Tested: 2021 BMW M4 Delivers What Matters (2024)

Do whatever it takes to ignore the new BMW M4's toothy grille and just drive it.

By Tony Quiroga
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From the May 2021 issue of Car and Driver.

Apparently, there's something about having a highly anticipated BMW M car that alters the atmosphere in Los Angeles. Months of blue skies and shorts weather ended as soon as our M4 test car arrived. Of course, correlation does not imply causation, but we're superstitious. A few years ago, a new M2 brought a massive storm during a multiyear drought, and now the M4 brings rain? You'd be a little 'stitious too.

In a desperate attempt to outrun the storm, this particular six-speed-manual M4 spent hours chasing patches of dryness, mostly in vain. As the miles piled up, we were struck by the ease with which the M4 melts away vast distances. With wipers wiping, we relaxed in the leather-wrapped interior fit for a 7-series and kept Waze up on the 10.3-inch touchscreen in hopes of staying a step ahead of the highway patrol.

HIGHS: The ripping pull of the twin-turbo six, there's still a manual and it's lovely, the handling and performance that made M cars famous, plenty comfortable.

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Like its predecessors, the M4 has a thick layer of comfort and daily usability. Even the rear seats offer adult-level space. Leave the adaptive dampers in Comfort—they stiffen on their own as necessary anyway—and single-wheel hits from broken pavement are dispatched with a distant stroke that barely upsets the serenity. When you're cruising at 70 mph, a mellow 69 decibels of engine and tire hum enters the cabin, provided you've disabled M Sound.

M Sound is but one of the features that'll seem like a gimmick to purists. When it's active, valves open to amplify the exhaust and the volume is turned up on the synthesized engine sounds played through the 464-watt audio system's 16 speakers. That digital enhancement is BMW's attempt to augment what little intake sound the twin-turbo engine makes. The gravelly gruffness you get isn't terrible, and it's not offensively loud, either, but it's also not entirely real. At least this M4 allows you to turn it down. In the last-gen M4, we resorted to pulling the audio system's fuse to shut it up.

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Shutting up is something we haven't been willing to do about the wonky steering in late-model BMWs. Fortunately, the M division's tuning has kept us relatively quiet on the subject. The new M4 steers well enough—it's not darty, despite the wheel's mere 2.1 turns lock-to-lock—but it lacks the exacting precision and tactility of the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 that we drove next. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. While the M4's steering is a bit devoid of feedback, it does its job without offending. Just don't drive a GT4, like ever.

Eventually, the skies blued, the sun dried the canyon roads, and it took all of two corners to realize that the M4 has astonishing front-end grip. Much of that is due to the changes BMW made from the F82's setup. It swapped the Michelin Pilot Super Sports for stickier Pilot Sport 4S rubber, widened the front track by 1.5 inches, and increased the section width of both the front tires (from 255 to 275) and the rears (from 275 to 285). There's a total resistance to understeer and a heady 1.03 g's of adhesion on the skidpad.

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LOWS: Competitors have better steering feel, the digital tach is hard to read at a glance, these things are getting kind of big, all the gimmicky settings.

Stressed near its cornering limits, the body remains resolutely flat. While it's not what we'd call nimble—again, the Cayman GT4 colors our opinion here—careful tuning and a 112.5-inch wheelbase (1.8 inches longer than before) foster an unerring stability that engenders trust. Even as speeds and g-forces creep ever higher, there are no missteps or surprises, which removes any worries about painting a guardrail Sao Paulo Yellow.

Those of us whose loved ones think our driving is the reason guardrails exist would be wise to consider the $3800 carbon-fiber seats that hold you like a straitjacket. If you're on the wrong side of 40, climbing in and out of the car elicits involuntary grunts and moans, but the payoff is a warm embrace and a 21-pound weight savings over the standard seats. Once in, you'll notice your legs are separated by a slightly uncomfortable divide in the seat bottom that is intended to evoke racing seats. Like the M4 badging on the headrest, the leg separator is a design element that's sure to inspire oohs and aahs from non-car people and eye rolls from the rest of us.

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BMW calls this interior combo Yas Marina Blue with Yellow Accent. It gave staffers who lived through the 1980s flashbacks of colorful spandex leotards, Jazzercise classes, and The Richard Simmons Show.

