The new BMW M4, successor to the outgoing BMW M3 Coupe, has big boots to fill. The previous generation E92 BMW M3 sold over 40,000 examples and was easily the most successful model of its segment. We flew to Portugal to find out what the M4 is like to drive on the road and the race track!
For the first time in BMW’s history their performance coupe carries the M4 badge. BMW have been moving their model range around recently to tidy things up. This has been done to fill the gaps in the nomenclature and establish a more consistent naming structure. So the 3-Series Coupé/Cabriolet became the 4-Series while the 3-Series Sedan/Touring remained the same. For some long time fans of the M3 and M3 heritage its a bad thing but in the end its just a name as one of our colleagues put it.
The F82 M4 Coupe then, needs to provide that exact same blend of practical performance in order to succeed. It needs to be comfortable and efficient in the city with a wild side for the weekend. Is a new engine enough to reach these goals? Before we answer that we’ll talk you through some of the key details of the 2015 F82 BMW M4 Coupe:
This is the major headline (aside from the name change of course!). The BMW M3 has previously been lauded for its naturally aspirated engine, the M4 forges its own path with a new turbocharged engine.
The engine is an inline six-cylinder unit with a displacement of 3.0 litres. Both displacement and cylinder count are 25% down on the previous generation. However, power is up by 17 hp to a figure of 431 hp and torque rises significantly to 550 Nm thanks to the turbo power.
A big part of the design process for BMW was the challenge of implementing a set of twin turbochargers whilst retaining the same levels of responsiveness that made the previous car so addictive. In order to achieve this, BMW turned to mono-scroll technology with each turbo fed by three cylinders.
Twin turbochargers usually feed the engine exhaust output through a manifold where it gets channeled 50/50 into each turbocharger. The obvious disadvantage here is that each cylinder fires at a slightly different time and the various forces pushed through the turbocharger system have negative effects on the cylinder that fires immediately afterwards.
Mono-scroll turbocharging splits the cylinder block into two channels, three cylinders’ exhaust output travels into each turbocharger ensuring that pressure is optimised and interference reduced. BMW have used a previous twin-scroll systems on a number of cars fitted with single turbochargers. The BMW M4’s S55 engine utilises the idea for twin-turbocharging.
Drivetrain & Suspension
BMW’s suspension system for the new M4 utilises plenty of lightweight aluminium which saves five kilograms over the previous generation M4. The rear axel gets a five-link system with aluminium control arms and wheel carriers.
The BMW M4 continues with tradition as far as putting the power down is concerned. Power is sent from the front-mounted engine through to the rear wheels. Purists will be pleased to hear that the gearbox is a traditional six-speed manual box. BMW’s seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission (DCT) is an optional extra.
The manual box gets throttle blipping technology on downshifts which helps aid smoothness and stability. Previously, BMW offered this technology only for the DCT gearbox. The manual box also sheds 12 kilograms of weight, a large amount of bulk and becomes more robust. The DCT by contrast gets a raft of unique technological features including Launch Control, Drivelogic and Stability Clutch Control.
BMW fit an electronically controlled Active M Differential to the BMW M4 as a standard item. The control unit takes account of the position of the accelerator pedal, the wheel speed and the yaw rate, as well as the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) status. The lock (between 0 and 100 percent) is then adjusted to prevent wheel spin and maximise performance.
Adaptive M Suspension is an option which brings a choice of Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes. As you would expect, these optimise the damper settings to create various degrees of sporting feel. The electromechanical steering system also uses an integrated servotronic function to adjust the weight and feel relative to the speed. Comfort, Sport and Sport+ also adapts the variables to suit the given mode.
Braking comes care of a set of M compound brakes as standard with an extra cost option for M carbon ceramics. Relatively small diameter 18 inch wheels are fitted as standard measuring 255 mm at the front axel and 275 mm at the rear axel. These rims befit the M4’s everyday performance character. For those more style conscious, 19 inch rims are available as an extra cost option.
Performance is another key factor for the M4 package. Updated with an extra 31 hp over the previous generation and with a 5,500 and 7,300 rpm peak power window, the M4 manages the benchmark sprint from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.1 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph) or 280 km/h (174 mph) with the optional M Driver’s Package.
The new inline-six together with its efficient twin-turbochargers boasts excellent fuel economy too. The BMW M4 Coupe manages consumption on the EU cycle of 8.3 l/100 km (34 mpg) and CO2 emissions of 194 g/km. Those figures are enough to make it EU6-compliant.
Visually, the F82 BMW M4 carries across the same design traits as its predecessor. It is a typical front-engined coupe design. Of course, it isn’t entirely stereotypical of a coupe. The aggressive swollen wheel arches, trademark M-performance power dome and vertical air vents give the car real presence. Park it next to a 320i and you would instantly notice the differences.
