Quick Summary: BMW has now split its legendary M3 into two models: the four-door M3 and this two-door M4. Anyone who laments the change should be comforted by the fact that the new coupe has 40 percent more torque, less weight and a claimed 0-60-mph time of just 3.9 seconds.
What Is It?
BMW gave the fastest version of its new 3 Series-based coupe the 435i badge last year, so it was inevitable that the flagship, powerhouse M version would go the same way, and so the M4 was born.
Sitting on the same wheelbase as the sedan, the M4 coupe is the fastest and most powerful version of the 3 and 4 Series lineup. Like the M3 sedan, the M4 gets a twin-turbocharged inline-6 rated at 425 horsepower along with a choice of either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come In?
The 2015 BMW M4 is a strict four-seat, two-door coupe by its very nature. If you want four doors, the M3 sedan is a nearly identical package in a sedan configuration.
The M4 only comes with rear-wheel drive and there are no plans for all-wheel drive in the future. There is also only one specification for the M4, one that delivers a combination of a sports car feel along with luxurious accommodations.
It lists at $65,125 and that's with a six-speed manual gearshift that is far more popular here in the U.S. than it is anywhere else in the world. There is the option of a $2,900 seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that makes the car faster and feel smoother, but it's slightly less engaging.
Other significant options include carbon-ceramic brakes for a mere $8,150 and 19-inch wheels and tires for $1,200, though it's questionable whether the larger footwear offers a real-world benefit in any area other than looks. There is also an optional head-up display, a built-in lap timer (that mates with a free phone app) and a sunroof.
It's a well-equipped package even in standard form, with full leather sport seating, a multifunction leather steering wheel, navigation, dual-zone climate control, electric seat adjustment and a 60/40 split-fold in the rear. There's even a carbon-fiber roof.
How Does It Drive?
This is a return to form for M's mightiest little toiler. The M4 might be nominally new, but it follows a long line of two-door M3s and does justice to the very best of them.
The engine is deep and rich, with a muscular, almost V8-like throb to it below about 5,000 rpm. Above that, the twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 howls and snaps with urgency.
It's also a car of different characters, depending on whether you've got the manual or the dual-clutch. It's a very civilized car with the latter and, by any tangible measure, it's a better car with it fitted. It's faster, smoother and delivers better fuel economy.
Yet the manual version has a character all its own, with slick shifts and a directness that helps that engine feel even more powerful. As you might expect, you feel more in control of the car with the manual unit despite the advancements of the dual-clutch setup. It also runs trick stuff like an active differential, which means the back end of the car feels the grip running out before you do and adjusts where the power goes so it doesn't get out of control.
Combined with a very stiff chassis and a rear subframe that bolts directly to the body (like in motorsport), the M4 is incredibly accurate and feels like it's rock-solid planted regardless of how shamelessly it's provoked. It has a very low center of gravity and there's a dignity that underlines all of its aggression, even when it's being pushed hard.
The real beauty of the M4 is that you can ask it to ride just like a 435i. Sometimes you do this because you're just cruising around town. Sometimes you do it because the road is bumpy and the stiffer suspension options aren't delivering the traction. But it works, provided you're willing to pay for the three-mode adjustable suspension.
There are strong brakes (though we only had access to cars with the optional carbon-ceramic units), accurate steering that provides just enough feedback and it's all very easy to get to grips with, even when you're pushing hard.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
We haven't loved every seat that has come along in previous M cars, but not so in this M4. These seats deliver an all-round brilliance that is tempered only by the extreme cornering forces the M4's chassis can generate. With an eight-way electric adjustment and a wide range of steering height and reach choices, it's an easy place to get comfortable.
The only question over the car's ergonomics is really the same one that can be leveled at all of BMW's automatic-equipped cars: Why is the brake pedal so small? They all use the same middle pedal as the three-pedal manual unit, but there's nothing stopping them from using a wider pedal.
In terms of functionality of the driver interface, the addition of a Back button has worked wonders for the multimedia system's scroller. It allows you to make errors and quickly go back one step, whether it's for navigation or for the sound system or for anything in the vehicle setup.
There is headroom aplenty for the front seat occupants, and the M4 offers a sliver of extra front shoulder room compared to the four-door M3. That changes in the rear seat, though. Even though there is enough legroom and it's quite spacious, with only two seats back there, it's still a tighter fit in both head- and shoulder room than the sedan.
As in any modern coupe, there are plenty of basic amenities like handy cupholders, a phone connection and a USB port. There's a modest amount of storage in the center console and surprisingly useful door pockets. One thing it doesn't have is a dedicated place to put the proximity key when you're not using it.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
The M4's predecessor was never about economy, and neither is this car. It's about performance, but it's also a car that has to live in the real world so BMW boasts that it delivers a 25 percent reduction in emissions and consumption over the old M3 Coupe.
Its inline 3.0-liter six-cylinder has better economy figures with the heavier dual-clutch transmission than it does with the six-speed manual, though its EPA ratings have yet to be officially delivered.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
With Audi's RS 5 reaching for a pension, it leaves the closest rival as perhaps the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. That car has a V8 and it's not as fast as the M4, not to mention it's gearing up for a redesign of its own.
You could still consider the RS 5, if for no other reason than its Coke-bottle waistline is aging remarkably well, but don't expect it to run with an M4 in winding country even if it does have all-wheel drive.
There's the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, which is heading into its final year of the current body style. In terms of power it's more than a match, but it doesn't have the surgically precise handling that makes the M4 feel so lively. If anything, the M4's abilities bring it into the range of cars like the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and Porsche Cayman S.
Why Should You Consider This Car
It's a brilliant drive in all conditions, with handling accuracy and sheer speed that force you to consider just how much faster you could want a car to be, regardless of how much money you had to spend.
It's also capable of behaving like a relaxed tourer at low speeds before switching into its more frenetic character, and it performs both roles brilliantly. Its engine is a combination of sheer muscle and V8 tones at low revs and screaming urgency above 5,000 rpm, while its handling is entertaining, forgiving and just plain fast.
Coupled to that, it's luxurious and practical, with day-to-day usefulness built in.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car
If you're looking at sheer performance, there are other two-doors at this price point that are faster and more focused — but not by much. There are also more luxurious and comfortable coupes for the price as well, so the M4 is best if you're looking for a compromise between the two.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.