VERDICT: The new M4 is a daily driver, a track car, and everything in between.

There's a lot of car here to ooh and aah over. The M4 is now a mere 2.7 inches shorter than the V-10-powered, Bangle-butt M6 from 15 years ago and about the size of a current Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. And compared with the last M4, the new car is 0.7 inch wider and 4.6 inches longer. You notice the dimensions mostly when you're parking. The M4 feels a size smaller when you're having fun, but the scale doesn't lie: This is a big, heavy car. The last M4 manual we weighed came in at 3556 pounds; this one is up to 3709.

The new-to-M4 S58 twin-turbo six helps offset the extra mass, offering 48 more horsepower than the S55 did in the previous gen at its launch. Last year the most powerful manual-trans M4 had 444 horsepower. Stick-shift M4s now offer 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque for $72,795. Unlocking the Competition version's 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet requires an extra $2900 and life with an eight-speed automatic.

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Lemon, named after famed Detroit Tigers center fielder Chet Lemon, is a three-year-old husky–pit bull mix and has been carefully positioned here to make the M4 look better.

Blessed with an imperviousness to vibration, the smooth inline-six doesn't seem to care whether it's idling, at redline, or anywhere between. So you're left studying the multicolored tachometer or, if you select M View, the double-strip tach. Neither is as easy to read as the big analog dials BMW used to fit in its cars. To make your life easier, shift lights pop up to keep you from charging right into the 7200-rpm redline. Row the six-speed and 60 mph goes by in a repeatable 3.8 seconds, with the quarter shooting by in 12.0 seconds at 121 mph. Short, slightly rubbery shifts will bring back memories of BMWs past.

The various settings for steering effort, damping, throttle response, engine sounds, and even the brakes remind us of more recent BMWs. The previous M3/M4 had a million settings, too, and it was the bestselling generation yet, which has only encouraged BMW to continue to offer these choices to buyers.

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BMW honors the snowflake wheels of the Bandit's 1977 Pontiac Trans Am.

But adjusting levels of assist in the steering doesn't add feel, the dampers automatically cinch up as needed without your involvement (so why raise their baseline to jarring?), changing throttle response won't mitigate the inherent delay of a turbocharger, fake engine sounds are disingenuous, and we couldn't discern any difference in the two brake modes. Either way, the $8150 carbon-ceramic brakes are strong and fade-free.

When a car is tuned right, it is right. Letting M4 owners turn the knobs that the development engineers should've dialed in is like giving someone wearing a Beach Boys T-shirt a mixing board in hopes that they'll improve Pet Sounds.

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Two largely illegible side-by-side tachometers mean you'll need the shift lights to avoid the rev limiter.

Admittedly, some of this sounds a bit like an aging E30 owner shouting "Respect your elders!" And we haven't even mentioned the video-game-inspired M Drift Analyzer, which judges how well you can hang the M4's tail out. Actually going out and playing is what's fun, not getting attaboy validation from a computer.

All the M4's adjustability gets to the philosophical headaches born of trying to make cars that'll suit all people. Like the M3s and M4s that came before, this new one has a breadth of capability, merging daily usability with track-day fun, but the old cars that came basically one way were pure and free of gimmicks. Offering a unique and better experience used to be enough. M cars should have the gumption to say, "Don't like how we tuned it? Well, we think you're an idiot. Please leave." Imagine if BMW had applied the confidence of the grille to the final tune. Wouldn't it be nice?

Tested: 2021 BMW M4 Delivers What Matters (9)

Tested: 2021 BMW M4 Delivers What Matters (10)

Tested: 2021 BMW M4 Delivers What Matters (11)



2021 BMW M4

front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

$97,645 (base price: $72,795)

twin-turbocharged and intercooled inline-6, aluminum block and head
183 in3, 2993 cm3
473 hp @ 6250 rpm
406 lb-ft @ 2650 rpm

6-speed manual

Suspension (F/R): multilink/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 15.7-in vented, cross-drilled carbon-ceramic disc/15.0-in vented, cross-drilled carbon-ceramic disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, F: 275/35ZR-19 (100Y) ★ R: 285/30ZR-20 (99Y) ★

