It’s almost possible to forgive the giant buck-toothed grille on the front of the new BMW M4. Almost.
The rest of the car is so good that the frontal treatment that’s carried across from the regular 3-Series range becomes more like a beauty spot – a giant beauty spot – than a fundamental flaw in what remains one of the world’s great driving cars.
Generations of M3 and M4 hotrods have been headliners for BMW around the world since the 1980s and hit the spot for owners who love to drive.The newest M4, especially in the car’s signature Sao Paulo Yellow – like an acid green or a crazy yellow cocktail – makes an incredible statement that turns heads and draws admirers at the shop and in the service station. It is proof that the younger generation is still drawn to fast combustion cars in 2021, even if electrification is the future.
To drive, the new M4 as different as possible from earlier raucous M3s and yet it delivers the same driving enjoyment that makes you smile. It’s not just the turbo engine, or the taut chassis, or the snap-quick auto shifts, but the whole combination.
The raw numbers are impressive, from the 375 kiloWatts of twin-turbo power to the $159,900 starting price, but it is always the feedback and enthusiasm that makes the M4 Competition such a compelling contender against hotrod rivals including the Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS5 Coupe.
The M4 is the two-door twin to the more family-friendly four-door M3 and, as delivered for testing, there are some compromises. The competition-style bucket seats are very difficult for entry and exit, have a crazily-shaped centre section that forces your legs apart and makes left-foot braking tough, and will not suit everyone. Perhaps not anyone.
And, in the minor gripes that really only focus on a car that’s easy to push to $190,000 with options like the carbon-ceramic brakes, the rim of the steering wheel if far too fat for some people. That means me.
The latest M4 Competition has a tweaked twin-turbo six-cylinder engine and an old-school torque-convertor automatic that combine to make big numbers and impressive punch. It’s a genuinely, seriously fast car that could really only be pushed to the limit on a racetrack.
But that’s not the point. Because the M4 has so much grunt all the time, it’s easy to roll around on any set of corners and enjoy the experience at any speed. The creamy auto and smooth power delivery, even with a little turbo hesitation, makes the car a delight. Turn the package to the more-aggressive settings, up to the full Track experience that’s definitely Not for the road without any electronic safety net, and it comes alive like a snarling beast.
But it doesn’t have to be a beast, and that’s what makes the latest M4 a car for today and not like most of the earlier BMW M cars starting from the original four-cylinder models in the 1980s and powering through the howling sixes of the 1990s. It is quiet until the fat tyres hit a concrete road, the infotainment package is great, there are big digital displays and a heads-up display in the screen, and all the materials are top-class including the carbon-fibre shift paddles.
The boot is good, the back seat – once you get past the awkward front buckets – is good for two adults, and the headlights are great with brilliant brakes.So there is a lot of like, and even love, in the new M4.
And one of the best things is that, once you’re at the wheel and smiling away, you cannot see the awful grille.
BMW M4 COMPETITION
Price: from $159,900
Engine: 3-litre petrol twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Position: luxury sports sedan
Plus: performance, enjoyment
Minus: tricky seats, price-tag
THE TICK: another M star