Superb family of powertrains, precise handling, much-improved interior and refinement. It’s the complete package
You might not like the taut ride. Apparently it’s a bit controversial-looking. Did you notice?
What is it?
The 4 Series Coupe is a 3 Series saloon on dress-down Friday. Two doors, a lower roofline, and a hunkered-down centre of gravity meet the peerless powertrains from BMW’s class-leading four-door. What used to be called the 3 Series Coupe is heartland BMW, and even with the switch to a ‘4’ on the bootlid on the last generation, it’s been nothing short of a sales phenomenon. No mean feat, as traditional coupes continue to lose the good fight to crossover SUVs.
For the new 4 Series, more has changed than you might first presume. It’s a bigger car this time: a massive 128mm longer and 27mm wider than before. BMW’s stretched the wheelbase, but the tracks are wider too: 18mm up front, and 28mm out back. That gives the car a punchier stance, and should be good news for the handling.
With such girth, it was unlikely the new 4 would have a discreet presence on the road, and the thickset haunches and lumpy surfacing give it a hulking, almost American demeanour that isn’t exactly elegant. But BMW’s made doubly sure with That Grille. We’ll not go on about it – you’ll make up your own mind. You already have. In the UK, all 4s get this multi-nostril front end, with the M Sport kit.
Okay, a couple of things to note: when you see the 4 Series in real life, you approach it from a viewpoint five or six feet in the air, not at the snake-eyes perspective preferred by photographers to make it look aggressive and snouty. So, the grille isn’t quite as in yer face as it looks in the pictures.
On the other hand, when BMW invited Top Gear to drive the new 4, all the test cars were painted in dark colours and had the ‘High Gloss Shadowline’ option box ticked, which de-chromes the snout into a dowdy gloss black. Read into that what you will.
All engines are turbocharged: you’ve a choice of four cylinders or six, in either petrol or diesel guise. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the board, but there’s optional 4x4 ‘xDrive’ on the 420d and it’s standard on the flagship M440i.
Soon of course, there’ll be a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive M4s. Shifting gears, meanwhile, is always the work of an eight-speed automatic. There’s no longer a manual on the 4’s price lists.
Prices start at £39,870 for the 420i, while the entry-level diesel – the 420d – sets you back £43,090 with xDrive adding £1,550 on top. To get your straight-six kicks in the 385bhp M440i, you’ll need £53,875. As yet, there’s no ‘430e’ plug-in hybrid.
The key rivals for the 4 to take down are the ageing (but likeable) Mercedes C-Class coupe, and Audi’s comfy, fairly uninteresting A5. A big grille never did either of those two any harm.
The idiosyncratic Lexus RC has been dropped from UK showrooms, and sadly Jaguar and Alfa Romeo haven’t had the inclination (or the budget) to give us two-door XEs and Giulias. That means the new 4 Series stands a pretty good chance of sweeping straight back to the top of the class – whether its bucktooth’d mug is enough to give you nightmares or not.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Damn. We wanted to scoff at the new 4 Series. We wanted to say it’d lost its way along with its waistline, and that the thrusting, deeply insecure styling was a shameless attempt from Munich to paper over the cracks in the drive. And yet, pretty much the only things to argue about when it comes to BMW’s latest coupe are the looks, and whether or not it’s a tad too firm on country lanes.
There’s no quibbling with the build quality any more, nor the refinement, and no coupe this size is quite so entertaining to drive. Anyone who protests otherwise is deluded. And probably regrets buyng an Audi.
What’s more, that’s true not just of a properly speedy M440i, but also of the humble four-cylinder units that’ll swallow the bulk of sales, and mostly spend their lives tramping up and down motorways, rarely letting on they’ve got some much to offer besides a badge.
So, if you see someone looking smug inside a 4 Series, remember they’ve got more to be chuffed about besides the fact that from where they’re sitting, they don’t have to look at it.