At face value, the Ford Mustang and BMW M4 probably don’t appear to have a whole lot in common. They go at it from opposite ends of the enthusiast landscape: The Mustang is the quintessential pony car—an American icon by almost any definition—while the BMW M4 builds on decades of finely groomed performance pedigree.
Price-wise there’s a vast difference, too; you could get two high-performance, V-8-powered Mustang GT Coupes for approximately the price of a base BMW M4.
Yet these two models have become more closely aligned than you might think, in recent years. Both models are nearly identical in overall width and height and within a few inches in overall length. Even their profiles have become quite close in silhouette—especially with the introduction of a somewhat more modern, sculpted, organic look for the latest Ford Mustang.
The BMW M4 is a relatively new model, too, although it’s not a new segment for BMW whatsoever. The M4 took the place of the M3 Coupe in 2015, as BMW has pushed its coupes and convertibles onto a separate 4-Series model line (still related to the 3-Series, but different in some key performance areas); the result is a bit leaner-looking, yet the M4, of course, pushes the design into its optimized high-performance form, with flared fenders around larger wheels and grippier tires, plus a carbon-fiber roof option, upgraded sport wheels, M-specific controls for the electronics, and all sorts of interior touches.
Under the hood, these two models both aim to provide inspiring performance with everyday personalities to match, but again they go about that in very different ways. The M4 goes with a new, higher-output version of BMW’s twin-turbo inline-6, making 425 horsepower, mated to a rev-matching manual or 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and can get to 60 mph in just under four seconds or up to a 155-mph limiter. Late in 2016 and for 2017, BMW added a Competition package to the M4 that bumps up horsepower from 425 hp to 444 hp.
Those who have been following BMW’s performance products for years won’t be at all surprised that the M4 is a technological (and electronic) tour de force. And there are pros and cons to that. There’s an Active M limited-slip differential that helps get the power to the pavement, dynamically and predictably when it matters; electric power steering that varies weight and feedback; dynamic adjustment for damper settings, and multiple Active M modes from Comfort to Sport and Sport+ that sum it all up for the driver.
2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350REnlarge Photo
The Mustang, on the other hand, is more of a traditional performance car in its top Mustang GT guise; that’s where a 435-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 rumbles under the hood, mated to 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions, and at its best with a Performance Pack that wraps in a limited-slip rear end, summer performance tires, Brembo brakes, and extra body bracing. There’s launch control, too, and you can get a line lock for smoky burnouts and drag nights.
The 2015 Mustang, for the first time, received a fully independent rear suspension, and it’s one of the keys to ride and handline that are far more mature and nuanced than they’ve been in the past for this model. Rough pavement no longer leaves the Mustang feeling out of sorts, and it’s far more confirdence inspiring in the corners.