From £55,6358
All-new performance coupé boasts incredible performance and sublime handling, although the new engine lacks the engagement found in past M-cars

Our Verdict

The new M4 is powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six engine that puts out 425bhp and 406lb ft

New name, new engine and two turbos, but is it still an M3 at heart?

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    BMW M4 first drive review

    All-new performance coupé boasts incredible performance and sublime handling, although the new engine lacks the engagement found in past M-cars

What is it?

The new BMW M4 coupé, successor to the iconic M3 coupé and sister car to the four-door BMW M3, with which it shares its mechanical package.

The BMW M4 coupé not only introduces a whole new model designation to the long-revered M-car line-up but also a raft of contemporary new driveline developments, including a new twin-turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine.

You can read in-depth information about the technical developments here, but the key figures are a stout power peak of 422bhp and a significant 110lb ft hike in torque to 405lb ft between 1850rpm and 5500rpm.

Use of lightweight materials slashes the kerb weight by 83kg to 1497kg, although the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic M-DCT gearbox, as fitted to our test car, adds 40kg over the six-speed manual, taking the M4 coupé to 1537kg.

What's it like?

The M4 coupé offers marvellous ease of driveability and extraordinary refinement at one end of the spectrum, along with amazing pace and tremendous dynamic proficiency at the other. It may be clichéd, but it really is a car for all occasions.

The key to its broad spread of talent is its Drive Performance Control, which allows the driver to tailor the properties of this new M-car over a significantly wider range than its predecessor. Accessed via three buttons on the centre console, you get the choice of Efficiency, Sport and Sport+ modes for the engine mapping together with Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes for the suspension damping and electro-mechanical steering. 

Importantly, you can mix and match each one, so you’re able to call up differing properties for the engine, damping and steering rather than being stuck with one common mode for all, as is the case on standard BMW models. An M-mode function also allows you to save preferred combinations, which can then be easily accessed each time you enter the car via a pair of buttons on the steering wheel.

There is nothing remotely demanding about the way it drives in Comfort. You could cover loads of miles without ever feeling remotely challenged – all in a sumptuous environment offering outstanding levels of interior comfort and first-rate ergonomics. In this sense, the M4 coupé proves to be a convincing everyday proposition. It is more purposeful in feel to the 435i coupé but no more taxing to drive.

Nudge the buttons down beside your thigh to engage Sport and it instantly becomes more purposeful in nature as the properties of the driveline, chassis and electronic driving aids are altered for more engaging driving. So configured, there is a more urgent action to the steering and added aggressiveness within the throttle mapping, while satisfying damping compliance gives way to a slightly less cosseting ride and the calibration of the electronic stability control suddenly becomes a lot more liberal, allowing you to entertain the hooligan within when conditions permit.

Moving up into Sport+ further heightens the experience, although it is really only intended for track work and proves wearing for any distance on public roads.

The driving position is excellent, supported by newly designed sport seats offering a wide squab, plenty of lateral support and a good deal more adjustment than you will likely ever need. Although the cabin architecture is shared with the 4-series, the clarity of the unique instruments, superb weighting of the controls and the quality of the materials leave you in little doubt that you’re aboard something special.

Like all M-cars down through the years, it is the engine that moulds the driving experience of the M4 coupé more than anything else. And it is here where the new twin-turbocharged six-cylinder unit both impresses and disappoints. At start up, it sounds remarkably similar to the twin-turbocharged V8 from the M5, with an odd diesel-like chatter to the engine and a raspy exhaust note. Thankfully, it improves as you select first and move off.   

Predictably, the single biggest change over the M3 coupé is in the delivery, which couldn’t be any more different than before. With all that torque concentrated low down, there is substantial shove from little more than idle. This results in outstanding flexibility across a much wider range of revs, making it much better suited to stop/go city driving than its predecessor.

Just don’t count on the same razor-sharp throttle response as before when the road opens up and you get to put your foot down. The inherent qualities of the forced-induction engine mean the initial pick-up is a lot less rabid than with the old naturally aspirated unit owing to a fleeting moment of lag as the two turbochargers spool up to full boost. But once they do, the in-gear shove is uncompromising. 

Still, there's no need to pile on the revs in an attempt to tap into the deep seam of performance offered by the new engine. You merely flex your right foot in a suitable gear and the engine obliges with truly muscular properties. The resulting rush of acceleration is spectacular, particularly between 3500 and 5500rpm where the M4 coupé feels to be at its strongest.

Inevitably, though, it lacks the outright aural intensity of the unit it replaces, despite the inclusion of Active Sound Design, which reproduces the sound of the M4 coupé’s new six-cylinder through the audio speakers at various volumes and frequencies based on engine revs, throttle load and speed.