Wheelbase: 112.5 in
Length: 189.1 in
Width: 74.3 in
Height: 54.8 in
Passenger volume: 91 ft3
Trunk volume: 12 ft3
Curb weight: 3709 lb

60 mph: 3.8 sec
100 mph: 8.3 sec
160 mph: 24.6 sec
1/4 mile: 12.0 sec @ 121 mph
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.2 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 7.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 6.4 sec
Top speed (mfr's claim): 180 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 146 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 291 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 1.03 g

Observed: 17 mpg

Combined/city/highway: 19/16/23 mpg


Tested: 2021 BMW M4 Delivers What Matters (12)

Tony Quiroga


Tony Quiroga is an 18-year-veteran Car and Driver editor, writer, and car reviewer and the 19th editor-in-chief for the magazine since its founding in 1955. He has subscribed to Car and Driver since age six. "Growing up, I read every issue of Car and Driver cover to cover, sometimes three or more times. It's the place I wanted to work since I could read," Quiroga says. He moved from Automobile Magazine to an associate editor position at Car and Driver in 2004. Over the years, he has held nearly every editorial position in print and digital, edited several special issues, and also helped produce C/D's early YouTube efforts. He is also the longest-tenured test driver for Lightning Lap, having lapped Virginia International Raceway's Grand Course more than 2000 times over 12 years.

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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

I am an expert and enthusiast. I have access to a wide range of information and can provide insights on various topics. I can help answer questions, provide information, and engage in discussions. If you have any specific questions or topics you'd like to explore, feel free to ask!

Now, let's discuss the concepts mentioned in this article.

2021 BMW M4

The article discusses the 2021 BMW M4, a high-performance sports car. The M4 is part of BMW's M series, which represents the brand's performance-oriented vehicles. It is known for its powerful engine, precise handling, and sporty design.

Tooth Grille

The article mentions the "toothy grille" of the new BMW M4. The grille refers to the front grille design of the car, which has a distinctive and polarizing appearance. It has a large, vertically oriented kidney-shaped grille with prominent vertical slats, giving it a unique and aggressive look.

Driving Experience

The article highlights the driving experience of the BMW M4. It mentions the ease with which the car covers long distances, the comfort of the interior, and the handling and performance that made M cars famous. The M4 is praised for its powerful engine, comfortable ride, and overall driving dynamics.

Interior Features

The article mentions several interior features of the BMW M4. It describes the leather-wrapped interior, the 10.3-inch touchscreen display, and the comfortable rear seats that offer adult-level space. It also mentions the M Sound feature, which amplifies the exhaust sound and can be adjusted or turned off.

Steering and Handling

The article discusses the steering and handling of the BMW M4. It states that the M4 steers well, although it lacks the exacting precision and tactility of some competitors, such as the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. However, it praises the front-end grip of the M4, which is attributed to changes made by BMW, including wider tires and increased track width.

Dimensions and Weight

The article mentions the dimensions and weight of the BMW M4. It states that the new M4 is 0.7 inches wider and 4.6 inches longer than the previous generation. It also mentions that the M4 is a big and heavy car, with a curb weight of 3709 pounds.

Engine and Performance

The article discusses the engine and performance of the BMW M4. It mentions that the new M4 is powered by a twin-turbocharged inline-6 engine, known as the S58 engine. The engine produces 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque in the base version, while the Competition version offers 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The article also mentions the acceleration times of the M4, with a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds.

Adjustability and Settings

The article mentions the various adjustable settings in the BMW M4. It states that the car offers different settings for steering effort, damping, throttle response, engine sounds, and brakes. However, it also mentions that some of these settings may not significantly affect the driving experience or add to the overall feel of the car.

Pricing and Options

The article briefly mentions the pricing of the BMW M4. It states that the base price for the manual transmission version is $72,795, while the Competition version with more power and an automatic transmission requires an additional $2900. The article also mentions optional features, such as carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon-fiber seats.

Please let me know if there's anything specific you would like to know about the concepts mentioned in the article or if you have any other questions!

Tested: 2021 BMW M4 Delivers What Matters (2024)
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