Split-personality sports car
THE GOOD
  • Stirring performance
  • Rear- and all-wheel drive versatility
  • Beautiful and well-appointed interior
THE BAD
  • Steering lacks feeling
  • No manual option
  • Front-end styling
  • No V8 sound

It’s been quite a few years now since BMW split its popular small car into two camps.

Sedans kept the 3 Series designation, while a new 4 Series signified the coupe and convertible versions. As is the tradition, M versions of all models get hopped up handling and numerous performance upgrades, while so-called Competition models are fine-tuned even further.

Content that buyers have adjusted to the naming convention, there are more changes afoot for 2022. As if the return of the convertible wasn’t news enough, the automaker is offering all-wheel drive with the hardcore M3 and M4 models for the first time in their storied histories. Controversial though it may be, the 2022 BMW M4 Competition xDrive brings an added element of all-season functionality but without losing any of its performance chops.

Styling: 6/10

The public response to the revised fascia shared by the M3 and M4 – as well as others in the lineup – has been less than kind, and with good reason. Ubiquitously referred to as “bucktoothed,” I certainly wouldn’t consider the moniker a compliment. I agree that it’s a huge misstep, particularly considering how good looking the previous generation was.

My feelings on the new design can be summed up merely by relaying the fact that I parked the car nose-first in my garage so I never had to look at its ugly mug. Personally, I can’t imagine spending six figures on a car and being deprived of the joy of simply approaching it or doing a double take when walking away. Perhaps it will age well and be the object of nostalgic affection for some like the 997-generation Porsche 911. Time will tell. [Time here. I just popped by to tell you it won’t age well. – Ed.]

Adorned in the wonderfully deep and distinctive Isle of Man Green Metallic paint ($895) complemented by Tartufo Merino leather interior ($2,500) with aluminum accents, my tester featured forged double-spoke M wheels measuring 19 inches in the front and 20 in the rear. The carbon-fibre roof looks great, but is also lighter, lowering the centre of gravity. The interior is wonderfully designed and appointed, featuring high-quality leather with stainless steel and carbon-fibre accents. The galvanic controls (included in the Premium package) add to the aesthetic.

Safety: 8/10

The M4 comes with a good amount of passive and active safety features, which (thankfully) aren’t overly intrusive when driving enthusiastically. Lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist come standard, as does blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. I did, however, find the automatic braking at slow speeds within close proximity to other objects to be sensitive. Typically, pulling a vehicle right up to the back of my garage within a couple inches of my winter tires, the BMW simply wouldn’t have it.

Features: 8.5/10

There are plenty of options and packages to choose from that would make your M4 feel like your very own. It’s a bespoke experience similar to having a custom suit made. There’s a lively colour palette for exterior paint and interior treatments, as well as a variety of wood, stainless steel, or carbon-fibre accents. This tester was optioned up with the $6,300 Premium package, which I would highly endorse adding. It includes ventilated seats, an automatic trunk release, automatic high-beam headlights, a head-up display, upgraded sound system, parking assist with a 360-degree view, and a drive recorder. The digital dash offers a speedometer on the left and a tach on the right, with the ability to curate a variety of information on the display in between. Interior lighting on the doors, dash, and seatbacks looks marvellous at night. It also features wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a 12-volt and USB charger up front.

User Friendliness: 8/10

The parking assist system and 360-degree camera view help with visibility, as the small rear side windows don’t offer much of a view. The optional head-up display can be adjusted for height and brightness, as well as offering the ability to configure information.

The 12.3-inch infotainment system is crisp and clear, and easily manipulated via controls on the steering wheel or the rotary knob on the centre console. Dual-zone HVAC functions can be operated with gloves on and the heated steering wheel button is now conveniently located on the bottom of the steering wheel itself.

Practicality: 6.5/10

The power-operated trunk offers 440 L of cargo space but has a relatively small opening, which limits the possibility of accommodating something the size of a hockey bag – the universal measurement for trunks in Canada.

Featuring an impressive all-wheel drive system that can easily be deactivated offers a heightened level of versatility compared to most sports cars. The system is rear-biased, but torque moves freely fore and aft depending on where it’s needed. Switching to sport or sport+ modes activate the louder exhaust profile, but a simple push of a button can quiet that down if you don’t fancy it. In stock form, the car isn’t loud enough to upset the neighbours unless you happen to be driving through a residential area at full chatter.

Comfort: 7.5/10

Behind the thick steering wheel is unquestionably the best seat in the house. It also offers the best view of the M4. The highly bolstered front seats are supportive and effective at keeping you in place but may be restrictive to those larger than a certain size. Even with a diminutive 32-inch waist [show-off. – Ed.], I had to remove my coat to fit within the bolsters of the bucket seats. Regardless, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. Unlike many sport coupes, the rear seats aren’t just for show, but the area is cramped and there is limited headroom for adults. The dual-zone climate control keeps occupants content, as do the three stage heated and ventilated seats which are complemented by a heated steering wheel.

Each model of M4 comes with adaptive suspension and adjustable brake pedal feel. The ride is most definitely on the sporting side, but not punishingly so. It’s a stable-feeling chassis that can be adjusted to be softer or firmer based on the circumstances and preference. The cabin is well insulated and road noise in line with others in the segment.

