AOL Cars RTOTY 2014: BMW M4

Blackball Media

The BMW M4 is a strong contender for top honours in our Road Test of the Year showdown, as it blends those normally mutually exclusive facets of performance and practicality; excitement and (relative) good value. But can a car that shares its routes with a diesel-burning rep's saloon really be the most exhilarating car of 2014? James Batchelor waits patiently for his turn with the keys and delivers his verdict.

There's a long left-hander before the road snarls right, past a gravel car park and then the Tarmac threads its way gradually downwards. Of course, this is only true when you tackle the Evo Triangle in reverse – like we were on day three – and it's surely the best way to do it.

For the previous two days, the keys to the M4 had been pinched by the others who insisted they hadn't driven the Bavarian bruiser enough to satisfy their inquisitive minds. But on this slightly chilly morning, with the dew lolloping in the valley around us, the car was left for me to explore and I was feeling pretty happy with life. Just slipping into the cockpit of the M4 was enough to know that this, surprise surprise, was another special car from that German car company that is just so good at creating surprisingly adept performance machines.

As we trickled out of the gravel lane belonging to our overnight bed and breakfast and pointed our convoy to the hills, I knew that the next 50-or-so-minutes would be my time to work out whether this car deserved all the fine words my colleagues had heaped upon it in the dingy pub the night before.

AOL Cars RTOTY 2014: BMW M4

AOL Cars RTOTY 2014: BMW M4

Past that gravel car park on the left and now I'm heading down the Tarmac. Editor James 'Biggles' Baggott is in the lead in the flying Rolls and Daljinder 'Red Baron' Nagra is right on his tail in the Merc. They're a good half a mile out in front of me, tearing along a short asphalt straight before the road rises to a peak and then disappears.

I let the dogfighting duo plough on and stick to my own pace. Now is the right time to switch the adjustable suspension from 'comfort' to 'sport' and press 'M1' on the steering wheel. Do this and the whole experience moves up a gear in terms of dynamism, and the heads-up display ditches its elegant typography and instead switches to a Gran Turismo 6-esque race-car affair.

All of that fuss from purists complaining of BMW's decision to replace the 4.0-litre V8 with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six is forgotten as the M4 lunges towards that peak James and Daljinder had reached just minutes ago. Now the M4 has changed from a comfy GT car to a full-blooded racer – and it has won my heart for its sheer driving thrills.

And it's that feature alone that raises the M4 to the top of the pile in this road test. There are other cars that do some things far better than the Bimmer, but the M4 is such a top performer in all areas for such a reasonable price, it wins the day for most of us.

The knowledge

Model: BMW M4 Coupe
Price: £56,650
Engine: 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol
Power: 425bhp, 550Nm
Max speed: 155mph (limited)
0-60mph: 4.0s
MPG (combinedd): 32.1
Emissions: 204g/km

Read the ninth installment on the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe here.