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2014 BMW M4 Overview
BMW has decided to make the 2-door and 4-door editions of its legendary M3 wholly separate vehicles, so naturally the 4-door version would retain the M3 signature, while the 2-door coupe becomes the M4.
Don’t worry if you’re confused—the rest of the world is, too. But more than sloppy signifiers, there are a trunkload of new changes for the fire-breathing Duo-Door Deutsche Dagger.
So how does one go about making a new “M” machine? BMW starts with the F30 platform and tweaks it a bit for some extra performance. That means more aluminum, carbon and even magnesium to keep weight down and rigidity up. But the shocking news this year comes with a new powerplant, a turbocharged inline 6-cylinder that stands as the smallest M engine since the legendary 2.3-liter that powered the original.
Last year, a 4.0-liter V8 sat beneath the bulging hood of the M3, breathing the way god intended—naturally. And while BMW certainly has a special relationship with the inline 6, it’s the turbochargers that break from tradition in the new M4.
And what a way to go.
The low-inertia twin turbos in the M4 fill that honking hood bulge with a water-to-air intercooler fitted on top of the engine, and with a magnesium sump below, this inline 6 weighs in at 22 pounds lighter than the outgoing V8. More than that, it simply crushes the bigger mill in terms of power with 11 more hp and an astonishing 110 lb-ft of extra torque, adding up to a street-shredding 143 hp per liter. Put in different terms, that’s 284 hp per ton, 1 better than the Carrera S.
What’s better, the M4's 406 lb-ft of torque show up at just 1,850 rpm, sticking around until 5,500, when the 425 hp show up to escort you all the way to the engine's 7,300-rpm redline. Those numbers add up to one thing: the most powerful production engine in an M car to date.
And for that, BMW thought it should use a new gearbox. This Getrag-produced 6-speed manual utilizes dry-sump lubrication, carbon-ceramic friction linings and a double-plate clutch. With shorter ratios and a 3.46 final drive, this cog-swapper is 26 pounds lighter than its predecessor. If rowing your own isn’t on your list of skills, take the optional 7-speed double clutch from the M5. I promise, no one will make fun of you.
I lie, especially considering the 88-pound penalty this automatic tranny brings with it.
With hefty additions like that, it’s no wonder BMW is trying so hard to lose weight in other places. Do some reading, and you’ll likely hear the tale told of the carbon-fiber driveshaft and roof in the M4, but that’s a bit of tomfoolery as well. In reality, the M4 gets a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic propshaft that’s supposedly 40 percent lighter than the outgoing steel piece. The roof gets the same treatment, while the hood and front panels are aluminum—all adding up to a weight drop of 183 pounds compared to the outgoing M3 sedan. This despite the new M4 being 2.2 inches longer and 2.6 inches wider than the outgoing M3 coupe. However, the M4 is also 1.7 inches lower than the M3, so watch those speed bumps. Its track is wider as well—1.3 inches in front and 0.7 inches out back.
Aluminum control arms and wheel hubs front and back cut more pounds, while aluminum front subframes and a carbon strut brace bring increased rigidity. The biggest change is a new technique for mounting the rear axle. Here, the rear differential is mounted within the rear axle’s subframe, which is now bolted directly to the chassis, without rubber bushings. BMW claims this not only saves weight, but achieves “a new level of handling precision” according to M Division Development head Albert Biermann. Vague, yes, but I’d listen to the Bier-Man.
Of course, all this is governed by the adaptive M suspension with its three modes of actuation: Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Couple this with a new version of the ServoTronic electro-mechanical steering, and it almost feels like you’re the one doing the driving!
For someone who remembers when the M3 first appeared—a stalwart against the encroaching armies of electrons and capacitors—there’s little resemblance to be found here. The M3 used to be about stripping away the frivolity and excess that saturates automobilia, distilling a car down to its primary purpose: driving well. That time has passed. In its place stands the new breed of M—and despite my reservations, these new versions just may be the best yet.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.