The renamed coupe has muscle and beauty to hush worried fans, finds Mike Porter.
Road Test: BMW 4 Series
As you may already know, the two-door 3 Series Coupe is officially dead, along with the ultra popular M3 Coupe. But before all the BMW fans start throwing themselves from bridges, all is not lost. The German carmaker is still churning out M3 saloons for everyone to enjoy.
But what if you don't have 2.4 children and want the sleeker lines of a coupe in your garage? Well, have no fear, as BMW has now launched the 4 Series, which is, in essence, a 3 Series Coupe. To clear up any confusion, from now, all the odd numbered BMWs will be four-door cars (3, 5 and 7), while the even numbers (the yet to be launched 2 Series, as well as the 4 and 6) will be two-door cars.
At first sight, the new car is radically different from the outgoing model. It's angrier, far more aggressive and, frankly, twice as good-looking as the 3 Series. The lights are deeply raked compared with the 3 Series and the whole set-up is designed to scream "sporty".
The roofline drops off at the rear to slope neatly down into the quite lovely rear end and everything is rounded off with slimline light clusters and highlighted body trim. It really is a quite stunning-looking car, especially within its segment.
How has BMW done this, with what is essentially a redesigned 3 Series? For starters, the 4 Series is longer, wider and lower than the 3 Series, but once you see it in the flesh that becomes blatantly obvious, even without the benefit of both cars parked next to each other.
The beefed-up rear arches are actually wider than the mirrors, so owners need to ensure they don't use the front of the car as a gauge when trying to get through a particularly tight spot, as the back may not fit.
Inside, it's a set-up that will feel very familiar for BMW owners of old, but with more than a few updates. The self-contained iDrive system remains just in front of the driver's armrest, along with a hidden set of seat controls under the armrest itself.
The front seats are excellent and extremely supportive. In the rear, there's enough leg room for two adults, although there's no space for a third rear passenger, as the middle is taken up by the rest of the centre console that flows through from the front. Despite the raked back, there's an OK boot as well, so it remains a fairly practical buy, despite the lack of doors.
Under the bonnet, there's a choice of two petrol engines for the region. A 3.0L, in-line six with 306hp and 400Nm of torque (for the 435i) and a 2.0L, in-line four with 245hp and 350Nm for the 428i. Both are turbocharged and drive via the rear wheels.
The 435i will hit 100kph in just 5.4 seconds, while the smaller 2.0L model does the same in 5.9 seconds and both cars are electronically limited to 250kph. Buyers can also opt for the BMW XDrive system, which pushes the power out to all four corners and, in the 435i, this lowers the 0-to-100kph time by half a second.
Drive is sorted out by the excellent BMW eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is slick and precise. The paddles rotate with the steering wheel, so it's also easy to use when you're really pushing the envelope of the car's handling. Out on the tarmac, the sporty theme continues unabated. The engine is punchy and spreads its torque nicely across the entire rev range. It always seems to be happy to go, although you'll need to play with the gearbox to keep it from really flying when fighting a twisty road.
It turns with pinpoint accuracy and only understeers when you push it far too hard. There's no hint of transfer oversteer and it seems to just hunker down and get the job done. The cornering is as impressive as the looks, and that's something the car industry often fails to deliver.
Body roll is minimum, although the suspension doesn't like hitting larger bumps or playing on poor road surfaces. The brakes are also excellent, giving lots of feedback without a hint of fade.
The 4 Series is really very good indeed. It has a fabulous chassis and a brilliant engine under the bonnet. It's quick, nimble and has a glorious exhaust tone. It's hard to find anything not to like with it. The styling is the big winner here, as it looks like a baby 6 Series, which will go down well in this segment of the market.
Some traditional 3 Series buyers may not like the harsher suspension and the smaller boot, but then that's exactly why the new 3 Series exists. If you loved the 3 Series Coupe, you'll be head over heels with the 4.
So now it's all in the numbers. Odds for a sensible haircut and evens for that sporty trim you've always fancied. The rest, as they say, is up to you.
Engine 3.0L, twin-turbo, in-line six-cylinder
Transmission eight-speed automatic
Power 306hp @ 5,800rpm
Torque 400Nm @ 1,200rpm
Fuel economy 8.1L / 100km
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