by Karl Furlong
The current BMW M4 Coupe is in the twilight of its life as BMW readies an all-new model to take on the boisterous Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and the Audi RS5. Does this mean that the M4 has lost its edge and that you should consider newer rivals instead? Hardly. It may have aged in some aspects, but 425 horsepower and a 0-60 mph run of under four seconds will never get old. Go for the available Competition Package, and output jumps to 444 hp. An available six-speed manual, and power sent exclusively to the rear wheels, provide an undeniably thrilling driving experience, even if the M4's steering responses aren't as natural as the M3 coupes that preceded this car. Like those M3s, the M4 is perfectly capable as a daily driver and has a well-equipped cabin with all of the toys you'd expect at this price. If you want a sharp-handling German sports coupe, it remains one of the very best.
With BMW busy adding the final touches to the all-new 4 Series and M4 Coupe, it's no great surprise that the current M4 continues into 2020 without any changes. The only notable news is a special M4 Edition ///M Heritage model - only 750 will be produced globally - which will celebrate BMW M GmbH's successful history. Based on the M4 Coupe Competition, this special-edition version will be available in three distinctive shades and get equipment like full Merino leather seats and carbon-fiber interior trim.
When it was first launched, the shark-like M4's shouty design was quite a departure from the more conservative E92 M3 before it, with new styling details like the meeting of the kidney grilles with the headlights. Fast-forward to 2020, and it seems almost diluted alongside new BMWs like the divisive X7 and the dramatic M8 Gran Coupe. It's still a sporty and taut design, though, highlighted by features like 18-inch M alloy wheels, LED headlights, and an aluminum power dome hood. Being a true-blooded M car, it's no surprise that weight-saving has been integrated into the design with a standard carbon fiber-reinforced-plastic roof and a lightweight trunk lid. The optional Competition Package has extended Shadowline trim and wheel sizes of up to 20-inches.
At 184.5 inches long, 73.6 inches wide (excluding the side mirrors), and 54.4 inches in height, the BMW is shorter, narrower, and lower than the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe. The biggest variance is in length, where the AMG is 2.6 inches longer. The M4 rides on a wheelbase that stretches to 110.7 inches and ground clearance is 4.7 inches. Equipped with the manual gearbox, curb weight is 3,625 pounds, swelling to 3,685 lbs for the automatic. This is significantly lighter than the AMG C63's 4,134 lbs and helps the BMW overcome its power deficit relative to its chief rival.
The only standard color is also the only non-metallic: Alpine White. After that, there are seven metallics, which each cost $550: Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Mineral Grey, San Marino Blue, Austin Yellow, Yas Marina Blue, and Sakhir Orange. The Austin Yellow appears almost golden and has become something of a signature shade for BMW's sporty coupe, dating back to a similar hue that featured on the much-loved E46 M3 in the early 2000s. That said, the striking San Marino Blue is also a winner.
When BMW moved from the E92's bellowing naturally aspirated V8 to a turbocharged six-cylinder, it seemed like a backward step, but there's no arguing with the current 3.0-liter engine's mighty outputs of 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Equipped with the six-speed manual, 0-60 mph flies by in a scant 4.1 seconds and top speed is limited to 156 mph (the optional M Driver's Package will raise the top speed to over 170 mph). The automatic model shaves two-tenths off this time and achieves a 3.9-second run for the benchmark sprint, all without the benefit of all-wheel drive (the M4 Coupe retains a rear-wheel-drive layout). If that's not enough, the optional Competition Package unlocks another 19 hp for a total of 444 hp, although the 0-60 time drops only marginally to 3.8 seconds. Not everyone wants to throw away thousands of dollars replacing rear tires every other month, though, and for them, there is the more docile Audi RS5 with standard quattro all-wheel-drive.
The S55 engine under the M4's hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six developing 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. If you're after more power, the Competition Package has 444 hp, but without an increase in torque. A six-speed manual and a seven-speed M double-clutch transmission (DCT) are the two gearbox options.
