The first-generation BMW 4 Series had a tough job, picking up the mantle from the long-running 3 Series Coupe. BMW wanted to better differentiate the two-door from its four-door brother and, although the resemblance was still clear, it was a case of mission (mostly) accomplished.
Available in two-door Coupe, folding hard-top Convertible, and four-door Gran Coupe guises, there was also more choice than ever for people in search of a bit more sizzle than the 3 Series could offer.
There was a bit of a wait to see what BMW would do with the second-generation 4 Series after the release of the less curvy, more angular G20 3 Series.
In 2019 the Concept 4 was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show, and it certainly made an entrance. You just couldn’t take your eyes off the huge, upright grille reminiscent of BMW’s classic 3.0 CSi of the 1960s and ’70s.
Fast forward to 2020 and the latest, ‘G22’ 4 Series remains true to concept form – as is usually the way for BMW – with its bluff nose, angular lighting front and rear, and an overall departure from its predecessor’s strong visual links to the related 3 Series.
The car’s designers wanted to give the 4er its own character and identity compared to the 3 Series sedan and Touring wagon, and believe it will attract younger buyers as well as the young at heart who value distinctive design and a sportier drive.
Not to say the 3 Series is bland, but the 4 Series has received a number of mechanical changes to its sedan and wagon counterparts to really embody the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ mantra.
We’ve sampled the mid-range 430i and flagship M440i xDrive in coupe form – well, flagship until the M4 and M4 Competition arrive next year.
How does it stack up?
Pricing for the 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe kicks off at $70,900 for the entry-level 420i, climbing to $88,900 for the 430i and $116,900 for the M440i xDrive. All prices exclude on-road costs.
Compared to the outgoing model, the new 4er is more affordable at the base level given you get the M Sport package and extra equipment for the same money as the previous-generation 420i Luxury Line, though the 430i and M440i xDrive are dearer in this latest iteration by $6400 and $13,700 respectively.
It appears BMW has lined up the new 4 Series against its arch rival, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. The C200 starts at $71,200 before on-roads, the mid-range C300 starts at $89,200 before on-roads, while the AMG C43 is priced from $116,136 before on-roads.
Other rivals include the recently updated Audi A5 (from $71,900) and the ageing Lexus RC (from $67,990).
You can read our pricing and specs breakdown here.
As has been the case with luxury brands of late, the new 4 Series packs a decent amount of kit right from the base level.
Standard equipment on the 420i includes:
- M Sport package
- 19-inch M light alloy wheels
- Electrically-adjustable front sports seats with driver memory
- ‘Sensatec’ leatherette seat trim with Alcantara inserts
- LED headlights with auto high-beam
- 10.25-inch central touchscreen with satellite navigation and connected functions
- 12.3-inch virtual driver’s instruments
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto,
- Head-up display
- Wireless smartphone charging
- DAB radio
- Parking Assistant – reversing camera and sensors, reverse AEB and semi-automated parking
- Driving Assistant package – autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, lane departure warning, speed sign information, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Opting for the 430i brings:
- Adaptive M suspension
- Comfort access with BMW Digital Key
- ‘Vernasca’ leather upholstery
- M Sport brakes
- Driving Assistant Professional – adaptive cruise control with stop/go, steering and lane control assistance, lane keep assist
- Parking Assistant Plus – 360-degree cameras and an enhanced autonomous parking assistant
Finally, the M440i xDrive adds:
- xDrive all-wheel drive
- 19-inch M light alloy wheels in Cerium matte gloss finish
- M Sport differential
- Automatic tailgate
- Instrument panel in ‘Sensatec’ leatherette
- Galvanic control finishers
- Electric glass sunroof
- Ambient interior lighting
- Lumbar support
- Heated front seats
- BMW Laserlight headlights
- Harman/Kardon surround sound system (16 speakers)
- Cerium Grey exterior accents (grille, side mirrors and tailpipes)
The 4 Series remains untested by ANCAP and its Euro NCAP equivalent. It’s not uncommon for coupe and sports car models from luxury brands to not be crash-tested given their price and relatively low volume.
