One, a rear-drive layout.
Two, a unique layout.
Many sporty coupes are FWD – and “spun off” sedans. They’re not much more than two-door versions of the four-door. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.
It’s just that the new BMW 4 is something more than that.
The coupe’s chassis and suspension are no longer shared with the 3 Series sedan; major body panels do not interchange.
So it’s not just a new number.
WHAT IT IS
The 4 Series is BMW’s mid-sized, four-seater sport coupe. It is physically longer (and lower and wider) than the old 3 Series coupe, which BMW has officially retired.
But it’s not just a skin job or a name change for marketing purposes.
Major functional points of departure from the 3 Series (which is now sedan/wagon/hatchback GT only) include a wider front and rear track (60.8 and 62.8 inches, respectively, vs. 59.1 and 59.6 inches for the ’13 3 series coupe), a longer wheelbase (110.6 inches vs. 108.7), lower ride height, firmer suspension calibrations and higher-effort steering dialed in specifically for the coupe.
The 4 coupe’s engines – though the same displacement and general specification as the 3 Series sedan’s engines – have slightly higher on-paper hp (in part due to a jauntier-sounding and freer-flowing exhaust) and the new 4 coupe – being about 100 pounds lighter than the old 3 coupe – delivers better performance than the old 3 coupe did, as well as better fuel economy.
Prices start at $40,500 for the 2.0 turbo powered/six-speed/RWD 428i and top out at $48,000 for a 435i xDrive with turbo 3.0 in-line six, AWD and eight-speed automatic.
Expect a convertible version to enter the lineup later in 2014.
The 4 Series is all-new.
More focused than before.
Manual transmission is available with either engine.
An outstanding eight-speed automatic is optional with either engine.
Both engines are sweet-sounding and sweet-performing.
More practical than you might expect it to be, thanks to a fairly large trunk and adult-viable back seats that also fold down, increasing the car’s cargo capacity.
Free scheduled maintenance (oil & filter changes, brake pads) for the first four years or 50,000 miles.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Automatic transmission’s toggle shifter is sensory deprivation personified.
Minimal center console storage space.
Basic service such as changing the battery requires a visit to the dealer. Post-warranty repairs and maintenance can be dauntingly pricey.
Last year’s available overboosted (320 hp) version of the optional 3.0 twin turbo with is not available.
At least, not yet.
UNDER THE HOOD
The formerly standard (and naturally aspirated) 3.0 liter in-line six has been retired – chiefly because BMW (like all car companies) is under pressure to uptick its CAFE “fleet average” fuel economy numbers.
This was ok.
The 2.0 turbo four that replaces it makes 241hp – and delivers 23 city, 35 highway.
This is much better.
Some traditional BMW folk may lament the passing of the less-fuel-efficient but uniquely sweet-singing straight-six. But it’s hard to complain much when the new turbo four, though admittedly less distinctive (nothing sounds like a straight six – and few engines are as smooth as a BMW straight six) is both stronger and more economical.
And – for the purists – the step-up engine is still the revered DOHC straight six. It’s twin-turbo’d – and power maxxes out at 300 now vs. 320 last year (at least, according to the BMW spec sheet, more on this below) because the formerly available “is” version no longer is. That version’s turbos were set up to briefly deliver overboost – more turbo boost than normal at WOT – resulting in 20 extra horsepower and a 0-60 run right on the 5 second mark.
But, don’t lose too much sleep over it.
The new 435i is only slightly less quick than last year’s 335is: 5.1 seconds through the new eight-speed automatic (which replaces the seven speed dual-clutch automated manual that was available with the old 335is coupe).
And keep in mind: BMW will be offering an M version of the new 4 sometime next year. I suspect there will be an “is” version (or similar) later in 2014 too.
As before, you have your choice of RWD or AWD (xDrive) configurations. And with the exception of the 2.0 turbo-powered 428i xDrive – which at least for now is automatic-only – you can mix/match engines and transmissions to suit.
The automatic is a very clever box, with multiple driver-selectable modes – including Comfort, Sport, SportPlus and EcoPro.
