New & Used BMW M4: In Depth
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The BMW M4 is the newly badged replacement for BMW's high-performance two-doors. Formerly part of the 3-Series lineup, the trackable coupe and hardtop convertible has been split off into the 4-Series lineup as of the 2015 model year--and the M4 is the top model for the new nameplate, at least thus far.
Before it became a 4-Series, the M3 coupe and convertible were some of the hallmark efforts from BMW's M Division. The BMW M3 was first launched to the world in 1985 with the now-famed E30 model. Packing a high-revving, peaky 2.3-liter four-cylinder normally aspirated engine, the original M3 made 192 horsepower (for models with the catalytic converter). Despite the modest-by-today's-standards power output, the car's relatively low curb weight (about 2,800 pounds) made it quick, and its M-tuned suspension made it handle impressively, too.
An "Evolution" version (Europe only) of the M3 was available with an extra 25 horsepower, lighter glass and bodywork, and unique aerodynamics. This M3, the ur-M3 as it were, was only available as a two-door coupe in the U.S., though Europeans also had the choice of a two-door convertible. The E30 M3 was only sold with a standard-pattern manual transmission in the U.S.
For more photos, specs, and prices, see our 2015 BMW M4 page
BMW's next generation of the M3 coupe didn't arrive in the U.S. until 1995, with the E36 generation of the 3-Series. This time around, the M3 was also available as a convertible and as a four-door sedan, but those were only part of the major changes to the M3. Riding on an entirely new (and considerably heavier, at more than 3,200 pounds) chassis, the E36 M3 was also significantly more powerful, rating 240 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque from either a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine (1995 only) or a 3.2-liter version of the same engine (1996-1999). The 3.2-liter engine scored the same horsepower rating, but rose to 240 pound-feet of torque from the 3.0-liter's 225. A five-speed manual gearbox was standard.
The third generation of the M3, the E46 generation, arrived in the U.S. in 2001. Again, a new chassis underpinned the car, and again, the engine was upgraded, again using a 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder, but rated at 333 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Again, the weight of the new M3 grew with its power, now up to about 3,450 pounds.
For the fourth generation of the M3, BMW decided to add two more cylinders once again, but this time, in a V-configuration. The new 4.0-liter V-8 rated 414 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Once again, the extra power was needed to combat the extra weight, since the E92 M3 Coupe tipped the scales at 3,483 pounds. In addition to the first V-8 for the M3, the E92 generation also offered the first dual-clutch transmission for the model, a seven-speed M-DCT. While real-world testing showed the fourth-gen M3 Coupe could hit 60 mph in under four seconds when equipped with the new M-DCT gearbox, BMW's claimed estimates were 4.5 seconds to 60 mph, with the standard six-speed manual gearbox version estimated to hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds.
Today, the line has transformed into the M4, and in many ways it's a reversion to form. An all-new twin-turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine adds another new dimension to the car, while also calling up some of the M3 coupe's history. The new engine rates 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, and does both of those figures over a very wide powerband thanks to the twin turbochargers. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a seven-speed M-DCT dual clutch is available. An electronically actuated limited slip differential is a new addition to BMW's M Division arsenal, allowing the computer to control engagement of the rear differential's locking power from 0 to 100 percent in milliseconds. BMW claims the new M4 coupe can hit 60 mph from a stop in just 3.9 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
An M4 Convertible has already been added to the mix, too. With a retractable hardtop that stows neatly in just 20 seconds—as well as a standard wind blocker—the M4 allows top-down enjoyment with nearly the same driving experience as the M4 Coupe. With available neck warmers, folding rear seats, a ski pass-through, and a cargo shelf, you won't make any big sacrifices in versatility in the Convertible, while performance numbers are nearly as good.