The entire package weighs 1,497 kg, some 80 kg lighter than the previous generation model. As we know, weight is one of the single most important factors for any performance car. The carbon fibre roof is a carry over from the previous generation; this time it gets a contoured design. Other carbon fibre parts include the boot lid which is a blend of carbon fibre and plastics plus the carbon fibre drive shaft and strut brace. Aluminium is also used extensively within the body structure. The bonnet is now machined from aluminium, as are the side fenders.
A number of minor touches differentiate the M4 from any other 4-Series. First we have the black painted kidney grille with M logo, three massive air intakes at the front bumper and stalk mounted side mirrors. M gills feature in the usual fender position together with the carbon roof. At the rear, the integrated boot lid spoiler and polished rear spoiler hint at the performance potential
Inside things are very much the same as any other BMW 4-Series. However, the M4 gets a series of minor differences that add to the sporting character. The front seats for example are bucket seats with width adjustable side bolsters and not unimportant, pretty good fit and support even for tall people (1,90m).
Elsewhere, BMW M door sills, an M footrest, M gearshift lever and M-design instruments remind us that we are driving the range-topping model. BMW Individual Merino leather and BMW Individual interior trim elements are also available with enough options to create a truly unique car should a customer request this.
ConnectedDrive technology includes an excellent navigation system, Driving Assistant Plus which protects the driver from potential collisions with pedestrians and Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go functions. Customers will also get access to a free BMW M Laptimer app which can be controlled through the iDrive Controler once connected through a USB cable.
Upon our arrival at the Algarve we are greeted by a range of Austin yellow M4 Coupes and Yas Marina Blue M3 Sedans. BMW named the new colors for the next generation BMW Ms after new race tracks from around the world. Especially the Austin Yellow is a striking color that changes from yellow to gold in the bright Portugese sunlight.
We receive the keys of a 7-speed M DCT M4 Coupe and set out from the city of Albufeira on the Algarve to the hills home to the annual WRC Rally de Portugal. The first impression behind the wheel is pleasant. BMW has one of the most pleasant and easy to use control- and infotainment ergonomics in the industry and it hardly takes more than a day to find key buttons and functions without taking your eyes off the road. The seats offer plenty of back- and shoulder support even for tall people (1,90m), but the side support for people with long legs from the seat base is not the best.
The 2015 BMW M4 Coupe allows you to chose and pre-set everything from throttle responds, suspension, steering and gearbox aggression over three individual settings: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. The ESP can be set in three different ways; On, MDM or Off. In M-Dynamic Mode (MDM) the ESP is about 50% active and allows for a lot of oversteer, in fact it won’t prevent you from spinning if you overdo it as some media colleagues demonstrated on track. We drive the first twenty kilometers with everything in Comfort and the ride is hard, yet most short bumps are kept out of the cabin. With the DCT set to Comfort it will shift up to the highest possible gear quickly and the exhaust flaps stay closed in comfort mode, but more on the sound later. Overall it is a pleasant daily driver that gets quite a decent fuel economy thanks to the twin-scroll turbocharger.
Press the buttons to go a level up to sport and it feels as if the M4’s muscles tighten. Noteworthy for the new inline-six turbo engine is the broad torque range, 550Nm is available from 1,850-5,500 RPM you have the full torque available, on the road there is no need to shift down up to about 3,300 RPM. On the winding roads going up into the hills from Albufeira this translated to very few gear shits as we made our way from corner to corner.
Talking about corners, the F82 M4 Coupe goes through corners like no other in this segment. Understeer seems to be something the M4 Coupe doesn’t know at all, the front-end grip is truly amazing. The Portugese national road N2, nicknamed the Portugese Route 66, couldn’t be a better road to test this as it features corner upon corner without end. The N2 leads us through some of the least densely populated area of Europe with traffic numbers to match.
Driving slowly through some villages, screaming locals encourage us to put our foot down and make the M4 scream. Rarely have we come across such avid car enthusiasts village after village. The striking color plays and sporty looks of the M4 Coupe plays a key role here as the yellow / gold M4 shines its way through Portugal. In general the exterior looks like a big upgrade compared to the previous generation. The large front air intakes and matching rear rounds the looks off exactly the way we like it.
Going another level higher we set everything to Sport Plus. The gearbox settings sharpen gearbox responds both in automatic mode as when you are using the paddles. That BMW values and cares for the desires of purists is clearly indicated by the limiter that kicks in hard when you don’t change up in time in Manual mode. Also BMW will continue to offer a Manual gearbox in the M4 Coupe for exactly those purist that still prefer a manual over the faster but slightly less efficient DCT gearbox.