With two mono-scroll turbochargers, variable valve timing and continuously variable camshaft control, it revs quite freely, extending to 7600rpm before the onset of the limiter. This is quite high by turbocharged engine standards, but 600rpm less than the old naturally aspirated engine achieved. 

The optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox provides the M4 coupé with the ease of usability to match its fervent on-boost accelerative ability, leading to a highly impressive set of performance figures: 0-62mph in 4.1sec and the standing kilometre, now very much accepted as the modern day acceleration yardstick, in 22.2sec. This is a respective 0.5sec and 0.7sec faster than the old M3 coupé.

As a further indicator of just how much the new engine has transformed the performance, BMW claims the M4 coupé is capable of accelerating from 50mph to 75mph in fourth gear in just 3.5sec. By comparison, the M3 coupé required 4.3sec. Top speed remains limited to 155mph, although buyers can have it raised to 174mph with an optional M Driver’s package.

It is not just the sheer potency of its straight-line acceleration and heaving in-gear qualities that makes the new BMW M4 coupé so exciting to drive hard, though. Few cars anywhere near the £56,635 starting price of the M4 provide such dynamic finesse or engaging qualities. There is a perceptible completeness to the engineering of its chassis that serves to provide the new M-car with a wonderfully fluid feel over challenging sections of blacktop.

Directional stability is exceptional, even at very high speeds. The electro-mechanical steering system also delivers excellent response, impressive directness and more constant weighting through its entire range than the old hydraulic arrangement it replaces. It could do with a little more feedback, but with Sport or Sport+ modes engaged, it delivers suitably urgent turn-in traits.

The front end offers exceptional grip without any premature breakaway provided the surface is relatively smooth. With stability clutch control, which opens the clutches when sensors detect the loss of imminent traction and briefly reduces power to bring the car back on line, it resists understeer in a masterful manner, resulting in wonderfully neutral properties even in tight second-gear corners.

Body control is also superb, providing the new M-car with a reassuringly flat cornering nature even when you begin to nibble at the very last remnants of available purchase. There is a wonderfully composed feel to the handling all the way up to the point where the dynamic stability control (DSC) intervenes. 

This is partly down to it boasting a lower centre of gravity than the car it replaces, but, I suspect, more because of the work that has gone into providing its largely bespoke suspension with ultra-stiff anchoring points.

BMW M division’s decision to provide it with a new steel rear suspension sub-frame that bolts directly to the body structure without any rubber bushings gives the M4 tremendous on-the-limit clarity. The lines of communication are amplified to a whole new level, revealing its willingness to oblige beyond the dynamic boundaries of the M3 coupé.

The adoption of a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic driveshaft has also added greater overall progressiveness to the handling thanks to lower reciprocating masses and the scope for a whole new approach to the settings of the electronically control active differential, allowing you to send it sideways at will with the DSC disabled.

Should I buy one?

BMW M chiefs say the M4 coupé is 15sec faster than the old M3 coupé around the Nürburgring, where much of its chassis development was carried out. Part of the gain is down to the added performance delivered by the new turbocharged engine. However, it is clear the handling has also risen to a lofty new level as well.

An even bigger achievement in my eyes is the new car’s broad spread of ability. You can cruise along the motorway in admirable comfort with the steering in a relatively relaxed state, the suspension offering excellent compliance, the engine in its most efficient state and the DSC at the ready.

Then you can head out on to the track with the steering feel heightened, the chassis primed for ultimate body control, the throttle mapping set for maximum attack and the electronic safety net disengaged in a bid to better your lap time. 

However, there are apparent shortfalls. While it is spectacularly powerful and endows the M4 coupé to previously unattained levels of acceleration, the new engine lacks engagement and sounds disappointingly flat at certain points in the rev range. It also fails to match the sheer response of the engine it succeeds.

For many potential buyers who might consider the BMW M4 coupé when it goes on sale in the UK later this month this will blunt its charm, but only until they discover the gains in driveability and stunning in-gear qualities. What it lacks in overall excitement, it more than makes up for in everyday driving appeal. 


Price £56,635 0-62mph 4.1sec Top speed 155mph (limited) Economy 34mpg (combined) CO2 194g/km Kerb weight 1537kg Engine 6 cyls in line, 2979cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 425bhp at 5500-7300rpm Torque 405lb ft at 1850-5500rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic

Join the debate


8 May 2014

Who buys an M3 and gives a toss about CO2 or MPG? They should have used the 4.4 V8 from the GTS. Plus a larger fuel tank.

9 May 2014

The M3 was never suppose to have a v8, I always thought the M3 was confused with that choice of engine especially when mated to a flappy paddle gearbox- there's something not right about it. Also considering that the M3 now M4 is often punned as the 'everyday supercar' I'd suspect many people care about CO2/MPG. It';s 60k not 160k. Using your theory why are the vast majority of Range Rovers sold in the UK with diesel engines- I don't think their owners are exactly hard up for cash.

