BMW 4 Series vs rivals

New BMW 4 Series offers style and fun. Can it beat rivals?

BMW 4 Series vs 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.

BMW 4 Series review

Audi A5 review

Mercedes C-Class Coupe review  

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.

Control systems

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 CoupeAudi A5 Coupe 2.0 TDI quattro S tronicMercedes C250 CDI AMG Sport Plus Coupe
On-the-road price/total as tested£31,575/£38,840£37,225/£41,899£36,795/£49,400
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£16,261/51.5%£17,496/47.0%£16,411/44.6%
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,198/£2,396£1,630/£3,260£1,599/£3,199
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,711/£2,851£2,143/£3,572£2,255/£3,758
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/costTBC/£568/D/£10529/£392/E/£12538/£483/E/£125
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£425 (5yrs/50k)£159/£309/£159£25pcm (3yrs/36k)
Engine4cyl in-line/1,995cc4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/2,143cc
Peak power181/4,000 bhp/rpm175/4,200 bhp/rpm201/4,200 bhp/rpm
Peak torque380/1,750 Nm/rpm380/1,750 Nm/rpm500/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/rwd7-spd dual-clutch/4wd7-spd auto/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel57 litres/run-flat61 litres/space saver66 litres/space saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down)455 litres/N/A455/829 litres450 litres/N/A
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,525/520kg1,575/500kg1,660/470kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.3 metres11.4 metres10.8 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unltd)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (unltd)/4yrs 
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable (1yr)/154Variable(1yr)/13515,500 (1yr)/136
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.15th/24th10th/23rd5th/12th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./pointsN/AN/A90/79/57/5
0-60/30-70mph7.8/7.2 secs8.0/8.1 secs7.5/7.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.4/5.4 secs3.4/4.8 secs3.1/4.2 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th6.3/8.7 secs6.6/9.6 secs5.7/7.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph149mph/2,000rpm140mph/1,600rpm149mph/1,600rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph52.8/36.9/9.1m47.6/35.0/9.0m47.9/35.5/9.0m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph67/47/63/69dB66/47/64/71dB68/50/66/72dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range45.6/10.1/572 miles36.4/8.1/488 miles34.6/7.7/502 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined48.7/68.9/60.1mpg44.1/60.1/53.3mpg43.5/61.4/53.3mpg
Got urban/extra-urban/combined10.7/15.1/13.2mpl9.7/13.2/11.7mpl9.6/13.5/11.7mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket166/124g/km/19%208/139g/km/22%219/139g/km/22%
Airbags/Isofix/ rear parking sensorsSix/yes/yesSix/yes/yesSeven/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£300Yes/£1,720/£330
Met paint/xenon lights/cruise control£645/yes/yes£615/yes/yes£645/yes/yes
Sunroof/ad.dampers/head-up display£895/£750/£825£870/£520*/no£1,350/yes/no
Sat-nav/Bluetooth/DAB radio£1,990/yes/yes£1,440/yes/yes£495/yes/yes

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