Auto-stop is standard with either engine – and both transmissions. Unfortunately, the default setting is always on – which means you have to manually push the off button before you begin your drive. . . assuming you prefer not to have the engine cut off at every stoplight. Which, if you’re like me, would be your preference. Because there is a slight lag – just a fraction of a second, admittedly – between the moment your right foot exerts pressure on the gas pedal and the system kicking the engine back to life. This will not be noticed by the addled and distracted, who do not anticipate the green but only react to it after it has already gone green. But those who are focused on driving want to proceed immediately will notice it. And won’t like it. The minuscule, fractional fuel economy benefit? It’s irrelevant to you, the owner. But very relevant to BMW – in terms of fleet average fuel economy numbers (CAFE).
So, blame Uncle – not BMW.
Both engines require unleaded premium fuel. Using regular won’t hurt the engine – but it will hurt performance and economy. Engines optimized to burn premium run less efficiently (and powerfully) when fed lower-octane fuel. So you won’t save any money by using regular – because your mileage will probably be less than it would be if you burned premium.
ON THE ROAD
Much as the non-turbo six that was standard in the 2013 3 Series coupe had personality, it lacked for power. At least, by current standards. When you buy a sport coupe with a starting price tag of nearly $40,000 you have a right to expect it to out-joust sport coupes that cost half as much. The old 328i didn’t have guts enough.
The new 428i does.
Interestingly while the horsepower stats (241 for the ’14 2.0 vs. 230 for the ’13 3.0) are close, don’t be deceived. It’s the torque emitted by the 2.0 turbo that makes all the difference: 258 ft.-lbs. now (and at 1,250 RPM) vs. 200 ft.-lbs. then (at 2,750 RPM). Hence mid-high fives, 0-60, for the 428i – vs. low sixxes for the ’13 328i. It also helps that – despite the new coupe being bigger – it is lighter than the old coupe.
By about 100 pounds.
Of course, if you must have six pistons – and why not? – they’re still available. Everyone ought to be happy – including the EPA.
Well, don’t count on that. The joyless minions located therein are absolutely determined to snuff the internal combustion party. But that’s a rant for another time.
Both engines can be ordered with the absolutely superb eight-speed automatic BMW has been seeding its model lineup with over the past year or so. It is one of the best auto-boxes out there. Surgically precise gear changes, perfectly timed and modulated to the circumstances. In Sport Plus, the shifts are sharp and happen at peak hp under a heavy right foot; in Comfort or EcoPro, the upshifts are gentler and occur sooner – the better to conserve fuel.
The steering wheel-mounted “+” and “-” paddle shifters for manual gear change control are fun to tap, but the truth is the box does it better on its own. You’re freed up to consider the apex/turn-in point and worry about your throttle inputs. The transmission has your back – and will almost always be in exactly the right gear and for exactly as long as it ought to be in that gear. Yes, the six-speed manual is fun; playing with a clutch will always be so. But you’ll probably be faster – as we bikers say about those who corner adroitly – with the eight-speed.
Try one yourself and see.
My only gripe – and this is subjective – bears down on the console-mounted shifter for the automatic. It is completely drive-by-wire, meaning you tap it forward to get Reverse, toward you for Drive – and tap a button on the top of the stalk to engage Park. It’s all done electronically and there’s very little tactile feedback of the sort you’d experience with a lever connected to rods and cables. You may find – as I did – that it’s necessary to confirm by looking at the dash display what range you’re in before you touch the gas pedal. But once you’re in range, you can use those excellent paddle shifters – or just leave the box be and let it do its thing.
The new 4 coupe ‘s dimensions have been punched out to mid-size (and legitimately two-plus-two) from the closer-to-compact (and forget about it back seats) of the old 3.
It is 182.6 inches long overall now (vs. 181.9 before) and 71.9 inches wide (vs. 70.2 before). The wheelbase, as mentioned above, has increased by almost two inches (1.9 to be precise). Though the overall look is similar, most major body panels do not interchange with the 2014 3 Series sedan. The front fenders, for instance, have functional air vents to dissipate wheelwell turbulence stamped into them (this styling detail first appeared in the 3 Series GT hatchback). The coupe’s roofline is of course more dramatic – accentuated by the much larger rear quarter glass, which is almost as large a sheet of glass as the door glass. That plus a surprisingly slim (given federal roof crush requirements) B pillar gives the 4 a generous canopy of visibility all around. The car’s open feel is further enhanced by the relatively low door height (you don’t feel as though you’re walled in by metal) and the frameless door glass – an uncommon touch nowadays.
