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What is BMW Alpina?

BMW Alpina Intro BMW is not without its rivals from its native Germany. Where the likes of Mercedes-Benz turn to their subsidiary Mercedes-AMG when they're looking for customized luxury models, BMW turns to Alpina. There are some who claim that you haven't truly...

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Visual + Performance Breakdown

Fast, Reliable, Practical and a total hoot.

There really aren’t many brands out there that are synonymous with all these traits. Some of them might get one or two of them right but rarely do we ever see a car that manages to get all 4 bang-on. BMW’s M division, however, happens to be a happy exception to that list. For 40 years, the Bavarian manufacturers in-house tuning company has been pushing out fettled versions of nearly every single vehicle in the German manufacturer’s lineup. Giving hope to the family man, that no matter how many child seats you need for your Beemer, you’ll be able to couple it with some of the magic M cars are known so well for.

From the M division, a fan favourite among many has and always will be the E92 BMW M3 Coupe. A car that drove petrol heads to it in swarms thanks to its stunning good looks, an orchestral tire-shredding naturally aspirated V8 and driving dynamics that would leave you grinning from ear to ear even on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. So naturally, when BMW announced that its replacement, the M4 would downsize to a twin-turbocharged inline-6, the internet forums were alit with posts of blasphemy and the end of the M car era. However, we’re glad to report that it isn’t. In fact, it’s as far away from that as conceivably possible.

Exterior

When it came to sprucing up the standard 4 Series body, BMW didn’t go light with the mascara on this one. That’s probably in part to that fact that they didn’t want people, god forbid to mistake your M4 for a peasantry 4 Series. The front bumper has a whole host of new edges and sharp creases that will surely excite the five-year-old in all of us, the wheel arches are flared to accommodate the chunkier 265’s at the front and the 285’s at the rear and of course what new M car would be complete without beefy quad tailpipes around the rear. The entire car has been given a sinister flavour like it wants to go brawling around bars at night looking for a fight.  

The public reaction to the M4 was a bit of a mixed bag though. There have been those that praise it for its bold and unique styling that allows it to stand out amongst the sea of its sleep apnea inducing rivals. On the other hand, there are those that describe it as the most ostentatious and vulgar BMW to date. At the end of the day, looks are subjective, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not it walks away with the tiara. If you do hate it, you can take solace from the fact that you won’t have to look at it as your driving along, just don’t drive by too many reflective windows.

Engine & Performance

Compared to the M3 Coupe of old we’ve lost a litre in capacity, two cylinders and gained a pair of twin mono-scroll turbochargers to conjure the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged pulsating heart of the new M4. Despite this rather hefty diet, the M4 manages to push out more power and more torque than its V8 predecessor. This new tower of power comes courtesy of a lot of technical jargon most of us can’t understand like a forged crankshaft, variable valve lift, a separate transmission oil cooler and much more. What we can appreciate, however, is the new carbon fibre struct tower brace around the engine. So, whenever you open your hood, it’ll distract your friends from the fact you haven’t got an ear bursting V8 in there anymore.  

 The engine pushes out 425 bhp at its fairly impressive 7600 rpm red line and 406 lb-ft of torque from just 1850 rpm. The newer 2018 models got a slight bump in power with 431 bhp. If you go all out on the options list you can spec the Competition pack that gets 444 bhp alongside new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Or for even more you can get a CS variant with 454 bhp and 442 lb-ft. Despite the slight variations in power all cars deal with 60 mph in around 3.9 seconds and top out around the 174 mph mark. All this means you won’t have any problem in embarrassing the riced out Civic driver as he’s left stalled at the lights in a plume of what used to be your rear tires.

Petrolheads can rejoice as the M4 is still offered with a 6-speed manual transmission, leaving it as one of the few drivers cars left on the market where you can still derive that sweet satisfaction from rowing through the gears on a twisty mountain road. Available as an option is the 7-Speed DCT transmission, which like most dual-clutch boxes today is fantastic. Changes are lightning-fast; it doesn’t jerk around when you’re parking and it allows you to get the maximum performance out of that straight-six.  

