An M4 Competition, that is, the most powerful and focused real M4 you can buy today. I have had chances to drive multiple M3 and M4s, both competition and standard ‘base’ models (oh the horror, the horror of a base M4…), but never the opportunity of one with a clutch pedal. If you’ve read my stuff before you’ll already know I’m a fan of changing gear myself, rather than pulling a slim metal blade 1 centimeter. I’ve also always had reservations of the new M cars because of their turbocharging and lack of steering feel, but by the grace of his holiness the lord of clutch, it’s just better with a stick. An M3/4 always felt detached to me, but by putting an H-pattern next to you and a third pedal, the missing bonding element of driver and car has been remedied.
To be frank, the involvement is on another level. Now I can’t just rely on that prodigious wave of torque that the S55 twin-turbo provides, because now I have to make sure I’m in the right gear for it to make mayhem of the asphalt below. The satisfaction of riding out second gear and getting a smooth, yet quick 2-3 shift is deeply rewarding as well. And those heel-toe…oh wait, that’s right, you can’t. Well, you can, but what’s the point when it has software that automatically blips the throttle on downshifts. And I honestly have no idea how to turn this bit of programming off. I clicked into MDM mode and it still did it. I then turned off DSC completely and yes, it still did it. It makes normal driving easier and allows quicker downchanges, but I had trouble liking it.
Here’s an example: going down from 4th to 2nd, I put the clutch in and selected 2nd with my right hand, and as I’m used to on my E46, slowly let the clutch out to ensure smooth transition to the lower gear. Problem is, the car already blipped the throttle quite heavily, so instead of feeling the clutch grab and drag as I eased it out, it remained light with zero feel. Not an issue, just something to get used to. The quicker you changed down a gear, the better it works. Perhaps there’s a fuse for it…or a wire to snip.
Also, another slight grievance, the car in question had only 800 miles on it, but the gearshift was a bit clunky, with what felt like a diff thud on several upshifts, but I’m sure it’ll smooth out over time. The difference in shift quality between a M235i and 5,000 mile one assure me this. Never have I enjoyed driving a new M car as much. It even gave the engine more character, as the manual exposes turbo lag. It now becomes your responsibility to keep the engine in the sweet spot when you ask for it. And it’s by no means a chore. Changing gear is supposed to be fun, after all. You also feel the boost build more intensely. In second at 3k you can floor it and you think, “nothing, nothing, oh wait, I think it’s there, yes it’s-HOLY BLOODY MOTHER OF 21-YEAR-OLD SCOTCH!” I’ll say it again, in this case, lag is cool. It’s character.
What I really didn’t like though? I love the wheels of the competition package, and the marginal power boost, but damn is the ride stiff. Even in comfort on admittedly rough surface streets, the ride was medieval. Smooth roads are mostly fine, but with some surface breaks and chewed up tarmac, it’s tiring. Tradeoffs though are supreme steering reflexes and zero roll in the chassis. Everyday though, I don’t know if I could do it. Yet, those wheels though. But that ride…BUT THOSE WHEELS. It’s tough, I know. #1stWorldProblems.
I feel I may have got sidetracked with the purpose of this story. So again, back to the topic, I drove an M4 with a manual transmission and it was awesome. Adding back that lost ingredient fixes my largest gripe with the M4, and that was a lack of intimacy and connection. It’s the prescription for both symptoms. DCT is great; it’s fast, efficient, and easy, but I personally find it boring. And you can brag to people you drive a stick also. First thing I do when I see a cool car on the street? Walk up to the window and peer in to see if a gear lever resides inside. What can I say, I’m a romantic. Buy a manual and you’re ride will also probably be more valuable in the future as well. Just speculating. Save the manuals!