Just buy the 2018 BMW M4 now and thank us later. That was simple, wasn’t it? Before diving headfirst into M4 ownership, however, there’s a little more to think about. Mainly, can it wait? As everyone probably knows, the M4 is the hot version of the 4 Series. And the 4 Series is an offshoot of the 3 Series involving coupes, convertibles and what marketing departments call "4-door coupes."
The thing is, the 2019 model year will see a new generation of 3 Series. We can safely assume this will involve greater fuel efficiency and more tech. A fresh 4 Series will come soon after, along with, inevitably, a new M4. Which could have all sorts of interesting gadgetry.
If it can’t wait, and/or you’d rather have a generation where all the bugs have been ironed out, then it’s time to make exciting plans. Because this M4 is one of the most compelling sport-luxury cars on the planet — no exaggeration. It has sublime handling, a stellar engine and a civilized disposition.
What’s New for 2018?
Slight tweaks around the headlights and taillights. A rearview camera becomes standard. The iDrive infotainment system receives an update. And there’s been a rearrangement of standard equipment and options. For example, both coupe and convertible versions receive LED headlights, and the previously optional carbon-fiber reinforced plastic roof (CFRP) for the coupe (which reduces weight and lowers the center of gravity compared with a steel-roofed car) is now standard.
What We Like
Thunderous acceleration; incredible handling; well-appointed interior with great technology; retractable hardtop in the convertible.
What We Don’t
Fake engine noise piped through the speakers; there’s the option of Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, but not Android Auto.
The rear-wheel-drive M4 is propelled by a twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that develops 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard; a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual (known as M-DCT; it works like an automatic) is optional.
The engine has an auto stop/start feature that conserves fuel by shutting off when the car is stationary.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption for both coupe and convertible versions with the manual transmission at 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving. With the automatic transmission, it’s 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined for the coupe and 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined for the convertible.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 BMW M4 comes in a single well-equipped trim level, as either a coupe or a convertible with a retractable hardtop.
Standard features in the coupe ($69,695) include an aerodynamic body kit with flared fenders and a power-domed hood, a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) roof, an adaptive M-tuned suspension (with specific springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, plus specially calibrated driving modes of Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus), M-spec performance brakes, an Active M torque-vectoring rear differential, 18-inch staggered-width alloy wheels with performance tires, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, keyless entry/ignition, heated/power-folding/self-dimming side mirrors, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a sport exhaust with quad tailpipes, heated/10-way power-adjustable front sport seats with adjustable side bolsters (plus a backlit M logo on the backrest) and driver’s-side memory settings, leather upholstery, carbon-fiber interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone app integration, a Harman Kardon 600-watt/16-speaker Surround Sound system with HD Radio and satellite radio, and the iDrive infotainment system with an 8.8-in widescreen display, navigation, voice controls, hard-drive music storage and a USB interface.
The M4 convertible ($78,195) adds a power-retractable hardtop, a rear window defroster and extended leather upholstery with sun-reflective technology.
Both the coupe and convertible are eligible for a few options packages. The Executive package includes adaptive LED headlights and automatic high beams, a head-up display, a side-/top-view camera system, parking sensors front and rear and a self-parking system.
The Competition package hikes engine power to 444 hp and brings 20-in alloy wheels. The dynamic stability control system and Active M limited-slip rear differential are also recalibrated for track work. An M Driver’s package includes a day’s tuition in high-performance driving school and a top speed raised to 174 mph.
Other options include (expensive) carbon ceramic brake rotors, 19- and 20-in wheels, a leather-covered dashboard, a heated steering wheel, a neck-warming vent system (convertible only), wireless smartphone charging, Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, active blind spot monitoring, forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning. Coupes are also eligible for a sunroof and a powered rear sunshade.
The convertible’s trunk checks in at a generous 13 cu ft. with the top up, dropping to 7.9 cu ft. when the top is folded and stowed. The coupe offers 11 cu ft.
All M4 models come standard with antilock disc brakes and traction/stability control. The coupe has eight airbags (front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain). The convertible’s eight airbags cover slightly different ground (front, front side, front knee and extended front thorax). The BMW Assist emergency telematics system — which includes automatic accident notification, stolen-vehicle tracking and roadside assistance — is also standard.
The M4 hasn’t been crash-tested in the United States, but the 3 Series (on which this car is based) has the full five stars overall from government tests and is a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Behind the Wheel
According to BMW, the coupe with the M-DCT transmission (which includes a launch control feature) sprints from a standstill to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds (4.1 seconds with the 6-manual transmission). The convertible takes 4.2 seconds (4.4 seconds with the manual). Both transmissions also feature automatic rev-matching for slick, race-style downshifts.
The materials and design are sufficiently upscale to help justify the considerable price. You can see and feel the attention to detail, which sets the M4 apart from such cars as the high-end Chevrolet Camaros, which are developed primarily for speed. The standard front sports seats are fabulously supportive, and their wide range of adjustment ensures that just about anyone can get comfortable behind the wheel. The modest rear seats, however, are mostly for kids or cargo.
An upgraded version of iDrive comes standard on every M4, and it’s one of the best infotainment systems. Highlights include a beautiful 8.8-in widescreen display, navigation, a touchpad interface and hard-drive music storage.
The twin-turbo inline six delivers massive power at virtually any engine speed. It isn’t always necessary to downshift for supreme acceleration. Just flatten the gas pedal and ride that surge of torque. On the downside, the turbos muffle the exhaust note, so BMW provides simulated noises that play through the speakers. The intensity doesn’t always match the drive, and the actual noises themselves don’t sound quite like those of an inline six. But no one will find the engine low on performance.
This M4 is larger than previous generations of the M3, and that becomes more apparent in tight corners. The steering doesn’t have the same intimate feel. Get a rhythm going, though, and few cars are agile enough to keep up.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS — This generation of Camaro has handling that comes close to the best of Europe. And the SS version has a 455-hp V8 that sounds truly wonderful.
2018 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 — This generation of Mustang is also the best the badge has ever had. The GT350 makes a massive 526 hp.
2018 Lexus RC F — Nice build quality as always, plus a 467-hp V8 to play with. But the M4’s chassis has a more pleasing and satisfying flow to it.
2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 — The "regular" version outpowers the M4 with 469 hp. Then the C 63 S takes things even further, with 503 hp. Available in sedan, coupe and cabriolet (convertible) versions.
Used BMW M3 — Thanks to depreciation, a V8-powered previous-generation M3 coupe or convertible could cost a fraction of the new M4’s price. Source one through BMW’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program for extra reassurance.
Ride quality gets affected adversely with the bigger wheel/tire combinations. Some people will accept that as part of the sports-machine territory. Otherwise, we’d say select as many driver-assistance features as possible and enjoy the thrilling ride.