Though as amazing as this new engine is, it just isn’t able to kindle the same sparkle you got from the old V8 M3 coupe. The revs just don’t feel as intense and nor does it wail its way to red line with a bellow that could set off an avalanche, like the old one. Plus, the noise from the M4 is artificially fed through the speakers, which is kind of like paying hundreds of dollars for a front-row ticket to your favorite bands concert, only to find out halfway through that they’ve been lip-syncing.

Handling

The BMW M4 offers up one of the most exciting drives for not very much money and when we say exciting, what we actually mean is terrifying. If the road is anything other than bone dry, the back end can start to feel a little twitchy. If you’re a bit too overzealous with the throttle, you can end up removing what little tread is left on your expensive Michelin tires. 

That’s not to say it isn’t exciting. Get to learn the car characteristics and start to respect its limits and you’ll blast out of the corners as you feel the steering communicating to you while the entire chassis just keeps on gripping beyond the laws of physics. Even the immense g-forces that are slowly relocating your internal organs won’t be able to distract you as you leave Mercedes C63 and Audi RS4 drivers in your wake.

When you do decide to take off your racing helmet from time to time, you can just pop the suspension back in bumpy road mode, set the gearbox to automatic and it becomes a stunning GT cruiser. Quiet, comfortable and no harder to drive than a Toyota Prius. It really is a do it all car that can be a psychopath tire muncher when you want it to be and a docile travel companion when you don’t.

Interior & Tech

Interiors can be a bit of a let down on BMW’s and since the M4 is essentially a 7-year old car, it doesn’t fare well. Everything is just a bit too plasticy and dull, the dials, for instance, look like they’ve come off a Nissan and for a vehicle that starts at nearly $70,000 that’s a hard pill to swallow. Yes, the interior does feel well made, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as what you can get from Audi and Mercedes these days with their ambient lighting and armada of brightly lit screens that can do many things the M4 can’t.

Other than some contrast stitching and M badges all around, it doesn’t feel that different from a standard 4-Series interior either. Thankfully standard equipment on the M4 isn’t too shabby with a full suite of airbags, climate control, cruise control, heated front seats, satellite navigation, touchscreen infotainment system and 10-way power front seats. Optional extras include a heads-up display, parking sensors, satellite radio and so on. Though there’s no lumbar support to speak off which is a bit odd, and if you option the sports seats and aren’t as fit and chiseled as most BMW test drivers, they can get a tad uncomfortable. 

Practicality & Millage

Despite the coupe body style, interior space isn’t too bad at all. You get more than enough room in the front and the rear seats are actually usable for once in a sports car. There’s even enough space to fit two car seats. Of course, it’s no Rolls Royce back there, but it’s tons more space then you get in something like a 911. Boot capacity isn’t bad either at 220 litres with the seats up and 410 litres with them folded down, more than enough for a weekend getaway for two.

Fuel economy, thanks to the turbos is much better this time around with an expected 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. That is if you don’t drive everywhere at full chat, in which case you can expect that to drop below 15 mpg combined easily.

Conclusion

The M4 is a tricky car, to sum up, on the one hand, it gets so many things right with its dual-natured personality, the epic driving dynamics and sheer M car magic that just fizzles out of it in gigantic lumps. However, the looks are a bit marmite, the engine leaves something to be desired in terms of soul and unless you can learn to trust it, it’ll most certainly bite your head off.

Despite all that, and the speculations that people had prior to its launch we’re glad to report that the BMW M4 is still a proper driving focused, tire-shredding, smile-inducing M car.

BMW Alpina
Alpina

What is BMW Alpina?

BMW Alpina Intro BMW is not without its rivals from its native Germany. Where the likes of Mercedes-Benz turn to their subsidiary Mercedes-AMG when they're looking for customized luxury models, BMW turns to Alpina. There are some who claim that you haven't truly...