All-wheel-drive systems exist in many of today's high-performance cars for good reason: Modern powertrains often make more low-end torque than two driven wheels can efficiently harness. While purists may decry the trend toward AWD for draining some of the fun out of trying to tame a massively powerful vehicle, some results—such as the 2.8 seconds it takes the all-wheel-drive 2022 BMW M4 Competition to reach 60 mph—speak for themselves.
Now, we have yet to test an M4 Competition without its newly added $4100 xDrive option, so we can't make a direct comparison. But we have tested a rear-drive M3 Competition sedan, which is mechanically and structurally close enough to its coupe sibling to draw some accurate comparisons (it also gains an xDrive option for 2022). That car needed a relatively pokey 3.5 seconds to hit 60 mph, despite both Competition models sporting the same 503-hp tune of BMW's twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, which puts out 479 pound-feet of torque at only 2750 rpm. They also feature the same brilliant ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and highly adjustable chassis systems. In the M3, the step up to the automatic-only Competition trim from the 473-hp base car with a six-speed manual adds 31 pounds to its curb weight, bringing it to 3820 pounds. Our all-wheel-drive M4 test car packed on another 84 pounds to weigh in at 3904—not lightweight, but not exactly portly in a world with near-two-ton Ferraris.
At the test track, the xDrive-equipped M4 shot through the quarter-mile in 11.0 seconds flat at 125 mph. Although that trap speed is only 1 mph faster than the rear-drive M3 Competition's, the M4 is 0.6 second ahead when it trips the lights. In fact, the M4 already has a half-second on the M3 by 30 mph, illustrating the advantage of the all-wheel-drive system when using the Competition model's launch-control function. Conversely, both cars are about even when accelerating from 5 to 60 mph, the AWD M4 needing 4.4 seconds to the RWD M3's 4.5. For reference, the base rear-drive-only M4 with the manual hits 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and covers the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at 118 mph.
With the M3 and M4 Competition models featuring the same carbon-ceramic brakes and staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, the xDrive coupe's 1.02 g's of skidpad grip and 150-foot stop from 70 mph are virtually identical to the rear-drive sedan's results. Likewise, their shared electronically controlled limited-slip rear differentials combined with the default rear-drive bias of BMW's variable xDrive system means they go down the road essentially the same too—down to their rigid ride quality even with their adaptive dampers set to Comfort. Based on our test car's decent average fuel economy (22 mpg) and impressive 29-mpg result on our 75-mph highway route—7 mpg better than its EPA estimate—the xDrive upgrade doesn't appear to significantly dent the M4 Competition's efficiency.
As with other all-wheel-drive M models, the M4's system has a 4WD Sport mode that sends more torque to the rear axle. But you'll probably need to push the car to its limits on a racetrack to notice much of a difference between the drivetrain settings and how well they counter the extra weight the xDrive hardware puts on the M4's nose. Any change in character from the xDrive version's slightly quicker steering ratio—14.6:1 versus 15.0:1—escaped us. All-wheel drive may bolster the M4's overall traction and stability, but it doesn't alter its precise if somewhat muted feel from behind the wheel. For maximum grins, fully deactivate the M4's stability control and switch to 2WD mode to transform it into a rubber-burning rear-driver.
We weren't too alarmed by our example's $101,995 as-tested price because we could live without several of its priciest options, including the $8150 carbon-ceramic brakes and the $3800 for the skeletal yet ultra-supportive M carbon bucket seats. At a starting price of $79,995, the M4 Competition xDrive joins the C8 Chevy Corvette Z51 as one of the rare sub-$100K machines to make it into our sub-three-second-to-60-mph club. As with our long-term M3, we still prefer the greater engagement of the standard M4 and its manual transmission. But there's no doubt that all-wheel drive extracts the most from the Competition model's extra power.
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