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2021 BMW M4 First Look: Hello, M Drift Analyzer!

2021 BMW M4 First Look: Hello, M Drift Analyzer!

It’s comforting to know that not even a global pandemic can stop the inexorable march forward of BMW’s pursuit of power, torque, and driving fun. Proving our point is today’s virtual rollout of the 2021 BMW M4, sporting the spectacular new S58 engine available in two states of tune and with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. There’s even a new M Drive Professional suite of onboard performance analyzers, including M Drift Analyzer and M Laptimer, and soon it will even offer M xDrive performance all-wheel drive. Hey, driving your own car fast around a track is de facto social distancing, right?

How Much Power Does the New M4 Have, Anyway?

We first sampled the new, mighty S58 engine in the BMW X3 M and X4 M SUVs and in the Competition models of each. Under the hoods of the 2021 BMW M3 and M4 it will make the same horsepower as in those SUVs—473 horses and in the regular model, 503 in the Competition—but torque is not equivalent. The SUVs get 442 lb-ft across the board, whereas the base M4 gets 406 lb-ft and the Competition model makes 479. For reference, the new base M4 beats its direct predecessor by 48 horsepower and the last M4 Competition by 29 horses; the new M4 Competition leapfrogs even the mighty M4 GTS by 10 horsepower. BMW claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.1 seconds for the basic M4 and 3.8 for the Competition.

To recap, the 3.0-liter inline-six twin-turbo S58 engine is based on BMW’s modular B58 engine, and like the S55 that powered the previous generation of M beasts, it features two mono-scroll turbochargers, wire-arc-sprayed low-friction cylinder liners, and a forged crankshaft. Perhaps the S58’s coolest new feature is a lighter, cooling-optimized cylinder head featuring a 3D-printed casting core that’s vastly more precise than a typical sand core, and which facilitates better cooling.

Yes, It Has Manual, Automatic, RWD, and AWD Options

Opt for the base M4 and you get a slick, close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with a short-throw shifter and a Gear Shift Assistant rev-matching feature designed to improve directional stability during aggressive driving by preventing accidental rear-wheel deceleration (it can also be switched off). Opting for the Competition package signifies you’re serious about speed and can’t waste time interrupting the torque during shifts, so you get a paddle-shifted ZF-supplied eight-speed M Steptronic automatic. It weighs 50 pounds more than the manual and shifts a bit of weight forward, but teamed with the stronger S58 engine tune, this is unquestionably the quicker, faster setup. Starting in summer 2021, Competition models will be available with M xDrive as first sampled on the BMW M5, which always biases torque to the rear axle. A Sport mode sends even less torque forward, and a rear-wheel-drive mode is included but requires stability control be switched off.

Bam! Chassis and Suspension Upgrades Galore

As before, the M3/M4 get extensive bracing to ensure proper rigidity, bridging the shock towers to the firewall and the front of the vehicle, and vertically connecting the front suspension carrier with the engine compartment, with still more braces under the central and rear of the car. New ball-jointed lower links help widen the front track by 1.5 inches over the outgoing model for added lateral traction and directional stability. New M Integrated brakes feature 15.0-inch front/14.6-inch rear discs chomped by six-piston front and single-piston rear calipers with a newly developed brake-pad compound. A carbon-ceramic brake system remains optional and is identifiable by gold calipers and larger 15.7-inch front discs (metallic blue calipers are standard, while red and black are options with the regular brakes). There are two levels of brake feel that can be programmed, as well. Speaking of settings, the new M Drive Professional package promises 10 (!) different levels of wheel-slip limitation. Yes, the new M4 offers even more adjustments than ever before, as if anyone was begging for that.

The new M Drive Professional and M Driver’s packages are not to be confused. The M Drivers’s Package bumps the speed limiter from 155 to 180 mph and includes a voucher to attend a BMW driver training school. (On the 2020 model, this option cost $2,500.) M Drive Professional is a new package of features to help enthusiasts better enjoy the full potential of their M4, including the aforementioned 10-mode M Traction Control function. It also adds a Track mode to the standard Road and Sport M modes, accessible via a long press and hold of the M button, which fully deactivates all comfort and safety features and converts all displays to show only track-focused information. An M Drift Analyzer records the duration, distance covered, line, and angle of a drift with a rating shown on the Control Display. The M Laptimer feature tracks key performance metrics of a track session, placing them in the instrument cluster and on the optional head-up display. This allows drivers to see how much quicker or slower they are going relative to their fastest lap of the current session. The program tracks number of laps completed, distance covered, and the duration of the driver’s stint.

Yes, It Has the Huge Weird Kidney Grilles

BMW claims the new M4 enjoys greater differentiation from its 4 Series siblings than ever before, with its fenders dramatically flared to conceal the wider tires and track and connected by wide and potentially shin-knocking rocker panels. The front end is comprehensively redesigned, and the black used for the grille inserts is a huge (and slimming) visual improvement, although that’s not difficult to achieve. (Smaller grilles, as seen in this illustration, really would be better.) Full LED headlights with fiber-optic daytime running lights are standard, with adaptive Laserlight lamps available as an option. In back you’ll find the typical diffuser, 4.0-inch exhaust tips, and a lip spoiler. A carbon-fiber roof featuring longitudinal fins to manage airflow is standard, while an optional M Carbon exterior package adds carbon-fiber on the front air intakes, rear diffuser, exterior mirror caps, and rear spoiler.

In the cabin, the coolest new optional feature are the electric M Carbon bucket seats, which adjust lower than the standard M sport seats and weigh 21 pounds less while providing cutouts for a multi-point harness. They supposedly combine race-ready bolstering with long-distance comfort and feature an illuminated model badge. Naturally there are red accents and standard Aluminum Tetragon trim, the latter of which can of course be replaced by carbon fiber. The 12.3-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster and center displays get M specific screens to display all that cool M Drive Professional stuff.

Alrighty Then, How Much Does the Beastly 2021 BMW M4 Cost?

The basic M4 coupe starts at $72,795—$2,650 more than the 2020 model—while the Competition model starts at $75,795, just $900 more than in 2020. (That’s $28,300 less than the CS, too.) They both go on sale in March of 2021, with M xDrive becoming available on the Competition models later that summer. A convertible is expected to join the lineup in the fall, as a 2022 model. An M4 Gran Coupe is probably not in the cards, which is unfortunate, but those with a need for more doors need only look to the equally new 2021 M3 sedan.

2021 BMW M4 Specifications
PRICE $72,795-$75,695
LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe, convertible*
ENGINE 3.0L/473-503-hp/406-479-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual, 8-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,850-3,900 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 112.5 in
L x W x H 189.1 x 74.3 x 54.8 in
0-60 MPH 3.8-4.1 sec (mfr est)
EPA FUEL ECON Not yet rated
ON SALE March 2021
*M xDrive available on Competition models summer 2021; convertible M4 in fall 2021.

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