2021 BMW M4 Competition Review - Heart Trumps Looks

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2021 BMW M4 Competition Coupe Fast Facts

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six (503 horsepower @ 6,250 RPM, 479 lb-ft @ 2,750-5,000 RPM)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
16 city / 23 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
14.5 city / 10.2 highway / 12.6 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$74,700 (U.S) / $95,804.73 (Canada)
As Tested
$101,095 (U.S.) / $111,649.70 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,580 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared. Canadian pricing and fuel economy is based on the 2022 mode
2021 bmw m4 competition review heart trumps looks

Almost every automotive journalist and enthusiast I know hates the new BMW grille – the one that took the twin-kidney look and made it as bucktooth as a beaver.

But you know what? You don’t have to see it from behind the wheel, foot planted, engine humming at full zoot, as you attack Road America. Or VIR. Or Willow Springs. Or when on the track of your choice for getting your jollies.

I had a few chances to wheel an M4 last year – I got the same car loaned to me twice (the press fleets work in mysterious ways) and I also took it for a lap of Road America, under the watchful eye of a BMW hired-gun driving instructor. And let me tell you – the car’s such a mix of sweetheart and hoary beast (that’s meant as a compliment. Mostly.) at speed that you won’t give a flying you-know-what about the ugly-ass maw.

Nor will you worry about it much during daily driving, but that’s only because the car’s other big flaw becomes apparent. Mostly, it’s the seats – the race-track-ready buckets do a great job of keeping your body in place on the track, but they aren’t comfortable. A bump in the middle threatens to create discomfort between your legs, for one thing. For another, the seats are hard enough to add fatigue on a long drive. And good luck getting an adult into the almost useless rear seat.

I initially typed “flaws”, plural, to start that graph, but as I mulled over my memories I was reminded that the M4’s street dynamics don’t require much sacrifice. Is the ride sports-car stiff? Yes, and the sun rises in the east. Is it a bit loud? Yes, and bears crap in the forest. But the stiffness was never punishing – adaptive shocks certainly help. Similarly, the noise was generally acceptable – not to mention that the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six sounds lovely when pressed into duty.

The engine sounds sweet, and 503 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque mean it launches with ease. The carbon-ceramic brakes are stout (they better be for over $8K) though a tab grabby at lower speeds. And this Bimmer carves corners as well as you’d expect, though the 3,880-pound curb weight sometimes gets felt – there’s room here for a diet. That’s the good stuff.

Again, the double-joint spring strut with aluminum wishbone suspension up front and five-link rear suspension work together well, but there is one big dynamic flaw – the steering, as is now common among Bimmers, feels a bit too distant, especially in routine driving or when attacking a curvy public road at half-blast. Even on the track, though, it wasn’t as communicative as I’d have liked, though it did seem firmer and less artificial in the proper drive mode. It should be noted here that the M Drive Professional system has 10 different ways to limit wheel slip. In fact, it should be noted that if this review dove into the specifics of how you can customize the various drive modes, it would be a lot longer and you might need a pillow.

What you end up with is a high-strung sports coupe that wouldn’t be too hard to live with if it weren’t for the dang seats. Thankfully, they’re optional, and not selecting them would save you $3,800 bucks. I wouldn’t check that box unless I tracked my car regularly.

Other options that ballooned the base price of $74,700 to $101,095 included the $550 Isle of Man green paint, the Silverstone and Black leather seats ($2,550), the M Drive Professional drive-mode system ($900), the M tires/wheels (19-inch front, 20-inch rear, $1,300), carbon-fiber trim ($950), a carbon-fiber exterior package ($4,700), and the M Driver’s Package. That last costs $2,500, raises the top speed to 180 mph and allows you a one-day high-performance driving experience.

Standard features included the 8-speed automatic transmission and M seat belts. That’s on top of standard M4 features like Harmon-Kardon audio, heated front seats, M Sport rear differential, iDrive, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and dynamic cruise control. Standard driver-aid systems include lane-departure warning, active blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The M4 Competition coupe is a wonderful car to drive, especially since you can’t see the grille. Just think twice about your choice of chairs.

What’s New for 2021

This is the second generation of the M4.

Who Should Buy It

The well-heeled Bimmer fan searching for strong performance without major sacrifice in terms of everything except money. One who can ignore the gaping grille.

[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 23 comments
  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Jul 05, 2022

    Too ugly, too expensive. Are buyers/leasees of these cars ambivalent about aesthetics? I can't imagine dropping this kind of money for a buck tooth train wreck. 100k buys all sorts of cars. Why would anyone buy this?

  • Jack Jack on Jul 24, 2022

    this car's color is very good. I really love to much BMW cars.

  • Irvingklaws I think I read that the amount of charge delivered isn't (yet anyway) really enough to charge-up a typical EV battery, only to lessen the amount of drain. Still, I'd think the best application would be on major intestate highways where vehicles tend to be traveling long distances without much stopping, and range is a real concern. Don't see much point installing into city streets where most EVs are probably already well within range of their home/destination. I'd think it would be easier to install and maintain on long stretches of highway as opposed to typical city streets. As with EVs themselves it could make sense for some, if not all, use cases.
  • CaddyDaddy As Tassos sweats profusely on a hot August afternoon on the Autobahn, his W120 struggles to maintain 2nd gear up the hill as the OM636 in all its farm field water pump grade sophistication agricultural glory is pushed to its limit delivering all 36hp. In his review mirror a gleaming grill of a 54' Eldo is fast approaching, and in mere seconds whooshes past were he sees wealthy American diplomats sitting in Air Conditioned suit coat comfort motoring with fully automatic 4-speed hydromatic drive. He shrugs his shoulders and says, to the Victors goes the Glory!
  • Pig_Iron Thanks Corey, your series are always very interesting. 🙂
  • Bufguy Thank God it wasn't a Subaru or Nissan with a CVT, as their transmissions for all intents and purposes have infinite ratios!
  • Analoggrotto This is the great progenitor to the Kia Telluride, the ultimate statement of upper middle class and upper class decision making and ATP power.