While we drive a lot of cars, we’d say we never get jaded. In fact, the opposite is true – we’re always excited to get our hands on the latest and greatest. But sometimes we have to do a gut check. Take this beautiful M4 convertible. Over 500 horsepower. Gulp! Over $100k as tested. Double gulp. So, is this an approachable high-performance vehicle, or are we in over our heads? Well, let’s find out.
Stone Cold Serious
This is one serious looking piece of driving hardware. OK, you might argue that a convertible version of an M4 Competition seems a little extravagant, but we’d point out that Porsche has been making 911 Convertibles for a long time, so there’s no reason to frown upon those who want to get a tan while driving an ultimate performance machine.
Like the 4-series in general, the M4 is larger than the model it replaces, nearly 5 inches longer, with a 1.8-inch longer wheelbase. Curvier contours also make it 1.4 inches wider than the current 4-series convertible.
The new M4 Competition Convertible with xDrive is 4.6 inches longer than the model it replaces. The wheelbase has grown by 1.8 inches and its width by 0.7 inches.
The M4 is more distinctive – even compared to the new 4-series. And we think that’s good. While there hasn’t been a lot of love for the massive kidney grilles, on the M4, the front end feels both more cohesive and aggressive. Traditional M horizontal slats in the grille break up the snout, while two large openings on the side help cool the brakes and remote radiators.
There’s also a deep frown, thanks to slim LED headlights, with cool U-shaped signature driving lights. Add in a couple of deep depressions casting down from the hood, and you have a design that turns heads. The profile keeps the tough look, with deep fender flares, extended side sills, and a cool vent cut-in on the front fender. 19” front/20-inch rear bicolor wheels fill out the wheel wells. Peeking through those wheels are the optional M Carbon Ceramic brakes, a cool $8,150 option. Those in the know, will know.
A big change since the last convertible is the return to a fabric top, replacing the folding metal one. We love the hunkered down lines when the top is up, and the rakish look top down. The top is special, 40 percent lighter than the previous model’s, which lowers the M4’s center of gravity – great for handling. Special attention to quality materials and insulation makes this a very quiet and cozy cabin with the top up.
Making it even more delightful, opening and closing the roof only takes 18 seconds and can be performed up to 31 mph – great when you’re activating the top in traffic and the light suddenly turns green.
The rearview is equally macho, with slim LED lamps giving way to a prominent rear bumper, sitting above a fascia holding 4 massive dual exhaust pipes. It looks as powerful as it is! While this is not a wallflower type of car, we did enjoy the rich Tanzanite Blue II metallic, a very deep, near-black that does a beautiful job of tying all the aero elements into a slick cohesive design. Add rich and elegant to the descriptors of this stunning design!
With the serious intent of the exterior, it’s not a surprise to find a driver-focused interior as well. Open the door, and you can’t help but gawk at the optional M Carbon bucket front seats.
With integrated headrests and cut outs suitable for racing belts, you’d think these babies will hold you in place, but probably torture you in the day-to-day. Surprise! Not only are these superb competition seats, but they also still manage to be supportive and comfortable for the daily haul. Yes, the high lower seat cushions make it a bit of work to get in and out, but once you’re in – you are very comfortable. Showing their true competition focus, the use of CFRP in the structural of the seat surface and backrest, plus those cut-outs save 21 pounds over the standard M sport seats. We also love the M4 logo that lights up in the backrest!
And once you’re in those thrones, you’ll find an interior very similar to any other 4-series – modern, comfortable and well thought out.
Info-tainment is handled by BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional, including an an adjustable 12.3-inch gauge display, and a 10.25-inch hi-res touch screen center display. We love the screen design and the interface. iDrive 7.0 includes wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, cloud-based BMW Maps, and M-specific displays for the instrument cluster and head-up display. We actually had some issues with Apple CarPlay not wanting to play nice with the system, but we eventually got it figured out.
While that was less than fun, we did like BMW’s cloud-based navigation system that calculates routes and arrival times with greater speed and accuracy, updates real-time traffic data at short intervals and lets drivers enter any word when searching for a destination. Cool!
You also have access with BMW’s traditional rotary controller on the center console, with M4 specific M Mode, Setup and M Sound buttons right at hand.
There is a back seat in the convertible, but it’s tight and not a place you’d want to put adults for long, but for a ride in an M4 we had plenty of volunteers willing to make themselves into human pretzels just to feel the thrill!
