BMW 4 SERIES REVIEW
What’s hot: Beautiful long wide styling; fabulous chassis and handling
What’s not: Vague ‘Comfort’ mode, kickdown a tad slow
X-FACTOR: Performance, glamour looks and beautifully trimmed – BMW’s new style leader.
Vehicle style: Premium sports coupe
Price: 420d: $71,800 | 428i: $80,500 | 435i: $108,500
420d - 2.0 litre turbo diesel; 135kW/380Nm; 8spd sport automatic
428i - 2.0 litre turbo petrol; 180kW/350Nm; 8spd sport automatic
435i - 3.0 litre turbo petrol straight-6; 225kW/400Nm; 8spd sport automatic
420d - 4.6 l/100km | tested: 6.3 l/100km
428i - 6.4 l/100km | tested: 10.1 l/100km
435i - 7.4 l/100km | tested: 10.7 l/100km
Is this – BMW’s new 4 Series Coupe – the best looking coupe to come from Bavaria since the venerable 3.0 CSi?
Long and wide, a spearing bonnet and beautifully sculpted coachwork sitting squat over fat rubber, the 4 Series Coupe is a very arresting car. Even if it drove like a dog, you’d want one in your garage.
Fortunately, it doesn’t.
We drove the 420d, 428i and 435i at the new 4 Series Coupe’s Australian launch. This put us across some of the best driving roads you’ll find in this country: a reaching run over Victoria’s high country and down to The Ninety Mile Beach.
The entry 420i petrol variant, not available at launch but arriving January 2014, rounds out the new 4 Series range.
And what is it about that number ‘4’ on the boot - a 3 Series with a newer hat and two less doors? Well, yes, but no. What might once have been the 3 Series Coupe is now the 4 Series.
While it shares a lot of what you don’t see with the 3 Series: it’s been busted-out into its own range and sits wider, lower and flatter, with shorter overhangs and more heavily-sculpted front and rear quarters.
Whatever (and who cares), these cars will sell on good looks alone. But that’s to sell it short. The 4 Series Coupe is to its core a driver’s car.
Each of the engine variants is immensely enjoyable on-road: swift, responsive, and beautifully balanced.
The 435i is quickest by a good margin, but put any on a mountain pass and you’ll revel in the rigid chassis, low centre of gravity and precise handling. Even the least powerful 420d is surprisingly fleet-footed.
Of the premium Germans, a BMW interior is - I think - now the benchmark.
Typically more daring than Audi in colour combinations and style, and with more panache and flair than the stolid but superbly executed accommodation you’ll find in Mercedes.
Like the 3 Series with which it shares a platform and many of its styling elements, the 4 Series Coupe is stunning inside.
Beautifully trimmed, flawless ‘thick’ leather, impeccable snug build, only the most ardent nit-picker could find fault with this layout and design.
Perhaps the screen is a little far away; the M Sport steering wheel a little too thick-rimmed (we preferred the standard sports wheel), and the doors swing a bit wide – they can be hard to reach to close when you’re settled in.
But that’s about it. The seats are nicely contoured, grippy and comfortable for press-on driving (even when nursing a shagged back), and there is a terrific sportscar feel to the square-on wheel and low seating position.
The rear seats are similarly well-shaped, access to the back is good - as is legroom - although headroom is a bit tighter.
The screen display and controller is very easy to use, the sound system is thumping, sat-nav includes a nifty satellite view, and comfort functions for the aircon and heating are clear and simply operated.
The 4 Series Coupe can be specified in three ‘lines’: Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line (the latter available November), each with subtle changes to design elements and feature specification – Sport looks a little more dynamic inside and out, Luxury, more sumptuous.
Across the range there is no shortage of standard features (something that could not be said of BMWs past).
Each comes with Dakota leather upholstery, auto climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, AUX-in and USB interface, anti-dazzle mirror, sat-nav, rear-view camera, electric seat adjustment, gearshift paddles, rain-sensing wipers, bi-Xenon headlamps, among a longer list depending upon specification.
Safety features common across the range include ABS, cornering brake control, stability and traction control, and front and side airbags for driver and front passenger. You won’t find a BMW with less than 5-Star NCAP safety rating.
ON THE ROAD
BMW’s ‘twin-power’ turbo engines are delicious units. The one you choose will depend upon the depth of your pocket and how hard you want to hammer the nail.
