The 2017 BMW M4 may be the actual genealogical successor to the vaunted two-door BMW M3 of the past, but we don't think it's the spiritual successor anymore.
The light-and-tossable BMW M car these days is the BMW M2, which we cover separately.
The M4? Yes, it's the two-door spin-off of the four-door M3, and a stylish and pure performance machine that demands attention and perfection at every turn. But along with the 3-Series, it's a bigger, heavier vehicle that aligns more with the world of grand tourers than with sports cars.
Still, the M4's promise is unforgiving and intoxicating: point its nose, nail the throttle, and catch its rear end with the right timing and you're a hero. Miss it, and the M4 can be as unforgiving as a school marm. By contrast, the two-door M2 is likeable in its flaws, slightly slower and less serious with its final price. These are good problems to have, we say.
We rate the BMW M4 at 7.6 out of 10, with all due respect paid to its vast performance envelope. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
Like the M3, the M4 sheds weight everywhere it can: the hood and fenders are aluminum, carbon-fiber reinforced plastic bits have been added, and its driveshaft and roof are carbon fiber too. The net effect of its steel purge and lightweight-material binge: the M4 is 174 pounds lighter than the generation before it. (It's hard not to notice, though, that the convertible body style adds 525 pounds.)
The M4 has the same core proportions and characteristics as the 4-Series from which it's based, only with the volume turned up. A power bulge on the hood hints at the twin-turbocharged behemoth underneath, flared fenders wrap around bigger wheels, and its aero-friendly nose, side, and rear end help the M4 cut through the air.
New this year, BMW has made standard its Adaptive M suspension setup that offers dynamic adjustment to damper settings for a wider range of performance that 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 inline-6 that makes 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. 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 gallops up to 60 mph in less time than it takes to read this sentence out loud. Manual-equipped models do the deed in 4.1 seconds, while opting for the 7-speed dual-clutch autobox shaves two-tenths of a second off the same run. The convertible carries 525 pounds more mass, so its run is done in 4.4 and 4.2 seconds with the manual or automatic respectively. The M4 will run up to 155 mph, providing you have the space and courage for such a run on private roads. Thankfully, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential keeps surveillance at every speed, shifting traction to where its best between the rear wheels in milliseconds.
Also new this year, BMW offers a Competition package for the M3 and M4 that boosts power output from the twin-turbo inline-6 to 444 hp. Those additional 19 horses may sound academic, but they help propel Competition-clad coupe and convertible models to 60 mph a blink faster—3.8 seconds and 4.1 seconds in DCT-equipped coupe and convertibles, respectively.
The end result is a car that loves to run toward the horizon with glee, its available carbon ceramic brakes scrub speed with alarming enthusiasm, and the competent chassis stays neutral at nearly every input—no matter how wild. It's nearly identical to the M3 in performance and BMW says there's almost no difference in the cars' centers of gravity, even with the sedan's extra padded leather seat.
We have to point out a few quibbles with the M4, however. Although it's not saddled with a big V-8 anymore, the M4 doesn't hit the same fuel economy numbers as other sportscars, including the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette. We've found that the throttle can be a little nervous when set into Sport+ mode, and the steering doesn't provide the same feedback as would have liked—earlier models have spoiled us.
Quality, safety, and features
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.
For 2017, BMW added roughly $1,500 to the entry price for an M3 sedan, but most of that is in the now-standard Adaptive M suspension, which was a $1,000 upgrade last year. Prices for the M4 start at $68,190 (including destination) that includes enhanced cooling, a 6-speed manual transmission, 18-inch wheels, 10-way power adjustable front seats, sport exhaust, keyless ignition, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation and BMW's latest infotainment system (which it calls iDrive), and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system.
For $8,500 more, the M4 can lose its top 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.
For many buyers adding a lick of color to their M4 will cost more. All swatches other than plain white—including the stunning Sakhir Orange Metallic—cost $550 or $1,950. Cloth buckets are free, while leather upholstery can add more than $3,000 to the bottom line depending on your preferred shade.
Annoyingly, BMW buries a rearview camera in a $3,500 Executive Package that adds a head-up display, heated steering wheel, and parking assistant. We'd rather have the option of adding it alone, but the package will likely be the first stop in an expensive trip down the options lineup.
We suspect that many M4 buyers will also want to opt for the $1,700 Driver Assistance Plus package that adds available blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system, and active driving assistant. We think those are worthwhile additions that add advanced safety features to a car that hasn't been, and probably will never be, crash tested by major safety rating organizations. (It's worth noting that the related 3-Series has done OK on crash tests, with a "Marginal" score on the IIHS' small overlap crash test.)
The 7-speed DCT is another $2,900 upgrade that should warrant consideration—it's the best transmission for the car and includes a launch program that's transforms the car into your own personal roller coaster. Carbon ceramic brakes are an eye-watering $8,150 and to quote an episode of "Seinfeld" we'd say, "They're real, and they're fantastic," but whether they're worth it is entirely another matter.
The new Competition Package, which adds a few more horsepower, blacked-out badges and grille, lightweight seats, tuned suspension, and 20-inch wheels, is an additional $5,500.
Although fuel economy is rarely a concern for high-performance buyers the M4 is at least respectable. According to the EPA, last year's 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.
- 2017 Mercedes-Benz C Class
- 2017 Cadillac ATS
- 2017 Porsche 718
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe is the likely challenger to the M4 crown, and we've actually preferred it in earlier iterations over the BMW. The 2017 Audi S5 will be a limited production run ahead of a completely new S5 due next year for 2018. The Cadillac ATS-V Coupe feels just as insane as the M4 at some points, but its manual transmission can let it down. Porsche's 718 twins are more natural competitors against the two-door M4 (rather than the four-door M3), particularly in "S" guise.