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 competitors instead? Hardly. It may have aged in some aspects, but 425 horsepower and a 0 to 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.
BMW hasn't increased the base price of the new 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 BMW M4's price undercut the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe's. All prices exclude BMW's destination and handling fee of $995, plus all taxes, licensing, and registration costs.
See trim levels and configurations:
3.0L Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
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.
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.
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 cost of the BMW M4 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 BMW M4 Series is our choice.
The most popular competitors of 2020 BMW M4 Coupe: