First drive: BMW 4 Series


First drive: BMW 4 Series

After offering a medium sized, sporty two door coupe as part of the 3 Series line-up for decades, BMW has now decided to make it a model in its own right. The 4 Series name may jar with faithful brand followers, but promises a car with a much greater performance focus than the well-rounded 3 saloon. To see if it delivers, AOL Cars headed to the Highlands of Scotland to put it through its paces.

What is it?

NOT – as BMW is keen to point out – simply a two door version of the 3 Series. The 4 Coupe not only sits 10mm lower than its saloon sibling, but also has a much wider track at the front and rear, a longer wheelbase, unique suspension settings and the lowest centre of gravity of any current BMW. Such revisions are designed to increase the dynamic potential of what is already a very accomplished car. The styling has been changed, too, with the 4 Series presenting a much wider (largely down to the exaggerated rear wheel arches) and muscular aesthetic on the road. The interior is near verbatim 3 Series, though features increased use of gloss black surface trim and a greater choice of interior colour options for a more luxurious feel.

What's under the bonnet?

At launch, the 4 Series will be offered with four-cylinder petrol and diesel units in the form of the 428i and 420d respectively, as well as the six-cylinder petrol 435i driven here. With just over 300bhp on tap, it provides effortless performance and never feels anything less than silky-smooth. These will be joined further down the line by units already offered in the 3 Series, including the 2.0-litre 420i and six cylinder diesel units in the 430d and 435d. Selected models will be available with BMW's 'X-Drive' four-wheel-drive system and customers will be able to replace the slick six-speed manual gearbox for a fantastically smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic.

What's the spec like?

The 4 Series is offered with a greater standard specification than the 3 saloon, with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, keyless go, rain sensing headlights and wipers, heated leather seats and a 6.5-inch widescreen display fitted to all models. Other than the entry spec SE, there are four trim levels to choose from. 'Modern' and 'Sport' add £1500 to the list price and throw in sports seats and 18-inch alloy wheels. 'Luxury' and 'M Sport' trims add £2,500 and £3,000 to the base price respectively, but both come with BMW's Business Media Package that includes Internet services and real-time traffic info for the sat nav. Each model also comes with its own unique exterior design detailing, ranging from the pumped up aggression of M Sport to the more subtle touches of the Modern and Luxury specifications.

Any rivals?

The 4 Series is quite a worrying proposition for its most obvious rivals, the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class Coupe, as spec-for-spec, its engines produce more power despite emitting competitive levels of CO2. Those after a more comfort oriented car may warm to the C-Class, with its individual and less overtly sporting nature. For interior ambience the A5 runs the BMW very close, with some materials feeling more substantial and expensive. That said, neither can match the 4 Series for driver entertainment. With the capability of its rear-drive, well balanced chassis really making itself felt when pressing on.

What's it like to drive?

Much like the 3 Series, if we're honest. But given that that car is the handling benchmark in its class, it is by no means a bad thing. The 4 Series is stable and composed at speed, but lithe and balanced in corners. It's a car which has had its handling characteristics polished to such an extent, it's hard to fault, though keener drivers may bemoan its sheer surefootedness and predictability. And, when you just want to get from A to B, the BMW plays a comfortable cruiser; its suspension well suited to our uniquely rutted roads. Even in the diesel models the cabin remains nicely hushed, too, though wind noise does intrude sharply at speed.

The AOL Cars verdict

Whether or not you agree with BMW that its best-selling two-door coupe deserves its own model line, there is little doubt that the 4 Series is a highly capable and desirable car. So much so that it is our recommendation for anyone looking for a fast, discreetly handsome premium coupe. Audi and Mercedes, the gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down.

The knowledge

Model: BMW 435i M Sport Coupe
Price: £41,435
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 306bhp 400NM
Max speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
MPG: 35.8mpg (combined)
Emissions: 185g/km CO2

BMW 4 Series Coupe

BMW 4 Series Coupe