F83 BMW M4 Cabriolet as a Daily Driver
I’ve always been a convertible guy with a soft spot for the roadster look and the feeling of cold morning air blowing on my face, especially after my old E93 335i. For a while I’ve been saving up for a Porsche 911, having a love for the way Porsches drive. The Porsche is a more unique car than the ever-so-common BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis. The latter are seen as often as the attention-seeking woman of Alberta, and usually funded by the Bank of Mom and Dad if you’re a younger Asian guy like myself. Nevertheless for those who:
(1) Don’t have the extra $30,000 to shell out for the Porsche 911 Cabriolet, or roughly a similar amount for a SL-class Mercedes,
(2) Desire the practicability of a 4-seater, and also want a convertible that is hard-top,
This is the next best thing.
At first glance, this car is a neck-bender. It receives many compliments during daily ventures, especially at close-quarters with others pulling in and out of the workplace. Compared to its predecessor’s body style that I also owned- the E93, the F83 has a sharper, more aggressive stance. Hardtop convertibles are particularly uncommon and interesting, as at first glance, they do not look like convertibles.
The Transformers Top is a treat of a toy. The weight penalty is 485 pounds, but unless you’ve just stepped out of the coupe, sedan, or lighter Porsche, you can’t tell the difference. In the corners going fast enough you do feel the 2 tons, but it’s a feat hard to pull without getting sent to court. Though it adds overall weight, it shifts the overall car weight distribution to 52/48; that is, the heavier side is in the rear, helping traction a bit.
However, the hardtop’s complicated and unique hardware may be of maintenance concern later down the road. My old E93’s hardtop motor is about $3,400 for the part alone; we would not be surprised to learn the F83’s is even more expensive.
It’s hard to find enough public road to use the power of this car. Get a (good) radar detector, and preferably a laser jammer as well – they will pay for themselves, especially in a car like this.
The Twin-Turbo Inline 6’s instant neck-snapping torque is addicting, especially in 1st and 2nd gear. Responsiveness varies depending on which drive setting you’re in- Comfort, Sport, or Sport Plus. The order of responsiveness through that list is self-explanatory.
Traction can be an issue in 1st and 2nd gears, especially with the slightest hint of uneven pavement, or sand and rock. It’s not hard to freak out the other drivers beside you in urban traffic by breaking the rear end loose just accelerating from stoplights. Even in ideal dry conditions, the tires like to spin in 1st and 2nd gear. Somehow BMW worked hard to make a powerful car on a sharp, light chassis with a great-performing LSD and traction system, but didn’t care to include rear wheels and rubber large enough to keep it sticking to the ground. The stock rear wheels will accommodate its stock tires of 275/35/19, or a hint wider of 285/35/19. Some people with wider wheels have managed to fit up to 305/30/19 without rubbing, but you’re looking at spending another $5,000+ on a set of decent aftermarket wheels and tires all around. That 406 ft-lbs of torque to the rear wheels demands some more careful throttle adjustment than just simply stepping the pedal down all the way. The M4 is challenging to drive, but it’s rewarding once you figure its quirks.
In snow, the LSD and traction control system is excellent at keeping the M4’s 430 horses to the ground – though expect several traction control light flickers and power cuts during each acceleration run. For a RWD vehicle, it does very well in the slippery – better than most other RWD vehicles, as long as you have good winter tires. I run Blizzak LM-32s currently, which suffice. During the winters I’ve driven this car between Edmonton to Vancouver with no issues and many smiles per gallon. Just don’t expect record acceleration and cornering times; get a X6M for that.
Those coming from a previous-generation 335i (which is also a Twin-Turbo Inline 6 making similar power when aggressively tuned) will find the turbo lag a lot less, but it’s there. The traction control system and limited-slip differential are excellent at keeping the car glued to the road and compensating for wheel spin. There is a huge improvement of RWD traction in less than ideal conditions over the non-M cars.
Though no one really spends $100,000+ on a vehicle and worries about fuel economy, highway consumption is 9-10L/100km; 10-11 with many hills; 11-12 if you haul ass (mainly at 130km/h and beyond). In the city, expect closer to 14L/100km. My old 335i (also a twin turbo inline 6, but with less power and turbo boost) achieved the same for highway, but about 10-15% worse in the city. For the performance you get it’s not bad. My X5 5.0 that makes about 7.7% more power achieves 15-16L/100km, 20-22L/100km, respectively.
Most reviewers say the same about the ride: it is jarring, and this is not a daily-driver-friendly car for those with concern for comfort. The suspension is stiff and reminds you of how terrible Edmonton’s roads are by passing on the feeling of every pavement imperfection. The cabin is noisy and I find myself with the music on all the time to distract myself.
This is a loud car. The exhaust makes a deep growl upon startup of the engine and turning on “M” mode through the steering wheel, opening a flap in the exhaust. With the top down, the addicting roar of the I6 sings even closer to your ears – though combined with the obnoxious exhaust, it gets old and boy-racer like after a while. Upon acceleration and lifting of the throttle, you’re presented with aggressive bangs and snaps that sound great but then almost fake.
On the bright side, the interior is a step up from the E93. Leather stitching throughout the interior is elegantly done and the carbon trim a worthy add-on from the option book. Seat leather catches less dust, is smoother, and more comfortable than its predecessor. In my example, the orange-red seats catch eyes from afar.
Most order their Ms nowadays with the Automatic Dual-Clutch transmission as it’s faster, but the manual is more fun. First gear can be tough to get into sometimes and requires some shoving. The shifter and its getting into gear feels like most BMW manual transmissions; a little tough to get into gear, but good for those with rough hands like myself. Going into 2nd from 1st can be a real pain sometimes.
Seats are pretty comfortable, but this is not as a comfortable car as a X5, 6, or 7 series. There is ample legroom if you leave little to nothing for the rear passengers’ feet – but I often find myself slowly and carefully adjusting myself into the car without smudging dirt against the interior. Don’t bother trying to keep the lower interior areas clean if you like taking passengers. The competition package includes nicer feeling and looking seats in addition to the cooler wheels, sound system, and marginal power bump – it’s worth the money.
The instrument cluster and climate controls are a treat to look at and easy to use. Climate controls work marvellously at maintaining the temperature of your liking inside the cabin.
For those also planning to daily drive this car like myself, note there is no spare tire, and it is delivered with no run-flats. Included is only a tire patching kit. BMW now has a 1800 road assistance number to call that will tow you to the nearest dealer, though.
Overall, it’s a beautiful and fun vehicle that you will enjoy – but at $100,000+ with few options, it becomes harder to love – unless you absolutely want the top down fun in the sun and the twin-turbo I6’s melody sung closer to your senses – for the price of a second house mortgage payment. Generously-optioned examples can reach $120,000 – where you’re then reaching the price point of much more powerful cars like the M5, X6M, E63S AMG, and the like.