With that in mind, the mechanically-related BMW 3 Series sedan scored a full five stars in 2019, with an impressive 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupants, 87 per cent for vulnerable road users and 77 per cent for safety assist.
It’s worth noting the 3 Series is rated five stars solely for 2.0-litre rear-wheel drive models, including the 330e plug-in hybrid, leaving other models unrated.
Given the obvious differences between the 3 Series and 4 Series, it would be unreasonable to expect the safety score to just carry over.
As noted earlier, all 4 Series variants come with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, a reversing camera, speed sign information, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 430i and higher add adaptive cruise control with stop/go, an active lane-keeping assistant, and 360-degree cameras.
In addition to the active safety tech, there’s seven airbags: dual front, side chest, side curtains and a driver’s knee inflator.
Very much like a 3 Series. While the exterior design is more out there and gives the 4er its own identity, the interior is familiar BMW fare. The overall design and layout is almost straight from the 3 Series, which is no bad thing.
It’s clean and functional, while also looking and feeling premium. There’s a nice choice of soft-touch materials used throughout and the M440i’s leatherette trim on the dashboard and door tops with contrast stitching is a nice touch.
On the launch there were several cars with different interior themes, including an eye-catching brown leather interior in the M440i xDrive. There’s plenty of different colours and trims to personalise the vehicle to your tastes. I personally like the idea of red leather with gloss aluminium ‘fabric’ ornamentation.
Comfort up front is great thanks to the supportive sports seats, and there’s a good level of adjustment via electric controls, as well as a driver memory function so you and your partner can save a seat position.
The 12.3-inch digital driver’s display and 10.25-inch central infotainment touchscreen are running BMW OS7.0 offering a range of functions including inbuilt navigation, wireless smartphone mirroring, net-based information, and a virtual assistant activated by saying “Hey, BMW”.
For the 4 Series and other MY21 BMW models, the system gets enhanced functionality including the ability to change drive modes via the virtual assistant, while iPhone users can also take advantage of the Apple Car Key function using the Wallet app – which debuted on the facelifted 5 Series.
Storage is pretty good up front, with decent sized door bins, a cubby for the wireless phone charger, two cupholders ahead of the shifter, and a central storage bin under the front centre armrest.
Being a coupe, the rear seats aren’t as important as they are in a 3 Series, and as such are best left for kids or smaller adults on long journeys mainly due to the sloping roofline impeding headroom. There’s a ski port to carry longer items should you require as well.
There’s a decent 440L of luggage capacity under the boot lid – which is electrically operated as standard on the M440i xDrive – making the 4 Series quite a usable everyday luxury sports coupe. If you want more space for people and stuff, the upcoming 4 Series Gran Coupe will offer even more practicality.
Three powertrains are available with the Australian launch line-up; two four-cylinder petrols and one six-cylinder.
In the 420i and 430i, there’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot under the bonnet, developing 135kW (@6500rpm) and 300Nm (@1350-4000rpm) in the former, and 190kW (@6500rpm) and 400Nm (@1550-4400rpm) in the latter.
Both four-cylinder models send drive to the rear wheels exclusively via an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
According to BMW, the 420i can sprint from 0-100 in 7.5 seconds, while the more powerful 430i cuts that to a brisk 5.8 seconds.
Heading the core range is the M440i xDrive, powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six mated to an eight-speed sports automatic and all-wheel drive. The M Performance variant also gets an M Sport differential on the rear axle with torque vectoring.
Outputs for the six are quoted at 285kW at 6500rpm and 500Nm at 1900-5000rpm. With the extra grunt and added traction of all-wheel drive, the M440i xDrive claims to dash from rest to triple figures in just 4.5 seconds – not long ago, that was M car quick.
During the local media drive we got to sample the 430i and M440i xDrive, so we’ll focus on those variants here.
