- 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 has a different name the some may expect, but its mission hasn't changed. It's the two-door version of the M3, separated at birth to be the more-stylish, purer pick than the four-door version.
With an aluminum hood, fenders and carbon fiber, the M4 coupe weighs less than the outgoing M3 coupe by 174 pounds. The droptop M4 even went on a diet; it weighs 90 pounds less than the outgoing M3 convertible's body too. (We admit that it's optimistic to say that the M4 convertible is "lean," removing the roof adds 525 pounds to the overall weight.)
The M4 mostly looks like any 4-Series coupe; the same proportions and lines are all there. Instead, the M4 takes the Crossfit approach and bulks in a handful of places to subtly let oncoming traffic know its smuggling a WMD under the hood. A power bump under the hood hints at is fiercest weapon, and aggressive and aerodynamically efficient body panels back up that promise. Bigger fenders cover larger and grippier tires, and an available carbon fiber roof removes excess weight up high to keep the center of gravity low.
More on that power bump: it's covering a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. It's a marvelous engine and one that has been hugely upgraded over previous iterations. It's power delivery is immediate and savage; a willing accomplice to build speed upon speed, which is the good news. The bad news? The straight-6 doesn't sound as sweet as we'd hope; BMW engineers have added an artificial nose that cuts into the classic sound for some reason here.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission as standard, but the automatic is quicker—and more interesting. A 7-speed dual clutch unit helps the M4 rocket up to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds (or 4.1 seconds with the manual), and clicks off shifts with accuracy. The convertible is a fraction slower than the coupe, making the same 60 mph run in 4.4 seconds with the manual, or 4.2 seconds with the automatic. The straight-6 sprints up to its 7,6000 rpm redline, and runs out of speed at 155 mph—providing you don't run out of runway first. The rear wheels are assisted by an Active M limited-slip differential that can shift power between the wheels in milliseconds.
The M4 comes standard with an M-tuned suspension, but adjustable dampers are optional. The Adaptive M suspension offers a wide range of adjustability among Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings, with predictable levels of firmness. The same levels apply to the electric power steering system, which changes the heft and feedback of the system to fit the driver's preference.
Put together, the M4 inspires as much as it excites. As drivers learn the M4, its boundaries for performance become nearly limitless. Its a car that can slide around tracks all day (and chew through tires, we might add) but the quickest way is the least dramatic, and learning the M4's performance envelope requires patience, skill, and courage. As drivers learn the car, the M4 rewards with thrilling speed and handling that seemingly never falls off.
That's not to say that the M4 is perfect. Much like the M3, we've found that the M4 is so adept at long sweepers that its lack of communication when drilled through tighter corners is tough to reconcile. Dialing the throttle into Sport+ makes the M4 fidgety and not suitable for the street, and the M4's fuel economy isn't on par with other sportscars like the Porsche 911 or Chevy Corvette.
The M4's interior isn't far off pace from the 4-Series from which it's based, and that's largely good. It's hard to miss the numerous M badges that let everyone inside (and outside) aware that you've sprung for the richest 4-Series around. Upgraded sport seats and carbon fiber trim accent pieces add to the high-performance feel of the M4. Like the M3, the M4's front seats are splendid for half of the car, but unlike the sedan, we wouldn't ask anyone with legs to spend much time in the rear of the M4. The coupe has a decently sized trunk, at 13 cubic feet, but opting for the convertible and putting the top down cuts that space nearly in half, down to just 7.8 cubic feet.
BMW makes standard several safety features (which we appreciate) but bundles a rearview camera into a pricey package that includes a head-up display, parking sensors, heated rear seats and steering wheel, and satellite radio (which we do not). Other optional safety extras include blind-spot monitors, active braking, lane-departure warning, and carbon-ceramic brakes for track fans. The dual-clutch automatic adds $3,000 to the bottom line, and the adaptive suspension adds $1,000 if you're thinking about the ultimate track-day weapon.
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.