2018 BMW M4 review: Sharper performance means bigger trade-offs

Starting at $68,700
  • Engine Turbocharged, Straight 6 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • MPG 20 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 4
  • Body Type Coupes

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Features 8
  • Design 7
  • Media 8

The Good Tighter handling, more power and light styling revisions included in the optional Performance Package make the M4 a little more fun to drive.

The Bad The M4's optional dual-clutch transmission is terrible around town, ride quality is compromised with the firmer suspension tuning and the twin-turbo six-cylinder engine still doesn't sound great.

The Bottom Line When it comes to driving dynamics, the BMW M4 is tops in the performance coupe class.

The BMW M4 is arguably the benchmark by which all performance coupes are measured. And since its introduction in 2014, BMW has largely done a good job keeping the M4 fresh, and special models like the GTS and forthcoming CS offer even more performance.

Now, if you want something more interesting than the standard M4 but can't afford $135,000 for a GTS, BMW has you covered. An optional Competition Package ups the performance ante at a much friendlier price point.

M4 plus

For $4,750, the Competition Package pulls out an additional 19 horsepower from the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged I6 engine, bringing output from 425 horsepower to 444. Torque, meanwhile, stays steady at 406 pound-feet. BMW says the extra kick results in slightly quicker acceleration. An M4 with the Competition Pack will run to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is one-tenth of a second quicker than a base M4.

An additional 19 horsepower isn't a ton, but it's something.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Competition Package upgrades include specific tuning for the adaptive dampers, steering, an active rear differential, revised stability control and 19-inch forged wheels with the optional 20-inch rollers available. Exterior visual alterations are limited to some gloss black trim and black-chrome exhaust tips. Inside, the Competition model gets special M Sport seats and M stripe accents for the front seatbelts.

A better performer

With my test car's engine, transmission, suspension and steering all set to their most aggressive Sport Plus settings, the M4 turns in immediately and hangs on tight around corners. The 255/35R19 front and 275/35R19 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires offer a ton of grip and there's very little body roll while cornering. The available 15.75-inch front and 14.96-inch rear carbon ceramic brakes offer massive stopping force. My only complaint is that the steering feels unnecessarily over-weighted and lacks any feedback. That's a big bummer.

Carbon ceramic brakes tack on an additional $8,150.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

With peak torque available across a broad 2,350 to 5,500 rpm range, muscling out of corners isn't a problem, but the engine's exhaust note leaves a lot to be desired. When driven hard, the dual-clutch transmission rips off gear changes in short order in both full-automatic and manual modes, though it's not quite as fluid in operation compared to Audi's stellar S-Tronic unit.

Not a perfect daily driver

BMW's dual-clutch transmission is even worse during sedate daily-driving activities. Where Audi's DCT operates with smoothness on par with conventional, torque converter-equipped automatics, the BMW is horrible around town with slow engagement at launches and herky-jerky cog swaps no matter what setting the transmission is in. Performance is so poor here that I strongly urge anyone considering the M4 (or M3) to stick with the standard six-speed manual and not "upgrade" to the $2,900 dual-clutch 'box.

The Competition Pack's sportier adaptive suspension tuning also hinders the M4's daily driving abilities. The ride quality is too firm in Comfort mode; you'll feel harsh impacts from bumps in the road. And speaking of modes, the ability to individually adjust the behavior of the throttle, transmission, suspension and steering may be a turn-off for some -- that's a lot of added complexity. Thankfully, two profiles can be saved and quickly accessed using the M button on the steering wheel.

But it's not all bad when you're just cruising around town. The sport seats are not only great for holding passengers in place through corners, they offer support in all the right places and are super comfortable. Space is serviceable for adults up front and there's enough room in back to carry kids or smaller grown-ups for short trips. Trunk space also isn't shabby with 15.7 cubic feet on offer, and the 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway estimated fuel economy is reasonable, especially considering the M4's output and core mission.

Tech essentials

BMW's iDrive system is on hand to quarterback the infotainment features, with a control dial in the center console surrounded by handy shortcut buttons to easily get to all the important screens. The system quickly jumps between menus and features navigation, a crisp 16-speaker Haman Kardon audio system, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot and Apple CarPlay that BMW shakes you down for an additional $300. Android Auto fans remain left out in the cold, as BMW still doesn't embrace this tech.

On the safety tech front, my M4 test car's menu is a little light, only having a backup camera and optional head-up display. More features like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and parking sensors are available as options.

BMW iDrive will run Apple CarPlay, but not Android Auto.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

How I'd spec it

As tempting as the Competition Package and $8,150 carbon ceramic brakes are, I would pass on both. A base M4 offers better suspension tuning for everyday driving, and it's a lot cheaper.

Give me a standard M4 with the manual transmission and add the Yas Marina Blue Metallic paint job, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors and heated steering wheel (it gets cold in Detroit). All in, my ideal car would sticker for $70,685, which is a far cry from $86,945 of my test car.

By the numbers

With the 2018 BMW M4 starting at $68,695, including $995 destination, it's competitively priced against the $68,495 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe, but is undercut quite a bit by the $64,790 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe. Even in its more potent 444-horsepower Competition Package form, the BMW is outmuscled by the 464-horsepower Caddy and 469-horsepower Benz. I still think the M4 holds the upper hand over the C63 when it comes to handling reflexes, but it's dynamically neck-and-neck with ATS-V.

If you want top-notch handling, the M4 is a good choice.

Roadshow

For those shopping for a high-performance coupe, it comes down to what you value in a car. If you want a sinister-sounding V8 that's capable of laughter-inducing launches from every stoplight, you'll likely gravitate toward the Mercedes. If you're a fan of corner carving and track days, the BMW or Cadillac is probably more your style.

If you truly need something more, maybe the M4 GTS is worth the money after all.

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