Regardless of which transmission you go for, you'll be spending plenty of time trying to contain the M4's relentless surge of power. Without the security of BMW's clever xDrive system (employed on more powerful models like the M5 sedan), the RWD M4 breaks traction whenever it is given the opportunity to do so. It's blisteringly quick, though, whether off the mark or when taking advantage of the wave of mid-range torque when overtaking slower traffic. As much as we love an old-school manual 'box, the M4's unit isn't the sweetest-shifting and, because so many other aspects of the driving experience require your full attention, we'd skip it and tick the box for the fast-shifting DCT.
Ever since the first M3, one of its defining qualities has been an ability to set your pants on fire over a mountain pass, but then settle down appropriately when needing to cart the family around. Even decades later, the M4 retains these characteristics. An all-out sports car with quick responses the one moment, it'll also ride with enough compliance when you dial down the intensity.
Unfortunately, there are two aspects where the M4 still can't match its forebears: steering feel and engine note. As accurate as the steering is, its muted responses have reduced the connection between car and driver, and it's a disappointment in an overtly sporty coupe like the M4. Similarly, the engine delivers breathtaking performance but simply doesn't sound as melodious as older M3s or the Mercedes C63.
Get past those two shortcomings, however, and the M4 Coupe's theatrics will still provide hours of driving enjoyment. The Competition Package is a lot more than a cosmetic upgrade, as its race-tuned adaptive M suspension tangibly improves steering responses, especially when M Dynamic Mode is selected. The Competition's various upgrades (including revised dampers and springs) also see it being far more controlled when mashing the throttle out of corners. Where the standard model is all too happy to get sideways in such a situation, the Competition has much higher limits. The modest power increase may seem unimpressive at first, but it's the chassis tweaks that really set this model apart.
While turbocharging may have reduced the character of the powerplant under the hood of BMW's coupe, the upside is a combination of performance and (reasonable) economy that's pretty impressive. The manual models (whether in Competition spec or not) return EPA-rated estimates of 18/25/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, whereas automatic versions see a marginal increase in consumption with figures of 17/23/19 mpg. Fill up the 15.8-gallon tank with premium gasoline and you should be able to eke out a mixed cruising range of approximately 316 miles with the manual model.
If you've sat inside a modern BMW in the last five or so years, nothing about the M4's cabin is likely to come as a surprise. It's the same simplistic, driver-focused layout that BMW has been lauded and criticized for in equal measure, because, while everything works as well as you expect, it's not as special as a modern Mercedes interior. The basics are generally spot-on, however, from the sporty driving position to comfortable seats, user-friendly controls, and solid build integrity. As the king of the 4 Series Coupe range, the M4 gets a full house of kit that includes 14-way power front M sport seats, a decent 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, and front/rear parking sensors. If you don't like BMW's new digital dials with its odd reverse-swinging tachometer, you'll appreciate the M4 Coupe's traditional rounded dials.
Seating four passengers, the M4 Coupe's rear seats are far more useful than those of the bigger 8 Series. It's not what you'd call spacious, as head- and legroom will be restricted for occupants of above-average height, but smaller adults will be comfortable back there, at least once they're seated. As with most two-door coupes (such is the diversity of the modern motoring landscape that we now need to distinguish between two- and four-door coupes), getting into the back requires some flexibility, not helped here by the large front M sport seats.
The driver and front-seat passenger will be much more comfortable thanks to those sport seats which offer extensive electronic adjustment, including power lumbar support and power side bolsters. Only larger-framed individuals may find the bolsters a bit restrictive. Forward-visibility is excellent and the view out of the back is adequate for most. Ingress and egress are made trickier by the large doors, so confined spaces will require some care.
As standard, the M4 gets a black leather/Anthracite cloth combination for the seats in what BMW describes as a 'carbonstructure pattern' - fancy description or not, full leather should be standard on a coupe of the M4's price. Extended Merino leather is a $950 option and can be had in Silverstone, Sakhir Orange/Black, or Black on its own. For even more luxury, full Merino leather (including a Merino leather dashboard) goes for $3,500 and is available in these same colors along with Golden Brown, Amaro Brown, Nutmeg, Opal White, and Cohiba Brown. Three interior trim choices are available: Fineline Anthracite Wood, Aluminum Blade, and Carbon Fiber. A plethora of M additions come in the form of M door-sill finishers, an M gear shift lever, and an M footrest.
