BMW M4 long-term test (2022) review | CAR Magazine

BMW M4: the long-term test verdict

Published: 20 June 2022 Updated: 20 June 2022

► CAR’s latest long-term test fleet arrival
► Editor, Ben, is at the wheel
► Hottest version of 4-series, controversial face

This latest-gen M3/M4 entered my consciousness in late 2020, when I interviewed the team behind it and worked to get my head around a car that, according to our early prototype drives, was both heavier than the outgoing car and more M at the same time. Eh? Power was up, naturally, the twin-clutch ’box had gone in favour of an auto and the car’s handling was, thanks to an all new-structure and suspension geometry inspired by the CS version of the previous-gen car, transformed according to initial reports.

February 2021 was spent hatching a masterplan: a new M4 and a 911 on a circuit in the UK for a head-to-head video; and a stunning Isle of Man Green M3 in Germany from which our European editor Georg Kacher could merrily hop back and forth into a Porsche 911 Carrera S. The M3 came away with a draw – an outstanding result given the 911’s a purpose-built sports car.

‘My’ M4 arrived in June. Like all UK-spec M3/M4s it was a Competition. Unlike any other I’ve seen since it was Sau Paulo Yellow (one of two no-cost colour options). The spec was good: no silly-money ceramic brakes, but the extrovert and excellent carbon bucket seats (£3.4k or included in the £6750 Carbon Pack) were present and correct, as were the Technology Pack and four very pretty wheels (the £850 double-spoke 826s, 19-inch up front and 20-inch at the rear). The car looked spectacular but, at £87,745, so too did the on-the-road price.

What, six months on, would I go without? Everything but the seats and the wheels (superb though the Laserlights are), which brings the car in at £81,680.

Naturally, it was raining the day I collected the car – weather conditions in which the old F80 M3 was the stuff of nightmares. I arrived home both spellbound and gobsmacked. This, clearly, was different gravy.

Thereafter we did it all. We went over to Lotus in Norfolk twice, the car mustering a small crowd at the marque’s petrolhead Hethel HQ each time. We met a trio of CAR readers, gleefully blowing the socks off two of them (one played hard to get…). We went on track, at Anglesey and at Bicester, experiences that helped underline the universal truth that, however gifted the car, tyres are the single most important component in achieving fast car happiness. At Bicester, the standard-fit Pirelli 4 Ss were sensational. At a cool and damp Anglesey, the M4’s factory-fit track tyre option (a set of Michelin Cups) were a speed-killing, snap-oversteer-laden liability.

As soon as an M4 with xDrive four-wheel drive arrived in the UK (new for this generation M3/M4), we went to meet it. Spoiler alert: go xDrive. The car doesn’t need it, and you’re paying financial and efficiency penalties for the privilege, but it’s like this: I can well imagine scenarios in which you’d wish you had it, but can’t picture a single one in which you’d regret choosing it.

To round out the year, YA70 TWM took on a couple of EV upstarts (BMW’s new i4 M50 and Tesla’s Model 3 Performance) and humbled them both to claim headline billing on a CAR front cover, flanked by its elite M predecessors. I can think of no more fitting end to both 2021 and our time with this M4.

And now it’s gone. Really, the only niggles were the easily foxed adaptive cruise (which loved slowing for parked cars on long gentle curves), the occasional bout of unwanted gesture-control interaction and the generous tyre roar on some surfaces. We even averaged 27mpg.

In 2022 the line-up expands yet further, with the M4 CSL and the Touring M3 estate joining the existing coupe, convertible and saloon body styles. If my kids weren’t already driving themselves about the place I’d go for an M3 Touring xDrive. But since they are I just want YA70 TWM back in my life.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: BMW M4 Competition

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2993cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), 27.2mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost 23.0p per mile
Miles this month 805
Total miles 8411

Month 6 living with a BMW M4: up against the EVs

Up and at ’em
Today should be good: a run down to Bicester Heritage to shoot the February 2022 issue’s cover story (BMW i4 vs M4 vs Tesla Model 3), then drop the Tesla home and get back in time for tea. For all its outlandish performance and sky-high numbers £503bhp, £88k as tested) the M4 is no stripped-out racer. Heated seat and wheel on, set Waze (via CarPlay) as my co-pilot.

