BMW 4 Series vs rivals
New BMW 4 Series offers style and fun. Can it beat rivals?
The BMW 3 Series Coupe has always bridged the gap between sleek sports car and sober-suited saloon. As a result, it’s traditionally been seen as a rakish two-door saloon rather than an attention-grabbing coupe.
However, that’s all set to change with the latest model, which has a new name – 4 Series – and a racy new look. This fresh addition to BMW’s ever-expanding model line-up is longer, lower and wider than the 3 Series Coupe, and at launch it offers a choice of three engines and five trims. For the first time, there’s also a trio of xDrive-badged all-wheel-drive versions. And with proven 3 Series mechanicals under the skin, the new 4 Series promises to be great to drive and surprisingly cost-effective to run.
But will it be a class leader like the 3 Series saloon? To find out, we’ve put the entry-level 420d SE up against the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class Coupe. Like the BMW, these desirable models combine head-turning looks and sharp driving dynamics with strong premium badge appeal. So, has BMW come up with another winning number?
The dictionary definition of a coupe is “a two-door car with a fixed roof and a sloping rear” – so the profile clearly counts for a lot if these models are going to be considered real coupes rather than two-door executive saloons. All three look the part, but the 4 Series and A5 have a lower roofline than the Mercedes, while the BMW stands out with its long wheelbase, high shoulder line and flowing lines.
The 4 Series features the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive cabin control set-up. It gets a bigger controller and very clear navigation mapping. But the Audi’s MMI and Mercedes’ COMAND packages are equally easy to use – and all three are better options than the fiddly touchscreen systems of some rivals.
With a manual gearbox, the 181bhp 420d is the slowest car here from 0-60mph, posting a time of 7.8 seconds. But the 4 Series hit back in our in-gear tests, where a 50kg weight advantage and shorter top gear gave it the edge over the Audi in the 50-70mph sprint. As the C-Class has 201bhp and 500Nm of torque, we weren’t surprised that it was the fastest car in all our tests – it does 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds. If you can live with less pace, the cheaper C220 CDI has 167bhp and 400Nm.
1st place - BMW 4 Series
BMW has come up with yet another winner. The 4 Series mirrors the attributes of the class-leading 3 Series, and this 420d makes financial sense: it’s affordable to run and holds its value well. But what stands out is the sharp handling, smart cabin and top-notch engineering. Plus, it’s more practical and stylish than rivals. Whereas the BMW 3 Series is far from exclusive, with just shy of 25,000 finding UK homes to date this year, the 4 Series stands out a bit more on the road. It promise all the traditional strengths of the 3 Series with an added dollop of style.
2nd place - Audi A5
Launched in 2007, the stylish Audi A5 is a stern rival for the new 4 Series. The desirable two-door is based on tried and tested A4 underpinnings, and effortlessly blends head-turning looks with a solid gold premium image and composed driving dynamics. A mid-life facelift in 2012 has kept the A5 looking fresh, while a choice of front-wheel-drive or quattro models, a wide spread of trims and a variety of engine options mean it’s still a very popular coupe. S line versions, in quattro or front-wheel drive, look great, but cheaper SEs appeal to fleet buyers. And all A5s are strong buys with their sure-footed handling, upmarket cabin and refined diesels. They’re just not as much fun or as strong residually as the BMW.
3rd place - Mercedes C-Class
If the standard Mercedes C-Class is too dull for you, the Coupe serves up the extra style needed in this fiercely contested class. While the lower-spec Executive SE has a more traditional look, racier trims like our AMG Sport Plus mimic the image of the range-topping C63 AMG. And our car is the higher-powered C250 CDI diesel. Our Mercedes test car featured the £530 AMG chassis upgrades, but still wasn’t as good to drive as the BMW. So while the C-Class is still a classy coupe – with a fine CDI diesel engine and top-quality finish – in this company it’s outclassed.
|BMW 420d SE Coupe
|Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic
|Mercedes C250 CDI AMG Sport Plus Coupe
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