The 2 Series Active Tourer is BMW’s best seller in many European markets yet all of the brand’s other even-number models are niche vehicles. Having just announced a facelift for the two-door 2 Series cars and a 6 Series GT as well as an 8 Series concept, there has also been news for the 4 Series, in the form of a mid-cycle restyle. That includes the fastest open-top variant, the M4 Convertible Competition. 

BMW has delivered close to 400,000 units of the 4 Series worldwide since its arrival in 2013.

Since the original Coupé was launched in 2013, BMW has delivered close to 400,000 units of the 4 Series worldwide. That includes the Gran Coupé as well as the Convertible. The USA remains the number one market and the UK is number two. Why not China? That’s because all 4 Series cars are built in Germany and therefore attract the duties which apply to all imported passenger vehicles. 

Last year, British buyers purchased 10,100 units of the 4 Series Gran Coupé, as well as 9,100 Coupés and 4,300 Convertibles. 

The M4 can be ordered as a Coupé or a Convertible but there is no four-door body. These cars replaced the fixed roof and open top versions of the M3. As well as changing names and becoming more expensive, they are also more powerful than the previous generation cars. 

The Coupé was previewed by the BMW Concept M4, which premiered at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2013. The production model was revealed at the Detroit auto show in January 2014, with the Convertible following three months later at the New York auto show.

The S55 engine was developed at BMW’s Preussenstrasse facility in Munich and is manufactured at the Steyr powertrain plant in Austria.

All M4s are powered by BMW’s S55 engine, a 2,979cc straight six with two turbochargers. Developed at BMW’s Preussenstrasse facility in Munich, it is manufactured at the company’s Steyr powertrain plant in Austria. In standard form, it produces 431hp.

While an eight-speed automatic was reportedly considered, such a gearbox is not available. Instead, a six-speed manual is standard – in Britain – and a seven-speed M-DCT dual clutch auto can be ordered at extra cost. The Coupé went on sale across Europe from April 2014, with the Convertible following from September 2014.

The GTS was then revealed at October 2015’s Tokyo motor show. This had various CFRP components in the interest of saving weight, and was powered by a 368kW (500hp) version of the S55 engine. A special feature derived from motor racing was water injection. BMW built only 700 units of this car.

The CS, another special edition, was revealed at the Shanghai motor show in April. BMW also told the media that all future CS vehicles will always be less powerful than CSL cars but faster than the Competition versions of M models.

LCI cars now on sale (Life Cycle Impulse = mid-life facelift)

A facelifted M4 range premiered at the Geneva motor show in March, alongside facelifted versions of the 4 Series Coupé, Convertible and Gran Coupé. These have all gone on sale in the UK in recent weeks. 

The M4 I tried out at a media driving day was loaded with extras, taking its price to GBP77,767. This had the Competition pack and its pre-options pricing starts at a far more reasonable GBP62,680. The package, which is additional GBP3,000, includes special seats, extra power, bespoke wheels and a few other items. It also makes the M4 look even more aggressive, which to my eyes, is a very good thing. 

James Thompson is BMW UK’s Product Operations Manager for Mid-Sized Cars, and I asked him who buys the M4 Competition Convertible.

People who buy the M4 aren’t necessarily loyal to any brand.

“Our dealers see a mix of people who also look at the Mercedes-AMG C 63 and C 63 S. These tend to be men in the mid-fifties, and they aren’t necessarily loyal to any brand. They will typically change cars after a year or two”.

“Sometimes people switch in and out of segments. This sort of customer wants the latest high performance car. We sell around 1,500 M4s a year, which makes Britain the second largest market in the world”.

Even a few minutes behind the wheel, hard roof and windows lowered, are enough to see the huge appeal of this car. It is ridiculously fast, as you would expect given the 331kW (450hp) engine, which has 550Nm of torque. Weight is quoted at 1,765kg and acceleration to 62mph takes just four seconds. The open topped car has more NVH than you might expect and that’s in spite of it having a substantial weight penalty – there’s a lot of body-bracing – versus the Coupé.

Anyone who has shelled out the substantial deposit for one of these cars will likely believe it to be a roadster supercar but I would hesitate to call it that. Yes it’s terrifically rapid but there’s a lack of finesse to the handling when pushed to extremes, and you do get a fair bit of vibration showing up in the rear-view mirror. Sadly, and in common with the M6 and M3, the engine sound is much moe pleasing that BMW’s other straight-six engines, but it won’t excite the hairs on the back of your neck.

I tried all sorts of chassis settings via the buttons to the right of the DSG gear selector and this did improve things. You can vary the stiffness of the steering and dampers, for example. Overall though, it’s best to keep things to seven or eight tenths and then just cruising around in the M4 Competition Convertible remains a great experience. The interior is near perfect, though the boot is silly-small and the back seats suitable only for small kids. 

In the right colour, and with those sensational 20-inch Competition wheels, this is an absolute looker of a car. For the money, I’d probably see if the budget could be stretched to a Jaguar F-TYPE or maybe, an M4 Competition Coupé.

Future 4 Series

The replacements for the 4 Series range are expected to use BMW Group’s 35up architecture.

The replacements for the 4 Series coupe (project code: G22), convertible (G23) and Gran Coupé (G26) are expected to use BMW Group’s 35up architecture. These are not due until 2020.

In March 2016, Oliver Zipse, BMW Group’s then head of Manufacturing, told the media that the Regensburg plant would in the future produce front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive platform models only. This means the next 4 Series will not be built there. They are likely to shift to Munich.

As well as successors for the existing three cars, BMW is said to be planning an electric 4 Series as part of the next generation line-up. Like Audi, which will have its own alternative, BMW wants to attack the segment where the Tesla Model 3 will soon be the main entrant. 

The plug-in 4 Series should be based on the replacement for the Gran Coupé and this car could in fact become the 4 Series GT instead of being a GC. Might there an electric 4 Series with M badging? BMW isn’t saying at the moment but there is surely an opportunity there for a premium manufacturer to tackle Tesla’s high-priced ‘Ludicrous’ performance cars.