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The All-Wheel Drive BMW M4 Is a Stroke of Genius

Road & Track logo Road & Track 1/17/2022 Chris Perkins

The idea of an all-wheel drive M3 and M4 seemed like another sign of BMW losing its touch. It's something we, and others, have accused the brand of for some time, and somehow, the combination of the M3/M4's, erm, controversial styling with a driven front axle was yet more evidence. The only problem is that the M4 Competition xDrive is a fabulous car, and all the better for having four driven wheels.

BMW M's unique all-wheel drive system debuted with the current M5 in 2017, and it's impressively flexible. An electronically controlled clutch pack sends torque to the front axle very quickly, as needed. The normal 4WD setting most judiciously engages those front wheels—though it remains rear biased—while 4WD Sport allows for a bit more oversteer without ditching the safety net. There's also a 2WD mode, which is convenient when theoretically, it starts raining, the track goes cold, you notice a big empty skid pad, and figure it's just as easy to stay dry in an M4 as it is a paddock building.

2022 bmw m4 competition xdrive © DW Burnett 2022 bmw m4 competition xdrive

The M4's ability to decouple the front axle is amusing, but what it does when all four wheels receive power from its 503-hp twin-turbo 'six is impressive. Few all-wheel drive cars are so well sorted on track. Whether in 4WD or 4WD Sport, the system is totally seamless, with no push on entry or in mid-corner, and incredible traction on corner exit. Easy speed is the name of the game here, and on the Monticello Motor Club's North circuit during our 2022 Performance Car of the Year testing, the M4 posted higher lateral grip numbers than any other car during our testing.

Drivers of all skill levels appreciated the M4's all-wheel drive system. For the less experienced, it makes 503 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque easy to manage; for Travis Okulski, our club racing editor-at-large, it made getting up to speed a cinch. And to be perfectly honest, it's hard to notice the system at work, so seamless in the way it blends in power from the front.

This thing is going to be a track-day weapon. Modern M cars are already a common sight at HPDE events across the country; there are a lot of fast daily drivable cars out there today, but few take abuse like a BMW. Combine that durability with ease of speed, and you'll get point-bys all day long in an M4 Competition xDrive.

On the road, most staffers agreed that while the M4 xDrive delivered extraordinary speed with little effort, it wasn't terribly engaging, such is the car's competence. Below 80 mph it feels like you're barely moving, and that's not great even on the fine country of the Catskills, many of which have a fairly generous 55-mph limit. Previous experience with the new M3 and M4 suggest that this isn't a problem specific to the all-wheel drive car—they're just not all that involving. Even the base manual-transmission M3/M4.

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Still, there's much to enjoy. The steering is among BMW's best recent efforts, and it's very precise, and the eight-speed torque converter auto doesn't give up much to the M3/M4's old dual-clutch while adding a lot of refinement. You can't get a manual-transmission all-wheel drive M4, but that's actually fine. The new M3/M4's manual isn't all that great, and the automatic suits the relentless, effortless character of the car much better. This tester also had the $3800 M Carbon Bucket seats, which let you sit really low, providing a better sense of what's happening underneath you. They're hard to get in and out of, and the little carbon trim between your legs is irritating, though they're still worth it for the sense of occasion they bring to the car.

2022 bmw m4 competition xdrive © DW Burnett 2022 bmw m4 competition xdrive

The engine doesn't inspire like the high-revving wonders of old M cars, though it still packs a hell of a punch. Knowing BMW, it probably offers well over the claimed 503 horsepower. And while the ride is firm, it's very livable.

A strange thing happened in the weeks and months after we gave back the PCOTY contestants—I thought about the M4 a lot. I thought about just how easily an all-wheel drive M3 and M4 would blend into my life. The car just has so much to offer; luxurious refinement; easy speed; and real track performance. I wondered what it would be like shod with winter tires, on snow-covered roads up north, or in empty parking lots before the plows showed up.

2022 bmw m4 competition xdrive © DW Burnett 2022 bmw m4 competition xdrive

The car just has so much to offer. For under $100,000, nothing offers quite the same combination of luxury, speed, all-weather security, and real track ability. My love for Cadillac's Blackwing siblings knows no bounds, but even I have to concede that they can't match the M3 and M4 xDrive's breadth of abilities.

Opting for all-wheel drive in your M4 adds $4100 over a two-wheel drive M4 Competition. In the snow belt, that seems well worth it, though it has to be said that the M3 and M4 have become quite expensive. It's all too easy to push these cars into the $90,000-range, and this tester, kitted out with $8150 of carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon-fiber exterior trim, breached the $100,000 mark. Then again, the only car I can think of that's similarly fast and versatile is a 911 Carrera 4S, and that starts at $125,570.

No doubt, this M4 Competition xDrive doesn't have the delightful tactility of M3s past. But don't forget that the ultimate goal of every M3 since the E36 is to be the ideal daily driver track car. This one is exactly that. Perhaps BMW hasn't completely lost its way after all.

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