The BMW M4 is slipping, and an improved GT350 could take its spot.
Evolution isn’t always a linear process. It’s more of a trial and error process of discovery, kind of like reaching for a light switch in the dark. That’s the likely explanation for the shortcomings of the BMW M4. Despite BMW's considerable history the M4 falls short by trying to leap too far into the future. The twin-turbo inline-six might make enough horsepower and torque, but it’s missing a voice. The adjustable electric steering system may save a few MPGs over a hydraulic system, but Motor Trend called it "rubbery and numb.
And then you have the price, not something exorbitant for this bracket but one that the competitors can easily undercut. Now the BMW M4 is still a great car, but the issues that plague this new generation of Ms take away the car's status as the obvious group winner. This slippage on fiercely contested ground allows for competitors to swoop in and snatch sales. At the same time as the M4’s downward slide the Mustang GT350 has brought the entire muscle car segment forwards. Not only does it feature an engine worthy of awe and applause (just listen to it), but this is a factory-tuned Mustang that turns a quarter-mile sprinter into a proper sports car any racetrack would feel lucky to have.
With 100 horsepower more than the M4 and 0.98 G of skid pad grip to the M4’s 1.00, these cars appear to be in the same league on paper. But then you get to the price. A base trim M4 starts at $63,500 while the GT350 carries a $47,795 base price, making for a difference of about $15,000. Start messing with the GT350’s options list and you can still slide in under $50,000 while the M4 quickly balloons into the $80,000-range, doubling the price gap between the two cars. Does the price of a Tesla Model 3 (after rebates) justify the difference between these two cars? Well, that depends because the M4’s premium isn’t just for the Bavarian roundel on the hood. There are still many neat gadgets missing from a fully spec’d GT350 that can be had on the M4.
This is a mistake on Ford’s part because by adding a few extras the GT350 could up its level of competition and bring the car fully to the M4's level. The one glaring disadvantage that the GT350 has is weight. A manual transmission M4 weights 3,556 pounds and the Mustang tips the scales at 3,798 pounds. This isn’t serious weight for an engine that makes 526 horsepower and wails up to 8,000 RPM, but European sports cars base supremacy on handling and the GT350 needs to go on a diet to compete here. Ford had started to go down this route by giving the front an aluminum job, although the rest of the body is still steel. Maybe it could borrow a play from the new F-150's book?
This would skew the odds in the GT350's favor. Adding a carbon fiber roof and prop shaft like the one ones on the M4 would cut more weight and look great. An interior luxury upgrade could easily outclass the plain offering inside the M4 while carbon ceramic brakes would give the car more of a track-focus (and extra bragging rights). Adjustable suspension and engine settings could bring the M4's duality to the low-price bracket. These additions look small on paper but add up in real life. Being the inventors of the cheap performance model seen with the first Mustangs, these changes are all within reach for Ford and can be done for less than $30,000. This would make the ”perfect” GT350 a cheap and fast combo that could beat the BMW M4 directly.