Throwback Thursday: Topless and unafraid in the M4

Munich, Germany is one of my preferred destinations in the world. There is a sense of old Europe meets the new millennia; construction cranes recreating centuries of charm into monoliths of modern appeal. It is in this crucible of change that BMW has brought us to drive the all-new 2015 M4 Cabriolet. It too is a change from the past, most notably under the hood. The whole package is new, of course, so it promises to be an exceptional few days.

Engine performance is derived from a 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder twin-turbocharged powerplant. This is a dramatic change from the previous generation M3 Coupe and Cabriolet (now M4) as they featured a highly-touted, joyous to listen to 4.0-litre V8. But, with the need for continuous improvements in fuel economy comes an equally stringent requirement for thinking outside the box, and so BMW made the change on the new M4 Coupe as well. The results are impressive, but I dare say it feels as if something great has been left behind.

M Twin-Power turbo technology and a high-revving delivery provide a robust 425 horsepower at 5,500-7,300 rpm and 406 lb-ft of torque at 1,850-5,500 rpm. Matched to a 7-speed double-clutch transmission, the new M4 Cabriolet accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 4.4 seconds (.2 seconds faster than the 6-speed manual) and reaches a top speed of 250 km/h (electronically limited).

A strong engine is one thing, but BMW sports cars are equally famous for their exceptional handling and braking. On that note, the front aluminum double-joint spring strut axle instills outstanding road feel and quick turn-ins. In back, the aluminum five-live axle mounted to a lightweight steel subframe offers equal precision and a tail section that melds easily with the pavement. Overall, the new M4 Cabriolet is 41 kg lighter than the previous generation which further improves the performance.

Standard wheels are 19” light alloy front and back mounted with 255/40 and 275/40 high-performance tires. Brakes are inner-vented 4-piston fixed-caliper front and 2-piston inner-vented fixed-caliper rear. Stability enhancements include ABS and Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Stability Interaction DSC, Active M Differential, Dry Braking function and Start-off assist.

Electric power steering is a staple for many high-performance cars these days, and the M4 Cabriolet is no exception. In general, driving the car feels the same as regular power assisted steering, but there are times when a sense of numbness tends to creep in. Cruising on the Autobahn at over 200 km/h is easy in the M4 Cabriolet. The steering is near perfect at high speed, even with the top down. I did experience a little side push every now and then, but that is more reflective of driving a Cabriolet, and nothing that would put me off from going topless at high speed; the car, of course, not me.

Changes to the exterior and interior are equally significant. The front twin-headlight design is updated for effect and performance. BMW’s typical twin-bar kidney grille is still in place and the hood offers the characteristic M elements of muscularity and function. Large openings in the lower front air dam provide cooling to the brakes and engine. The rear is equally busy in style and function, with quad chrome tailpipes offering a clue to the powerful response that awaits anyone approaching too rapidly from behind. Hit the accelerator hard and their view of the M4 Cabriolet will be short but sweet.

Inside, distinctive M badging is highlighted on the door sills and gearshift knob, the driver’s rest pedal, center gauges and three-spoke steering wheel. Paddle-shifters are easy to grasp and flick up or down with precision. Located in the center console is BMW’s much maligned iDrive touch controller. Contrary to popular opinion, I find it very easy to use once you spend the time to understand how it works.

Adjustments to the active sports suspension are within easy reach, while the BMW Head Up display allows you to see the road ahead and gain helpful information, including navigation directions, with ease. M seats are incredibly comfortable, covered in leather with double-stitched accents. Leather covers the bottom portions of the dash as well as the lower door panels. The 3-piece hardtop roof retracts in a scant 20 seconds to allow the sunshine in. A pop up windscreen reduces wind noise and three-temperature neck warmers are standard on the M4 Cabriolet.

My drive takes place on the country roads and Autobahn highways between Munich, Germany and Innsbruck, Austria. This is the perfect setting to test the upper, mid and low range driving abilities of the new M4 Cabriolet. It responds to every request with a level of zeal and refinement we have come to expect from the M series of sports cars.

If there is one minor disappointment, it is in the sound quality of the inline 6-cylinder at idle and low speeds. Once up to speed, however, its raspy note is almost on par. Such is the price we have to pay for fuel efficiency, and on that note, it is a compromise I am happy to make. BMW has once again stuck the right cord for a high-performance M series cabriolet. Give me sunshine and an open road all day long.

2015 BMW M4 Cabriolet
Configuration: front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.0L inline 6cyl/ 7-spd automatic
Power/torque: 431 hp/ 406 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): premium (60L)
Competitors: 2015 Audi RS5 Cabriolet, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible, Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible, Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG, Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet.

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