle option for buyers not wanting to flaunt the performance potential of their BMW to the same extent as the M4. However, both the M3 and M4 now have the same polarizing front-end, so the M3 is just as in-your-face. At $69,900, the base model M3 is slightly cheaper, but at this price point, the difference doesn't really matter. If you don't need the extra space, go for the M4.
The Audi RS5 differs from the M4 in a couple of key areas. It doesn't offer a manual gearbox or RWD, so is actually slightly faster to 60 mph - 3.7 seconds compared to the M4 Competition's 3.8 seconds. However, the Audi's 2.9-liter turbocharged six-cylinder is more effective than truly exciting. As has often been the case, the M4 feels more chuckable and agile, despite the fact that it has grown in size. The upcoming AWD M4 could very well prove to be quicker than the RS5 with its added traction. Both vehicles are generously specified with features like booming sound systems and digital driver's displays, but the M4 is now more accommodating for rear-seat passengers, and has a bigger trunk. The base M4 is also a couple of grand cheaper despite being the newer vehicle. The RS5 is more universally appealing, but the M4 excites us more, has a lower base price, and as these are high-performance cars, we've got to side with the BMW.
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