M4 Competition

Splendid to drive, M4 Competition probably too much for just rear-wheel drive

I must admit that I was a little confused by this car. I blame BMW’s press info around its launch for that.

Looking for traction that wasn’t there!

So much was made of the impending arrival of the new all-wheel drive BMW M3 and M4 that I really was fully expecting this car to boast all-wheel traction. In fact I even thought it was the AWD xDrive version. So I was surprised by the extent of traction control intervention the first time I planted it. And shocked when the rear end lit up when I first expunged all the nannies.

There was very good reason for that. This BMW M4 Competition is not the xDrive. It’s still the common garden rear-drive version. It may be on the price list, but the AWD one only arrives in October. Odd. Suppose my expectation was heightened by the PR office telling us how much they were looking forward to our views on the difference between this and the M3 4-door. Maybe I took it to mean they were referring to the drive difference. They rather meant the between the coupé and the sedan…

So I was a little annoyed. For my not knowing that the AWD car is only being released around now. Not for it not being what I expected. Point is I was not alone — there were a few of us under the same impression. Still, here’s the rear drive M4 Competition. What’s it like?

M4 is Technically Identical to M3 Competition

In essence this car is technically identical top the M3 Competition 4-door we tested a month or so back. But it’s a completely different proposition as our PR pals suggested. Our antifreeze green test unit even more so — a bit like Kermit on heat. And that makes it a love it or hate it package. Hate it because it really brings out the Hulk-cross-Bugs Bunny front end look that so many complain of. Love it because you’re the arch extrovert. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking!

Sleeker and lower, the coupe also seems longer and wider. But it’s not — it’s the same 4.8 metres long and 1.88m wide on an equal 2.85m wheelbase. The Coupé is however 4 centimetres lower at 1.39 m tall and boasts a pair of sleek, long doors rather than four stubby ones. And all of that is a double-edged sword. It certainly does look more the part. But it’s even more difficult to get into than the M3 that was already a bit like a gym work-out to access and egress.

As noted then, ‘the massive bolsters and the M Sport steering wheel don’t leave much room to clamber through and those trims under your seated balls cramp it even more’. It’s worse in the M4. And becomes a hell of an effort in confined parking bays where the long doors cannot open far enough. That completely compromises access and makes getting in the back in such situations near impossible too.

Six of one. Half a dozen of the other

So there you go — six of one, half a dozen of the other. Sleek looks versus compromised access. Once aboard though, M4 Competition is a splendid place to be. The sea blue and dayglo greeny-yellow leather trimmed carbonfibre M Sport seats are a treat. Once strapped in, you’re splendidly comfy — even if you’re fleshier-framed. Comfortable, bolstered and secure, the seats make you feel that you’re wearing the car.

BMW’s M-specific head-up display and analogue-like digital instrument display are a treat, but the M graphics option is unnatural and confusing. A racecar-like dash on the screen would be so much cooler. M4’s cloud-based sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-packed Live Cockpit Professional infotainment is superb, the tri-zone climate control pleasant and it has every driving nicety you’d ever dream of in there too. Even though its M setup menu is still unnecessarily complex.

Like the M3, the M4 is tautness in superb, without making the car unduly rough or unpleasant. It drives splendidly, handling is sharp, taut and perfectly balanced and the large phallic interactive steering wheel has a splendid feel about it. Positive and perhaps even intuitive, it is most impressive for an electric system. A real world supercar, M4 is also wonderfully noisy with gruff race car-like straight six howl. And its fast. Super fast in fact.

Super Fast for very good reason

It should be. 48 kilowatts and 77 Newton-metres up on the outgoing car, the 227 kW per ton M4 Competition has 375 kW and 650 Nm on tap to its eight-speed torque converter slush box auto. Rather than the old seven-speed dual-clutch trannie. And a M Sport Differential. Add substantial chassis and suspension bracing for record body rigidity and 275/40 front and 285/35-profile Michelin Pilot Sports on those splendid 19-inch forged alloys.

Should you want to go bareback, be warned. Having 650 Nm on tap on the rear axle from just over 2000 rpm demands you drive with circumspection. Ignore that and you could be next on one of those youtube BMW M crash compilations. But if you’re able, you have the space and also the budget for new rear tires on demand, it is huge fun to explore this car’s limits.

Feed the power in gently, learn what it wants and get braver as you gain confidence and knowledge. Soon you understand that M4 Competition likes to be steered by the throttle. Kept just below the threshold its splendid. Calling the rear end lively is however an understatement — be ready to catch it if it breaks traction. And when it does, this M3 becomes a drift master of note


If that’s all so impressive, then the brakes are at another level. M-specific BMW Integrated Braking reacts viciously and feels ruthless with an almost raucous whirring roar when pushed as those monster calipers squash M4’s giant punched and vented composite rotors.

We enjoyed a splendid few days with the BMW M4 Competition. This wild yellow-green hue attracted even more attention than that face, which seems to be coming a little more accepted now. That said, not all the feedback was pleasant. Some people seem to become hostile against drivers of Beemers like this on sight, for some reason.

It’s a great car overall. One may become a little fatigued in the seats on a longer run and that may call for more regular coffee breaks. And the side mirrors create a blind spot when you sit too low in the car.

We’d Wait for the All Wheel Drive One

Looked at rationally however, like the early-run M3 we drove a few weeks back, the BMW M4 Competition probably has too much grunt to be only rear-wheel driven. In fact it’s better not to turn the traction control off.

And that just makes me want to meet that the all-wheel drive M4 xDrive Competition so much more. So much so that were I in the market for one, I’d be inclined to wait for it. It has everything this car has – including rear wheel drive on demand – and far more too.

And at fifty grand extra as already advertised, that’s hardly a premium. – Michele Lupini

Images: Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: BMW M4 Competition
Engine: 375 kW 650 Nm 3-litre turbo petrol I6
Drive: 8-speed automatic RWD
0-60 km/h:        2.11 sec
0-100 km/h:       3.59 sec
0-120 km/h:       4.70 sec
0-160 km/h:       7.55 sec
400m:             11.5 sec @ 195 km/h
80-120 km/h:      2.29 sec
120-160 km/h:     3.20 sec
VMax:             290 km/h
Fuel:             9.6 l/100 km
CO2:              222 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y Unl./5y 100K km
LIST PRICE:       R1.957M
RATED:            9
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