If the new, fifth-generation BMW M4 has any chance whatsoever of being remembered as one of the great M cars, then it will need to step up, right from the word go, and face the mighty but no longer cutting-edge Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
Because if the new twin-turbocharged M4 can’t level with the big-hearted but now seven-year-old C63 on broadly equal terms, it will surely be classed – in M car terms, at least – as a dud.
But before we delve any deeper into the nitty-gritty of how the £56,635 M4 stacks up beside the £57k C63 – tested here in rather more expensive 507 limited-edition guise, costing more than £67k – what’s the difference between the new M4 and its more familiar-sounding cousin, the latest M3? And what does it bring to the table with which to counteract the raw potency of the C63 AMG?
New BMW M3 vs M4
From the ground up, this F60-model M4 is – just like its mechanically identical four-door brother, the M3 – a brand-new car. New engine, new chassis, new gearbox, new brakes – a new era in the history of the most popular M car, indeed, with a suitably impressive set of on-paper credentials to match.
The headline improvements are myriad and focus mostly around the car’s extensive use of new lightweight materials, including carbonfibre-reinforced plastic, to exact a weight reduction of approximately 80kg compared with the V8 M3. That’s a big step in a good direction, and it means that just about everything else on the car gets a decent head start.
Having said that, BMW has, of course, also improved most other aspects of the car, so the twin-turbo straight six engine produces a small amount more power than the V8 – 425bhp versus 421bhp – and a huge hit of extra torque, which rises from 295lb ft to a thumping 406lb ft, all of which is developed between 1850rpm and 5500rpm. And because there’s less weight to haul around, the leaps in both power-to-weight and torque-to-weight ratios are even more dramatic than you might think.
The chassis, steering, brakes and suspension have also been designed and engineered to a level that is well beyond anything previously seen in the M3. The rear subframe is now solidly mounted to the body and is one of the few major components on the car still to be made from steel, while the aluminium front subframe is aided in its quest to create stiffness by a full carbonfibre strut brace.
And although the basic suspension design remains as before, with struts at the front and a multi-link axle at the rear, the attention to detail within that familiar design is unprecedented.
Same goes for the power steering, which is electrically assisted but, according to BMW, has been meticulously engineered to contain the feel and precision of a true M car. There are three different modes that can be selected for the steering and, if you specify the optional Adaptive M suspension, the dampers too.
The responses and weighting of both elements get meatier and more urgent as you scroll up through the three-tier menu (of Comfort, Sport and Sport+), enabling a driver to make his or her M4 feel increasingly sharp, claims BMW.
Dial in the effects of an Active M Differential – which is a standard fitment and can go from completely open to 100 per cent locked – and a set of optional carbon-ceramic brakes (an extra £6k) plus some bespoke Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (18-inch as standard, 19-inch option fitted to the test car) and you end up with an M car that, on paper at least, looks very much like the real deal.