BMW 4 Series Coupe Review
The BMW 4 Series is a relatively modern invention, but it’s essentially the current name for the old 3 Series Coupe. The mechanical underpinnings, interior and engines are all shared with the more conventional executive saloon, but that’s no bad thing, because the 3 Series is utterly, utterly brilliant. Add in a more striking grille and a sleeker body, and you’ve got a truly awesome coupe that’s at home absolutely everywhere.
Select's rating score* - 4.2 / 5
The new 4 Series is currently only available as a two-door Coupe, but a four-door Gran Coupe model is on the way, and a convertible has already been revealed. Designed to be the 3 Series’ sportier brother, you get the enormous grille and sleeker rear window line, but you also get a more select range of engines. The sexiest version is, undoubtedly, the forthcoming M4 high-performance model, but the 374hp M440i xDrive will offer many of those thrills without the outrageous bodykit or price tag. The more conventional 420i and 420d petrol versions are likely to prove more popular, though, providing solid performance without breaking the bank in terms of economy or price. Just one trim level is available: the sportily-styled M Sport, although customers can specify the Pro Package or Pro Edition, both of which get some extra styling tweaks.
Though it’s the grille and the roofline that really sets the 4 Series apart, there’s more to the BMW’s arsenal than looks. The on-board technology such as the head-up display and the brilliant Live Cockpit Professional infotainment system put the car ahead of its rivals, and that’s before you consider the impressively smooth mild-hybrid engine range or the exquisite road manners. Among its myriad party pieces, we particularly like the gesture control option, which allows you to adjust the volume by lazily waving your finger in the air. You can also reject phone calls with a dismissive waft of your palm or accept a call by jabbing a finger towards the screen like Lord Sugar firing a particularly useless candidate.
The 4 Series range is slightly smaller than that of the 3 Series, with fewer engine options available. As usual, you get the 420i and 420d 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines, plus the larger and more powerful 2.0-litre 430i petrol. The range is currently capped by the 3.0-litre M440i petrol engine, but an M4 version has already been announced and more potent 3.0-litre 430d and M440d diesels are expected in the spring of 2021. A plug-in hybrid has been mooted, but not yet confirmed.
For now, then, the 420i is the cheapest engine on offer, yet it still comes with a very healthy 184hp – enough for a 7.5-second sprint to 62mph. The 430i ups that to an even meatier 258hp, getting you to 62mph in 5.8 seconds, while the glorious six-cylinder M440i engine goes all the way to 374hp. Teamed with the eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s standard across the range, the M440i will hit 62mph in just 4.5 seconds, before flying to a top speed of 155mph.
The 420d, meanwhile, churns out 190hp. For rear-wheel-drive versions, that equates to a 7.1-second dash to 62mph, while the xDrive four-wheel-drive variants add 0.3 seconds to that time. The four-wheel-drive 430d, meanwhile, will squeeze 286hp from its 3.0-litre turbocharged engine, offering a 5.2-second sprint to 62mph and the obligatory 155mph top speed, but the M440d will come with 340hp, cutting the 0-62mph time to 4.7 seconds.
Regardless of the engine you choose, the 4 Series is an absolute peach to drive. The steering is great (as long as you turn off the ultra-intrusive lane departure warning system), and the engines are silky smooth masterpieces. BMW’s straight-six engines are renowned for their creaminess, but even the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines fail to drone or rattle in the way they did before.
The ride is supple, too, and although the 4 Series is designed to be sportier than the 3 Series, it has the same impressive level of refinement. It’s difficult to think of many coupes that would be so good on the motorway, around town and on the twisty back roads. Even the visibility is good, which isn’t always the case in cars such as this.
For the 2021 4 Series, BMW has added some mild-hybrid technology to the range, fitting the diesels and the M440i petrol with a 48-volt electrical system. This tech allows the car to harvest energy that might normally be lost when braking or decelerating, then redeploy it when it’s needed. That means the car has an extra 11hp of boost when accelerating, and the power can be used to help keep the car running when the engine is switched off, allowing it to save fuel by coasting.
As a result, the 420d can manage between 67.3 and 72.4mpg on the official fuel economy test, although that does drop slightly with the addition of the xDrive four-wheel-drive system. Even the 430d, with its 5.2-second 0-62mph time, will return around 45mpg when it arrives next year, and the M440d will also get over the 40mpg mark.
The M440i is the only petrol engine to come with mild-hybrid power, and that allows it to return 39.8 to 41.5mpg on the official test cycle despite the huge power output. The non-hybrid 2.0-litre engines are still more economical, though, with the basic 420i managing around 50mpg.
On paper, the diesels’ performance, economy and mild-hybrid technology make them the most tempting options, but the petrol engines shouldn’t be completely dismissed by those seeking a company car. The 420d is capable of CO2 emissions between 103 and 112g/km, depending on the version, and that puts it in the 25% to 27% Benefit-in-Kind tax brackets. The 420i, meanwhile, is slightly more polluting, pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate of 122 to 132g/km, so you’re looking at between 29% and 31% in tax. It looks like a no-brainer, but the 420d is noticeably more expensive than its petrol-powered sibling, making the P11D value higher. That means the gap in the tax payments won’t be as big as it looks.
Although the 4 Series may share interior design features with the 3 Series on which it is based, it’s plenty stylish enough for most. Sure, BMW’s aesthetic isn’t the most exciting on sale today, but it’s stylish in a very German, very reserved sort of way. More to the point, it manages to do that without sacrificing a drop of functionality. Every single button is in exactly the ‘right’ place, every switch works and feels exactly as it should and every display is crisp and uncluttered.