Power: 9.5/10

Gone are the days of the magnificent-sounding but very temperamental and expensive-to-repair V8. The M4 makes use of a twin-turbocharged 3.0L inline-six-cylinder engine.

Entry into the M4 lineup comes in the form of a rear-wheel-drive model with a manual transmission making 473 hp, but the Competition model ups the ante by making 503 hp and 473 ft-lb of torque. When utilizing the default all-wheel drive configuration, the M4 Competition has no issue putting the power down in an efficient, practical manner. The 1,805-kg (3,979-lb) all-wheel-drive coupe rockets from a standstill to 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds. Its lighter rear-wheel-drive counterpart does it in 3.9.

The M4 Competition xDrive has something of a personality disorder – in a good way. Performance is highly customizable. Its advanced technology allows it to mystically shape shift with ease. Navigate through vehicle settings to deactivate the front differential and you magically unlock an entirely new world of enjoyment. All-wheel drive is the default setting, or you can choose from all-wheel drive sport or rear-wheel drive for maximum fun. By simply pushing a button, you can transition from handling like a slot car on rails to initiating big, billowy burnouts and grin-inducing power slides.

I programmed the M1 button on the steering wheel with all inputs set to be soft and supple, then set M2 to be as sporting and unrestrictive as possible. It was as if I was able to magically morph from Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde at will from one set of curves to the next.

Driving Feel: 7.5/10

The M4 is available with a six-speed manual transmission, but opting for the M4 Competition xDrive results in settling for the eight-speed automatic transmission. Gear shifts are smooth in the softer settings and quite quick when sport or track modes are selected. It’s a comfortably driving car that can quickly go from feeling like a relatively serene sport coupe to closing in on supercar performance with the push of a button.

As time has gone on, M cars have become larger and more technologically advanced. Unfortunately, they also offer a less visceral driving experience. Even in its most aggressive setting, The M4’s steering is sharp and precise yet feels somewhat vague and artificial. Unlike the hydraulic systems of old where you had an immense feeling of control through your fingertips, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to gauge the threshold of grip until you’ve surpassed it.

Fuel Economy: 6.5/10

The M4 Competition xDrive is rated at 14.5 L/100 km in the city and 10.1 L on the highway for a combined rating of 12.5. The Audi RS 5 fares slightly better at 13.1 / 9.5 / 11.5, respectively, while the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S is rated at 13.7 / 9.1 / 11.6. Over the course of a spirited week of driving that included city commuting, highway driving, and some backroad blasts exploring all of the various drive modes and drivetrain configurations, I managed to achieve 13.4 L/100 km.

Value: 7/10

The MSRP for the M4 Competition Coupe starts at $93,385, with the option of upgrading to the rear-biased all-wheel drive system for an extra $2,500. For that money, you not only get the added benefit of poor weather drivability with all-wheel drive, but it also shaves 0.4 seconds off the zero to 100 km/h time thanks to the added traction.

The M4’s stiffest competition is no doubt from the all-wheel-drive Audi RS 5 and the rear-wheel-drive Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, which both currently have starting MSRPs of $87,900. Neither offer a manual transmission. The former makes use of a 444-hp twin-turbocharged 2.9L V6, while the latter offers the same horsepower and acceleration times as the Bimmer but boasts more torque from its simply glorious-sounding 4.0L V8. Start clicking option boxes on the online configurator and you’ll find that prices climb quickly, so choose wisely.

The Verdict

The addition of all-wheel drive to the 2022 BMW M4 Competition xDrive provides faster acceleration and better traction for poor weather, making it a proper daily driver for the automotive enthusiast. The ability to stay civil or disengage the system for some sideways shenanigans is also very enjoyable. It’s fun to drive and nicely appointed, but the vagueness in the steering and updated exterior styling both left me feeling unenthusiastic about it.

Both the Audi RS 5 and the AMG C 63 S get better fuel economy and cost less. I also feel like each one is far better looking in their own distinctive ways. Offering all-wheel drive and one of the nicest interiors in the business, I’d go with the Audi if I was dead-set on having power at all four wheels. The AMG C63 S doesn’t have the same versatility or softness of the other two, but it’s got laser-sharp handling, looks fabulous, and sounds fantastic.

Opting for the all-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Carrera will set you back an extra chunk of change, but you’ll also get a lot for the money – including better fuel economy and the option of a manual transmission. Not only is it rewarding to drive, but it’s so beautiful you’ll want to park it in your living room and stare at it all day long.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.0L   Model Tested 2022 BMW M4 Competition xDrive
Engine Cylinders I6   Base Price $95,885
Peak Horsepower 503 hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 479 lb-ft   Destination Fee $2,480
Fuel Economy 14.5 / 10.1 / 12.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $109,410
Cargo Space 440 L  
Optional Equipment
$10,945 – Premium Package, $6,300; Aluminum trim, $500; M Forged Double Spoke wheels, $750; Isle of Man Green Metallic paint, $895; Tartufo Merino Leather, $2,500