BMW’s new M4 also has up to 503 horsepower, optional all-wheel drive and tons of track-ready tech. But the seats are what really matters.
Yes, this actually is the brand-new 2021 BMW M4, and yes, it really does have the same massive kidney grille as the regular 4 Series. (Well, they’re a little different, but I’ll get to that.) And again yes, I know you probably hate the grille, as most of the Roadshow staff does as well. But the new generation of M4 is so much more than just the wild front-end styling — it also has a wild-looking pair of seats. I’ll get to those later too.
What you really need to know about the new BMW M4 is that it’s more powerful, quicker, wider, heavier, faster, and filled with way more tech than the current model. (BMW also unveiled the 2021 M3 sedan, which is mechanically the same as this two-door and has the same controversial front end but deserves its own story.)
I’ll get performance out of the way first. The 2021 M4 uses a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, an upgraded version of the same engine found in the X3 M and X4 M. Like the new M3 (and the current-generation model), the M4 is available in both ‘base’ trim and with a Competition package. The standard car has 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque while the Competition gets 503 horses and 479 lb-ft, up 48 hp from the current M4 and 59 hp and 73 lb-ft from the current M4 Competition.
While the base car gets a six-speed manual as the only transmission option, an eight-speed automatic is the sole transmission for the Competition. BMW says the manual is 50 pounds lighter than the automatic and offers better weight distribution, and it gets a rev-matching function that can be turned on or off. The automatic, on the other hand, has three different modes to toggle through.
BMW claims that the regular M4 will do 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds, matching the outgoing car, while the M4 Competition will do it in 3.8 seconds, 0.2 second quicker than the outgoing Competition. Top speed is limited to the German standard of 155 mph but with the optional M Driver’s package that gets raised to 180, an increase of 6 mph over the 2020 model.
In a first for the M3/M4, all-wheel drive will become available in summer 2021 as an option for models equipped with the Competition pack. An active rear diff sends torque solely to the rear wheels until more traction is needed at the front, and like on the current M5, the M4’s xDrive system will have a 2WD mode for maximum drift action.
Every M4 gets an adaptive suspension setup, variable-ratio steering with two specific modes, a special mode for the stability-control system that allows for more slip, and brakes with adjustable pedal feel (larger carbon-ceramics brakes are optional). An M Drive Professional package that adds a Track driving mode as well as a new 10-stage adjustable traction-control system that’s accessed through an iDrive menu.
BMW assures us that the new M4 is more agile and better to drive than before, but we’ll have to wait until we get our hands on one to find out.
Right, onto the styling. BMW says the new M3 and M4 are more differentiated from the non-M cars than ever before, and that seems accurate. The massive kidney grille from the regular 4 Series is present, but on the M the kidneys have a skinnier and more angular shape and are actually bisected by bodywork — on the normal 4 the surrounding trim visually connects them. The M4’s kidneys also have horizontal slats instead of the 4’s strange not-mesh pattern, and their shape is echoed by indentations in the hood. Before you moan too much about how the grille looks, keep in mind that BMW says it was “designed to feed the massive amounts of air needed for fulfilling the cooling requirements under the most rigorous conditions.” Function over form!
Kidneys aside, the M4’s front end is fairly tame for a modern M car. Intakes flanking the kidneys feed cooling air to both the brakes and the engine, and they are surrounded by angled surfacing and vertical ‘air curtain’ intakes at the edges of the bumper that gives the impression of a smiling mouth. The deeper side skirts have a gloss black lower edge that also appears on the front splitter and rear diffuser, which BMW says is inspired by race cars and actually has aero benefits. The boxy rear bumper has vertical reflectors, while the diffuser houses two sets of large exhaust tips that have multiple noise level modes.
Compared to the 2020 M4 the new car is 4.6 inches longer, 0.7 inch wider, 0.4 inch taller and has a 1.8-inch-longer wheelbase, and base M4 is 205 pounds heavier than the 2020 model, while the slightly heavier Competition is only a 195-pound increase. The 2020 M4 is also 1.4 inches wider overall than a 2021 4 Series coupe. The flared fenders allows for a 1.5-inch-wider front track and there’s a faux vent styling element up front, but overall the widebody look isn’t as apparent as on the M3 sedan. The M4 gets a staggered set of wheels as standard, sized 275/40ZR-18 up front and 285/35ZR-19 in the back. Competition models are upgraded to a 275/35ZR-19 front and 285/30ZR-20 rear set, with each wheel package using non-runflat performance tires.
As standard the M4 has a roof made from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), which lowers the center of gravity, but a steel roof with a sunroof is a no-cost option. The regular M4 is available with a Shadowline package that blacks out lots of the exterior trim and is standard on the Competition model, while buyers of the Competition can spec some of those gloss-black components in body color to look like the regular model. There’s a carbon-fiber exterior package as well, and the M4 is offered in six new colors, including the Sao Paolo Yellow you see here.
Okay now onto to my favorite part. Look at those freakin’ seats! They’re insane! What you see in these photos are the new optional M Carbon bucket seats, which are 21 pounds lighter than the standard seats and can positioned lower. These electrically powered front seats use CFRP and have a number of cutouts on the seatbacks and the the side bolsters, as well as a fixed headrest and an illuminated M4 logo. These seats also allow for multipoint seatbelts as a factory option, although that will not be offered in the US.
It’s not just the design of the seats that I’m loving, though — it’s the color combo. The searing Sao Paolo Yellow paint worn by the M4 in these photos is set off by an absolutely wild Yas Marina Blue, Yellow and Black combo on the inside that makes use of leather, Alcantara and interesting perforated details. If this is too much for you, there are three other tamer options to choose.
Seats and color aside, changes to the interior are fairly tame. There’s a new steering wheel with two configurable driving-mode buttons and a pair of massive paddles for automatic models, an M-specific electronic shifter, and a bunch of red accents and M badges. Aluminum trim is standard but gloss-black or carbon-fiber trim is optional.
Every M4 will have a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 10.25-inch central touchscreen using BMW’s latest iDrive 7 system. Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an intelligent voice assistant and BMW’s ConnectedDrive services are all included. The M4 gets unique displays for the two screens and the available head-up display, and the optional M Drive Professional package I mentioned earlier also adds features like a laptimer, drift analyzer, data recorder and other useful track-day displays. It can also pair with the driver’s smartphone, and info can be shared online.
The 2021 M4 comes with a ton of other features as standard, like ambient lighting, keyless entry, a Harman-Kardon sound system, automatic high beams, heated seats and parking sensors. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning are all standard as well, while only the Competition model is available with the Driving Assistance Professional package that adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go and traffic-jam assist, active lane-keeping assist, and a few other features. Other options include gesture controls, ventilated seats, a power trunk and adaptive headlights with lasers.
When the new M4 goes on sale in March 2021 it will start at $72,795 including destination, a modest increase of $2,650 compared to the 2020 model. On the flip side the Competition package only costs $2,900 for the new car, a savings of $1,850 against the 2020 M4’s Comp pack. We don’t yet know pricing for the AWD system or any of the other options; that info should come in the near future.
In addition to this M4 coupe and the M3 sedan, there will also be an M4 convertible and potentially an M4 Gran Coupe. And while Europe will get an M3 wagon for the first time ever, that longroof variant will sadly be kept away the US.
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