2020’s BMW M4 coupe arrives with optional all-wheel drive

Published: 22 September 2020

► All-new G22 BMW M4 is here
► Two power and four drivetrain variants
► Bur UK range is more limited

This is the new BMW M4 coupe, finally revealed after many months of teasers and leaks.

It’s the M3’s swoopier, two-door sibling but shares exactly the same powertrain options. The M4 also uses the 4-series’ controversial front grille arrangement but still looks very much like an M car; wide stance, fat haunches and quad exhausts.

But there’s more to it than just looks. BMW has made some brave decisions as to what’s under the skin.

The BMW M4’s tech specs

The M4 coupe (and M3 saloon) uses the same engine as the X3 M; the S58 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six. Along with a coupe, expect a M4 Convertible in the next year or so.

M4 overhead

Two powertrain options will be offered: a 473bhp version that’s available with rear-wheel drive and the choice of a manual or automatic ‘box, and a punchier Competition version that has 503bhp and is auto only. You can tick the box for all-wheel drive for both of these models, making it the first time in M3 history that power can be sent to all four wheels.

The caveat for the UK? We’re not getting the manual and the lower-powered variant because UK M buyers overwhelmingly choose Competition derivatives, and the new Competition’s power output is simply too much for the manual gearbox. If you think that’s a deal-breaker, look at it from BMW’s side: previously, the UK manual uptake was single-digit as a percentage of new M cars sold.

M4 front quarter

‘The engine was developed to be a part of our motorsports programme, and this has given us this very explosive power delivery, with a strong top end,’ says product management man Hagen Franke. ‘This is what the motorsport engine needs to be like, and it gives the road-car engine a certain character. That said, there is still a lot of torque from low revs. In terms of any absolute measure this engine is much like its predecessor but with a higher capability everywhere. ‘We use torque shaping [sculpting power and torque curves using everything from valve timing to boost pressure] to give our engines their character. It’s a unit you’ll enjoy working with.’

The new M4 can be all-wheel drive?!

BMW has learned a lot from the M5 and M8, with the M4’s (and the M3’s) all-wheel drive system borrowing heavily from those larger M Division models. M’s take on xDrive powers the rear axle alone until traction is compromised.

M4 rear tracking

At that point an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch in the transfer box steps in to optimise the front/rear power split, with the Active M Differential juggling the power left/right on the rear axle. The default mode, 4WD, is fast, grippy and more neutral than Audi’s quattro, on the M5 Competition at least. 4WD Sport is more rear-biased and the pick of the bunch for real-world use, combining any-weather traction with a degree of playfulness, while 2WD opens the door to, as Franke puts it, ‘a lot of fun and a lot of smoke’.

Read our review of an M3 prototype

Any other performance details?

Having ripped through their budget on structural bracing, a race-bred engine and a tonne of powertrain options, you might expect M to have counted the beans more carefully on stuff like the interior detailing and exterior metalwork. You’d be wrong. Unlike the M5, which uses the standard 5-series body, the new M4 and M4 run wider arches stretched over their caricature track widths.

‘We had to have them,’ smiles Franke. ‘They have been part of the M3 DNA for ages. The first M3, the E30, had wider arches to cover the wider stance and wider tyres. And it just looks so cool to have this differentiation.’

M4 interior

Glance at those new front ends and it’s impossible to imagine two front axles that look less like they’d want to understeer; huge rubber footprint, broad track widths, deep chin spoilers and a bunch of stiffer, lighter M-specific parts. Your eyes would be right: from our prototype drive opportunity (see right), front-end grip might even be the defining aspect of the new cars.

Wolf: ‘Our goal was to have the chassis react to the driver’s inputs in a very precise and un-delayed way. The fact that the front axle is now better in terms of grip and steering input is mainly because of a new tyre, both in terms of size and tyre technology. The rear axle also behaves consistently, which is a product of the measures we put in place to increase the stiffness of the car. Those measures give us the non-delay time between the front and rear axles, and mean the car reacts very quickly and cleanly to inputs.’

M4 front tracking

But if a rear end that faithfully follows the front doesn’t sound very M3 to you, know that you’ll have options. So many options. To let you play in safety, there’s the three-mode xDrive drivetrain (if you’ve optioned it), the adjustable auto gearbox mapping and the 10-stage M Traction Control. And there’s the scope to set up everything, from the response of the brake-by-wire left pedal to the weight of the speed-sensitive, variable-weight steering. And if all that sounds too much like work, know that you can group your favourites to the M1 and M2 buttons.

When can I buy the new M4?

Prices aren’t known yet, but the first M4s will arrive in March 2021. The all-wheel drive versions are tipped to arrive in summer 2021.

Check out our BMW reviews

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three