The new BMW 4 Series is almost as fast as the outgoing M4
This is the imposing face of the new BMW 4 Series. The sporting two-door has been given a grilling – with a bold new take on the marque’s signature kidney grille sure to polarise opinion and get BMW aficionados talking.
What has been increasingly short and squat has become tall and narrow – a super-sized version of BMW grilles from before the 1990s when they adorned the new Four’s coupe predecessors like the 328, 503 and assorted CS models. It is to those cars, and their standalone coupe nature, that the new Four tips its hat, separating it from the 3 Series saloon that sired it more completely than ever – not just in design but, says BMW, in a sharper, more dynamic drive.
The new grille (it is “vertically emphasised” says BMW) was borderline scary when it was previewed by the i4 concept last year, but this more restrained version, with its cool three-dimensional mesh structure, strikes a happier note. Despite its barn-door appearance aerodynamics do not apparently suffer, with BMW quoting an impressive Cd of 0.25 for the entry model. Whether it makes a convincing looking new M4 we will have to wait a while to discover.
Incidentally, although the 4 Series showcases the latest BMW design language, characterised by fewer lines and plainer surfacing, this frontal design is not about to be rolled out across the range. Rather, the message is that among BMW coupes at least, different models will increasingly have their own individual characters, from the 2 Series up to the 8 Series.
For the brand’s mid-range two-door, its altered state extends to its dynamic ability, for BMW says this is much more than a 3 Series with two fewer doors. It’s lower (by 57mm, or two inches), sits on wider rear track, has a stiffer chassis, 50:50 weight distribution, and new suspension geometry for sharper turn-in. It’s a 3 Series – already acclaimed in sedan form – hunkered down for more serious sporting purpose; maybe the coming new M4 will be a revelation after all.
Against the outgoing 4 Series the new one is substantially larger: 128mm (5 inches ) longer with a much longer wheelbase and wider tracks. Grille aside, the design follows a familiar BMW two-door pattern with its short overhangs, slender pillars, long doors with frameless windows and a flowing roofline. But that extra length allows for a welcome stretch to the window graphic that enhances the hunkered-down look.
No great surprises on the technology front, aside from the first 4 Series M Sport model, the M440i xDrive. As already reported, this comes across as a junior M4 with its turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six combined with a 48-volt starter-generator to boost efficiency but also provide an 11-horsepower kick to improve engine response off the line. Total power is 374PS (369bhp) and 0-62mph takes 4.5 seconds – just two tenths slower than the outgoing version of the pukka M4.
The M440i is the only electrified version in the range at the October market launch. Entry model is the 420i (184PS, 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds) or you can get the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor in 258PS form for the 430i which brings the 0-62 down to a less lethargic 5.8 secs.
After that it’s diesels: in 420d, 430d and 440d forms with power ranging from 190PS to 340PS (that’s 187 to 335bhp). All the diesels are available with all-wheel-drive and, like every 4 Series, all get an eight-speed Steptronic as only transmission option – that’s right, there’s no manual at all. The top oil-burning 440d xDrive is interesting, with its 700Nm mountain of torque and 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds, but it doesn’t arrive until next March.
The rest of the 4 Series mirrors the 3 Series, with more room inside thanks to the longer wheelbase and a cabin and dashboard design that will be familiar in a driver-centric, all-digital BMW way. The sports seats and steering wheel are new to the Four, and in the back there are just two perches, not three like the saloon.
More driver-assist systems are now fitted and there’s a range of M Sport options – suspension, steering, diff, brakes, body parts – available for all but standard on the new M440i flagship. For the first time you can also get M Sport package Pro which includes sport transmission, 19-inch alloys and more aural engine entertainment. Other options include glass roof and Laserlight headlights. Prices start at £39,870 for the 420i M Sport and rise to £53,875 for the M440i.
That’s the new 4 Series then, all “grilled” to perfection. Or not. For its part, BMW says it has an “unusually striking front end” and we’d go along with that. We like it. We think. And certainly no one will confuse it with the 3 Series any more. You won’t confuse it with anything else.