If you opt for the Competition Package, the M sport seats gain attractive break-through design elements and the front seat belts get stitching in the iconic M stripe colors.
Although much smaller than a 3 Series sedan's trunk, the M4's 11 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats is commendable. If you need to load bigger items, this is easily done by folding down the 60/40-split rear seats. By comparison, the Mercedes C63 Coupe has a similarly sized trunk at 10.5 cubes.
Interior storage space is minimal, though - both the door pockets and the tray for rear-seat passengers are tiny. The center console and the glovebox provide better storage options for the driver and front passenger, but if you really want a practical interior, you'd be better off with an X3.
While the absence of standard full-leather seating is stingy, the M4 Coupe is otherwise well-specified. The 14-way power-adjustable front seats have four-way power lumbar support, a backlit M4 logo embedded into the seats, a driver's memory system, and three-stage heating. Dual-zone automatic climate control is fitted for enhanced passenger comfort, while the driver gets the convenience of front/rear park distance control, a universal garage door opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless entry, and push-button ignition. An expensive sports coupe should have at least the basic driver aids as standard in 2020, so the M4 gets lane departure warning, frontal collision warning, and city collision mitigation as standard.
BMW's iDrive system is standard and features an 8.8-inch high-resolution touchscreen, a touchpad controller, and eight programmable memory buttons for quick access to often-used menus. Although the screen size is smaller than in some more modern BMWs, the display is still crystal clear and response times are excellent. Navigation ships as standard and is complemented by over-the-air map updates up to four times per year. The system also comprises Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto for now), a USB audio connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, and BMW ConnectedDrive services. The standard audio system is a 16-speaker Harman Kardon unit with a 600-watt amplifier, through which occupants can enjoy SiriusXM satellite radio (with a one-year all-access subscription), HD Radio, and a CD/MP3 player. Wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot are available as options, as is a color head-up display.
J.D. Power has yet to issue the BMW M4 Coupe with a rating, but according to the NHTSA, there has been just a single recall affecting this model over the last three years pertaining to both 2019 and 2020 M4s: the knee airbag assembly for the driver and front passenger may not deploy as intended.
The M4 is covered by the brand's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, 12-year/unlimited-miles rust perforation limited warranty and a four-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance program.
Both the IIHS and the NHTSA haven't evaluated the M4 for crashworthiness, as is the case for the majority of high-performance sports cars on the market. However, the previous-generation 3 Series (upon which the current M4 is based) promisingly achieved a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS in 2018.
The M4's eight total airbags comprise dual-front, front-side, side-curtain, and front-knee airbags. Other standard safety features include a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights with a programmable function, and a tire pressure monitor.
In terms of driver aids, BMW's Active Driving Assistant bundles together lane departure warning, speed limit information, pedestrian and front collision warning, and city collision mitigation. It's a fair but not exceptional specification, as blind-spot detection, automatic high beams, a parking assistant, and side/top-view cameras are all options. Mercedes-Benz also offers more available driver aids on the rival C63 Coupe, from evasive steering assist to lane-keeping assist.
As the M4 approaches the end of its life cycle and BMW puts the final touches on a dramatic replacement, we can take stock of the impact that the first-ever M4 has had. On the plus side, it's faster than any standard M3 Coupe before it, and the addition of turbocharging has provided mid-range grunt that would leave its predecessors eating its dust. Like those older models, the current M4 effortlessly blends everyday drivability and practicality with the ability to carve through corners at highly illegal speeds. On paper, then, it's a winner. From behind the wheel, however, the current M4 doesn't seem to scale the same heights, with a bluntness to its performance that is only noticeable because coupes like the previous M3 (and even the current M2) are just such joyful driver's cars. The M4 has also had to contend with the fact that Mercedes' AMG products are no longer only good in a straight line - they are now also more dynamic than ever, and, in the case of the C63, blessed with a magnificent V8 engine. So yes, the M4 hasn't had things all its own way, but when you're wringing its neck and have enough space to exploit its hooligan RWD tendencies, it has just enough of that BMW DNA to keep it in contention with the best.
