BMW 4 Series 2014 review
BMW 435i powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine tested; on sale October, price around £41,000
Although the BMW 4 Series remains closely tied to its smaller saloon brother, the stunning looks ensure it’s worthy of its own badge. It oozes kerb appeal like no 3 Series can, and is in a different league to its predecessor, despite costing only around £500 more. The 435i has a punchy engine and fantastic auto box that help deliver an engaging drive. But for a car that’s genuinely practical, it’s a shame it isn’t quite as comfortable cruising as it could be, nor quite as sharp to drive as its great looks suggest.
BMW is launching the new 4 Series Coupe and Convertible to simplify its line-up – as the 3 Series range was set to get confusing, with saloon, Touring estate, five-door Gran Turismo and four-door Gran Coupe models.
The 4 Series Coupe arrives first – its release date is October – and Auto Express got the chance to test the stylish two-door to see if it’s really different enough to justify its own badge.
Six engines will be available from November, with just three on offer initially: the 420d is the entry point to 4 Series ownership, at £31,575, plus there are 428i and 435i petrol models. We tested the latter.
Anyone who’s sat in a current 3 Series will be pretty much at home in the 4, as long as you don’t opt for the garish colour scheme of our test car. You sit 9mm lower in special sports seats, but the dash is mounted at the same height as in the saloon, adding to the sporty effect. The Coupe rides 10mm lower, too, so you feel cocooned and close to the road.
As you sit down, a small arm powers forward, pushing the seatbelt to within easy reach. Press the starter button and the engine noise is familiar, too. BMW’s six-cylinder petrol is very smooth, with a slightly muted growl when you put your foot down.
Select the default Comfort mode, and the 4 Series is a really comfortable, refined car. Our model was fitted with the eight-speed automatic box – a must-have option – which shuffles through its gears with such subtlety that you can barely feel the changes. The steering is light, and while it isn’t exactly full of feel, it’s very direct, allowing you to place the car with confidence on the road, whether you’re pottering in town, or making quick motorway lane changes.
The ride is good in this mode, too, with the damping smoothing out larger lumps and bumps with ease – helped by the fact that the bodyshell of this car is 60 per cent stiffer than the old 3 Series Coupe’s. However, we did occasionally feel expansion gaps and mid-corner bumps as a bit of a jolt in the cabin.
When the road gets more entertaining, and you switch to Sport+ mode, the 4 Series really comes to life. Its rear-wheel-drive chassis is very well balanced, and darts into bends with an eagerness many cars this size can’t recreate.
Again, there isn’t much feel from the steering, although it is slightly heavier. The damping gets overly firm too, which can cause mid-corner bumps to nudge you off line. This might be helped if you opt for the xDrive four-wheel-drive system to get a little added security in bends.
The engine delivers plenty of performance and flexibility, developing 400Nm of torque from right near the bottom of the rev range. The gearbox transforms itself, too. Once smooth and easy going, it now responds almost as quickly as a dual-clutch set-up at the flick of a steering wheel-mounted paddle. You need to summon a bit of extra engine braking manually, though, as the brakes struggle to slow the car down from higher speeds.
Buyers choosing the four-seat 4 Series Coupe over the 3 Series saloon are clearly compromising one seat, but there is at least plenty of room in the back for tall adults. Boot capacity is just 35 litres down on the saloon’s, too, at 445 litres.
It’s worth sacrificing that bit of practicality to get a design as stunning as the 4 Series – you really do find yourself just standing at staring at this car.
From the moment we saw the concept at the Detroit Motor Show back in January, we knew the car would be a stunner, and in the metal, the production version doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s probably the best-looking modern BMW, with a muscular, wide and confident stance that makes it seem a lot more aggressive and dynamic than the standard 3 Series.
The 4 Series is based on a similar part-aluminium architecture to the 3 Series, but only shares its bonnet with the saloon. The rest of its bodywork is unique, so there’s a much more flowing, intricate front bumper design, with curvy air intakes below and a slightly forward-slanting version of BMW’s kidney grille above.
Either side are hi-tech-looking, aggressive headlights, which can be specified with full LEDs. The design is relatively clean, and that helps BMW’s aerodynamic innovations stand out. In the front bumper is a vent which feeds air through a small slit in the front of each wheelarch. This helps guide air around the front wheel with less turbulence and into another small slit at the rear of the arches. This in turn feeds air through and out of the front wing and down the side of the car. BMW calls it the ‘air breather’, and tells us it saves a couple of g/km of CO2.
The 4 Series has the same long, 2,810mm wheelbase as the saloon, but with wider tracks – by 45mm and 80mm front and rear – so the front and rear wings flare out more prominently. Add the thick crease that runs up the shoulder of the car, and it looks wide and planted – much more so than the old 3 Series Coupe did, even though this car has dimensions that are only 43mm wider. The glazed area of the car is set back, with frameless doors that help to emphasise the fact the 4 Series is designed as Coupe, rather than just a saloon with two fewer doors.