BMW 4 Series Coupe review
The BMW 3 Series Coupe becomes the 4 Series, and one of the best-looking new BMWs money can buy
The sixth-generation BMW 3 Series is the benchmark choice in the compact executive sector. But it’s far from exclusive, with just shy of 25,000 finding homes in the UK to date this year. So if you want something that stands out on the road, the new BMW 4 Series promises all the traditional strengths of the 3 Series with an added dollop of style.
You're making a style statement when buying a coupe, so first impressions count. Fortunately, the 4 Series hits the spot. While the relationship to the 3 Series is obvious, the bonnet is the only thing the two cars share on the outside, and the 4 Series really stands out with its swept-back lights and flowing proportions. The newcomer is longer, lower and wider than the 3 Series Coupe it replaces, and the rear wheelarches are the widest point of the car, which only adds to its athleticism. SE models come equipped with 17-inch wheels, xenon lights and black vents in the famous BMW kidney grille. Our test model came with the £425 optional 18-inch wheels and £645 metallic paint, while buyers can spend an extra £3,000 to upgrade to the M Sport model, which is marked out by more aggressive bumpers, side skirts and detailing.
Inside, the layout will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a 3 Series, with the same combination of an upmarket feel and a simple and smart layout. Highlights include the slender buttons for the air-con and audio system, as well as the excellent central infotainment screen, while the 4 Series also benefits from BMW’s revised touchpad iDrive controller.
Standard kit includes Bluetooth, a DAB radio, cruise control, leather seats and an extended interior lighting pack, while our car was given more of a special feel by its £230 brushed aluminium trim, £215 anthracite headlining and £1,990 Professional Media Pack and navigation. As you’d expect, fit and finish are first rate, with top-notch materials used throughout. Better still, a low-set driving position enhances the car’s sporty personality.
As it sits 10mm lower to the road than a 3 Series saloon, the 4 Series has the lowest centre of gravity of any model in the current BMW range. Add a wider rear track, plus springs and dampers that have been tuned for the coupe, and it’s no surprise that the new car feels even more engaging from behind the wheel than the 3 Series saloon. Sharp, fast and accurate steering is matched to a lovely rear-wheel-drive handling balance, while there’s plenty of feedback, too. A little bit of body movement is noticeable, but aside from a slightly rigid ride at low speeds – on account of the run-flat tyres – the BMW is smooth enough.
In our most recent test, the 4 Series came equipped with the £750 optional Adaptive M Sport suspension, but without it, the car doesn’t have the taut body control of the AMG version of the Mecedes C-Class Coupe. If you want tighter responses, there’s always the M Sport version. Even so, the SE is lighter and faster to respond than its rivals here. You get sharp throttle response, especially with the Drive Performance Control set to Sport mode – this setting also provides the best steering weighting for keen drivers. There’s a bit of vibration in the gearlever during the operation of the stop-start system, and as with all four-cylinder BMW diesels, the engine rattles a bit at low revs and at idle. But the 181bhp 2.0-litre smooths out when worked hard and is hushed at cruising speeds. Specifying an auto transmission adds £1,525 to the price and lowers emissions by 3g/km, but the standard six-speed manual box offers a beautifully precise shift action.
BMW has added its xDrive four-wheel drive system to the range this time. It comes as standard on cars with the most powerful 435d diesel engine, and gives the 4 Series a planted, secure feel on the road. It also allows you to make the most of the engine's power when accelerating out of tight bends, and increases the front-end's willingness to hold its line through corners. As the xDrive system hangs lower under the car, it can't be had with the lowered M Sport suspension, although adaptive dampers can be fitted as they don't affect the ride height.
The BMW 4 Series uses many of the same mechanical and electronic components as the current 3 Series, so you can buy the coupe safe in the knowledge that it should be trouble-free. BMW offers a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and 36 months’ roadside assistance. BMW was the 15th- placed manufacturer in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, although its showrooms finished a disappointing 24th out of 31 in the dealer ranking – one place behind Audi – with owners critical of expensive repairs. As you’d expect, you can pack your 4 Series with extra safety kit, including lane departure warning, a reversing camera, a head-up display and active cruise control.
Despite being a two-door coupe, the 4 Series is surprisingly practical. All models come with an automatic bootlid release – as long as you have the car key in your pocket, a simple wave of your foot under the rear bumper will open the boot. The boot is large too, and just 35-litres smaller than the 3 Series saloon. The rear seat has space for two adults, although headroom is compromised slightly by the curve of the roof. Even so its more spacious in the back than cars like the Mercedes C-Class coupe and Audi A5 Coupe - it's main premium rivals. Up front, there’s plenty of room and good all-round visibility despite the lower seating positon when compared to a 3 Series. BMW’s optional ConnectedDrive is available, allowing the car to connect to the internet and give you accurate real-time traffic alerts. xDrive four-wheel drive versions are sure to be popular in the mixed weather conditions we get in the UK while the new flagship 435d twin-turbo diesel will come with the all-wheel drive system as standard.
The 4 Series costs around £3,000 more than the equivalent 3 Series to buy, but each coupe claims marginally better performance and claimed fuel economy and CO2 figures. As ever, mpg will fall and costs will increase if you drive hard, but the 4 Series’ aerodynamic body will help cut fuel bills on a long motorway cruise. It’s worth considering the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. Not only is it smooth and quick to change gear, cars with the auto claim better fuel economy. Overall, the 420d takes some beating. Emissions of just 124g/km mean low tax bills for company car drivers. Adding to the financial appeal – and making it easy for BMW owners to budget for maintenance – is a fixed-price servicing package, which provides five years or 50,000 miles of cover for just £425. The icing on the cake is the class-leading 51.5 per cent residual prediction, which means the BMW will be worth around £4,000 more than its rivals after three years.