Welcome to my office,” DTM race-car driver Andy Priaulx says with a smile as we strap ourselves into a 2014 BMW M4 prototype. It’s covered in camouflage, and the interior isn’t quite up to production snuff, but otherwise, this is the car that will arrive next June in the United States. The 2014 BMW M4 is the successor to the M3 coupe, one of the purest, most driver-oriented cars BMW has ever made. And on this hot, sunny afternoon it’s Priaulx’s job to fling the car—and us—around a former airfield in Germany to demonstrate the keen reflexes and taut handling ability of a car that BMW promises will come in around 3300 pounds.
That figure is significant, as this will be the first generation of M cars that weighs less than its predecessor, though the 3300-pound figure is a touch misleading. BMW expects its European cars to come in around 1500 kilograms, which converts to a touch more than 3300 pounds. BMW’s U.S. division cautions our M3 and M4 will weigh a bit more, since American cars are outfitted differently, and the method for determining car weights is different in the United States. Regardless of the scale or specific figure, it’s a light, quick, car.
It’s all on display as Priaulx tears around the airfield with ease. The veteran driver works the low gears with ease and energy, whipping us through corners and cracking open the throttle of the twin-turbo 430-hp inline six-cylinder. The 369 lb-ft of torque feels meaty and comes on smoothly and quickly. It’s a hell of a fun ride, and Priaulx says, “There’s nothing vague. It’s very direct.”
Sure, a BMW factory driver should like the BMW sports car he’s promoting at a press event. But our time in the passenger seat reinforces the commitment to light-weight materials and methods that the brand is making with the 2014 BMW M4. Before our laps with Priaulx, we were immersed in the ways BMW’s M division has worked to strip weight out of every area conceivable.
It starts under the hood, where the inline six is 22 pounds lighter than the V-8 it replaces. The twin, single-scroll turbos are actually smaller than the ones used in the 1-series M. The crankcase is about four pounds lighter than the previous one, and the magnesium oil sump is about two pounds lighter. The system also features new pistons and a new crankshaft.
It’s not just what BMW took out or changed. Bimmer added plenty, including extensive use of carbon-fiber reinforced polymer inside and out. The propeller shaft is a one-piece unit made from this material, and it is about 11 pounds lighter than its steel predecessor. Plus, taking the exposed carbon-fiber roof (instead of the steel one with a sun roof) subtracts 14 pounds from the car.
While the 2014 BMW M4 and M3 are dripping in carbon, BMW made judicious use of conventional materials, like aluminum for the hood, many chassis components, and forged wheels.
“It’s about the interaction of all those components,” says Michael Wimbeck, project leader for the 2014 BMW M4 and M3.
The electromechanical steering also saves weight, about seven pounds, though that’s not why the M division decided to use it instead of the traditional hydraulic system. BMW is convinced it can get the setup tuned to the level of the old E92 BMW M3s, says engineer Benedikt Nussstein.
“Americans are really focused on the steering,” he says. “We did a lot to give it the steering feel Americans expect.
While we can’t confirm the steering feel, Priaulx sure enjoyed it, and the 2014 BMW M4 we rode around in felt remarkably agile, eager, and responsive. It’s direct and quick, which is the definition of an M car. The extensive weight reductions seem to have paid off, and you don’t need to drive in a European sports-car series to determine that. BMW appears to have another athletic sports coupe on the horizon.