Objectively speaking, the twin-turbocharged straight six in this car renders itself almost immune from criticism. It revs. It hauls. It responds. It even behaves, and it’s well-mannered enough to be driven in an entirely disinterested or ham-fisted style if you must. For some, it might still be missing one or two of the more intangible qualities you would expect of an M car engine. And yet it also stands ready to make this car every bit as fast as BMW says – and then some.
BMW M’s electronic launch control system remains slightly counterintuitive to use. To engage it, you first have to completely disengage the car’s electronic traction control, and then put the gearbox into its Manual mode – which is odd, given that what you want the car to do is govern electronically its own traction and then pick the optimum shift points by itself as it accelerates.
But once you’ve learned how to set it, the system certainly works. The car actually launches in second gear, and yet it is still very quick indeed. We tested the M4 on its standard-fit Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres; on a warm set of its optional Cup tyres, it would surely have gone even quicker, and likewise, very likely, with an extra driven axle. As it was, the M4 Competition recorded a two-way 0-60mph average of 3.9sec, with one run at 3.8sec. A standing quarter mile came up in 12.1sec, which is less than a second slower than the still current, V8-powered BMW M5 managed during our road test some three years ago.
So don’t doubt for a second that this is now a very fast car. Linearity of delivery has always been a more important quality of M division’s straight sixes than outright knockout punch, though, and this M4 is a real specialist. The engine’s 479lb ft is not only 10% more than either the M4 GTS or CS had, but it’s also available from more than 1000rpm further down the rev range than the peak figure offered by either of those special derivatives.
The S58 feels super-responsive, then, and it is so consistent in its muscularity. It isn’t boosty through the mid-range or peaky beyond, just smooth, pleasingly crisp under foot and potent almost irrespective of engine revs. It spins quite willingly to the far side of 7000rpm, too, and while it doesn’t have the audible charm of M engines of old, neither does it sound overly synthesised, at least to our ears. It could sound more raw and genuine, perhaps, but even so, it remains enjoyable to listen to.