The new BMW M4 Competition is ballistically fast. But you knew that already. The real surprise is how well-rounded it is…
SINGAPORE — I had mixed feelings about the new BMW M4 Competition, seeing as to how some of the scariest moments of my life have been behind the wheel of an M4. We’re talking rolling wheelspin in a straight line in the dry, and wild fishtailing in the wet. Basically, black lines on the tarmac and a brown one in the undies. Traction control systems are switched on by default for a reason, it seems.
So here we have the all new M4, available in Singapore in Competition trim only, and thus good for a dizzying 510 horsepower. That’s a good 60hp more than before, so if the last one was a handful, then this one ought to be, well, more than a handful.
Mind you, some of that is offset by weight gain, and this M4 now crosses the 1.7 tonne mark in the wrong direction. Of course, it is a bigger car than before, so there’s noticeably more space inside (though it’s still a four-seater) and it has plenty of presence on the road.
And not just because of the test car’s retina-searing Sao Paolo yellow paint or that giant vertical grille, which works surprisingly well from most angles. BMW says the 4 Series in general is for extroverts anyway, so if you’re the kind that enters a room with your eyes glued to your shoes, you’re just never going to like this car’s schnozz.
The big, bad grille may dominate the M4’s appearance, but there’s actually lots for the eye to take in elsewhere, especially if you tick the box on the options list for the carbonfibre pack (sorry, the “M Carbon” exterior package).
Behold the wing mirrors, the gills, the tail spoiler and rear diffuser all in glorious, racy carbon. Then there’s the carbonfibre roof, and the staggered wheels — 19-inch up front and 20 aft. A geek could gawp at it all for hours.
Sadly, hours with the new M4 is all we got (less than two, in fact, and chaperoned the whole time), so take the following driving impressions with that caveat in mind. But it doesn’t take long at all to suss out that the new M4 Competition is less wild and more refined than its predecessor, the F82.
The tyres muster some mighty levels of grip, so even if you’re on a greasy, drizzle-sodden road, it’s not hard to carry some big speed into corners.
But this time there’s way more traction than before, so you can propel yourself back out with much more confidence, and lean harder and earlier on that accelerator pedal. It all feels more predictable, and it’s easier to coax speed from the car.
That’s despite a notable jump in power. The F82 was no sloth, but this M4 Competition hits noticeably harder, with enough zing from the mid-range onwards to secure its place in the temple of Cars We All Lust After.
Yet, the performance is delivered with better manners. There’s a wee bit of the crackly stuff from the exhaust to tickle the ears, but nothing like before. And when you’re not trying to see what 510hp feels like, the M4 is actually quiet and composed.
The suspension is much more GT than go-kart, and even on the firmest Sport Plus setting the ride never becomes skittish or uncomfortable. The M4’s tame side is definitely tamer now, despite the extra power.
Some of that ease-of-use extends to the controls. Previously you could spend half a day pressing buttons to tune the suspension, gearshift times, throttle response, suspension firmness and so on. This time there are umbrella Road, Sport and Track settings, but it’s also much easier now to jab at the touchscreen for a combination you want.
Then, as before, store it with a long push of the M1 and M2 shortcut paddles on the steering wheel and alter your M4 whenever the urge seizes you.
Feeling a little more mature? There’s the 625 horsepower M5 Competition…
Cruelly, the M4 has a bunch of features that demand a day at the track to play with: 10-stage traction control, a drift analyser that tells you how far you can kick out the tail, how far and long you can hold the slide, that sort of stuff. Beats me what it’s all like to experience, but if you do buy an M4 Competition, drop us a line when the road to Sepang reopens, won’t you?
That said, there’s some sense of occasion to driving the M4 even if you’re doing the urban crawl to the office. That’s down to the interior; I couldn’t grab more attention than the crazy Yas Marina Blue upholstery if I grew a second head that looked like Zoe Tay, and there’s an acre of carbonfibre all over the dashboard.
Want even more? The carbonfibre bucket seats (sorry, “M Carbon” bucket seats) look like something out of a king’s racing car, and it’s impossible not to want to put your backside into them the moment you pull the door open.
They’re apparently a popular add-on in Singapore. I’m sure it’s because they lop 5kg off the M4 each and have a removable headrest section that makes it easier to sit comfortably in them with a helmet on.
That said, if you’re going to drop S$451,888 (with Certificate Of Entitlement) on a car, you might as well do what you can to make it feel extra special. Yet, maybe it isn’t the options list that’ll vex you, but the whole question of whether you might not prefer an M3 Competition instead.
BMW says the two cars are meant to be equal in performance, though they do feel slightly different — a bit of saddle time in the M3 revealed that it’s quieter, and there’s a more pillowy quality to the way it rolls over bumps.
But a couple of things add intrigue. First, it’s a four-door car, and while fast coupes are just about everywhere, a sedan with five seats that can hit 200km/h in 12.5 seconds is properly rare.
Second, the M3 Competition has fiercer looks. That vertical grille isn’t on any other 3 Series, so it stands out properly on the M3. Plus its rear flanks flare out like it could do a million squats in the gym.
I’m a total sucker for coupes myself so I might stick to an M4, though it’s clear that it’s not performance that will determine your own choice, but personal tastes or lifestyle needs.
The M4 Competition happens to fit a broad range of needs itself, unless you usually carry more than one passenger.
It’s faster and less of a bucking bronco than the F82, and in that sense is a much more well-rounded car. Living with one is liable to entail plenty of pleasurable moments, but relatively few of them scary.
BMW M4 Competition
|Engine||2,993cc, inline 6, biturbo|
|Power||510hp at 6250rpm|
|Torque||650Nm at 2750-5500rpm|
|Top Speed||250km/h (290km/h with M Driver’s Package)|
|VES Banding||C2 / +S$20,000|
|Agent||Performance Munich Autos|
|Price||S$451,888 with COE and VES|
|Verdict||A well-rounded but still compelling car, the new M4 Competition is a joy to spend time in|
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