The new nomenclature says M4, but for all practical purposes you can put that to one side.

This is M division’s variant of BMW’s two-door 3 Series, hitherto called the M3. The original M3, the E30 of 1985, was a homologation car created to allow BMW to go Group A touring car racing.

Ultimately, however, selling an M3 for the road was more compelling than racing it. Later versions of the M3, such as the six-cylinder E36 (1992-1999) and E46 (2000-2006), were road cars first.

Any racing activity came later and was secondary to development of the production model. The first and, so far, only eight-cylinder M3 arrived in 2007, making way now for the current M3/M4.

There are two things of note this time around. First is the return of a six-cylinder engine – two more pots than in the first M3 but two fewer than in the just-departed version.

Second is the arrival of turbochargers to keep the power output of the downsized engine appropriate for a new performance car. It follows a now-familiar formula: more powerful, faster, lighter, cleaner.

Turbos aren’t renowned for providing the kind of instant engine response we’re used to in M cars, but they do produce torque and improve engine efficiency, thereby lowering CO2 emissions – hence their adoption here. The turn of 2017, saw BMW M division increase the heat on its closest rivals by facelifting the regular M4 and by creating the hardcore, limited edition M4 GTS - while later in the year the halfway house or 'the perfect M4' joins the ranks in the shape of the M4 CS.

How these two things will affect the BMW M4’s character, then, are the big questions. The ensuing review will provide the answers.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
    First Drive
    25 July 2017
    New top-of-the-line Porsche hybrid, though fast and flexible, is simply too heavy to strike the same sweet sporting compromise as its siblings
  • Caterham Seven 420R Donington Edition
    First Drive
    25 July 2017
    Limited-edition road-legal Caterham track car is a superbly enthralling drive, with enough creature comforts to be used on the road as well. Even more addictive than most of its rangemates
  • McLaren 570S Spider
    First Drive
    25 July 2017
    McLaren has created its most attainable drop-top by removing the roof from the 570S coupé, but none of the car's talent has come away with it
  • 2017 Range Rover Velar
    First Drive
    23 July 2017
    The Range Rover Velar is the most road-biased car Land Rover has made. So does it still feel like a proper part of the family?
  • Seat Ibiza
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    A model upon which Seat has staked its future, the new Ibiza must now deliver