What is it?
The number 4 is a new one for BMW. But don’t be deceived, because really this is the new 3-Series Coupe. The ‘coupe’ bit may have been dropped – to help give it a personality all of its own – but the 4 is wider and has a lower centre of gravity than the car it replaces. So it’s actually more koop-ish than ever, and up to 45kg lighter. Although it’s based on the 3-Series saloon (with a couple of doors removed, of course), it’s been fiddled with so it behaves in a more sporty manner than the four-door 3. Though it was never in danger of becoming too edgy – save that for the upcoming M4 version…
We’ve already touched on the clues: less weight, wider track, lower centre of gravity. All of which are good news when faced with an empty road. The 4 relishes them.
The steering has been sharpened versus the 3-Series saloon, to which you can add a variable system with adaptive ride. We’d recommend doing so. Then pop it into Sport mode, where it feels instantly attentive. Whether you’re making a tight turn or going through a fast corner, the nose always feels in sync with your wrists. It smoothes over lumps and rarely loses its temper when the road bucks or ripples. There’s no limited-slip diff, but unless you find yourself on a track, you’re unlikely to notice. The only letdown is the slightly gristly manual gearbox, which requires considered placement. As for engines, the range kicks off with a 181bhp four-cylinder diesel, from which you can expect mid-60s mpg on a careful motorway cruise. There are 2.0-litre turbo petrols with 181bhp and 242bhp, an excellent twin turbo 3.0-litre petrol with 306bhp and a pair of six-cylinder diesels with 252bhp and 309bhp. Plus an eight-speed auto – one of the best out there.
On the inside
The front seats could give you more of a squeeze, as could the two in the back. But after a while it doesn’t matter – you sit low, steering wheel just where you want it, head-up display keeping you focused. Get inside and a robo-arm passes the seatbelt from over your shoulder. The cabin is from the 3-Series, so the steering wheel is round and there’s a proper handbrake. And the widescreen satnav display renders landmarks and even nondescript buildings in 3D.
A basic 420d SE costs £31,795 and will cause you minimal stress when it comes to paying for fuel and tax. But be picky with optional extras – the upgraded satnav is a no-brainer, but others will swallow your wallet without greatly improving the fundamental experience. They’ll eat into the otherwise excellent predicted retained values, too. You have been warned...