BMW’s baby coupe has grown up. Formerly the 3-Series Coupe, it was rebadged the 4-Series and now, in this ultimate version as the M4 Competition, it’s not only the size of the former 6-Series but it’s mixing in a very different circle of prestige.
It's now winning over owners of Porsche 911s and Aston Martin Vantages, as well as buyers of the AMG C-Class and Audi RS5.
The M4's beefed-up, three-litre, twin-turbo, six-cylinder, also found under the bonnet of the ludicrously quick X4 M and its M3, four-door sibling, develops 473hp, which balloons out to 503hp for the Competition model tested, with 600Nm of torque delivered via a wailing, though somewhat synthesised sound.
An active exhaust system allows you to enjoy either the aural theatrics or a quiet cruise with the push of a button, which is due to tightening EU regulations that target decibel readings. It means that without the aid of synthetic engine notes, the M4 doesn’t have the lustrous sounds of former M3s and M4s, though when you consider its usual lifespan of seven years, this is undoubtedly the last pure petrol version and perhaps the last that uses internal combustion completely. In which case, a slightly muted six remains a better alternative than the next generation, which will most likely be a four-cylinder with hybrid — the same path down which Mercedes is taking its once revered C63 nameplate — or complete electrification.
Running through an eight-speed ZF auto transmission, its power delivery is managed by a 10-stage traction control system along with BMW’s xDrive adaptive all-wheel-drive system from the BMW M5 to reduce wheelspin and improve traction.
An electronically controlled differential also keeps things under control by metering out power at the rear, but it still lets you squirm subtly out of second-gear corners without having to apply corrective lock. However, there’s a sense of maturity, too, when left in its lowest setting, where the automatic transmission politely shuffles up to eighth gear under normal throttle and easily cruises at 2,000rpm on the motorway.
While the regular M4 rides on 18 and 19-inch wheels for the front and rear respectively, the M4 Competition goes up a notch with 19s on the front and 20s down the back, covering a set of steel M Compound brakes or optional fade-free carbon-ceramics as part of an M Pro Package.
Despite, or maybe because of the meaty tyres, the steering responded in a more natural way than the light and hyper-alert set-up of its rival, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and it is far more engaging than the numb-feeling system used in the Audi RS5, with a nice weight even under low speeds and a sense of purpose at high speed.
Sport Plus is useable on some roads, while Sport can be left as the default setting for most urban roads. Its lower centre of gravity, helped by a carbon-fibre roof, makes this the nicest feeling of all M-badged cars in recent times.
As with the M3, its interior is dominated by carbon-fibre and Alcantara, while our test car featured the optional carbon-fibre front seats, which rob the rear seats of what tiny legroom was there with the regular M sports seats.
The M4 Competition xDrive includes a decent amount of equipment, but also an extensive options list that can bump up the price. While you get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a driver-attention system, you are then paying extra for adaptive cruise control with auto stop.
There’s also a bundled kit comprising lane-keeping assist, front and rear cross-traffic alert and more in the Driving Assistance Professional Package, and the Executive Package includes a heated steering wheel, a power-operated boot lid, an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and gesture controls.
Yep, the baby BMW has grown, but — at upward of Dh600,000 — it comes with a price to match. It delivers an exceptional driving experience with luxury features to justify its jump from Dh425,000 in 2020, and is every bit the competitor to some of Europe’s most hallowed sports GTs.