The back way
The B660 is to UK-based automotive journalism what the hills around Maranello are to generations of mid- and front-engined scarlet chargers – handy for testing and big fun. I can also weave it into most journeys heading vaguely south without too much bother. The M4 romps down it this morning with its incredible mixed-weather grip, awesome front axle, slide-taming electronics and on-demand overtaking punch.

Battling the Tesla
Model 3 and BMW i4 On a cold but mercifully dry Friday in December, the glorious, twin-turbo straight-six M4 Competition meets the The Future (BMW’s first M-badged EV, the i4 M50) and the UK’s best-selling car in 2022 (the remarkable Tesla Model 3 Performance). Both are more powerful than the M4 and have the advantage of all-wheel drive, but come the fight for keys the pecking order is M4, Model 3, i4…

Sideways for days
The M4’s prowess on a racetrack is considerable but, as Einstein knew only too well, it’s all relative. Step out of a 911 GT3 (as our Sports Car Giant Test team did back in September, at Anglesey) and the M4 feels like a tall, ungainly road car that accidentally found its way onto a circuit. But for most people, most of the time, it’s hard to imagine a friendlier, faster
and more fun track car.

The hero of the hour
From Bicester we must hustle the Model 3 home to Heathrow (a straightforward run down the M40 in rush hour), then, with the Tesla driver onboard, rip around the top of the M25 and, via the A1 and McDonald’s, get home. After a long day no one fancies standing around while the i4 charges, so the M4 gets the nod. Heated everything on, less than a minute to refuel and we’re home in a jiffy.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: BMW M4 Competition

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2993cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), 27.2mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost 23p per mile
Miles this month 523
Total miles 7606

Month 5 living with a BMW M4: his master’s voice

Last month, an E46 M3 owner test drove the M4 and questioned the wisdom of the compromise performance car; whether a daily driver can be truly rewarding, or whether you’re better off splitting those duties across two cars. I know what he means, but the M4 is a compelling compromise. And this M4 nails the daily stuff. Take voice control. Asked to navigate to Weston Hills it showed options for Western Hills. Easy mistake to make. Then I enunciated the ‘on’ in Weston a little better and bingo, we’re off. Like iDrive and gesture control, BMW’s voice recognition has been evolved to near-perfection.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: BMW M4 Competition

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2993cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), 27.2mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost 23.0p per mile
Miles this month 1736
Total miles 7083

Month 4 living with a BMW M4: you drive our car

The G80/G82 M3/M4 Competition is, for our ‘money’, the best super-saloon/coupe on sale. From early prototype drives through dogfights with a 911 on sun-dappled Alpine roads to a group test win (ahead of the AMG C63 S, Alfa Giulia QV and Audi RS4 Avant), M’s latest weapon has proved unstoppable.

Now it’s time to see what three keen readers think of it. Michael Edwards just sold his previous-gen (F82) M4 and has a Porsche Taycan 4S on order. Simon Grace has owned a string of BMWs and currently drives the definitive all-purpose performance car, Porsche’s 911 Turbo S. And Kyle Ecob’s just pulled into the car park in his E46 M3, making us all go a bit gooey with nostalgia…

‘I loved my M4 but it could be a handful,’ Michael tells me as we circle CAR’s Sao Paulo Yellow Competition. ‘In the dry it was unstoppable; one of the fastest road cars I’ve ever driven. But when the weather changed it could be quite nasty, an issue compounded on mine by the CS wheels, which limited tyre choice. I span it once just trying to get to work…’

I know what Michael means. My first test car on CAR was an F80 M3, a car so spiky that the (far more powerful, equally rear-wheel-drive) McLaren 650S that replaced it was both faster and easier to drive in wet weather than the BMW.

‘Circumstances changed and I was barely using the M4 – then BMW called asking if I’d like to sell it. That coincided with this new version coming out and I did think about it. A lot of people were questioning the aesthetics – I think I was, to be fair – but now I’ve seen it in the flesh it just looks stunning.’

On the move Michael’s immediately impressed by the driving position, the transmission (‘The creep you get with this being an auto makes life much easier. I used to find the old one, with its DCT ’box, hard to manoeuvre – in car parks it could make you look like a learner…’), the seats and the interior, not to mention the twin-turbo six’s addictive violence.

