By definition, the word “baleful” means someone or something that is threatening harm, or is menacing in nature. One’s not entirely sure why, but this word comes to mind when a hardtop BMW M4 pokes its snout out from around the corner of a building, almost as if it were a Hammerhead shark, searching for the scent of its next prey. In soft-top form this car does not appear nearly as menacing, even though the same 425-horsepower, twin-turbo, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine rests behind its headlights. There is just something brutish and mean-spirited about the hardtop model, and while its styling may not be to everyone’s liking, its performance numbers are nothing short of insatiable.
With its race-designed cooling system, available six-speed manual transmission, and aerodynamics that are designed for both downforce and ventilation, there is little doubt that this thing was built to bite back. The M4 comes equipped with twin-tube shocks and available adaptive suspension for dialing-in track days, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) that balances-out brake fade, a fully-active “M-spec” differential, and aluminum suspension arms to match the front subframe, along with wheel carriers to keep things stiff and lightweight out on the open road.
There also are upgrades galore for this car, including an $8,000 set of carbon-ceramic brakes, 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels in a “Double-Spoke Style,” and while some may wish that there were a few aero upgrades to hide the way the nose looks, the M4 remains dangerous-looking enough for anyone to second guess their choice to tango with it on the freeway. But while it will hit 60 in 3.7 seconds courtesy of 406 pound-feet of torque, and carries with it a top speed of 163 miles per hour, this car is still a lush BMW, and comes equipped with every imaginable extravagance one might want in a performance luxury machine.
It has rain-sensing windshield wipers, xenon adaptive headlights with dynamic auto-leveling, heated side-view mirrors with automatic-dimming functions, and 10-way adjustable sport seats that feature four-way lumbar support, power-adjusting side bolsters, and backlit “M” logos on the backrests to remind you what mode to put it in every time you get in the damn thing. But don’t let that LED-backed logo cause you to overlook all of the other small touches in this car, because there are a ton of niceties within the cabin that warrant praise.
We like that BMW chose to equip this car with split fold-down rear seats, which is a functional consideration that is often overlooked in performance cars. Beyond that, drivers will likely appreciate the anthracite carbon structured cloth and leather upholstery, the real carbon fiber interior trim, the three-stage heated front seats, all four of the 12-V power outlets, and the anthracite headliner that ties it all together. The M4 has a ton of tech too, so be prepared to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the computer in this thing if you want to make the most of it. But if manually dialing in the powerband isn’t your thing, don’t worry about it, as the factory settings in this car are fantastic, and the hi-resolution 3D navigation system and 200-gigabyte hard drive are sure to give drivers plenty to play with right from the get-go.
If you plan on hitting 163 miles per hour, there had better be some safety thrown in for peace of mind. BMW has delivered the goods in a few interesting ways; there’s the M4’s interlocking door anchoring system, which is designed to help protect against door intrusions during a side impact. This car also packs active knee protection for head-on collisions, and sports impact sensors that can deactivate the alternator, fuel pump, and starter from the battery during an accident, while automatically activating the hazard lights and interior lights as all of the doors unlock for easier escape.
Returning to why someone would opt for this car over a basic 3-, 4-, or 5-Series BMW, you realize that outside of being exclusively available in two-door trim, rear-wheel drive cars like this offer us the performance and driving feel that one can only truly appreciate if they drive it every day. There is a running line of jokes that always start with “BMW M owners always talk about…” and while the jokes may not always be funny, there is a strong kernel of truth hidden within these base forms of humor.
The M4 has a lightweight trunk lid with an integrated gurney, but even if it did make a huge difference in how the car performed, no one at the pub would likely care. It has a carbon fiber-reinforced-plastic roof, but we both know that someone at the end of the bar would say something like “So it costs around $70,000 but they couldn’t afford a real carbon fiber roof?”
At this point you will hastily try to conjure a retort, looking to justify BMW’s choice by saying that it is almost as good as full carbon fiber, and how the aluminum hood is lightweight too and features the signature “powerdome.” This just makes matters worse, as everyone at the bar is now chortling over how you are either overcompensating for something, or how the this bulging bonnet has a name that vaguely reminds them of a Mad Max film from the 1980s.
But don’t let other people’s snide remarks or uninterested gazes hamper you from enjoying the M4 parked outside, because all you have to do is take the hottest girl to the curb, and once she agrees to go for a spin there is no need to concern yourself with what everyone else thinks. Dial the suspension and engine into the most beastly of modes and then let the boost do the rest. This leads us full-circle to why you should consider one of these cars in the first place: It’s understated enough to keep you under the radar, but ferocious enough chew-up both rivals and tires alike. Forget the sticker price, insane insurance costs, controversial design ques, and M-owner cliché quips, this turbocharged hammerhead is hungry for the most complex roads imaginable, and only you can spurn it into a feeding-frenzy.