The slop-nose front end is a brilliantly done end-run (well, work-around) of the European pedestrian impact standards that BMW (and everyone else who builds cars for the European market) must cope with. It meets the standards – but without offending aesthetics.Those who can remember what the first round of bumper-impact standards in the U.S. did to the faces (and tails) of cars back in the early ’70s will know what I am talking about.
Unlike many – most – sport coupes with back seats, the 4’s backseats are adult-usable. There is adequate legroom (33.7 inches, 1.4 inches less than in the 3 sedan) and getting in and out is not an exercise in automotive Twister. Both rear seats fold forward, too – which is more than the usual (in coupes) pass through in the middle. The trunk is very decent sized – 15.7 cubes – and with the additional space available in the second row (if they’re folded forward) the 4 is (or can be) a fairly practical car.
It just doesn’t look it.
When this review was written in late 2013, BMW hadn’t peeped about the future availability of the 3 sedan/wagon’s turbo-diesel engine in the 4 coupe.
We can hope.
The sure bet, though, is a 400-plus hp version of the turbo’d inline six, for the M version of the 4, which should be announced officially by spring and available by summer 2014.
In the meanwhile, you can up the performance ante by selecting the M or Sport Lines, which feature even firmer suspension calibrations, different anti-roll bars and more aggressive wheel/tire packages.The M – which is more aggressive than the Sport – also comes with a body kit, “M” sill plates and unique “M” wheels. Upgrade “M” brakes – contrast color powder-coated – canbe ordered as a stand alone option and without having to buy either the Sport or the M Line packages.
An Adaptive suspension system is also available as part of the Dynamic Handling Package. Instead of just the one (firm) calibration, this system can be driver (or automatically) adjusted to suit – from firmer to softer, as you like.
I was surprised that my test car – a 435i with a sticker price of $60,625 – did not come with heated seats. Yes, they’re extra cost. Part of the optional Cold Weather package (which also includes a heated steering wheel). Heated seats are becoming a commonplace feature on $20k-ish cars and probably ought to be part of the standard equipment package in a car with a base price twice that high.
Do not attempt to back up this car old school, with the door open. The BMW’s computer will override your transmission inputs and put the transmission in neutral or park. This, of course, is only an issue with the automatic. With the manual, the car’s computer harpy will brrrrrriiiing!! brrrrrrrriiing! brrrrrriiiing! in fishwife fury at you – but it can’t stop you from backing up with the door open.
The traction/stability control program can be dialed down but not turned all the way off – even in the most aggressive Sport Plus setting.
The computer harpy wins that one.
While the 4 can carry more cargo/groceries and so on than you’d expect thanks to its configurable back seats and a mid-sized car’s trunk, the center console storage cubby won’t take much more than a pack of smokes and a set of keys.
Neat touches include an automatic seat belt extender arm that pushes the belt forward for you so it’s not necessary to reach around to get hold of it and a foot swipe trunk opener (available optionally).
Secondary “sport” gauges can be dialed up on the LCD screen to the right of the main (and traditionally analog) gauge cluster. The dual digital-analog readouts show peak torque and hp achieved during each acceleration run. Interestingly, my 435i test car repeatedly registered 320 hp – not the advertised 300. Either the gauge is off – or BMW is selling more power than they’re advertising.
Just like the good ol’ days!
THE BOTTOM LINE
The new 4 coupe behaves distinctively differently, relative to the 3 Series sedan – even when equipped with more or less identical drivetrains. Last year (2013) driving a 3 coupe vs. a 3 sedan was to drive the same car with either two or four doors.
No slam meant by that.
The point – and BMW’s objective – was to give the new 4 more than just two fewer doors.
Throw it in the Woods?
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