Used BMW 4 Series (Mk1, 2014-2020) review - What’s it like to drive?

Diesel engines have become a BMW staple, but don't ignore the petrol options – they're smooth, fast and more economical than you'd think

The BMW 4 Series is a sportier proposition than its 3 Series saloon sibling, so in an effort to increase fun from behind the wheel and responses to the driver’s inputs, BMW altered the 4 Series’ chassis settings when it was facelifted in 2017.


The 420i is the bedrock of the 4 Series range. Next comes the 430i which uses the same four-cylinder turbo as the 420i and adds more power. You’ll have to trade up to a 440i for a six-cylinder engine. On the diesel side, the 420d has a four-cylinder unit, while the 430d and 435d have smooth six-cylinders.

Given the 420i produces 184bhp and hits 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, it's plenty fast enough for most daily purposes. However, along with the slightly swifter 430i, it lacks the creamy smooth character and noise of the old six pots, preferring to make a rather intrusive drone.

You could trade up to a full-fat 435d diesel with xDrive four-wheel drive and an auto box, which has such a traction advantage off the line, and such an endless wall of torque, that it can worry an M4 in a straight line. But for most, the reasonably smooth and swift 420d will be sufficient, and promises up to 60mpg.

When we tested the 420d with optional xDrive, we found the 187bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine was keen to pick up. At the track the BMW sprinted from 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds, helped by strong traction off the line from the four-wheel-drive system. This was two-tenths faster than a front-drive Audi A5 2.0 TDI – although we’re confident that the A5 quattro would be closer to the BMW.

The 420d was also quicker in-gear thanks to an extra ratio in its eight-speed automatic box. It shifts quickly and smoothly, but it’s not quite as sharp or responsive to a pull of the paddle as Audi’s dual-clutch unit. This showed between 30-70mph through the gears, where the A5 was four-tenths faster.

The flagship 4 Series (if you discount the rapid M4) is the 440i. It's a silky smooth unit that's seriously punchy from the get go, as its 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds shows, but loves to rev out. It also lacks the spiky power delivery of the M4, so for many will be the more accomplished daily driver and a far more relaxing cruiser as a result. The 435d is even faster off the line, and cheaper to run, but there's still nothing quite like a BMW six-cylinder coupe, and the 440i instils some of the character of cars such as the old M635 CSI.

On the road

Later cars on both the passive dampers and adaptive dampers feature a stiffer set-up that, BMW says, doesn’t compromise ride quality. Go for the optional adaptive dampers, and in the standard Comfort mode the BMW copes well with torn roads and even vicious bumps in the surface. The chassis feels compliant and more absorbent than an Audi A5 on standard suspension, and ramping the BMW's system up into the Sport setting further improves body control at the expense of a little compliance.

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The 4 Series feels tauter and planted in faster turns on smooth roads as a result, although the firmer damping means it can be knocked off line a little more by a mid-corner bump. While it’s more direct in this setting, the steering weight is ramped up to the point where it feels artificially heavy. It’s much nicer in Comfort and feels better matched to the suspension on the road, plus there’s more comfort on offer for no real penalty in cornering ability. You’ll only notice a little more roll on the move. 

As with most BMW models, you can specify the 4 Series with xDrive four-wheel drive, as a rival to Audi’s quattro and Mercedes’ 4Matic. BMW's is a seamless system, and it doesn't upset either the handling balance or the weight (too much) yet brings obvious benefits when the weather turns rainy, slushy or icy. It’s a good option for those with long commutes when winter rolls around.

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