Add to that some beautifully sculpted seats, clean lines and modern metallic trim pieces, and you’ve got a really comfortable space. It’s a bit dark with the black roof lining, but the screens and aluminium trim lift the mood, while the cockpit-style atmosphere suits the car’s attitude and image.
BMW’s Live Cockpit infotainment system is undoubtedly one of the best in the business, combining the company’s famed central screen and a digital instrument cluster. The central screen is touch-sensitive these days, but you can still use the control wheel on the centre console if you’d rather. In fact, we’d suggest you do just that, because once you’ve learned your way around the system, you can use the wheel to navigate menus without having to take your eyes off the road. It isn’t so easy with a touchscreen.
The car also comes with the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration systems as standard, allowing even easier control of your device. It also means you get access to apps such as WhatsApp, Google and Spotify. The car also comes with BMW’s personal assistant feature, which uses artificial intelligent to respond to voice-activated requests. Tell the car you’re hungry and it will suggest restaurants, for example.
If you want more, you can delve into the options packs, with the Technology Plus Pack offering a host of goodies. Wireless charging and “enhanced” Bluetooth connectivity are thrown in, along with WiFi hotspot preparation and a head-up display that is projected on to the windscreen.
Naturally, the 4 Series is not quite as spacious as the 3 Series on which it is based, but the coupe shape isn’t as cramped as you might expect. There’s plenty of room for those in the front, and while headroom is slightly compromised for those in the rear seats, it isn’t outrageously tight. Only tall adults will find it intolerable back there, although they might struggle to clamber between the door jamb and the front seat. Still, the four-door Gran Coupe should go some way to rectifying those issues when it arrives.
BMW has also enlarged the 4 Series’ boot since the previous generation, finding 440 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats. Admittedly, the C-Class Coupe and Audi A5 are more capacious, but 440 litres is plenty. The 3 Series saloon’s boot is only slightly bigger.
Aside from boot space, BMW has also found plenty of interior storage, with a well-proportioned glove box and plenty of room in the door pockets. There are two handy stowage spaces in the centre console, too, and the door bins have partitions to keep things held in place.
Euro NCAP hasn’t yet tested the new 4 Series, so there’s no definitive safety rating, but the 3 Series on which it is based has been through the crash testing programme. It managed an impressive five-star score, managing an incredible 97% in the adult occupant protection category. Whether that score is replicated in the 4 Series remains to be seen, but it seems likely that the new coupe would fare similarly in the same crash test.
After all, the car does come with plenty of safety kit. Not only do you get the usual collection of airbags and seatbelts, but you get Isofix child seat mounting points in the rear and a host of gadgets to prevent accidents happening in the first place. As standard, the 4 Series comes with autonomous emergency braking that can automatically slam on the anchors if it detects a collision with another vehicle, object, pedestrian or cyclist. It also features a lane departure warning system that can steer you back into your lane, although this feature can be a bit intrusive – particularly on narrow country roads.
You can also take advantage of the Driving Assistant Professional Package, which includes Steering and Lane Control Assistant. This system finds its position using road markings and vehicles driving ahead, then uses that to work with the driver to help keep the vehicle in the detected lane with corrective steering inputs.
Refreshingly, the 4 Series range is pretty simple. Once you’ve chosen your engine – 420i, 430i or 420d – you get just one basic trim level: M Sport. As a result, you get sports seats with M upholstery, a sports steering wheel and the M logo on the instrument cluster. You get M logos on the door sill plates, too, while the cabin is adorned with aluminium and “pearl-effect” chrome, as well as dark Anthracite roof lining.
If you so wish, you can upgrade to the optional Pro package, which gets M Sport brakes and 19-inch M light-alloy wheels, as well as a black rear spoiler and black trim around the grille and windows. The car also gets BMW Individual lights and M seat belts.
You can add even more if you go for the Pro Edition, which includes unique alloy wheels, black door mirror caps and a choice of aluminium or piano black interior trim. The Pro Edition also comes with a choice of three paint options: Dravit Grey, Tansanite Blue and Aventurin Red.
The rules are slightly different for the M440i, which gets a slightly sportier design and some upgraded mechanical features in a bid to enhance performance. That car already comes with the black door mirrors of the Pro Edition, as well as the grey external trim unique to the M440i and the forthcoming M440d models. Those two cars will also be offered with an optional carbon exterior package, including a carbon rear spoiler and rear diffuser.
As usual, the 4 Series is offered with a range of colours and option packages, with Portimao Blue and Sanremo Green among the most attractive hues. More high-tech options include the Technology Pack with the Harman/Kardon surround-sound system and fighter jet-style head-up display, and the Comfort Pack with a power-operated tailgate and a heated steering wheel that’s a godsend in winter.
As usual with any BMW, the biggest rivals come from fellow German brands Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Audi has its immaculately built A5, while Mercedes-Benz has crafted the gorgeous C-Class Coupe. The BMW, though, is the perfect mix of both, combining the solidity and technology of the A5 with the ride and handling of the C-Class.
But while the 4 Series may have enough to see off its compatriots, there are other players on the field. The Kia Stinger, for example, is really well executed, while the Lexus RC is another solid rival that comes with hybrid power. Both are good cars, and the 3.3-litre versions of the Stinger are lairy, hairy-chested sports coupes, while the Lexus RC F’s V8 has to be experienced to be believed. But though both cars have their charms, the 4 Series is still the more rounded vehicle.
The 4 Series’ grille might be divisive, but if you’re a fan of the look, you won’t find anything to complain about elsewhere. Beautifully built and fabulous to drive, it’s a refined and high-tech way of getting from A to B. No, it isn’t as practical as a 3 Series, but if you’re after practicality, get the 3 Series. If you want style and substance in one, the 4 Series is the car for you.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the BMW 4 Series Coupe
**Correct as of 25/08/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,358.69 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.