In Sport Plus everything tightens even further, the gearbox will stick to lower gears significantly longer in automatic mode, short bumps are felt clearly in the cabin and steering becomes heavier. You can pre-program two M buttons on the steering wheel with your preferred settings so you don’t have to press 5 buttons every time you want to change the car from comfort to sport or sport plus. The level of customization is great and very driver oriented, although we would have liked a separate option to set the sound, which is currently paired with engine/throttle responds.
Sport Plus is the ultimate mode that brings out the most in the BMW M4 Coupe. Only the steering is a bit too heavy for our taste, but overall the steering offers excellent input and feedback in any mode. Comfort being a bit lighter, Sport Plus a bit heavier and Sport just right. In Sport Plus the throttle responds and shifting are very quick and aggressive, on the road this can come across as a bit intimidating but on the race track its an absolute pleasure. Our test car came with the optional Ceramic brakes which did a fine job although we would only recommend them for true track addicts as on the road its a bit of overkill.
After our scenic drive over some of Portugal’s best roads we return to our hotel in Albufeira. The next day we continue our road test with the BMW M3 Sedan, but more on that car next week! We had one more opportunity to push the M4 Coupe to its limits at the Algarve International Circuit near Portimao. Accompanied by BMW DTM drivers Martin Tomczyk and Bruno Spengler, who were brought in to provide some instruction- and demo laps of this demanding 4.7 kilometer long circuit.
The Algarve International Circuit opened in 2008 and makes use of the hilly natural terrain North of Portimao. This makes for a spectacular combination of blind corners, climbs and dips. In some corners the rear end becomes extremely light, while in others it is extremely compressed. Sounds like ideal testing ground for the M4 Coupe. After a few warm-up laps we switch the ESP to MDM and all but the steering to Sport Plus. Even with ESP allowing for plenty of oversteer the grip remains phenomenal and the M4 propels out of corners with the stability and vitality of slightly less powerful Porsche GT2. An important role is also played by the tires that BMW specially developed with Michelin for this car and feature a particular stiff side wall and dual compound.
Lateral G easily exceeds 1,1G as measured by the free (which also works with regular non-M BMWs). But there is more than just a fast lap, for those craving a fun lap we have good news too. The BMW M4 Coupe is very easy to drift, as mentioned before the MDM allows for plenty of oversteer and with the very neutral balance and predictable handling of the M4 its very to get the back out and hold for the perfect drift.
That brings us to the end of our driving experience, but before we leave Portugal and the M4 behind us there is one thing left to discuss: How does it sound? Well, BMW uses a sound enhancer to create the sound experience inside the car and this is pretty neat. The car is fairly quiet in Comfort but gets louder and gives a full-bodied sound inside the car in Sport Plus and at higher RPMs. Outside the car however it is a bit of a let down, it doesn’t sound as good as the previous generation M3 Coupe with its V8 or as some of the M4 direct competitors. On cold start-up you don’t get the same sound and feeling as when you fire up an Audi RS5 or Mercedes C63 AMG and even under full throttle on the race track it left us a bit unimpressed. But when the engine is warm it does have a raspy little shout on up- and downshifts.
What to Spec?
So ready to order your M4 Coupe but not sure what options are a hit or miss? Here are some of the options we recommend:
- BMW M Adaptive Suspension: Absolute must have! Turn your car from a comfortable daily driver into a razor sharp track car.
- BMW Head-up Display: Never take your eyes off the road again!
- BMW M Ceramic Brakes: Track addicts should certainly consider ticking this box at the order form. Those who don’t drive on track can leave it unticked and save over 7 grand.
Speed Limit Info: Strong feat in combination with Head-Up Display. Displays the current speed limit on the main screen and in the windscreen.
What about the competition?
BMW is the first to launch its new generation performance Coupe and in many aspects raises the bar in this segment. The next generation Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe is still a year or so away and the next generation Audi RS5 will take another two years at least. AMG will continue to use a V8 in the next generation C63 AMG which will guarantee a strong vocal treat. Compared to the current generation C63 AMG Coupe and Audi RS5 the 2015 BMW M4 Coupe is ahead in many ways. From the interior to handling and performance to fuel economy, its the BMW we prefer over its direct competitors. The M4 Coupe’s only true weakness is the way it sounds.
The F82 BMW M4 Coupe set the new benchmark in this segment and despite downsizing and turbos it is a true successor to the E92 M3 Coupe. It offers an allround package that can morph from daily driver to track monster at the press of a button. Even with a mediocre score in the sound department it is the king of the hill (and the race track) until the next generation C63 AMG and RS5 get a chance to beat it in a few years time.