Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Modern performance cars usually give you some control over their set-up, whether that's the ability to change the firmness of the suspension or the option to tinker with the weight of the steering. The BMW M4, though, takes that to extremes – thanks to a button actually marked 'Setup' next to the stubby gear selector.
Pushing it brings up a screen on the infotainment system that lets you to change everything from accelerator response and brake sensitivity to the speed of the gearbox and the level of traction control intervention, all in small increments. The sheer number of potential configurations can be a little overwhelming at first, so it’s handy that BMW also includes a number of preset modes that work pretty well straight out of the box.
Once you get more familiar with all the options, you’ll appreciate being able to set everything up to your own taste. For example, you can leave the steering in its lighter Comfort mode while having the engine at its most responsive.
With everything in Comfort mode (the most relaxed setting) the M4 makes a comfortable and refined daily companion. Its turbocharged six-cylinder engine remains hushed and flexible, its eight-speed automatic gearbox shuffles smoothly through the gears, and, with its standard adaptive suspension, floats gently over the ups and downs of a subsiding B-road with just a little brittleness over any sharply calloused sections.
In comfort mode, body lean is kept well in check. If you really want to push on, though, the midway Sport or firmer Sport Plus modes are better for making the most of country roads. Both options help to anchor the car down, as well as giving the steering a little more heft, so you can gauge your inputs more accurately without it feeling unnaturally heavy. The steering itself is a halfway house between the hyper-alert setup of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and the slower but ultimately more feelsome rack in the Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
In other words, it’s a good compromise, and one that allows you to place the car on the road very precisely. And that’s handy, because when you deploy all 503bhp horses, the M4 fires you up the road in an almost alarming manner. On a cold and damp day at our test track, the M4 managed to slingshot itself from 0-60mph in just 3.8 seconds – 0.7 seconds quicker than a C63 S in the same conditions and just a tenth slower than an Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio in dry conditions. Impressively, it repeated that feat numerous times, thanks to its consistently sharp eight-speed automatic gearbox, whereas the nine-speed ‘box in the C63 S will often dither and slur, foiling attempts at a quick getaway.
When it comes to handling, though, the M4 that takes a bit of time to learn; with so much front-end grip and rear-end traction, you really have to chip away at the M4’s limits before you feel truly confident to grab it by the scruff of the neck. Happily, once you get there, you’ll find it far more predictable than its predecessor. When the rear wheels break traction in a corner, for example, the resulting slide is easy to manage because the differential locks up quickly and predictably. And, thanks to it’s clever 10-stage traction control system, you can fine-tune how much wheel-slip is allowed before the traction control cuts in. This is a big boon over the Giulia Quadrifoglio, in which the traction control is a binary on or off.
As standard the M4 comes with steel ‘M Compound’ brakes; carbon-ceramic brakes are available as part of the M Pro Package. We’ve only sampled the standard setup, and while they can be a little grabby around town, we found them to be progressive, consistent and massively powerful during more spirited driving. Indeed, the impressive performance of the standard brakes, combined with the predictability of the M4’s handling, allowed us to lap the M4 around our test track (a 0.9-mile circuit designed to simulate a fast B road) quicker than any other performance car we’ve tested to date. Impressive.
However, the soundtrack that accompanies the M4's mighty engine is a little disappointing. Sure, it’s loud and bassy and leaves you in no doubt that lots of power is being produced – but it isn’t the sort of evocative sound that you’ll find yourself accelerating hard just to listen to, like you might in the V8-powered C63 AMG.
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