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Auto review: Goin' topless in the big-power, big-kidney BMW M4 convertible

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

1. Kick the monostable shifter into Manual mode to access paddle shifters.

2. Access the console M-mode button, which transforms the instrument display behind the wheel (and huge head-up display) into a race car-like tachometer. It’s one of my favorite features. With the tach hovering over the hood, I never have to take my eye off the road as I toggle between gears.

3. Thumb the M1 (or M2) steering preset on the steering wheel which I had programmed not only to turn up the engine volume, but to slam the car to the pavement, a quivering mass of muscle ready to burn up the tarmac.

I obliged M4’s base instincts.

WAAAAUUUGH! I buried the throttle and four all-wheel-drive hooves dug into the road, propelling the M4 into a series of twisties. As we galloped further south, traffic thinned — sandy beaches giving way to severe, rocky coastline. The M4’s 503 horses are titanic, too much for this tight road. Like other performance cars today, its limits can’t be reached unless taken to a race track.

M4’s little brother, the M2 (the natural heir to my 2001 M3 with similar wheelbase, weight and power) is the better corner-carver. Get it to push road limits and attend track days.


Still, the Monterey coast is the M4 convertible’s natural habitat, a place to show off its broad, touring-car talents. Though the M3 and M4 once defined the brand’s handling prowess, that is now left to M2. The open-air M4 is the brand’s showcase for technology, looks, power. It’s as comfortable sprinting along coastal Route 1 as it is turning heads on 17 Mile. Think of Traverse City’s lovely coastline in summer.

I picked up Mrs. Payne from our hotel and headed inland for lunch and sightseeing. Destination: Laguna Seca Raceway in the picturesque Laguna Valley.

My wife fawned over the orange interior. Bright interiors are the rage these days, and I’ve lounged in red seats from the $34,000 Mazda3 Turbo all the way to the blue $140,000 Aston Martin DBX. M4 orange was spectacular and comfortable, though the M4 is tight on the rear seat legroom for us 6-footers despite its wheelbase expansion beyond little brother M2.

My wife quickly synched her Apple CarPlay. BMW is also generous in synching the phone app directions to the driver instrument display, a rare feat. We set sail for the Laguna, the west coast’s most famous track, settling in for an easy drive on adaptive cruise-control during a busy Monterey lunch hour.


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