By Jonathan Crouch
In 2014, BMW separated the coupe and saloon versions of its M3, giving the coupe 'M4' badging and creating this 'F82'-series model. The engineering recipe was as with the equivalent 'F80'-series M3 saloon, which meant a 3.0-litre twin turbo straight six beneath the bonnet. How does this car fare as a used buy?
This M4's heritage lies in an unbroken line of M3 models dating all the way back to 1985. This was effectively the fifth generation design in this model line, an 'F82'-series design launched in 2014 at a time when BMW had decided that its mid-sized coupes and convertibles should wear '4'-designated badges. So 'M4' it had to be - though the 'M3' name was retained by the mechanically identical 'F80' saloon version, which used the same 425hp straight six 3.0-litre twin turbo engine.
A light facelift in 2016 brought the option of a 'Competition' version, with total output boosted from 425 to 450hp - and that was the only variant offered by the time the production run finished in 2020. A track-style CS model sold between 2017-2019.
What You Get
Is this how buyers will want their M-car to look? Probably. The MK1 4 Series coupe is a smart piece of styling: here though, it also became a rather menacing thing, sitting 47mm lower to the ground than its M3 saloon stablemate and offering a feeling of real width in its design, especially when you view from the front and take in the wider flared wheel arches, the characteristic power dome on the classic long bonnet and the way the deep front spoiler with its trio of air intakes sits purposefully beneath the trademark double-slat kidney grille. The unique aerodynamically-optimised twin-stalk side mirrors with their translucent LED indicators are bespoke too.
Predictably, the M4 Convertible model is even more stylish, provided you've retracted its metal-folding top, a process that occupies 20 seconds. Whatever your choice of body shape, inside you'll be greeted by an intuitively-designed cockpit, the centrepiece of which is the M leather steering wheel with its MDrive buttons for personalised vehicle set-up. On M Double Clutch Transmission models, you also get gearshift paddles with a cool metal finish. Through the stitched wheel, you glimpse a purposeful set of Motorsport-derived dials, with a segment beneath the rev counter showing the various suspension, throttle and steering set-up options you've chosen.
We think the deep-set leather-trimmed heated, electrically-adjustable M seats are our favourite interior touch though, with their contoured sides, integrated headrests and pronounced raised elements. Getting into the back isn't the easiest task in the world and once you're snuggled in the sculpted seats made from a lightweight composite material, you'll find a slightly strange combination of decent legroom but rather pinched headroom. The extra 50mm of wheelbase this car enjoys over its M3 Coupe predecessor really tells here, freeing up 13mm more stretching room for your lower limbs.
There'll be reasonable room for your luggage too. Once open, the boot in the Coupe reveals a large but shallow 445-litre space that probably does quite well to get within a whisker of the cargo capacity of slightly frumpier-looking rivals.
What to Look For
Our owner survey did reveal many satisfied users of this car but inevitably, there were a few issues reported. Obviously, a fully-stamped service history is vital. This car uses a complex 'S55'-series engine and only regular and appropriate maintenance will see it go the distance. Common problems with this unit include issues with the valve cover and valve cover gasket leaks, oil pan gasket leaks and oil filter housing gasket leaks. Early on in the production run, various crank hub issues were also reported. The crank hub holds the engine's crankshaft and timing gear together and in the case of the 'S55' engine, a single bolt was expected to do the job. Occasionally (it's estimated at one in every 200 cars) that bolt was prone to break. A new bedplate brought in by BMW was said to have fixed the problem on 2016-on cars but you need to be aware of it on earlier 'F82'-series M4s. Otherwise, it's just the usual things. Look for signs of child interior damage and check the alloys for scratches and scuffs.
[based on a 2017 model M4 Competition] An air filter costs around £40. A fuel filter is in the £48 bracket. A wiper blade is in the £7-£26 bracket. A pollen filter is around £9. Front brake pads are around £11-£30. Front brake discs are in the £198-£232 bracket. An alternator is in the £282-£328 bracket. A headlight is in the £148-£381 bracket. A shock absorber is in the £158-£370 bracket, but you can pay as much as around £660 for pricier brands.
On the Road
So, what's this first generation M4 really like? Like no other 4 Series Coupe, that's for sure. You realise this as soon as you hit the start button of this 'F82' model and the twin turbo straight six engine fires up with a throaty roar. The noise may not be quite as emotive as the revvy V8 used in this car's direct 'E90'-series M3 Coupe predecessor but it'll still alert the neighbours to the fact that something rather special is sitting on your driveway.
With a big normally aspirated engine fitted up-front, the previous generation M3 version of this model required selection of a lower gear for instant acceleration below 4,000rpm, so you constantly had to keep the engine spinning, which was fun if you were in the mood but a little tiring if you weren't. Thanks to 550Nm of pulling power, that's not necessary here: plant your foot in almost any gear and it goes. Very fast, 50 to 75mph in 4th occupying just 3.5s in the manual model and 4.2s in the auto version. That's with the standard 425hp version; the 450hp Competition variant was hardly any faster. Either way, it's true that there isn't the razor-sharp throttle response you only get from normally aspirated induction - and you might rather miss that. But turbo lag is slight and, once the blowers have spooled up, they're your passport to absolutely ridiculous speed.
Most 'F82' M4s were sold with the M DCT twin clutch auto, though unlike Mercedes and Audi models in this segment from this period, BMW did still give buyers a manual stick shift option. Overall, there's no doubt that this M4 remains the proper driver's tool its M3 predecessors always were. It's not as light and chuckable as those earlier M-cars: weighing in at 1,500kgs, it could never be. But then BMW made an M235i model in this period you should try if that's more the kind of thing you're seeking. Or perhaps the rare M4 CS track variant, sold between 2017-2019. In standard form though, the M4 in this 'F82' form moved on - but kept the spirit of the M3 originals.
So. How can we sum all of this up? Well, it's certainly interesting to note that, unlike its direct M3 predecessors, this M4 was built in exactly the same factory on Munich's Preussenstrasse that was used to construct the car that started this iconic model line back in 1985, the E30 M3 coupe. That fact apart though, there's not actually a lot of commonality between that original and its modernday interpretation. The focus here changed from a raw, track-tamed screamer to something a lot more measured.
Don't get us wrong; this 'F82' M4 is still hugely thrilling - even if you invoke just 50 per cent of its capability. Its agenda though, was changed. If you were one of those who had a poster of an E30 M3 on your bedroom wall back in the Eighties, then the mature adult in you would probably find that car too wearing now. Instead, you'd want something like this. That's where this M4 is so clever. It took its customers with it, understanding that people spending this sort of money on a sports coupe don't necessarily want something that'll bite back, give them the shakes and necessitate a trip to the chiropractors.
Are there drawbacks? Well, steering and throttle response aren't quite as sharp as they were in this model's M3 predecessor. Nor is the engine note quite as memorable. Many will feel though, that these are small prices to pay for the much bigger benefits offered elsewhere. And the fact that this still remains the most exciting and involving car of its kind from this period. Even its closest rival, the V8 Mercedes-AMG C 63, can't come close to this M4's agility and driver feedback. So yes, if this is progress, we'll take it. In Austin Yellow metallic, with the twin-clutch gearbox, the head-up display and a set of carbon brakes. We'd better start saving.