2021 BMW M4 Competition Review - Heart Trumps Looks

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]

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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.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.