by: Mike Ginsca,
The BMW M4 is the BMW M3 but in coupe form. Since its inception with the E30 generation back in the 1980’s, the BMW M3 has been the benchmark for all other sports sedans to try to keep up with. 2020 marks the last year of the 5th generation (F82/83) of the BMW M4/M3 and it will be replaced by an all-new model based on the new BMW 3-series. So is the BMW M4 still the benchmark for all luxury sports cars? Or is it starting to show cracks in the armour?
Engine – A 3.0L twin-turbocharged inline-6 cylinder engine produces the grunt for the M4. It can develop 425 hp between 5,500 to 7,300 rpms and 406 lb-ft of torque between 1,850 and 5,500 rpms. This broad range of power and torque is what gives the M4 that “kick in your back” feeling which driving enthusiasts want. However, this particular demo vehicle came equipped with the Competition package which bumped the power to 444 hp. BMW claim a 0-100 km/h sprint of 4.4 seconds for this cabriolet version with the DCT transmission. From behind the steering wheel, it definitely feels that fast. The digits on the heads-up display quickly reach triple numbers and just become a blur as the acceleration feels relentless in the BMW M4.
With this much power, you’d expect fuel economy to be poor. And you’d be somewhat right. EnerGuide rates the BMW M4 Cabriolet with the DCT at 14.5 L/100km (16.2 mpg) in a city and 10.5 L/100km (22.4 mpg) on a highway. During my time with the M4, I averaged 12.6 L/100km which is not bad but admittedly I drove the BMW M4 mostly on clear, twisty mountain roads and not a whole lot of city start/stop traffic.
Transmission – The 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) in the BMW M4 Cabriolet is not quite on par with the PDK that is available in the Porsche 911. However, the M4’s DCT is miles better than the first iteration of this transmission when it was first launched in the V8 powered BMW M3.
In its softest settings, the transmission shifts are smooth and it quickly tries to get to top gear for the best fuel economy. Switch it to its most aggressive settings and it holds rpms for the best engine response and the shifts are faster but also more noticeable. You can take over via the gear selector or the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The DCT’s response to driver inputs is very quick, however, from time to time it delays an upshift until certain parameters are met. I noticed this mostly midway through corners while trying to upshift and it makes sense to delay a shift until the steering angle is more centered. But it takes away from the driver’s control which is why for those that want to be in complete control, a 6-speed manual is available.
Braking – The braking performance of the M4 is just as impressive as the acceleration. 4-piston fixed calipers and large drilled & ventilated front discs stop the 1,700 kg car with little effort both in daily driving and under more aggressive applications. If it’s not enough braking performance for you, carbon ceramic brakes are available for a mere $9,500 CAD. Forward collision alert & automatic emergency braking are standard on the BMW M4.
Handling – BMW M cars have always been known for their excellent and communicative steering. The 2020 BMW M4 is …. well a bit different than the previous models. It was one of the first M cars to receive electro-assisted steering rather than the traditional hydraulic assisted steering. The intent is to reduce the parasitic draw from the engine to improve performance and efficiency. But the downfall of electro-assisted steering systems, is that they don’t provide the same crisp feedback to the driver as older hydraulic systems do. With the M4, I want to say that it doesn’t affect it, but it does. Just a bit.
When turning the steering wheel to go into a corner, it feels direct and has good feedback to your fingertips. It’s mainly on center that it feels artificial and as though it’s not quite connected to the front wheels. It’s a weird feeling to describe but so long as you’re driving on twisty roads, the M4 feels as a BMW should. Fantastic.
Ride Comfort – As part of the Ultimate Package, this M4 Cabriolet came equipped with Adaptive Suspension. It can change the stiffness of the suspension between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ at the touch of a button. While the overall stiffness of the suspension is firmer than a normal luxury convertible, it is not unbearable for city streets in Comfort mode. Moderate to severe bumps, however, will be very uncomfortable when driving over them with the setting in Sport+. So it’s best to use that suspension setting for when on a smooth road or a racetrack.
