Article by Stephen Darby. LAAS Event Photography by Nick Kouris.
BMW’s departure from the familiar nomenclature of the past has been received with mixed reviews from the dedicated German sports car community. It seems that the Bavarian automotive giant has decided to affix odd numbers to sedans and even numbers to coupes and convertibles. The performance motoring crowd is especially concerned that the lofty standard of the beloved M3 will be lowered with its replacement M4 coupe. BMW aficionados have been less than impressed with the redesigned M5. Claims that the M5 lacks guts, that the suspension is soft and mushy, and that the sports car temperament has been eliminated have fueled the fires of doubt about the new M4. The BMW faithful fear that a similar fate awaits the new M4; after all, the engineers who designed the M5 are still around.
Initial reports indicated that the all-new 2014 BMW M4 would be unveiled at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, taking place this week. The latest buzz, however, is that it will be introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in January. In Los Angeles, the hardtop convertible version of the BMW 4-Series will be in the spotlight, making its worldwide debut, while the hardtop coupe version of the 4-Series is already in showrooms.
For decades, the famed M-Sport designation has represented superb performance and the pinnacle of quality, especially regarding the M3. Good news: According to all prerelease reviews and industry speculation, the 2014 BMW M4 certainly seems to continue that fine tradition of excellence.
A wide, aggressive stance, low center of gravity, and tailored lines hint at the performance potential of the new M4 and quicken the pulse of the true car enthusiast. The M version is nearly two inches wider than the new 435i. The added girth comes from lightweight M-Sport body panels; the hood and front quarter-panels are made from aluminum; and the roof, deck lid, and front strut brace are constructed using a carbon fiber compound. The more aerodynamic M-Sport body package includes an M-specific front apron with large air intakes, a specifically designed rear bumper with diffuser, side skirts, and high-gloss shadow line trim. The M rides on specially designed 18- or 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels.
Handling is achieved through a four-wheel independent suspension composed of a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear configuration. Aluminum control arms and other components are used to both lighten the overall vehicle weight and absorb noise, shock, and vibration. An M-Sport performance-tuned rack-and-pinion steering system helps to straighten the curves, while electronic steering assist aids in fuel efficiency. Predictably, the 2014 BMW M4 sticks to the pavement, even in the most strenuous driving circumstances. M-Sport brakes, which include painted (blue) brake calipers, are standard, and carbon ceramic brakes are available as optional equipment.
Of particular concern to BMW loyalists is that the naturally aspirated V-8 engine is out; in is a turbocharged, direct-injected inline six-cylinder engine. Rest assured BMW faithful, the 2014 BMW M4 will really put down the ponies—and conserve fuel in the bargain. Under the hood is the time-tested 3.0-liter engine, a version of which earned its stripes in variations of the BMW 335i model. The S55B30 engine, derived from the N55 engine platform, is fitted with twin Mitsubishi mono-scroll turbochargers capable of achieving 18.1 psi boost pressure. Considering that this combination already produces a base 424 horsepower and makes 369 lb.-ft. of torque (a slight improvement over the V-8 powered M3) and assuming that aftermarket tuning specialty firms from around the world begin developing performance reprogramming software, turbo and intercooler upgrades, as well as high-flow exhaust systems, from the first whisper of the forthcoming M4, it is safe to say that approximate horsepower levels could reach the 650 to 700 range. The dreaded curse of turbo lag has been eliminated with the introduction of twin turbochargers. The low-speed turbo utilizes a low-RPM impeller, which is engineered for quick acceleration at low speed. A high-speed turbo then takes over. It is designed with a high-RPM impeller that forces air into the engine throughout the remainder of the RPM range. This all translates into crisp takeoffs, lower zero-to-sixty times, and shocking throttle response, at any speed. The new M4 engine is lighter, more powerful, and more fuel efficient. If that is not enough, it is engineered with a redline that exceeds 7,500 RPMs. So, why worry?
The M4 will be offered with two transmission options: a manual six-speed or a semi-automatic "M” double-clutch transmission (M-DCT).
Despite appearing larger, the 2014 BMW M4 is lighter than last year’s M3. It is more powerful and more fuel efficient. Embrace change. Give the M4 a chance and you will grow to love it.