Slick top or topless, the 2018 BMW M4 is a mind-bending performance coupe or convertible with more potential than most owners will ever dare to tap.
We’ve rated it a 7.4 out of 10, a score based on its blistering performance, fantastic handling, and luxurious options. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The M4 is the coupe and convertible version of the vaunted BMW M3 sedan. While the M3 carries the best name recognition, the M4 models are a little more stylish. For 2018, they’ve been treated to a modest nip and tuck that’s mostly cosmetic but also includes some technology updates inside and out.
The 2018 M4 range includes both the convertible and coupe body styles plus a choice of 7-speed dual-clutch and 6-speed manual transmissions. All models feature a twin-turbo inline-6 rated at either 425 horsepower, or 444 hp if the optional Competition Package is selected. Either model is blisteringly fast, although the extra mass of the droptop’s folding metal roof adds more than 500 pounds, which dulls things ever-so-slightly. Big brakes help control that power and carbon ceramic units are on the optional extras list.
Either version of the 2018 M4 takes corners with aplomb, albeit minus some of the analog sparkle that once made these cars shine. Their thick-rimmed steering wheels deliver accuracy, but little in the way of emotion—at least compared to the M4’s predecessors. Fortunately, BMW still serves up that goodness in the smaller, 2-Series-based BMW M2—although it’s not available as a droptop.
Look beyond the racier styling and the M4 is basically a 4-Series coupe or convertible with a lot more power and a stiffened suspension. Its interior is dressed up a little, although it can feel a bit bourgeois at prices that can top six figures. There’s plenty of room for customization with special paint and upholstery choices and a few option packages that pile on more decadence. If we were doing the shopping, we’d be happy with the “purist special,” an M4 coupe with only Apple CarPlay and maybe an upcharge for fancy paint.
The 2018 BMW M4 takes the already attractive BMW 4-Series up a notch or six. We’ve awarded this line’s exterior two extra points and an additional one for an interior that’s attractive but not quite as racy. It earns an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
BMW’s M Division has done more than just add a more aggressive body kit to the M4 to differentiate it from the standard 4-Series. You’ll find a wider body with an aluminum hood and front fenders plus a carbon fiber trunk lid and, on the hardtop, a carbon fiber roof. All these weight-saving and track-widening features are designed to enhance the way the M4 drives as much as how it looks.
Our score here is applied more to the coupe and the convertible when its top is down. Raise the M4 droptop’s metal and glass roof and the result is a somewhat awkward roof-line. Although it’s fun to watch the M4’s roof sandwich itself in place at the press of a button, we can’t help but think that a more elegant cloth roof would not only save weight but would add a dash of contrasting, classic style. After all, if you’re dropping nearly six figures on an M4 convertible, odds are you’ve got access to another car for rainy days.
Inside, the differences between the M4 and the 4-Series are more subtle. Standard leather upholstery can be upgraded to a finer hide for an extra cost. Where the basic 4-Series has shiny aluminum-look trim as standard, the M4 includes a choice of unique wood and carbon fiber trim options. Special sports seats with more adjustment and tighter bolsters serve to enhance the driving experience, too. We especially love the thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel that’s standard on the M4.
The 2018 BMW M4 is honed, polished sports car, even if it lacks some of the tactile feel this badge once guaranteed.
We’ve rated it a 9 out of 10 on account of its blistering acceleration, excellent gearboxes, grippy handling, and remarkably sublime ride quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Properly equipped, the M4 can either excel as a daily driver or as a track-day thrill-machine. It’s not quite a dual-natured vehicle, but it’s darn close.
Let’s start with the basics. All M4s boast a twin-turbo inline-6. In standard tune, it’s rated at 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and it can be paired to either a standard 6-speed manual or an optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. It’s a robust engine that offers enough grunt to propel a coupe to 60 mph in just four seconds, give or take. The 7-speed’s actually a little quicker than the 6-speed because we’re finally at the point where machines are smarter than humans.
Opt for the Competition Package and a retune bumps things to 444 hp. A sports exhaust, a special steering ratio, and a uniquely tuned adaptive suspension are also part of the $4,250 package. In Competition trim, the M4 rides firmly without crashing over bumps. It’s clearly designed for track use, but it won’t beat you up too much on the way to your local club’s outing.
That’s not to say that the standard M4 is a softy. It rides firmly and although its steering is a hint slower than the Competition model’s, it attacks a curvy road with aplomb. The rear-drive chassis under all M4s is remarkably neutral, even when pressed hard into action. Only an electric steering system largely devoid of road feel and a nervous throttle in Sport+ mode spoil the experience.
