BMW M4 Competition Pack - A look into the future of its little sibling!
Story by Marc Rutten - Former automotive journalist and business manager of Shmee150
The development of the BMW M product line up has been an interesting adventure in line with the changes within BMW’s line up. Introducing coupe models under the even series numbers; 2-series, 4-series, 6-series and soon 8-series. The M brand as a sporty member of the Bavarian family has followed in line with what their colleagues in Munich have been developing, and the M4 is a great example of what the brand from Garching has in store for us. A model capable of sending a shiver up its driver’s spine.
With the refresh earlier this year, BMW introduced its life-cycle impulse or facelift treatment to the M3 and M4 line up while also introducing a new Competition Pack with more oomph, sharpened responses, a better sounding exhaust, slightly stiffer dampers, spindly 20-inch rims, and a recalibrated, less snatchy electric differential. Add this to a facelift treatment including LED headlights fitted as standard, the redesigned daytime running lights with new 3D LED taillights at the rear, and you might well be looking at a package you should adore.
A quick glance under the bonnet and you as the driver are still greeted by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology, now producing up to 444 bhp and 406 lb-ft of torque. This is sufficient to shave 0.1 seconds from the naught to 62 mph time of 4.6 seconds, when you have the manual. The time drops to 4.0 seconds with the optional DCT gearbox fitted. Top speed is a limited 155 mph if you do not opt for the M Driver’s Package.
Rather than dive into the technicalities of the package, I have decided to take a different approach. Next to the main question of how it is to drive, let’s see what this package can tell us about the near future of the M brand. This Competition Package has some surprises in store, but more on that later.
Let’s first touch on what was parked in front of me at pick-up; a San Marino Blue BMW M4 ZCP running 20-inch 666M wheels while also being fitted with a really light grey interior combined with leather and gloss carbon fibre highlights across the cabin. Personally, my ultimate specification resembling much of its bigger brother - the M4 CS. I would immediately add this to any vehicle in the BMW M line up.
Opening the long doors and entering the vehicle means stepping inside a set up quite similar to any other M3 or M4. Not much is different at first sight, other than the fancy M Competition seats, which are an improvement over the standard seats but lack any kind of decent lumbar support and the seat belts with the BMW M colours woven into them. The first major difference with a ‘normal’ M4 is audible when you start the engine and hear the M sports exhaust system come into life. This sounds a lot better than the standard!
The first few miles inside the M4 ZCP make you aware of the higher spring rate and sizeable 20-inch wheels giving it a more firmly ride than the standard car. The tire roar on the motorway has also been ramped up a notch. It is not until you are on more twisty roads that you start to feel what improvements have been done to the characteristics of the vehicle. The rear end of the car is much better controlled than before.
The DSC indicator lights up more frequently than you as well-behaved BMW driver touch the directional indicator
Although the M4 ZCP and its Michelin Pilot Super Sports still have a nature of wanting to step out due to its abrupt torque delivery, especially on the wet. The M coupe feels slightly more composed than in the normal M4, but still lacks the dynamic finesse of its predecessors. The chassis often struggles to digest the abundance of turbocharged urge. The stability-control indicator lights up more frequently than you as “the well-behaved BMW driver” touch the indicators, especially below fifth gear and when you open the throttle on slippery, bumpy or bad road surfaces.
Where the suspension has the most noticeable difference, it is key to mention that the test car was fitted with carbon ceramic brakes, which performed brilliantly and are a welcome improvement over the standard brake kit. Add this to a twin-turbocharged straight-six, which has a lovely improved soundtrack and is almost lag-free, and you have a package which is great as an everyday sports car offering a notably more energized set up and the medicine the M3 and M4 needed so badly.
After handing the keys back to BMW Czech Republic, the ZCP left me with the question if this is really what I want to see in a M car. As biased as I am, I will state that the M4 and its sedan brother are not anymore the must-have in the M line up. There is a little machine that has stolen the hearts of many M fans and it is called the M2. I have one in my garage with more than 40,000 km on the odometer, and putting the M4 ZCP alongside it has allowed me to reconfirm the absence of an unconditional love for the Competition model with its “muscle car”-like power delivery.
Even though the ZCP offers you a lot more, my personal opinion about the model has remained the same, even after driving this latest revision. I adore it, but I never had the urge to want it, definitely not over my M2. Simply because it lacks any kind of the life-enhancing dynamic experience that we M fans are used to have standard with the M badge.
This brings me to my second subject in this story. A highly desirable and rumoured M2 Competition is around the corner, and it will be an enhanced, sportier and beefed up version of the most fun BMW available on the market today. Replacing my current M2, the new model is often called between the walls of the BMW M headquarters at the Daimlerstrasse in Garching; “the M2 as its always should have been”.
But why is the M4 ZCP such an important vehicle with regards to the “M2 CS”? The answer is simple! Take most of the ZCP’s highlights and mix it with the wonderful fun flavour of the M2. For instance, initial information has confirmed that the M engineers will transplant the M4’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder S55 engine into the body of the new M2, which will hit showrooms in July 2018 replacing the current M2 LCI. The expected power output will touch 405 bhp (+ 40 over the M2 LCI), not allowing the baby M to take the crown of its bigger brother.
Other upgrades will be the availability of two new colours (Sunset Orange & Hockenheim Silver), the option to choose for M lightweight sports seats and M seat belts from the M4 ZCP, an enhanced brake kit option, new interior trim options and a new 19 inch wheel option. It is unknown at this stage if the suspension will get anymore refinement and if BMW will include the lovely sound track of the M Sports exhaust into the standard package of the M2 Competition. The coming months will definitely make that clear!
For those of you who are in the middle of a decision making process, looking at a M4 ZCP and are able to step over the absence of individual colours and those lovely 20 inch wheels, my advice persists that you as a true M fan should save a bundle and pick the smaller M2. It is simply a better take on what we love about M cars! Although, if you have the patience to wait nine months, the M2 will become a lot hotter. It might well be what M fans have all been waiting for!
The M doctor gave it some medicine, but it still lacks the life-enhancing dynamic experience we adore so much in M cars