‘There’s a subtle difference in the power delivery compared to my car,’ says Michael. ‘Part of what made that something of a liability in the wet was the low-rpm torque, which kicked in really hard. You have to work this engine a little harder but the top end is awesome – such a rush. My Taycan will be quick but I fear it won’t be as invigorating as this; won’t have the sense of excitement…’

As we swing off a dual carriageway and onto a fiendishly good local B-road, Michael lets the BMW off its leash… and promptly breaks into spontaneous chuckling and a smile that’s still there when we park up 20 minutes later.

‘It feels familiar from my car but this is so much more planted, particularly the front end. I’d buy this one over mine, no question. It just feels perfect. At the same time it manages to be both more agile than the old car and more composed – it really flatters you. My M4 was the opposite. Anything I did wrong in that, it almost felt like it exaggerated the mistake to teach me a lesson…

‘I ride bikes as well and this feels like a modern superbike, with multi-level traction control, cornering ABS, wheelie control and all the rest. Like those machines, this makes me feel far more capable than I am. That’s what a good performance car should do. Realistically, most M4 buyers aren’t going to take their car on a track or drive everywhere sideways. But now and then you want to enjoy all that the car can give confidently and safely. This does that.’

As Michael waits patiently for his Taycan, his first Porsche (and considers cancelling the order and switching to a new M4…), Simon comes to our BMW from his first Stuttgart sports car, a 911 Turbo S.

‘I kind of wish I hadn’t gone straight into the Turbo,’ he says. ‘With the Turbo S it’s like you’ve peaked. One of the guys in the office just bought a Cayman GTS manual. He paid £40k for it and it’s so much fun to drive – as enjoyable as the 911. Driving it made me regret going straight into the Turbo. Working my way up through the range would have been more enjoyable. Now it’s like, would I really sell mine for a Cayman GTS, or even a GT4? Really, now it’s Turbo S or a GT3…’

Or, perhaps, an M4 Competition? Simon likes the sound of my M1 pre-sets (two red toggles on the steering wheel allow fast access to your pre-bundled favourite settings) so we click into that and give the engine a trip to the redline before easing off and jinking through a couple of downhill corners.

‘It feels light. I know it’s not a light car but it doesn’t feel heavy to drive – it’s lively, in fact, almost skittish. Is it a bit quiet as well? We’re on the loud exhaust setting but it’s not loud, certainly not at lower rpm. It’s better when you rev it out but it doesn’t sound anything like as good as BMW’s old raspy, naturally-aspirated sixes.’

While Michael was full of admiration for the BMW’s composure, Simon is a little less impressed. Perhaps after a 911 Turbo everything – even a sorted M car – feels a touch wayward. And while he’s right that the M4 isn’t light, you do at least feel the benefit of the structural reinforcement responsible for a decent chunk of that weight. ‘It soaks up rougher, lumpier roads really well,’ admits Simon as we shrug off a railway crossing at speed.

‘I like it; it’s cool. I bet it’d be a lot of fun to really push – on a track, for example. But factoring in the price and putting it in context, it’s a six out of 10 for me. I don’t think of it as a 911 rival at all. But you could daily this; it’s fast, refined, comfortable, and there’s space in the back. It’s just the price…’

Ah yes, the price – £73k without options, or £88k for one like ours… ‘That does feel like a lot of money for what it is.’

Also gasping at our M4’s on-the-road price is Kyle, who hacks about in an Audi but gets his kicks in icons like his E46 M3, which is up for sale, and the first-gen Lotus Elise he’s already replaced it with. Can a 1725kg, 503bhp hunk of ultra-refined, super-sophisticated German performance-car engineering impress a man who currently owns two of the finest driver’s cars ever created?

Yes, in a straight line at least. In moments Kyle’s smitten with the M4’s powertrain – the monumental kick of its engine and the rapid changes of its paddleshift auto. There’s also an unexpected point for steering feel, too.