The M4’s standard brakes bring things to a halt with a quickness, but the optional carbon ceramic units scrub off speed even better. Just be aware that the servicing costs on this $8,150 option will be extraordinary.
Given its extra weight, the M4 convertible inevitably forces some sacrifices. It’s not quite as sharp, but the open top experience lets drivers and passengers enjoy a more sensory experience. Instead of hearing only the simulated engine noises pumped through the audio system’s speakers—yes, that’s for real—dropping the top means you can actually hear the rorty, snarling sports exhaust system.
The 2018 BMW M4 boasts a refined, upscale feel that only occasionally shows of its more humble roots.
We’ve awarded it extra points for its comfortable front seats and generally excellent materials, but we’ve subtracted one for its tight rear quarters. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The M4 starts with the 4-Series’ interior, which is essentially the same as what you’ll find in the BMW 3-Series sedan. Building on that workaday model, the M4 subs in some nicer materials like standard leather and optional, higher-grade hides swathed all over its doors and dashboard. Attractive wood or carbon fiber trims are available, as are a wide variety of hues.
This year, the M4 gains high-gloss black trim on its center stack and and M4 badge festooned to the front seat backs.
The standard sports seats are comfortable without being too confining thanks to their power-adjustable bolsters. Rear seat passengers have decent hip room but limited leg and head space. Like most two-doors, it’s something of a struggle to climb back there. At least there’s nearly 15 cubic feet of cargo space in coupes. Convertibles lose a bit of room in the trunk with the top up, but around 13 cubes isn’t too shabby, either. With the top down, the space shrinks to 7.8 cubic feet.
Only here and there does the M4 reveal its less pricey roots. A smattering of chintzy plastic is mostly hidden where drivers’ hands will rarely visit, like toward the bottom of the door panels and dashboard.
At this price, it’s no surprise that the BMW M4 comes well equipped with a lot of safety features. However, neither it nor the related 4-Series has been subjected to a full barrage of crash-tests, so we can’t assign a score here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The M4 range comes with a full complement of airbags and stability control. The optional Executive Package includes adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams and a convenient head-up display.
A reasonable $500 for the Active Driving Assistant package includes camera-based lane departure warnings and low-speed automatic emergency braking. Active blind-spot monitors that will send a slight vibration through the steering wheel if the driver begins to veer out of his or her lane are also on the options list.
Though it’s not likely the 4-Series or M4 will be crash-tested any time soon, the related 3-Series has performed very well. There are enough structural differences between the 3- and 4-Series models that they can’t be directly compared, however.
In addition to two body styles, the 2018 BMW M4 is available with a wide range of customization options.
Accordingly, we’ve rated this well equipped line of sporty cars at 8 out of 10 in this test. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In terms of standard features, both the M4 coupe and convertible are outfitted about the same. They include power-adjustable front sports seats, leather upholstery, 19-inch alloy wheels, and BMW’s iDrive infotainment system that’s been upgraded to a new, more user-friendly software for 2018.
Individual options have been pared slightly this year into two major packages. The Competition Package includes a 19-hp boost, 20-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension, a sharper steering setup, and some revisions to the limited-slip rear differential. It’s not quite a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation, but the Competition Package endows the M4 with more handling tenacity.
The Executive Package goes in the opposite direction by piling on more luxuries: a surround-view camera system, adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, and a head-up display.
Individual options include Apple CarPlay compatibility ($300 well-spent, assuming you don’t use an Android device), low-speed automatic emergency braking, and pricey carbon ceramic brakes.
BMW also offers a number of special paint and upholstery shades that can make your M4 either gorgeous or gaudy, your choice.
Fuel efficiency isn’t usually a priority when it comes to performance cars, but the 2018 BMW M4 isn’t one of the worst offenders.
Sure, all versions take premium fuel, but at 20 mpg combined for the stick-shift model, we’ve seen worse. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Both the coupe and convertible are rated at an identical 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined with the standard 6-speed manual.
The 7-speed dual-clutch lowers those figures a bit to 17/24/19 mpg and 16/22/19 mpg in the convertible.
Those EPA fuel economy numbers apply to both the standard M4 and the M4 Competition.
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Consumers should be more than pleased that the 2018 BMW M4 faces some stiff competition; the performance segment certainly isn’t dead. The Mercedes-AMG C63 is its stiffest competitor, but don’t count out the recently redesigned Audi S5 which will soon beget an RS5. The Cadillac ATS-V’s balanced chassis and communicative steering certainly merit a test drive, too. And look to the less practical Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman as the most fun-to-drive you’ll find at this price point, even if they’re a little down on power (at least on paper) compared to the BMW M4.