By Motoring Editor, Maarten Hoffmann
Back in my days at the BBC, l was asked to consult with a London ad agency on the launch of one of their client’s brands. Being a very snotty BBC god, l refused to lower myself to work on a commercial ‘brand’ as that was not the done thing in 1979. We were above such things as soiling ourselves with ‘trade’. Then they sent me the budget and, for some inexplicable reason, l immediately changed my mind. This was my introduction to the ‘real’ world outside of the BBC bubble, and, co-incidentally, it was to launch the BMW M Series range of merchandise. And very nice it was too but l was not totally convinced until they invited me to drive an M Series car. Low and behold, they let me have the M1 for the day. That was my quite incredible introduction to the M Series. One of those has just sold for £603,000.
Now those lovely folk at BMW have delivered an M4 Competition Pack to my drive, as l presume the M4 is not quite quick enough! This is the first significant upgrade to the M4 since its launch in 2014 and it offers more power, a new suspension with new springs and adaptive dampers, 20” tyres and an upgraded exhaust. The 3-litre straight six twin-turbo continues but they have managed to tease out an extra 19bhp, bringing it to 444bhp, which cuts a tenth of a second from the 0-62 time to 4 seconds.
The standard M3 & M4 have always been= great cars but there was a tendency to be slightly unpredictable on the limit and it certainly kept you awake. The CP has sorted this out although it is still a car that keeps your eyes wide open when under full power. Is there too much power for the chassis? The engine feels like it is trying to rip itself free from its mountings. It’s a very angry car, some might say, furious.
The optional carbon ceramic brakes are astonishing. I approached a left turn l needed a tad late and in any normal car l would of carried on and turned around when possible but the M4 needed no such consideration. Stand on the brake and this behemoth will leave bruises across your chest from the seatbelt. They are remarkable and caused me to almost miss every turn all day! Beware though of those folk in ‘normal’ cars behind you as they will be mightily surprised and will never stop as fast as you do.
Being front engine and rear wheel drive it is, shall we say, lively under power. There has always been a tendency for the back end of M3 and M4 models to come around to visit the front end under eager gear changes whilst cornering and that is only slightly improved here and a trigger happy right foot in the wet brings a recommendation that you file your last will and testament before you set off. But then, it would not be an M Series if a vicar could drive it now would it? If you feel the standard M4 is a bit of a handful, here you will need much larger hands. The ride is very firm no matter how many settings you tweak although the excellent seats hold you well.
The interior is what you would expect from Munich. It is beautifully put together with great bolstered seats and although some reviews remark on squeaks and groans, l heard no such thing. The steering wheel is a tad too fat for me as you can’t quite get the tight grip you want (and need) but there is nothing else to moan about it. The M stripe seats belts are a nice touch as are the M4 lights in the back of the seats. I am a great fan of head-up displays and this £825 option is a vital bolt-on and the iDrive media system seems easier to use than the vastly complex system l first used but then l am probably just getting used to it. Rear seat access is not great but then try getting two
passengers into the back of a 911 and taking them more than 100 metres. If that’s a major concern, buy the M3 saloon but don’t wail when these things come charging past.
If this is not quick enough for you, either visit your shrink or go for the fastest BMW out there – the M4 GTS. 500bhp and a hater of all speed bumps, you will need £122,000 and it really is a track day car. A phenomenal, albeit bloody expensive, track day car. Competition comes in the form of the Mercedes C63 AMG and at 469bhp, it outguns the M4, whilst the S version offers 503bhp.
Until the new Audi RS5 arrives, this could be seen as the alternative to the 911, as it is £16,000 cheaper and offers 83 more horses, if not quite the badge envy of the Porsche. The Competition Pack is only an extra £3000 over the standard car and really is a must have. The company expect more than 70% of M4 sales to be the CP. Write your will and buy the M4 CP – you will not regret it.
Model tested: M4 Competition Pack
Engine: 3-litre straight six twin turbo
Performance: 0-60mph 4.0 seconds
Top speed: 155mph limited
Economy: 32.1 combined