2021 BMW M4 Competition review

Coupe shrugs off the weight of expectation

2021 BMW M4 Competition review
Gallery24
9.0/10Score

Things we like

  • Implacable front end
  • Gutsy motor
  • Smart electronics
  • Brakes

Not so much

  • Considerable bulk
  • Styling
  • Crippleware manual decision

I HAVEN’T NAILED Turn One at Phillip Island. Not by any stretch of the imagination. That would normally be cause for some concern and it certainly would have been in the previous generation BMW M4. There, it would have been a case of nervously groping for the limit of grip, prickly heat creeping up your spine as you steeled yourself to react to a poorly telegraphed stab of oversteer at the merest sniff of a lift. Type two fun, in other words.

Fortunately I’m in the all-new BMW M4 Competition and things are a considerably less unnerving. With around 190km/h showing at turn in, the front end engages and never feels as if it’s going to let go. Ease it hard to the smooth inside kerbing and gently feed the throttle. Then, out of sheer curiosity, lift off sharply and completely.

The car settles into neutrality, caster action winnowing away steering effort. After a beat or two, the electronic safety net of M Dynamic Mode awakens and the outside front brake pad skims the disc, a gentle anti-yaw moment to keep things on course. It’s so delicate that its intervention is hard to detect and its job is to make your wholly fallible car control seem heroic. It works.

Some time later you begin to process what just happened. You deliberately unsettled a 375kW coupe that weighs nearly two tonnes with fluids and driver in a corner at nearly twice the national speed limit. That’s just not something you’d do if you didn’t have confidence that the car was fully beneath you and, for keen drivers, that’s as much as they need to know about the generational step forward realised by the new M4 Competition.

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Reassurances are necessary. The G82 generation M4 Competition’s DIN weight of 1725kg is a massive 228kg (or 15.2 per cent) heavier than the first of the previous F82 M4s. Yes, power has increased by 16.8 per cent to compensate, but this has become a very large car to be flinging round a circuit. Its footprint is bigger and it tips the scales heavier than a V10-powered BMW M6 (2005-2010), a car that made 373kW without recourse to turbocharging. You may rightly wonder where the progress has been made.

The obvious answer is largely prosaic stuff like safety, convenience and efficiency. Safety has moved on a great deal in a decade and a 2001 Renault Laguna, the first car to score an EuroNCAP five-star rating, would net zero stars today. And where the old M6 emitted 342g/km, the current M4 Competition breathes a mere 227g/km. But there’s so much more to it than that.

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"With around 190km/h showing at turn in, the front end engages and never feels as if it’s going to let go"

Roll out of pit lane in the M4 Competition and even before you’ve hit the point where you start to eye the door mirrors for huge-grilled projectiles winging along the straight, it’s clear that BMW has created a far more urgent, evocative car than what went before.

The steering initially feels Ferrari-level darty and it takes a little time to key into. The throttle mapping in Sport Plus is similarly overcaffeinated and the initial impression is that Garching has engineered attention-deficit traits into the M4 Comp’s genetics.

That liveliness would be borderline unmanageable without the M4’s bulletproof front end. Even when upsetting the car across kerbs, there’s a genuine sense of lateral rigidity that feeds into the steering and through the chassis, giving the G82 an all-of-a-piece feel. You gain confidence in the M4’s responses way quicker than you think you will because of it and it also helps the car shuck off the impression of weight.

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Body and wheel control is excellent, the new M4 getting aluminium wishbones with ball joints at the front. BMW has increased both caster and kingpin angles and lowered the roll centre. Although the steering doesn’t in fact offer a great deal of communication about what’s going on at the tyre contact patches.

So immediate are its reactions that the M4 has set about feeding forces through the sidewalls of its Pilot Sport 4S tyres and settled into a corner within a split second, allowing you to concentrate on feeding throttle. More than anything, it’s this willingness to rotate on turn-in that belies the considerable kerb weight.

The 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged closed-deck S58 engine needs a few revs on the board to give its best. Try to drive it on torque alone and it’ll feel a bit laggy, but anywhere above 3000rpm and it’s refreshingly linear in its response, right through to around 7000rpm. There’s not that manic rush at the top end of a good atmo unit, but BMW has done a great job of filling the cabin with piped-in sound from around 3500rpm which enables you to make progress satisfyingly without having to endanger your licence by chasing the redline.

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The eight-speed auto ’box shifts as quickly and as smoothly as you could reasonably expect. No it doesn’t bang home shifts with the urgency of a dual-clutch, but it’s certainly no impediment to enjoying the car on track, and the rubber dimple-backed wheel-mounted shift paddles are a tactile delight.

The Dynamic Stability Control goes all the way to zero if required, whereupon you can then select from 10 settings for the M Traction Control. As mentioned previously, the halfway stability setting of M Dynamic Mode is about the best in the business. If it thinks you’re in control of a slide, it lets you have quite some leeway, stepping in sympathetically to correct the vehicle’s trajectory otherwise. There’s also the Drift Analyser which rates your slides out of five stars.

This generation of M3/M4 is shaping up to be the most engaging since the E46 M3 which, given its weight and return to an automatic gearbox for the Competition is a genuine surprise and delight. Three-pedal purists may prefer to wait for the detuned 353kW non-Competition version, due later in the year. That seems a decision with no real wrong answer whichever you choose.

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2021 BMW M4 Competition specs

Engine: 2993cc 6cyl, dohc, twin-turbo
Power: 375kW@ 5510-7500rpm
Torque: 650Nm @ 2750-5500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.9s
Weight: 1725kg
Price: $159,900

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9.0/10Score

Things we like

  • Implacable front end
  • Gutsy motor
  • Smart electronics
  • Brakes

Not so much

  • Considerable bulk
  • Styling
  • Crippleware manual decision

 

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