BMW M4: The Car That Matters

Choosing the right car in today's world is not an easy task.  How do you balance ride comfort with handling? Engine performance with fuel economy? Agility with practicality? And then there are choices. Choices of cars that may seem very similar but at the same time so different. 

Yet there is always one car that seems to be targeting all these aspects and has been loved by enthusiast across the world - BMW M3.  For 2014 release BMW followed its bold strategy and gave the automobile icon a new name - M4.

BMW took its time introducing the M4 to Japan as it has been a long 7 months since we first saw the nearly finalized concept at Tokyo Motor Show.  As first owners are taking deliveries I was lucky enough to see a finished product in beautiful Austin Yellow paint with my own eyes.

It may also be worth saying that the first BMW M4 I see on the street is the one I get to drive; but before we get inside and fire up the engine, let's go over the design and features.

BMW has gone through a lot of hard work in preparing the design of the M4 and the 4 series coupe.  After all, the E92 was already a great looking car, so making the successor even better is a significant challenge. Nonetheless, looking at this design, it is clear that BMW has done their homework and managed to do just that. The sleek curved roof is contrasted by straight body lines resembling an arrow flying though air. 

The narrow inward pointing headlights give the front fascia incredibly modern look while traditional BMW kidney grille and halo LED's help preserve the design heritage of the Bavarian brand.  The M model blends function and style perfectly in the aerodynamic features.  The front splitter gives the car that aggressive and sporty look, as well as channels air to increase down-force and cool the brakes.

The rear gets plenty of M characteristics as well, starting with aggressive functional splitter and the signature M quad exhaust.  The L shaped tail lights have been redesigned on the 4 series coupe to match the trend of narrow more elegant layout.

As with any flagship BMW models, attention to details is sublime.  Every square inch of the car has been worked on to ensure that the owner stays happy and excited.

BMW's are known for their wide track and aggressive offset.  The M4 took this a step further as the car barely passed regulations.

The air vents have been implemented on the 4 series but redesigned and made fully functional on the M4. 

Our test car came with optional 19 inch wheels fitted with Michelin PSS tires measuring 35/245 front and 30/275 in the rear.  This should ensure that there is plenty of contact with the road at all times.

Carbon roof completes the car that can only be described as a perfect execution of style and function.

As expected, there is no sign of slowing down on the inside, as interior is done to BMW's highest standards of comfort, functionality and ergonomics.

The layout follows the same principles as we witnessed in the 3 series and even the M135i, which may put some buyers off as nobody wants to see an 11 million yen car resemble a lower grade vehicle with half the price tag.  This concern is instantly waived off as the basic layout is the only carried over feature.  All materials have been reworked with carbon fiber trim taking place of aluminum looking plastic.  There is a lot more leather everywhere and customer can take this even further by ordering optional full leather dash turning the car into a real luxury sport coupe.  BMW also uses the latest version of the Idrive infotainment system with very high resolution screen and touch sensitive controller.

Perhaps the most important part of the interior are the seats and that's where BMW have excelled.  The adjustable side bolsters do excellent job of holding the occupants during corners, while seat itself provides perfect cushioning without making driver lose concentration or cause any signs of fatigue.

As well as the accommodating cabin the size of the trunk reminds about the multifunctional character of the car.  The deep and wide trunk can easily fit a suitcase and a few bags making this car a road trip dream.

Consistent with exterior, interior is fitted with nice touches and attention to detail.  As with any BMW, there are plenty of knobs and buttons for owner to play with.

The lever in the center, however, reminds of the new direction that BMW has taken with technology of their cars.  Following the popular trend of the M line-up, the M4 is available with state of the art dual clutch 7 speed gear box capable of 100ms shift times automatically or with paddles on the steering wheel.

These quick shift times and instant response is exactly what's needed to transfer all the power and torque from the twin turbocharged S55 inline-six 3 litter engine to the road. While having similar power output to its V8 predecessor(425HP, with E92 rated at 414), acceleration performance has been significantly improved because of significant increase in torque.  The S55 delivers incredible 550NM in 1200 to 5000RPM range, while the E92 M3's was rated at 400NM at 3900RPM.

As we got familiar with the numbers and features, the most obvious thing to do was to find out how all works together as a package during a daily use and go for a drive.  The test drive route was a combination of fairly wide streets in central Tokyo with sunny Saturday morning ensuring that roads remain empty.  Plenty of room to gallop, but I had to watch out for overzealous police officers in constant search of revenue. 

There are plenty of opportunity for acceleration, braking, and taking a corners harder than usual, all of which the car did extremely effortlessly.  Opening up on a wide street was accompanied by pleasant sound of amplified engine growl and raspy exhaust note.  The car feels incredibly alive above 3000RPM, but cruising below this mark is relaxing and comfortable.  Seating position, a1 is spot on and visibility is superb.  Even with such insane performance numbers the car is smooth and easy to drive.  While the dual clutch transmission is lighting quick and sharp during acceleration, it is also very smooth and perfectly suitable for daily use.  BMW did over-engineer some parts, making simple things like selecting "park" harder that it's supposed to be, but I don't see this as a deal breaker.

There are a few minor things that may need to be getting use to, but overall, driving this car in any manner is an extremely pleasant experience. 

It is hard to even begin to elaborate on how far the automotive industry has taken us as it seems like not so long ago we were talking about sacrifices we needed to make when acquiring a performance car!  As I was trying to digest the experience of that test drive, the dealer went into garage and drove out in...

..this gorgeous Yas Marina Blue M3 sedan!  Due to recent addition to the family, the rear doors are strangely attractive to me, and my affection to blue cars has been pretty evident.

Proportions also make the car extremely attractive, while addition of wider fenders and side vents transforms this sedan into an incredibly desirable machine.

On the inside however, it is exactly the same as the M4.  So much for sacrifices, I guess.

So there we have it, what could be labeled as most anticipated car of 2014 has been driven and I can officially sign off on a statement that it was worth every part of the hype.  BMW have done it again, but this time they delivered a lot more than the ultimate driver's machine.  This time it's absolute joy to own and use every day regardless whether you are a track addicted race driver or a casual city cruiser.

Cost of Ownership:
4/5
This is a mulch-purpose car, taking it to track will generate higher costs, however with its eco-pro mode the car can be used as daily driver without breaking the bank. 

Practicality
4/5
This is as practical as mid-sized coupe's get! Sedan gets a 4.5 for rear doors; if BMW decides to make a M4 Gran Coupe or M3 Touring, those would get a full score.

Cabin Comfort
5/5
The interior is simple, but very nicely laid out.  Higher quality materials set it aside from lower grade models, while seats definitely add to comfort and exclusivity.

Appeal
5/5
This could possibly be the best looking BMW yet.  Please do yourself a favor and order one in Austin Yellow or Sakhir Orange, it deserves all attention it can get! Personally, I would settle for Yas Marina Blue M3.


Fun Factor
5/5
The amplified engine grunt, excellent feedback, and low-end torque perfectly contribute to the feeling of momentum.  The car can be enjoyed in numerous ways, a factor that sets it apart from competition.



I would like to extend a special gratitude to Abe Motors for letting me test drive and photograph the F80 and F82.
BMW M4 is available at BMW Japan dealerships across the country starting at 9,953,704 yen for a manual transmission equipped vehicle.  BMW M3 sedan is available in Japan as DCT only and prices start at 11,040,000 yen.

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