Get past the looks, because there's a great car behind that grille.
Critics have been brutalabout the massive kidney grille on the latest BMW 4 Series. And these complaints continued when the 2021 BMW M4 Coupe arrived rocking the same massive snout. While enthusiasts angrily pound at their keyboards in disgust, we spent a few days with a Portimao Blue M4, an experience that will help us talk a few BMW fans off a ledge.
While the styling will never appeal to some buyers, there's a lot to love about the G82 generation M4. The outgoing F82 model was far from our favorite M car of all time, but this new model feels like a massive improvement. In fact, it's been an age since we found ourselves lusting after BMW's newest M car. Here's why.
We often say that you shouldn't judge a car until you see it in person. Sometimes pictures don't do a car justice or make it look awkward at certain angles. We wouldn't call the new M4's face pretty, but the grille grew on us after seeing it in person. Like our tester's Portimao Blue and the Isle of Man Green launch color, certain colors hide the grille a bit better, making it less of a distracting feature.
During our time with the M4, we met up with a friend who owns the previous generation model. Though the grille didn't fully convince him, he did agree that it looks better in person than in the pictures. We also agreed that the four-door M3 sedan is a more attractive vehicle with better proportions.
The S55 engine was one of our biggest complaints in the outgoing M4. Though it was much faster than the S65 V8 it replaced, the S55 didn't sound great without extensive exhaust modifications. This new twin-turbocharged S58 inline-six doesn't suffer from the same issues. It sounds fantastic, even with the stock exhaust. At the top of the rev range, it even produces the same mechanical wail characteristic of the E46 M3's S54 inline-six.
In base form, the M4 produces 473 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, increases of 48 hp and 59 lb-ft compared to the outgoing M4. The M4 Competition dials the output to 503 hp and 473 lb-ft of torque, dropping the 0-60 mph time from 4.1 to 3.8 seconds. That massive acceleration boost is partially attributed to the power increase, but the transmission also plays a huge role.
It doesn't matter where you look; the luxury performance coupe segment is completely devoid of manual transmissions. A three-pedal option is not available on the Audi RS5, Lexus RC F, or Mercedes-AMG C63. The four-door Alfa Romeo Guilia shuns the manual too, but Cadillac will offer one on its upcoming Blackwing models.
You can get a stick on the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, but those don't directly compete with the M4 in terms of luxury. There's the Porsche Cayman too, though you'll sacrifice a back seat. If you want a two-door luxury performance coupe with four seats and a manual, it's the M4 or bust.
Offering the M4 with a manual was a genius move by BMW. This option will be pretty rare, but it keeps the enthusiast crowd happy. While we didn't have a chance to sample the automatic-only M4 Competition model, we couldn't imagine getting this car without the manual. This transmission keeps the drive more connected with the car and offers some of the best rev-match downshifts we've sampled in a manual box.
Along with some outrageous exterior colors, BMW is offering some bold hues on the interior. Our tester sported the Yas Marina Blue interior option with black and yellow accents. Everyone who laid eyes on this interior commented on its outrageous color scheme, which certainly breaks the mold of boring black, grey, or red luxury cabins. Even if the crazy blue scheme isn't to your taste, BMW offers other fabulous options like Kyalami Orange and Silverstone. Should none of those be up to snuff, BMW Individual offers even more crazy colors.
While we loved the Laguna Blue leather color, we wouldn't spend $3,800 on the M Carbon Bucket seats. They are great at holding the driver and passenger in place, but they aren't comfortable on long distances due to an awkward bulge that sits between your legs. Skinnier drivers may be fine in these seats, so try before you buy. We think the standard seats with the optional ventilation are just fine for a daily driver.
Most two-door coupes these days are pretty impractical, but the M4 offers surprising versatility. Rear occupants receive 34.7 inches of legroom and 35.8 inches of headroom. For comparison, the four-door M3 offers 35.6 and 37.8 inches, respectively. The trunk isn't much smaller either, with 12 cubic feet, just one cube less than the M3. This is a coupe that can confidently carry four adults and their bags on a long journey.
It's also worth mentioning BMW's other two-door M models here, the M2 and M8. The M2 offers only 33 inches of rear legroom, which is less than the M4. The M2 does offer more rear headroom (36.5 inches) due to its upright roofline, and the trunk is roomier than the M4 with 13.8 cubic feet. You may assume that the M8 would have the most room since it's the largest car. However, it actually has the smallest back seat measurements with 29.5 inches of legroom and 33.6 inches of headroom. The M8 makes up for its cramped rear quarters with a massive 14.8 cubic foot trunk.
Crucially, a BMW M car must put a smile on your face. Though it may look angry, the new M4 feels happy from behind the wheel. The steering feels sharper than the previous generation, and the engine delivers a much more pleasing exhaust note. We think the M2 is a bit more fun to drive on the ragged edge, but the M4 feels more composed and should make for a more comfortable daily driver. It's more engaging to drive (especially with the manual) than the M8, and it costs around half as much. The M4 is a delightful mid-point in BMW's M lineup. Get over the grille. It's not that bad.