Driving.ca | Graeme Fletcher | September 22, 2020
Since the first M3 arrived 35 years ago there have been many memorable rides, and while the M4 is the younger sibling and in just its second rendition it carries the flag with exactly the same sort of zeal.
The key is an M-car demands three very important attributes — a bold look, a healthy dose of power and the ability to tackle a decreasing radius corner without inducing a pucker factor. The 2021 M3 and M4 tick the first two boxes right out of the gate. The last, well, that will have to wait for the all-important First Drive.
The new look, especially the sculpted nature of the hood and aggressive front-end treatment, speaks to the potent magic beneath the bold paint colours. The 3.0-litre inline-six has two turbochargers — one feeds cylinders 1-3; the second cylinders 4-6. When blowing full gale, the turbos deliver 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque at 2,650 rpm as used in the base (a word used advisably) M3 and M4 Core models. It drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, which is not the norm in the segment. The gearbox has the needed logic in the form of the Gear Shift Assistant. It gives the driver seamless downshifts when heading into a corner under hard braking.
Beyond that, well, hang on and enjoy the endorphin rush because the quad tailpipes, each measuring 100-millimetres, promise to sing the sort of basso profundo demanded by the performance. It promises to be a very special First Drive.
The M3 and M4’s longer wheelbase, which is up 45 millimetres from the previous car, wider track and carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic roof panel delivers a lower centre of gravity and a 50/50 weight distribution front/rear. This, in turn, gives the electronically-controlled Adaptive M suspension the foundation needed to weave its magic. As the driver works through the Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings the damping progressively tightens, which reduces body and imparts a keener feel to the M Servotronic steering. It is both speed-sensitive and has a variable steering ratio. In Comfort mode this means better straight-line stability and a quick turn-in. Sport brings a sharper feel and response, which is needed when the Ms are pushed to the max.
The grip level promises to allow the driver to pull some serious Gs. The Core and rear-drive Competition models wear P275/40ZR18 front and P285/35 ZR19 rear tires. The xDrive Competition models up the ante to P275/35ZR19 front and P285/30ZR20 rears.
Having made the new M models fast and furious in a straight line and through a series of switchbacks, the M3 and M4 will need suitable brakes. In this case, the six-piston front callipers work with an M-specific version of BMW’s integrated braking system — the comfort and sport modes allow the driver to change the brake response and pedal feel. For the serious true enthusiast, the M Race Track Package cuts the curb weight while adding M Carbon ceramic brakes, lighter light-alloy wheels along with some seriously snazzy M Carbon bucket seats for the driver and front passenger.
Finally, making its debut is the M Drive Professional. It is optional on the Core cars and standard on the Competition units. In a nutshell, oversteer and opposite lock is recorded by the M Drift Analyser — it notes the duration (in time), line and angle of the driver’s drift.