As a counterpoint to the familiar litany of complaint—the new BMWs are too heavy, the steering’s too remote, they’re no longer engaging to drive—we present the new M4. Tipping the scales at just 3,293 lbs., it’s lighter than even the 1 Series M Coupe. And though it has electric steering, it’s the most tactile interpretation of that technology since the Porsche Boxster. As for driver engagement, well, few BMWs have ever felt quite so alive as this one.
It might even please the E30 M3 contingent.
Just the three of us
We’ve come to Qatar for a preview drive in the new M4 some seven weeks in advance of its official press launch. I’m joined by two more journalists—one from the U.K.’s Evo and the other from Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport—but the “Ladies First” dictum has me behind the wheel for the car’s first laps on this dusty desert track.
When you’re the first journalist in the world to drive the new M4, your first priority is to keep it on the track and out of the gravel. That’s especially true when the M4 in question will be making its debut as the 2014 Moto GP Safety Car this weekend. This pre-production car—we’ll be testing the production version soon—is equipped with Safety Car graphics, lights, Recaro racing seats, harnesses and a roll cage. It’s also got an exhaust system and a slew of carbon fiber aero bits from BMW Performance Parts. The car isn’t entirely analogous to a stock M4, but it’s close enough for a first impression.
I wonder, though: Does the roll cage improve chassis stiffness? It’s not a full cage, but it seems like it would.
“The roll cage is for safety, not stiffness,” says Dr. Friedrich Nitschke, head of BMW M. “The car is already stiff in that area [behind the front seats]. You can’t let it flex around the door openings or the windows will break.”