- Potent new twin-turbo six-cylinder engine
- Lofty rev limit for a turbo car
- Attractive styling
- Lighter-weight construction
- Poised at triple-digit speeds
- Pricey, especially when well-optioned
- Still not great gas mileage
- No more normally-aspirated V-8 wail
The 2016 BMW M4 delivers on-track performance that also translates to the street, and buyers can choose from a sleek coupe or a wind-in-your-hair convertible.
The 2016 BMW M4 may bear an unfamiliar name, but it fills a familiar role: it’s the coupe variant of the M3. Leaner-looking, but just as mean, the M4 is a stylish, purer pick than the sedan, if you can do without the extra doors.
The M4 coupe, with aluminum hood and fenders and carbon-fiber reinforced-plastic bits, weighs 174 pounds less than the previous M3 coupe, at 3,530 pounds, and the convertible weighs in at 90 pounds less than the outgoing droptop's 4,145-pound curb weight. It's hard not to notice, though, that the convertible body style adds 525 pounds.
Stylistically, the BMW M4 offers the same core proportions and characteristics as the 4-Series, but with the dial turned up to 11. A bump on the hood hints at the extra power underneath, while much more aggressive and aerodynamically effective body work at the nose, sides, and tail give it a track-bred look. Flared fenders wrap around larger wheels and grippier tires, and there's even a carbon fiber roof option.
While a conventional suspension (M-tuned, naturally) is standard for the M4, an Adaptive M suspension is available. Offering dynamic adjustment to damper settings for a wider range of comfort and sportiness, the Adaptive M system can range from Comfort to Sport to Sport+ modes. The electric power steering system has the same settings, adjusting the weight and feedback accordingly.
Under the hood you'll find a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine. If that sounds familiar, it's because BMW used a similar engine in the previous generation of the BMW 3-Series. However, in the M4, the entire unit has been upgraded and improved, earning a new name (S55) and hugely upgraded power ratings, but also a droning, artificially generated engine noise that really loses the classic BMW inline-6 sound.
The M4 coupe hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds when it's coupled to a 6-speed, rev-matching manual transmission—a great choice for authentic shift lovers—or 3.9 seconds with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The convertible is heavier and therefore a little slower: 0-60 mph takes 4.4 seconds with the manual and 4.2 seconds with the dual-clutch transmission. With a sky-high rev-limit of 7,600 rpm, the 2016 M4's top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Putting that power to the rear wheels is an electronically controlled Active M limited slip differential, which can vary the percentage of lockup between the rear wheels from 0 to 100 in milliseconds.
The result is a car that loves quaffing long uphill runs at the horizon with gusto, casually shaving off 100 mph with the available carbon-ceramic brakes, and settling firmly and predictably into uphill 30-degree bends without a knee bent. It's tough to call this M a sports car, but few grand tourers come closer to touring-car grip and balance.
It's not without its faults, though. The M4's steering works so well on tracks with big, wide, sweepers that it's hard to reconcile with the lack of communication when it's drilled through tighter curves. The throttle response and shifting are rapid-fire-quick in Sport+ mode, so much so that you'll want to avoid this setting on the street. And while fuel economy is decent, the M4's highway figures still pale behind those of a Chevrolet Corvette or a Porsche 911.
Inside, the M4 is a bit closer to its standard 4-Series counterpart, though the M Division touches continue throughout the cabin. M badges, upgraded sport seats, M-specific controls for the electronics, and racier-looking carbon fiber trim add to the high-performance look and feel of the M4's cockpit. The M4 has beautifully tailored front bucket seats, but not much rear-seat space. The coupe has a decent trunk, and so does the convertible—until you put the top down. That's when trunk space shrinks from 13.0 to 7.8 cubic feet.
Some of the most comprehensive safety features ever are fitted to this variant of BMW's core model, but a rearview camera is, unconscionably, an option inside a pricey package that bundles a head-up display with special M functions, parking sensors, heated rear seats and steering wheel, and satellite radio. Another package includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and active braking, and for weekend track stars, the $8,000 or so you'll spend on carbon-ceramic brakes might actually seem worthwhile. The dual-clutch transmission costs about $3,000, while an adaptive suspension runs another $1,000.
The M4 gets only equipment upgrades for 2016. Both the coupe and convertible add keyless access, one-year of satellite radio, and a Harmon/Kardon sound system as standard equipment. The convertible also gets a standard trunk pass-through.
The M4 convertible's retractable hardtop stows neatly in just 20 seconds. It comes with a standard wind blocker, and offers top-down enjoyment with nearly the same driving experience as the M4 coupe. In the M4 convertible, you can opt up to three-temperature neck warmers that might just allow you to keep the top down at lower temperatures or higher speeds.
Prices for the M4 coupe begin just above $67,000, while the M4 convertible carries an MSRP starting over $75,000.
Although fuel economy is rarely a concern for high-performance buyers the M4 is at least respectable. According to the EPA, the M4 manages 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined with the 6-speed manual. The 7-speed automatic is only slightly thirstier—17/24/19 mpg. The numbers are the same for convertible models.