The trunk is equally snug, but we’d point out that thanks to switching from a folding metal hardtop to the new 4-series soft top, cargo area is increased to 9.0 cubic feet, a 1.2-cubic foot gain over the previous model. You even have a fold-down pass-through in the rear seats to carry longer items. If you really need to haul lots of people or gear, BMW makes some fine M-division SUVs to suit your need.
The Need for Speed
Ok, if you’re looking at the Competition model, you’re probably not overly concerned about luggage capacity, you’re more interested in what’s under the hood. Well, walk right this way, and we’ll show you.
The numbers are staggering: 503 hp at 6,250 rpm and 479 lb.-ft of torque starting at just 2,750 rpm. BMW says 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 174 mph. We can’t comment on the top speed, but we’d say even 3.6 seconds may be a conservative estimate.
This is a joyous engine. The twin-turbo, 3-liter straight six starts with a deep “whump” at idle and a viscous gargling sound coming from quad exhaust pipes. And it just sings as it wraps to the redline. Thoroughbred power to be sure.
Some may be disappointed to find that the Competition features a standard ZF 8-speed automatic, but it is a fantastically responsive transmission with incredibly fast shifts, and this car is so powerful, you’re happy to keep both hands on the wheel! Oversize paddles let you manually go up and down the gears. Along with standard electronic limited slip diff out back, you also have standard launch control for even faster acceleration.
The second part of the M4’s ability to lay down power is the xDrive AWD system, which helps dole out the power as smooth as a Vegas Blackjack dealer, yet still provides the feel and balance of rear wheel drive that enthusiasts love.
So, what does acceleration feel like? Powerful, incredible, a little big frightening, and maybe a little bit frustrating – the M4 moves so incredibly quickly that you find yourself running out of road or into traffic in the blink of an eye. For full-bore performance take thee to a track day or driver’s school.
That said, if you can control yourself, that massive amount of power makes getting around a delight – so much on tap makes passing, scooting around, or just taking it up a couple ratchets is done with consummate ease. Also, how many cars can pull up next to you that are even close to this level of performance? You sit back and smile. You are the big dog.
While the power is addictive, this is a well-balance machine. The brakes are phenomenal, although we’d probably pass on the M Carbon Ceramic brakes at a cool $8,150 unless we were serious about track time. We were equally impressed with the steering – we’ve found the latest generation of BMWs to have light, slightly numb steering, but the M4’s has a nice heft and a fine precision to it. Perfectly balanced, it is just the thing for taking apart your favorite twisty road.
Another surprise to us was the suppleness and comfort of the suspension. Yes, it is firm, but not jarring, and in the non-aggressive chassis modes, combined with those comfortable M seats, this is an easy vehicle to drive every day. Yep, Porsche and Ferrari-baiting performance with the livability and good manners of any 4-series BMW. Heck it’s even easy to get over 20 mpg combined!
How Much for this Awesomeness?
Well, this is a true M Division vehicle, so you probably know it’s not going to be cheap. True excellence seldom is. That said, there are ways to keep the price relatively reasonable.
Our tester started at $86,300. You could stop right there and have yourself an amazingly capable convertible capable of humbling 99% of vehicles on the road. And that is probably what we’d do.
Our tester provides a cautious tale of options, with Tanzanite Blue Metallic paint ($1,950), Silverstone Black Leather ($2,550), Parking Assistance Package ($800), Executive Package ($1,350), M Drive Professional ($900), M Carbon Ceramic Brakes ($8,150), Carbon Fiber trim ($950), M Carbon Bucket Seats ($3,800), M Driver’s Package ($2,500) and Destination ($995) for a total of $110,245. Gulp.
We had a delightful time building a comparable Porsche 911 Cabriolet, then nearly fainted when we saw the price of $147,850! On the less expensive side, the AMG E53 came in at a reasonable $95,000. But you will have to deal with the fact that you’re running 362 horsepower compared to the M4’s 502!
The truth is any of the above is a fantastic automobile. The Porsche for its pure sports car-ness, the Mercedes for its all-around loveliness. But we love the M4, for its ability to give you both, and if you watch those options – a relatively reasonable price. And to prove we are not completely snobby, a 485-horsepower Dodge Charger Scat Pack comes in at just a bit over $64,000.
Gorgeous, with epic performance combined with day-to-day livability, the BMW M4 Comp xDrive Convertible is simply one of the most desirable performance cars in the world!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.