First up we drove the M440i from BMW Australia’s head office in Mulgrave out to the hills in Melbourne’s east.
On start-up the inline-six roars to life with that signature trumpety exhaust note we know and love, and like other M Performance 40i-badged models, it strikes a great balance between daily usability and performance.
Pulling power is strong right through the rev range, and the inline six is silky smooth across just about all driving situations, working with the slick-shifting eight-speed automatic.
The 4 Series can do it all, whether it's carving through corners or cross-country touring
I noticed the exhaust doesn’t crack on upshifts like some other M40i models, likely a result of tightening laws around emissions and noise regulations in Europe, but the M440i really sings as the revs climb.
Having the xDrive all-wheel drive system and M Sport rear differential gives you even more confidence when sinking your boot in, giving the flagship 4er a real ‘point and shoot’ vibe.
In the twisties, the M440i xDrive does a good job of hiding its 1.7-tonne kerb weight though it does feel like a big, substantial car.
Turn-in is sharp, the chassis is wonderfully balanced, and there’s heaps of grip from the 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S performance rubber. Sometimes it’s nicer to slow the pace down and flow through the corners rather than trying to carve them up. The M440i xDrive makes a wonderful GT.
Speaking of grand touring ability, the M440i’s ride and refinement was surprisingly good. I thought there may be a bit of road noise from the Michelin tyres and a terse ride given it’s an M Performance coupe, but I was pleasantly surprised.
It probably helps the 4 Series has a wider front (+28mm) and rear track (+18mm) compared to the 3 Series, and the wheelbase has been extended by a significant 41mm.
My personal thoughts of the 3 Series is that M Sport models are far too firm for urban driving, but the larger footprint of the 4 Series has certainly addressed that issue. It drives beautifully.
For the second part of the driving loop I swapped into the 430i, and despite it being a downgrade in terms of power and soundtrack compared to the six-cylinder M440i xDrive, the high-output four-cylinder variant certainly presents talents of its own.
Being rear-wheel drive and having a lighter engine up front, the 430i is around 200kg lighter than the M440i.
It definitely feels like a purer sports car experience, sharpening up the front end and reducing that feeling of weight in tight corners. You don’t really miss the all-wheel drive system either because there’s just so much grip and the 2.0-litre manages to put its power down without much fuss unless you step hard on it too early.
The 430i has a rumbly little engine note too (partially enhanced by in-car audio), obviously not as satisfying as the inline six but it has its own character and still feels ‘sporty’.
For me, the 430i is so damn good you may as well pocket the $28,000 difference between it and the M440i. What it lacks in outright punch and aural drama it makes up for in fun factor and overall value – save some of that cash for a couple of desirable options and you’re set.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to test the 420i, but I have no doubt the 430i is the sweet spot.
Like the wider BMW range, the new 4 Series is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance thrown in for that period.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe offers a longer five-year warranty, and the Lexus RC is covered for four, but three years is still pretty standard for the luxury segments.
As for servicing and maintenance, the 4 Series can be had with a BMW Service Inclusive package, which covers five years or 80,000 kilometres – whichever comes first. For the 4 Series, this costs $1650 which averages out to $330 per year. Not bad.
The test loop wasn’t really representative of real-world driving, so it’s hard to pass judgement on the 4 Series’ real-world efficiency. For reference though, the 420i claims to use 6.4L/100km, the 430i claims 6.6L/100km, and the M440i xDrive quotes 7.7L/100km – all on the combined cycle.
Long story short, the new 4 Series is an excellent bit of kit.
The bluff front end looks much better in person, at least to my eyes, and if you can get past the polarising looks the new 4er has the makings of the new segment leader.
It’s fun, it’s fast (in 430i and M440i guises), it’s comfortable and it’s got heaps of features and tech.
Our pick would be the 430i if you hadn’t already guessed, as it’s a true sweet spot in terms of value, power and driving experience.
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