While the 428i with 180kW and 350Nm is quick, and will rifle through the eight-speed transmission to bolt to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds, the 435i is a spear.
With 225kW and 400Nm, and an extra two cylinders doing the work in the 3.0 litre straight-six under the bonnet, it will find 100kmh in 5.1 seconds and lay a long strip of scorched rubber while doing so.
Of the three under test, the 420d is the cheapest at $71,800 (by a long chalk), the most fuel efficient (by a country mile) and slowest – if 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds is ‘slow’.
But don’t dismiss the oil-burner. This 135kW/380Nm 2.0 litre diesel is one of the best in the business.
It’s quiet, spins effortlessly and mid-speed acceleration is very lively. It has no trouble belting out and around when overtaking, and from 2500rpm it will pull strongly on a gathering wave of torque.
The 435i will show it a clean pair of heels on the straights, but the 420d will be clinging to its foofer through a tight set of corners.
The 435i is available only with the M Sport package. Aside from some suspension tweaks, bigger wheels, brakes and aerodynamic features, it’s essentially a ‘go-faster’ dress-up kit.
Each in the range comes with the eight-speed automatic as standard, paddle shifters and selective transmission, steering and suspension modes. (To clarify, and noting comments below, each can also be specified with six-speed manual as a no-cost option - Ed.)
There is an Eco mode, which activates the stop/start technology and ‘Comfort’ for a more compliant suspension setting and ‘lightened’ steering.
We don’t much like Comfort mode. It gives the steering an indirect and flabby feel and ‘vagues-out’ some of the feel for the road when cornering.
Sure as eggs, it’s the pick around town, but not on a mountain road.
The more dynamic Sport and Sport+ modes are the ones you want when tackling a mountain road. That said, on test we found the 435i a little looser at the front (even in Sport+) than the 428i and 420d.
We suspect the tyre pressures may have been a little soft. It was less inclined to hold a tight line (without some help from the rear) and certainly wanted to squeal more than its four-cylinder counterparts when shown the whip.
If you’re sure of your skills, Sport+ turns off the traction control (almost – it’ll catch you when you run out of skill).
It’s a bit of a hoot. In this setting you can tuck the nose in and get on the gas early to step the back out and tighten the line. Technically, you might refer to it as “increasing the yaw rotation”; to you and me it’s “sliding the arse around”.
We also love the eight-speed transmission: who needs a twin clutch when you’ve got a conventional torque-converter auto as good as this one? (That’s a question we’ve asked more than once.)
In Sport or Manual mode, it will belt though the changes with lightning-quick shifts. But if you want it to kick down quickly, it’s a job for the paddles.
Left to its own devices (in full auto), we think it’s a little slow to downshift, especially if looking for a stamp of power out of a corner.
With a long wheelbase, a really wide track, and 50:50 weight balance, the 4 Series Coupe is superbly settled on road.
The suspension is firm, especially in the Sport modes, and you’re always aware of what’s happening at the wheels, but even over broken tarmac it sits flat and unruffled.
Where once BMW sporting suspensions were almost unbearably firm, this one is about right. It feels alive – it’s a performance drive after all – but it’s not going to hammer your kidneys into mash.
Fuel consumption? We drove them hard; the 420d returned 6.3 l/100km, the 428i, 10.1 l/100km and the 435i, 10.7 l/100km.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
On glamour looks, the 4 Series Coupe might just become the car of the moment.
It sits beautifully squat at the rear and its long raked bonnet and rear-set glasshouse is reminiscent of an earlier age of BMW coupes.
But, style aside, the 4 Series Coupe is a car for drivers.
The electric steering might lack the precise connected feel of hydraulic BMW systems of old, but, take your pick – 420d, 428i, or 435i – each is an immensely enjoyable car with fabulous on-road dynamics.
Right now, we’re drawn most to the 420d, but when the 420i arrives here in January it will have a $69,500 sticker hanging from the doorhandle. This car, at that price? It’s going to find a lot of friends.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
The 4 Series is available from October.
- BMW 420i Coupe - $69,500 (from January)
- BMW 420d Coupe - $71,800
- BMW 428i Coupe - $80,500
- BMW435i Coupe - $108,500