‘It’s not a patch on the Elise’s, obviously, but the steering feel on this is better than the E46’s, which admittedly isn’t saying much… It’s the acceleration I can’t get over. Mine’s, what, 340bhp and lighter? But this is in a different league. Do you really need eight gears, though? Feels like five would be fine.’

On the move we explore various settings for the BMW’s myriad adjustable parameters, and with the MDM traction halfway-off Kyle has some fun, smearing the M4 through some open, sighted curves before hooning up a slip road in a hip-wriggling flurry of wheelspin.

‘It’s so easy!’ he laughs. ‘Going fast in this is just too easy. The electronics are amazing; so subtle. The traction control in my E46 is either on or off, and when it kicks in it’s so crude. You barely feel this working. It’ll go sideways but it won’t scare the life out of you.’

But impressed as Kyle is, he won’t be buying. ‘With the Elise and my Audi I’ve got both bases covered. This tries to do both in one car and, realistically, I don’t think you can. Fun though this is, it’s not as fun as a Lotus.’

By Ben Miller

Logbook: BMW M4 Competition

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2979cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), 27.2mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost 23.0p per mile
Miles this month 281
Total miles 5347

Month 3 living with a BMW M4: my other BMW is a… BMW

My 2010 HP2 Sport is not the M4’s two-wheeled alter ego. (That would be the 999cc, 209bhp M1000RR.) But it is the other BMW in my life, and there are parallels to be drawn. Both use fruity versions of classically BMW engine layouts. Both tap into decades of Bavarian performance engineering. And both are preposterously over-specified for road use, with power outputs, grip levels and suspension set-ups conceived to run flat-out between the strobing kerb paint of the world’s great racetracks.

The M4’s S58 six is made special by twin turbocharging and such lovingly crafted power and torque curves it almost feels naturally aspirated. (In doing so, it rights one of the biggest wrongs of the previous car, which dumped its turbo torque clumsily just as soon as it could generate it.)

m4 ltt bike cornering interior

The HP2 uses a version of BMW’s iconic air-cooled flat-twin, with its cylinder heads jutting proudly into the breeze and a torque curve like a trebuchet. It’s an odd engine choice for a bike that would compete at Le Mans but something of an anachronistic masterpiece.

When new, the HP2’s bespoke cylinder heads brought huge valves and, for the first time in an engine development story then nearly a century long, double overhead camshafts. Forged pistons and lighter conrods helped raise the rev ceiling (to 9500rpm) and power output (to 130bhp) to unprecedented levels for a flat-twin, and it remained the most powerful boxer BMW made until Motorrad – as Porsche had done with the 911 a decade earlier – introduced liquid-cooled heads.

Two very BMW BMWs then, though the HP2 Sport lacks the veneer of civility the M3/M4 has developed over successive generations. It detests bumpy roads, long dull journeys, wet weather, low speeds and traffic. The G82, by contrast, is such a polished all-rounder and such effortless everyday transport that I’m matching the official mpg figure… Must try harder.

m4 ltt bike static

By Ben Miller

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2979cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), 28.4mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost
22.0p per mile

Miles this month 553
Total miles 5066

Month 2 living with a BMW M4: shifting like a pro

m4 ltt gearshift

You can’t buy a manual M4 from BMW UK. UK buyers don’t buy less powerful derivatives, and elsewhere the manual M4 is paired only with a detuned engine. So, it’s auto or bust. And this time around it actually is an auto, not a twin-clutcher. BMW’s engineers reckon the auto’s now so good they could find no reason not to choose it, but I’m not so sure. Yes, it’s fast and smooth. But it lacks the blink-shift immediacy or slur-free directness of, say, Porsche’s twin-clutch PDK. On the plus side, the stubby lever is so well placed I’m using it over the paddles, just like a grainy old onboard video of Touring Car racing from the good old days. Joy.

By Ben Miller

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2979cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), 27.4mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost 22p per mile
Miles this month 279
Total miles 4513

Month 1 living with a BMW M4: hello and welcome

m4 ltt tracking

Ever had that thing when, perhaps in a busy bar in London (Matt Berry), queuing in the American embassy for a visa (Rosamund Pike) or, er, at the polo (Alexandra Roach), you see someone from TV or film and, for a moment, can’t understand why they haven’t recognised you too? After all, you have, in a weird abstraction of actual proximity, spent hours in their ‘company’. You feel like you know them, despite never having met them. And if you’re lucky you catch yourself before you say something toe-curling like, ‘Hi! I loved you in Utopia…!’ Oh God.

