Has all the goodness of the M3 but somehow feels trapped in the wrong body

What is it?

Mechanically, for the BMW M4, the latest BMW  super-coupé, you can pretty much just substitute a four for a three in most of the text of our BMW M3 Competition first drive review and you will have a good idea of what the new BMW M4 is made of.

It’s the same length but 16mm narrower and 40mm lower than the M3, with the same 2857mm wheelbase, and 5kg lighter – so as near as makes no difference. It has the same 2993cc engine, drivetrain, 18/19in wheels as standard or, as fitted to both our test cars, 19/20in wheels with 275/35 R19 front and 285/30 R20 rear tyres.

Things of note? Different ratios to improve acceleration, although there are sufficient gears that it’s not obvious. It’s harder to get in and out of the back, clearly, especially past the silly seats, and there’s a bit less head room once you’re there. There’s also a smaller boot, at 430 versus 480 litres.

2 Bmw m4 2021 uk first drive review hero front

What's it like?

The way the M4 goes down the road, though, is similar to the point that if you climbed from one to the other, you would want to look over your shoulder to know for sure. The same knobbly ride, the same raucous engine and the same road noise and coarseness over concrete motorway surfaces are familiar to both.

The rear subframe is rigidly mounted to the chassis on both the M3 and M4, which is surely what contributes to some of the feeling of rigidity, solidity and, when you load the car up in a corner, an absence of lateral give. As a dynamics engineer once said of the Ferrari 488 GTB, strong lateral support at a car’s rear really supports the body in a corner, and that in turn helps steering’s accuracy, consistency and the impression of road feel. I suspect the same thing is happening here.

Nevertheless, this is a performance coupé, not really smooth and forgiving enough to be a genuine grand tourer (although I did drive it for two and a half hours at the end of a 14-hour day and feel quite good about things), yet not dynamically agile enough to be a true sports car.

While the character is the same, I felt it suited the M3 rather better than the M4. I’m not quite sure why; maybe because I don’t expect a saloon to be a sports car but I do a coupé?

8 Bmw m4 2021 uk first drive review dashboard

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Should I buy one?

Anyway, I’m going to pinch yet another writer’s line here. He said the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio “feels like a sports car, not just a sports saloon”.

The M4 is almost the opposite: it feels like a sports saloon waiting for the right body, rather than a sports car in itself.

13 Bmw m4 2021 uk first drive review on road rear


Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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HiPo 289 7 May 2021

There was a time when this would have been highly desirable.  Now there is the Tesla Model 3 and all BMW M3 and M4 models just seem obsolete. 

Gojohnygo 10 March 2021

I looked forward to the launch of the M3/M4 after all the hype. The M2 seems great and you knew the new M3/M4 was going to be sensational, but the reviews have been just ok.The size of these cars are their downfall, my current 340i is big and heavy and you feel it is not controlled 100% when you need it to be. The Toyota Yaris is the new M1 just too small for my needs.

The Dr 10 March 2021

This is the 1st new generation 4 series with the big grille that looks good, maybe it's the yellow but the design looks more cohesive than the M3 saloon