The venue was the SMMT Test day, an industry event organised yearly where motoring journalists meet the manufactures to test vehicles. Or as we call it, “party time”. Set in a private test facility hidden within the rolling English countryside Millbrook Proving Ground is used by the world’s car manufacturers to benchmark test mules. It was the last time we would be invited back. We knew that before we accepted the invitation and with our desire to “scuttle the ship” we knew it would be so. When you set about to deliberately fly too close to the sun, feathers are not enough to soften the fall. That’s how we rock and roll folks.
Nevertheless, this was the last time we got to get behind the wheel of a BMW M4. What can you say about the M4 that hasn’t been said already? My first taste of the latest generation M division cars was the M140i. And to be honest with you the BMW M140i was like cheap supermarket flatbread.
So hideous was the M140i that it felt akin to driving a bowl of porridge. So I didn’t have high expectations of the M4. You see, motoring journalists like to praise BMW to no end even when they don’t deserve it.
And what do motoring journalists get in return? A chance to go on the BMW Corporate jet, an invite to attend Mayfair parties with Vanity Fair where they can stand gormlessly holding a flute of champagne while conversing with Lord and Lady Racist who have just acquired another vineyard in the south of France they can’t afford, just before they are declared bankrupt.
Buying opinion with “gifts” is the new normal, and when it’s so overt, as it is with BMW, it sucks big time. As such the BMW M140i, in my opinion, is overrated.
Surely the M4 is going to be another overrated disappointing bowl of porridge right? It isn’t, indeed, in my opinion, it’s underrated. Neither words nor a five-star rating can sum up the sheer depth and brilliance of the BMW M4.
So what makes the BMW M4 better than good, better than a five-star rating? First of all, it doesn’t look too bad from the outside. It’s got the trademark M car stance. Wide front and rear fenders, 19-inch alloys, lowered suspension aggressive body-styling.
It is available in two trim levels the entry-level BMW M4 manual starts at £60k. Add £3k if you want the 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The second trim, Competition Pack, starts at £63k for the manual and £66k if you opt for the 7-speed dual clutch.
The Competition Pack adds a specifically tuned suspension setup, sports exhaust, larger alloy wheels, lightweight M branded sports seats and little styling trinkets here and there. Power is boosted to 444bhp. All M4’s get a carbon ceramic roof, it helps save weight and the environment.
My mule was the standard M4. Underneath the bonnet is a turbo-charged, 3.0-litre straight-six. Purists will scoff at this. New emissions regulations have forced car companies to literally abandon naturally aspirated engines which means an end to the singing V8 archangel.
Carbon Ceramic Brakes, Adaptive M Suspension, and an electronic differential are standard. Opt for the dual clutch transmission, as many buyers do, and you get Launch Control as standard.
So the M4 seems to have all the ingredients for a recipe of success. But this is no bowl of porridge. It is fast, many reviews have pointed out a slight hint of turbo lag, I did not notice any lag at all. I think such criticism is being unnecessarily hypercritical.
Floor the throttle from a standstill and you are hurled forward, forcefully, 0-62mph takes just 4.1 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph, I didn’t get that far. The mechanical grip from the tyres and suspension setup at low-to-mid speeds is confidence inspiring from the moment you turn the wheel.
The balance and the athleticism of the chassis, the way how the BMW M4 rides the bumps at low-to-high speeds means that the car is never unsettled. And the grip levels seem to increase, as does your confidence. This allows you to engage with the car, to become part of a mechanical entity.
The M4’s grip, balance, and poise are so defined it is at near supercar levels if not as good, possibly better than say… a McLaren 570S or Porsche 911 GT3. Cars that cost twice as much. That’s how good the BMW M4 is.
And rivals such as the Audi RS5 and Mercedes C Class AMG Coupe, they do not deserve to be in the same company as the BMW M4. They are toys by comparison.
The electronic steering has been expertly calibrated. You get three different steering calibrations but even in standard mode, you feel connected. Take for example the electronic steering in the latest generation Porsche 911, it’s ruined the feel of the car over the previous hydraulic steering no end.
And that’s the same for many modern day sports cars adopting electronic steering systems, introduced to reduce C02 emissions. BMW appears to have side-stepped that issue with the M4. Like a sniffer dog on the hunt, the M4’s electronic steering felt natural and connected to the road in the same way a good hydraulic system was.
So you have speed, ride, handling, and carbon ceramic brakes that actually work and what you end up with is something akin to a high caliber mechanical Swiss watch. A precision machine that uses the latest technology to unleash a natural mechanical purity that is so engaging you want it to never end.
Yes, the engine note is artificially boosted through the speakers, but honestly, I did not notice at all. It’s such an enthralling experience as you are diving into one corner and exiting the other you don’t notice. This car is tuned into your senses. It is the sixth sense.
The Interior? It’s brilliant, refined, luxury, leather, technology, it’s got a boot, heated seats that sort of thing. It’s what you expect for £60k but you don’t buy this car just for the interior.
The BMW M4… It’s a magnificent work of rear-wheel-drive engineering art.