BMW hasn't increased the price of the 2020 BMW M4 Coupe, so it carries the same $69,150 MSRP as last year's model. That gets you an M4 in six-speed manual guise, but for another $2,900, you get access to the M double-clutch automatic transmission. The Competition Package has proven popular and costs $4,750 - even adding on this option sees the M4 undercut the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe. All prices exclude BMW's destination and handling fee of $995, plus all taxes, licensing, and registration costs.
Available in just a single trim, the M4 Coupe's customization will come down to how many options you're willing to tack onto the standard model. Before you spend anything extra, the M4 ships with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine generating 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual and a seven-speed M double-clutch automatic are the transmission options, sending power to the rear wheels in both cases.
Being a full-fat M model, the M4 gets an active M differential, an adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers, and a carbon-fiber roof. 18-inch M V-spoke wheels are fitted to the menacing exterior, which also gets quad tailpipes, LED headlights, and Shadowline trim.
The cabin may be dating, but the M4's specification keeps it as fresh as possible with 14-way power-adjustable and heated front seats. A mix of Anthracite cloth and leather is standard, but you can upgrade to full Merino leather. Other amenities include dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient lighting, and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. The iDrive infotainment system comprises a crisp 8.8-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay.
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
BMW's Competition packages have proved immensely popular. It's no different for the M4 Coupe, and the upgrade costs a considerable $4,750. However, we think it's worthwhile for the bump up in power (to 444 hp) and the chassis tweaks that significantly improve on the standard M4's dynamics. The package also packs in 20-inch forged light alloy wheels, gloss black exterior trim elements, and special M sport seats. Hardcore enthusiasts can opt for the M Driver's Package at $2,500 - this includes a one-day high-performance driving class and a raised top speed.
The tech-heavy Executive Package costs $2,100 and bundles together a head-up display, side and top-view cameras, adaptive full LED lights, automatic high beams, and a parking assistant that automatically steers the M4 into a bay.
Standalone options include a heated steering wheel ($190), active blind-spot detection ($500), wireless charging with a Wi-Fi hotspot ($500), and a head-up display ($1,100). By far the priciest option is M carbon-ceramic brakes at $8,150.
Without a doubt, we'd tick the box for the Competition Package first. Add in the DCT transmission, and the M4 driving experience is instantly altered. The Executive Package is tempting because BMW's head-up display and top-/side-view cameras are some of the best in the business. Excluding destination, the total works out to $76,000, but that's still less than the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe.
Bizarrely, it's the M2 that reminds one of the older M3s more, despite the M4 being the model that replaced the M3 Coupe. A lot of this has to do with the M2's more compact size - it feels more controllable than the heavier and bigger M4 and, although both cars' electric steering systems lack feedback, the M2 is just that little bit more involving than its big brother. In its current form, the M2 is only available in Competition spec, so that means it gets a detuned version of the M4's engine, although 405 horsepower and a smaller body means it gets to 60 mph just a tenth of a second after the M4 when both are in automatic guise. That said, the M2's ultra-firm ride and smaller back seats make it more difficult to live with on a daily basis. Surprisingly, though, it's the M2 that has a bigger trunk. Despite the M2's harsh ride, it's got a fun factor that's been missing from the M4. The baby M has been hailed by many as the M division's best product, so given the choice, we'd save over $10,000 and go for the smaller M2.
Audi has updated the RS5 for 2020 with more aggressive styling alterations that bear a resemblance to those seen on the bigger RS6. With quattro all-wheel-drive and a more powerful twin-turbocharged V6 engine, the Audi has similar claimed performance figures, but it can more reliably achieve these results as power is put down more cleanly than in the RWD BMW. Overall, though, the RS5 is a much more subtle car than the BMW, from the way it looks to the way it drives. The V6 engine isn't as raucous as the BMW's inline-six, the Tiptronic eight-speed transmission isn't as involving as the BMW's DCT, and the Audi generally feels softer than the M4 when presented with a twisty stretch of road. It's more refined and plush inside than the BMW, though, but that's not what these performance versions of each coupe are about. For its willingness to engage the driver more often, the M4 is our choice.