9 May 2014

Is it just me? Each successive M3 is faster, has a more capable chassis, more refinement and is more environmentally friendly than the previous model. And, although the tester didn't mention the brakes, I assume this one stops better too.

Yet, they seem to also to lack the purity of the earlier models. To my eyes, they look fatter and fussier and the sound of the engine, no doubt unimportant to some, just won't be as thrilling. The sound of my long replaced E46 M3 at 8000rpm always gave me goosebumps.

Like so many recent sporting cars, the M4 promises more of everything, which looks good on paper, but doesn't always mean more fun behind the wheel.

9 May 2014
ou701 wrote:

Is it just me? Each successive M3 is faster, has a more capable chassis, more refinement and is more environmentally friendly than the previous model. And, although the tester didn't mention the brakes, I assume this one stops better too.

Yet, they seem to also to lack the purity of the earlier models. To my eyes, they look fatter and fussier and the sound of the engine, no doubt unimportant to some, just won't be as thrilling. The sound of my long replaced E46 M3 at 8000rpm always gave me goosebumps.

Like so many recent sporting cars, the M4 promises more of everything, which looks good on paper, but doesn't always mean more fun behind the wheel.

Couldn't have put it better. This M4 would probably be good in a game of top trumps, but it completely lacks desirability.

9 May 2014

This seems to be another winner from BMW. It's just about perfect except is throttle response isn't as razor sharp as the the M3 it replaced. Naysayers will cling to that very slight negative like limpets, you watch! Almost perfect, savage performance with stunning beauty!

9 May 2014

Autocar knows it: they describe the Morgan 3 wheeler, a car with less of everything (even wheels), as one of the very few that totally succeeds in its mission to be fun.

I really don't care about most of the positive points in the conclusion of this review. The relative improvements cited for the new M4 in terms of lapping the Nurburgring, its 'broad spread of ability' and greater ability on a track day could equally be written in a comparison of the latest 320d versus its predecessor. In its essential nature this M4 sounds like it has become less distinct from the rest of the 3-series range.

Read these comments by Autocar on the E46 M3 CS: "The noise starts with a deep, cultured rumble, but suddenly at 3000rpm it wakes up and roars an ugly, almost rattly sound – like a wrench running along the bars of a lion’s cage. Gradually the induction roar and hiss from the four stubby exhausts overwhelms everything and the note hardens until it’s screaming round to the cut-out. If ever you needed to explain to a little green man with three eyes and a nifty silver space suit why diesels, turbocharged engines and electric motors simply don’t do it like a highly tuned naturally aspirated petrol engine, point them to this straight six." "Searingly quick along the straights, the CS is a delight to heel and toe down the ’box when the endless hairpins with their cold Armco loom out of the darkness. And there’s so much power oversteer available, too. This CS still isn’t a great communicator through the steering wheel – rather it’s a seat-of-the-pants sort of car – but the easily judged balance lets you play with the angle of the car on the throttle, even when the stakes are high, as they are now between narrow cordons of Armco with a nasty drop over the side. Here you need a confidence-inspiring car and the M3’s chassis gives you just that."

9 May 2014

I remember reading the review of the E92 M3 on this very website in 2007 and i remember how Autocar went on about how the E92 was un involving and i still even have the magazine where they declared the B7 Audi RS4 to be better. Only for them to completely change their minds a year later and it was in superior to the mighty C63 AMG.

9 May 2014

For whatever reason, BMW have taken a decision to make their full-on M-cars less involving to drive and are focusing more on comfort. Many people bemoaned the fact that the previous M3 had a V8, but for me that didn't matter because apart from being a natural evolution of the M3, it was still a bespoke, thrill-a-minute powerplant in the traditional M way, but crucially the car was softer and less hard-edged to drive than it's predecessor due to its set-up, not its engine. The theme has continued with this new M4, but the problem is compounded further by an engine that's no more than a tuned-up version of an existing mainstream engine, and the same goes for the M5 too. While the engine issue will be harder to resolve by virtue of the fact they'd need to design an entirely new bespoke engine, BMW has it within them to offer their M cars with greater precision and driving involvement. In fact, there is no reason why they can't offer distinct sport and comfort versions of their M cars, thereby offering products that appeal to a wider audience (after all BMW offer most of their regular cars with a parallel range of SE or M-Sport specification to cater for each type of driver). And for the real hardcore, thrill seeker, a lightweight CSL wouldn't go amiss either.

9 May 2014

I think all the changes are with the reality of the times and I am sure it is all around better than the car it replaces,as will be likely the new C63,I see a great comparison test in the future,perhaps with a new RS4 with a TT V6 as well! If the C63 is 4Matic it will spank them all,though it will be said the M3 is better on the track.Daily driving is not a track and the C63 may be the better daily driver.I look forward to trying them all.


9 May 2014

RIP the NA M engines...


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