Interior Space – The front seats are superbly comfortable and provide good support for your back and legs. Front passenger space is plentiful even if you’re tall like myself at 6’4”. I did not hit my head with the roof up nor did my head stick out above the windshield with the roof down. The rear seats though are not meant for adults and are better suited for children or as a place to put extra belongings that don’t fit in the trunk. With the roof down, the trunk space is minuscule as it’s there to accommodate the metal folding roof. At most you can fit two small backpacks with the roof stowed away. With the roof up, there is a more reasonable amount of room in the trunk and the rear seats can be folded for longer items.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – A feature that some may not want with the Ultimate Package is the Active Sports exhaust. It can make the car very loud. To my surprise though, the metal folding roof insulates the exhaust note very well along with road and wind noise. There is still a noticeable amount of road noise from the tires at highway speeds but this demo vehicle had been equipped with winter tires which are always noisier than summer tires.
However, drop the top, put the engine in Sport+, and you will have a varying amount of exhaust noises coming from the back. Going up the rpm range, you hear the inline-6 engine scream into life. Let off the throttle and the bangs and burbles coming from the exhaust sound like thunder rumbling in the distance on a hot summer evening. Other auto journalists say that this engine doesn’t produce the nice tones that the old V8 or even older inline-6 engines produced but I’m not one of those journalists. I really like the sounds coming from this generation of inline-6 engine.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The standard BMW M4 Convertible starts at a reasonable $88,500 CAD. But this being a BMW, the options list is a long one. Before you know it, the BMW M4 can end up costing $130,000 CAD (before fees & taxes and including the $9,500 carbon ceramic brakes). For your money you get safety features such as lane departure warning, blind spot sensors, emergency automatic braking, adaptive LED headlights, convenience features such as surround view, wireless phone charging, WiFi hotspot, head-up display, Apple CarPlay, and parking sensors. But of course you’re paying more for the performance of the car rather than all of the gadgets. The only gadgets it’s really missing are ventilated front seats (especially for a convertible) and Android Auto.
Exterior Design – Because the M4 shares the same platform as the four-door M3, it’s quite a long sports car. On the coupe, the rear quarter panels are almost half the length of the car and the roof joins smoothly into the trunk. On this Cabriolet, the roof has a more abrupt end into the trunk. If anything, it resembles more the old E46 generation coupe. The rest of the M4’s design is all about bold and powerful lines. There’s a power bulge on the hood, the fenders are flared, and the front bumper has carbon fiber trim and lip spoiler. I like the look of it.
Interior Design – The interior is not quite as bold as the exterior but it does have lashings of carbon fiber trim that contrasts nicely with the white leather. The driver displays are a mix of analog gauges and a digital screen along the lower half to show the trip computer and vehicle warnings. The central screen can be controlled by touch or by the rotary knob and just underneath the air vents are a row of buttons for your favourite options. However you don’t need to remember what each button is for because as soon as you start sliding your finger along the buttons, a readout of what each button function does appears on the main screen.
My only complaint of the interior is the gear selector. It has D, and N, and R, and a manual mode but no P. I had to resort to YouTube to try and figure out how to put the car into Park. It sounds simple to do but it’s not intuitive at all. On some cars, there’s a P button or you have to shift the transmission to Neutral and then shut off the engine to get it into Park. But on the M4, you leave it in Drive and then push the engine start/stop button which then automatically puts it into park. No other car I’ve driven, even the Lamborghini Gallardo or Aston Martin DB9, have such an unintuitive “Park” feature. It makes sense but what’s wrong with a Park button? /rant
Apart from that little annoyance, I really, really like the BMW M4. It has enough power for daily commuting or blasting around a race track. It turns heads wherever it goes. It’s comfortable enough for most people’s needs. And if you need more space, there’s a four-door version in the M3. Yes, the competition from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and even Cadillac have caught up to it. But for 2021 there will be a new one, which I’m fairly certain will re-raise the benchmark for all others to try to reach.
Thank you to BMW Canada for providing the vehicle. www.BMW.ca