There’s a great line in Ronin where DeNiro’s character (Sam) asks Natacha McElhone’s character (Deirdre) how she came to be there. Her response is “a wealthy scoundrel seduced and betrayed me.”
I recently spent a week with the 2015 BMW M4 and now fully understand just what that means. Seduced, by the sheer brilliance of the car, and betrayed by an uncomfortable realization about the future of performance vehicles.
[Full disclosure: I own and drive an old BMW regularly. The next car I buy will be a BMW, and I used to oversee a couple of regional newsletters for the BMW Car Club of America. However, I am not a brand loyalist, as my extensive histories with Ford, Jaguar and VW can attest.]
Non-functional styling elements are the bane of most car guys' existences, which is why it's so refreshing to see everything serve a purpose on the M4. The fang-looking front skirt directs air around the front wheel to reduce drag and the vent in the fender actually lets air escape to reduce lift at high speeds.
The hood's made of really thin aluminum to keep weight down. Lift it up, and you'll see what all the fuss is about. Indeed, 425 hp emanating from a twin-turbo straight six means gobs of torque almost all the way across the RPM band...and yes, just a hint of turbo lag.
The Internet has been crying foul with complaints of too much torque, and claims have arisen that the car would be better with less. I'm not sure I'd agree. I drove this car on tight and twisty back roads, on highways, and over rough pavement. I didn't do anything that most people fortunate enough to buy one wouldn't do, and the number one thing I found was that the M4's summer tires don't like 32 degree weather (shocker, right?).
If you're smooth with the throttle and and gently roll onto the gas while unwinding the steering wheel—performance driving 101—the car feels great. There's a hint of understeer, easily eliminated with your right foot, if you're careful.
Unlike most cars with various suspension settings, the Adaptive M suspension really does make a noticeable transition from comfort, to sport, to sport+, with the latter tightening up so much that over a couple of particularly rough sweepers, I actually turned it down to sport to find better grip.
With the Internet's infinite echo chamber in mind, I did an experiment. I eschewed everything I knew about driving from my mind and put my foot down. There it was. The long delay for the turbos. The suddenly-hard-to-control rear end. It's all there, waiting to be exploited by those that can't handle the car.
Performance, though, is only half of the car's story.
Inside, you can adjust damn near everything, down to the height of the HUD, so you can keep it in the most comfortable position for your eyes.
The seats hug you. And I mean, really hug you. The kidney supports are electrically adjustable, so they can squeeze you as much or as little as you want. Maybe it was all the hugging that aided the M4 in seducing me. All I know is, it was nice.
And that M4 badge in the middle of the backrest? It illuminates at night. In any other car that would be the show stopper, but here it was just another fine touch. For all of these reasons, it's absurdly easy to love the car.
The moment the car appeared in my driveway, I was psyched to find out it had a manual transmission. And a pretty great one at that, too: shifting is smooth and precise, and the pedal positioning is prime for heel-toe downshifting. Take it out of Sport+ mode, and the car even does the rev-matching for you.
That's when something occurred to me. The manual is the less serious of the two options. It's mad-freaking-fun, don't get me wrong, but that's the only reason it's there. If you're serious about performance...you go with the DCT. It's simply faster than a human can possibly be at shifting, and BMW knows it. As I came to that realization, part of me died a little bit, while halfway across the world, a couple of engineers in a lab in Munich probably high-fived each other over the accomplishment, or whatever it is that German engineers do when they accomplish something.
I also realized that I—or anyone, for that matter—will only ever get the brakes hot enough to come into their own on a track. They're simply divine under hard braking, but to work at an optimal level they need to be hot. You just can't do that on the street without displaying a serious amount of poor judgment.
I only had the car for a week, and it did everything in its power to successfully seduce me. For all my realizations about the future of performance cars, I had an exceptionally hard time finding things to dislike about BMW's flagship performance car.
The M4 is neither the fastest nor the most luxurious car in the world, but for under $100,000, you'd be hard pressed to find a car that does both better.