SUCCESS can be a doubleedged
sword for a carmaker.
You can make a mint selling wellpriced
cars to which people are
indifferent, but if you get every last
detail right and build something spectacular,
it’s possible you’re screwed. When buyers
love your car, they don’t want it to ever
change. But government regulations, fickle
mainstream tastes, and the fact that nobody
but Morgan has yet figured out how to keep
an entire company afloat building the
same product for decades mean that,
eventually, you’ll need to redesign. And
change means backlash.
BMW M fans got a double shot of hard-toswallow
change when the brand announced
the next generation of its internal muse, the
M3. It makes its power not as it winds to a
banshee-wail, naturally aspirated redline,
but rather via a pair of turbochargers. And
the coupe, the original and most iconic M3
body style, was rechristened M4 to align with
BMW’s naming convention du jour. (The
sedan keeps the M3 moniker.)
Based on the current, F30-generation 3-
and F32 4-series, the new M4 is longer and
wider than its predecessor, but weighs about
the same. It also gets its own chassis code
for the first time: F82. Extremists applaud
BMW’s fanatical approach to weight saving,
and on this generation, BMW fashions the
front and rear suspension links, as well as
the bonnet and guards, from aluminium.
Carbon fibre is used for the roof, driveshaft,
Even thought the M3 and the M4 are
identical in many ways and share many part
numbers, that boot is one of the bigger
differences. Engineers tell us they wanted
the two cars to have the same aerodynamic
properties, but the airflow over the coupe’s
shorter roof would have required a large
spoiler, which designers didn’t want. Instead,
they formed a new bootlid with an integrated
ducktail spoiler. The thinking was, “If you’re
going to do it, do it right.” So, while they were
designing the new lid, they designed it with
a carbonfibre inner structure and fibreglass
Rubber bushings between the regular
4-Series rear subframe and body structure
allow the assembly to squirm under duress,
diluting handling precision. Here, there are
no rubber bushings. The subframe is bolted
directly to the body for a more rigid structure.
This, with additional bracing and a stiffer
suspension, results in a car that is vastly more
responsive and immediate than the regular
4 Series. The M4 thus is more eager to let its
tail step out. Once that happens, though, it’s
easy to hang it out there and control your slip
angle or snap it back into line. It’s a total blast,
supremely responsive and controllable.
The downside to such a delightful chassis is
that, even in the softest of its three adjustable
damper settings, the M4 is stiff-legged.
The roughest stretches of bitumen will still
give you a shaking, so we Aussies need to
accept this trade-off for such flat, predictable
handling. The brakes are strong, but the
pedal isn’t quite as responsive at the top of its
travel as we’d like.
Electric power steering saves weight in the
M4, too, and its weighting can be tailored
from Popeye (Sport+) to Olive Oyl (Comfort),
Comfort is our preferred steering setting.
Sport Plus is predictably wooden, and Sport
has a nice weight but an unnaturally sticky
insistence to self-centre. Comfort is light
and natural, the rack fast and accurate, but I
craved more feedback and feel.
M cars used to be heralded for their highrevving
engines, but with the discontinuation
of the 128i and previous M3, BMW no longer
powers a single vehicle in Oz with a naturally
aspirated powerplant. Because BMW has
decided that half a litre is the ideal cylinder
volume, the S55 in-line six powering the M4
displaces the same 3.0-litres as other BMW
in-line-sixes, but it’s a unique piece. The block,
the crank, the pistons, the rods, and the turbos
are all-new. The head is about the only major
part to carry over from any other engine.
Yes, winding the E92 M3 beyond 8000rpm is
pleasing, but you know what else is satisfying?
Torque. Right now. And it’s not like the F82’s
7600-rpm fuel cut-off is low. The F82 packs
an additional (8kW) over its predecessor’s V8,
and the twin-turbo 3.0-litre has 150Nm more
than the E92’s 4.0-litre unit. The result is an
immediacy well beyond what the old car was
capable of. You’ll rip from 0-100km/h in around
4.1 seconds in a car equipped with the DCT
The S55 sounds great, too. Under light load,
occupants hear some distant turbo whistle and
pop-off sneeze, but floor it, and butterfly valves
upstream of the outer two tailpipes open,
allowing the exhaust gases to bypass most of
the muffler. The result is a bawdy roar, a much
bigger sound than expected from a engine
small enough to fit in the M4. Inside the car at
lower speeds, the soundtrack is augmented
by synthesised noise piped through the audio
speakers, but the Alan Parsons approach
is a minor part of the sonic signature. To
bystanders, the M4’s tailpipes spit a savage,
As did the outgoing M3, the M4 will offer
a choice of a six-speed manual transmission
and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
This is something to stand up and applaud,
given the demise of the manual in most other
performance cars. Like seemingly every other
one of the car’s systems, the dual-clutch box
has three settings. The most aggressive slams
into the next gear too hard for road use, but
we were annoyed that the slower settings
take longer to respond to commands from
the paddles. If you want your shift to occur
immediately after you pull the paddle, you
get harsh shifts. This is just one more reason
to order the manual, in which every shift
parameter is infinitely variable.
Another reason is pricing. With the manual,
an M4 starts at $166,900, and that’s just the
start of a very long and expensive options list.
Mostly buyers will most likely drop at least
another 15 percent over the base price.
And you should spend money on one.
We’ve questioned a lot of the changes
BMW has made to its vehicles lately,
wondering whether the company is building
on its successes or changing its cars and
making them more complicated simply
because it could.
The F32 4-series might not be exactly
the 3-series we want it but the M4 is
unquestionably an M3.