2015 BMW M4 Driving Impressions

With its low, wide stance and sleek design, the M4 slices through the air with ease, whether barreling down country roads at 75 mph or cutting through the kink at Road America at more than 100 mph. But whether you're scaring the daylights out of dairy cows or your driving instructor, the M4 makes it easy to go fast.

The new 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 (S55) makes an impressive 425 hp and 406 lb.-ft. of torque, the latter of which is on tap from 1850 rpm. The high-revving engine redlines at 7500, and those not used to the sound of the new motor might be tempted to shift early. But let it wind all the way up, and you'll be handsomely rewarded with the kind of power and thrust worthy of one of the country's fastest racetracks.

Drivers can customize the M4 with separate adjustments for steering, throttle control and damping (the latter with the optional adaptive suspension). Two memory settings, M1 and M2, allow a quick switch between favorite setups.

The M4 uses a new electromechanical steering system, with three modes that allow drivers to choose the level of steering effort. Though some might lament the end of hydraulic steering, we found the feel of the M4 to be precise and direct. Steering feel depends largely on personal preference, and heavier steering doesn't necessarily mean better performance. Comfort is the default, and is by no means light. In fact, our driving instructor at Road America, who heads the M Performance Center driving program in Spartanburg, South Carolina, switched our steering from Sport into Comfort in the middle of a lap. Though at first we thought we were being demoted, he explained the lighter steering effort can help when learning the track, so you don't have to feel like you're fighting the wheel. Sport and Sport Plus increase the steering effort, in the case of the latter, quite considerably.

Suspension consists of a double-joint spring strut setup in front and a new five-link axle in the rear. Most components, including control arms, are aluminum. The rear suspension is mounted directly to the body (omitting the connecting parts normally in between), giving the M4 a stiff ride and more direct road feel. Combined with the M4's fantastically rigid chassis, the M4 is solid, planted and absolutely joyful through the corners, with BMW's signature near-50/50 weight distribution. Even with the suspension in comfort mode, the M4 is firm and well-sprung, though more compliant over bumps and rough roads.

Dynamic stability control can be adjusted for optimum safety or optimum slip. With it on, it can save your bacon if you make a mistake, but we also felt the system holding us back when rounding corners at Road America. With it off, the M4 commands a healthy dose of respect, as a few of our colleagues found out by taking some unintentional offroad excursions.

A 6-speed manual comes standard, and although it might be more fun for purists to drive, it's slower than the optional dual-clutch, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds. In Efficient and Sport modes, the manual has an automatic rev-matching function, though the blip comes when you take the shifter out of gear, so your shifts had better be fast for optimal performance. In Sport Plus mode, the auto rev matching turns off, leaving you to your own heel-toe skills.

With the optional 7-speed double-clutch transmission, the M4 can sprint from 0-60 mpg in 3.9 seconds. It's the most versatile option, since one can simply put it in drive and let the car do it's thing, or switch it over to manual mode for some F1-style paddle shifting. The latter was especially satisfying on the track, where we could focus more on the line and less on the body mechanics of changing gears. While shifts from the double-clutch are blink-of-an-eye fast, we did find they could feel abrupt when pushing hard in Sport and Sport Plus modes.

Our test cars were fitted with upgraded carbon-ceramic rotors, complete with huge gold-painted calipers. These monsters are unbelievably powerful, though they perform best once you get some heat into then. If you opt for the $8,150 carbon ceramics, be aware you'll also have to upgrade to 19-inch wheels for another $1,200. Both standard 18-inch wheels and the upgraded 19s are wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, designed specifically for the new M4. Their mixed performance designation means they should hold up well in a variety of driving conditions.

The M4's road manners are equally impressive on the track as well as around town. Though, like the M3, the turning circle is nearly three feet wider than its non-M counterpart, making the M4 a tad clunkier than the standard 4 Series to maneuver through parking lots and in other tight spots.

BMW does a particularly good job with exhaust notes, and the M4 is no exception, though partially engineered, the M4's sound is loud and unmistakable, from both within and without. On the downside, we also got quite a bit of road noise inside the cabin, in large part due to the direct-mounted rear suspension.

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Rick Hendrick BMW Charleston
1518 Savannah Highway
Charleston, SC 29407

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