So it is with me and the new M4. I’ve studied press kits, interviewed the engineers involved at length (no doubt my inane cross-examinations felt endless to them), had its designers explain their work to me, and, crucially, been privy to European editor Georg Kacher’s privileged access to the car in prototype guise. What I’ve gleaned I’ve clumsily melded with my first-hand experience of several key M cars (the F80 M3, the 2016 M4 GTS and the recent M5 CS) in an attempt to work out what the new car feels like, long before I’ve driven it. To say I’m looking forward to the first few actual miles would be an understatement.

Hopes and fears? I hope it’s a significant step forward over the last F80 M3/F82 M4, an early example of which I ran for six months back in late 2014/early 2015. Its engine was weird – phenomenally grunty, but weird – and so too was its chassis, which boasted an unenviable combination of a front axle with which I struggled to build a rapport and a rear end I plain didn’t trust. It’s saying something when the 650S McLaren that followed was infinitely more biddable, more friendly and far more exploitable in wet weather than the considerably less powerful BMW…

The F80/F82 got better, of course, notably with the later Competition cars and the very together if zanily-priced CS version. But I hope the new car has something of the 493bhp GTS’s sense of theatre, too, its hilarious straight-line fireworks and its intimate sense of connection with the rear axle. While the GTS never seemed to be able to summon anything resembling a respectable amount of traction, you were at least keyed into its constant rear-end fidgets and flares of wheelspin, the seat of your pants tuned into the drama that played out like the Fourth of July on the shift lights embedded in the M steering wheel’s alcantara rim.

m4 ltt ben driving

And the M5 CS? Realistically I know the M4 Competition can’t feel anything like it, lacking that masterpiece’s V8, driven front axle (at least ‘my’ M4 does; xDrive M4s are on the way) and the grade of componentry a £140k price tag opens up. But the CS is the last M car I drove, and if but a fraction of its magnificence can also be found in the new G82 then the next six months should be spent largely on cloud nine.

I’m also absolutely sure the new M4 can’t feel anything like an E30 M3 either, because, well, how long have you got? But that won’t stop me hoping for a little of that car’s infectious playfulness.

And whatever happens between now and Christmas, I shall not go unnoticed. There’s plenty to talk about on our G82 beyond its Sao Paulo Yellow paint, but most people can’t get past it. It’s a no-cost option, and looks magnificent against the dark menace of the £850 828 M double-spoke black wheels (19-inch front, 20-inch rear). You might reasonably expect the Visibility Pack with Laserlights (£1500) or the Technology Pack (which bundles together the self-explanatory Drive Recorder and Parking Assistant Plus with the may-save-your-skin, may-just-piss-you-off Driving Assistant Professional, for £1750) to be among the saltiest of this car’s optional kit. But you’d be wrong. That’s the £6750 M Carbon Pack, which artfully picks out some bits of exterior trim in the shiny black stuff but exists primarily to replace the standard front seats with two unequivocal statements of intent: M’s carbon bucket seats.

A sense of occasion? Check. Lateral support like a race seat? Naturally. Weird unpadded carbonfibre protrusions that make it feel like you’re cradling your mobile phone between your thighs? Inexplicably, yes. Worth nearly £3.5k? Let’s see, but we can at least tell ourselves we optioned them for their weight saving of 9.6kg per seat…

Now the M4 Competition is here there are three pressing tasks. On paper the first is setting the thing up, given nearly every system, from the steering to the brakes, the HUD to the throttle response, is adjustable. But that can wait, as can the third job – working out just how far (spiritually and geographically) I can take it in these uncertain times and their mind-melting travel admin.

First, though, I just need to drive it. It’s been a long wait.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: BMW M4 Competition

Price £73,130 (£87,745 as tested)
Performance 2979cc twin-turbo straight-six, 503bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph/180mph
Efficiency 28.5mpg (official), n/a mpg (tested), 229g/km CO2
Energy cost n/a p per mile
Miles this month 0
Total miles 4234

By Ben Miller

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