Rory Reid heads to some of our favourite roads in Scotland to road test and review the new BMW 4 Series in fast, frugal 420d guise.
The BMW 3 Series Coupe is no more. It’s dead; kaput, as its German makers might say. But lovers of the newly extinct model have little to mourn because a new 4 Series has emerged, rather gloriously, from its ashes.
We’ve already brought you a road test of the searing 4 Series 435i from its international launch in Portugal, and we can now deliver an early review of its slightly more sensible diesel cousin, the BMW 4 Series 420d, this time in right-hand-drive form and on UK roads. Here’s how it stacks up.
The BMW 4 Series 420d Coupe looks the part, but casual observers will, rather frustratingly for anyone who buys one, dismiss it as merely a 3 Series in a fancy coupe frock.
But it’s an attractive frock, make no mistake. It has a wider kidney grille and larger, more aggressive air intakes that channel air through a set of Air Breathers (vents to the layman) just behind the front wheel arches to reduce drag.
There are plenty of other subtle tweaks throughout. Indeed, BMW claims the only body panel common between the 3 and 4 series is the bonnet, but we’d argue that even with these tweaks it’s still not quite the departure people will expect of a car that bears a whole new model number. Perhaps “BMW 3 and a half series” might have been more apt.
Sat at the helm, you’ll again be hard pressed to tell what it is that makes this a 4 Series and not a 3 – but that’s no bad thing. The 3 Series interior is a wonderful marriage of contemporary art meets functional design.
The driving position is comfortable with logically-arranged controls all within easy reach. The seats boast plenty of adjustability, as does the steering wheel, so even drivers with the strangest of bodily proportions will feel at home.
The cabin has plenty of cubby holes for gadgets, snacks and refreshments and BMW has even fitted a ‘seatbelt butler’ (a motorised rod) that passes the seatbelt to front occupants when they sit down and close the door.
Unusually for a coupe, the 4 Series 420d has plenty of space in the rear for two passengers. An extra 40mm in the car’s wheelbase (over the 3 Series) lends 12mm more legroom, so four six-footers can really stretch out. That’s just as well – the 4 Series has a low roofline, which limits headroom. Taller passengers, or those with big hair, may have to slouch a little.
Boot space is more than adequate with 445 litres available.
Performance & Handling
If the 4 Series’ aesthetics aren’t enough to convince you it deserves its own model designation then the way it drives just might — its an absolute triumph.
The petrol 435i is brutally quick, but this diesel 420d doesn’t hang about either. Its 2.0-litre 4 cylinder turbocharged engine kicks out 184bhp and a meaty 380Nm of torque, which is good for a 7.3-second 0-62mph time when paired with the eight-speed auto box, or 7.5 seconds with the six-speed manual. It’ll keep pushing until it maxes out at 144mph and 149mph with those respective transmissions.
The diesel feels incredibly eager, pulling hard from just shy of 2,000rpm and maintaining plenty of shove higher up in the rev range before torque plateaus at around 5,000rpm. You can, to some extent, drive it like a petrol, delaying your shifts like a hooligan, though there’s so much surge in the mid range it’s just as rewarding to drive it like you actually own it.
The 4 Series 420d’s most impressive trick is its handling. Driving purists may bemoan the lack of feedback from the electrically-adjusted steering, but it’s responsive, accurate and very direct.
Grip levels are seriously impressive. It’ll tolerate being thrown into even damp corners at silly speeds, with very little in the way of under or oversteer. If you find yourself going beyond the limits of the 4 Series on the public road, there’s every chance you’re a lunatic.
It’s pleasant to drive slowly, too. Slip the EfficientDynamics rocker switch into Comfort, Eco or Eco + and it’ll cruise like it’s been sedated (in a good way), the optional adaptive M Sport suspension allowing a little more give, while the steering becomes noticeably more compliant.
Economy & Environment
BMW has knocked the ball out of the park with The 4 Series 420d’s efficiency levels. It’ll return a massive 61mpg with just 121g/km, which is frankly amazing in a car this rapid.
Those numbers take a turn for the worse if you hoon it, but the trip computer still read 30mpg — even after a prolonged bout of foolish acceleration through some of the twistiest roads Scotland could offer.
Equipment & Value
The 4 Series Coupe is slightly more expensive than the outgoing 3 Series Coupe by between £540 and £770 depending on the specific model, but that price increase is offset by a boost in in standard equipment worth between £1,475 and £2,110, again depending on model.
There are four trim levels; SE, Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport. SE cars get Dakota leather upholstery, a multi-function steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, Servotronic (which makes the steering lighter at low speeds) and xenon headlights. £1,500 more buys you either Sport or Modern, both of which include slightly different styles of 18-inch alloys, contrast stitching, sports seats and high-gloss black interior trim.
£2,500 more than the SE car buys you the Luxury trim, which has nicer 18-inch wheels, chrome flourishes on the outside and the BMW Business version of the car’s infotainment system. M Sport, which costs £3,000 more than the SE car, has plenty of M-inspired styling tweaks.
The new 4 Series Coupe also comes with the option of an enhanced iDrive controller – the input knob that controls the infotainment system. The knob is now larger and features a touch-sensitive top onto which you can trace letters as a method of inputting text into the sat-nav.
There are plenty of individual options you can go for, too. We’d recommend the head-up display (£825) as it’s a great way of keeping an eye on your speed without taking your eyes off the road, and the adaptive M Sport suspension (£750), which firms up or softens the ride at the push of a button.
Euro NCAP has yet to independently test the 4 Series Coupe, but the car is based on the 3 Series, which is one of the safest vehicles on the road. The standard 3 scored a full five stars, racking up a 95 per cent rating for adult occupant protection and 84 per cent for child occupant safety. It’s kind to other road users, too, thanks to a glare-free high-beam assistant that allows the main beam to be left on without blinding oncoming traffic.
We love the new 4 Series in 435i guise, but this 420d has won our affections, too. It can’t match the outright pace of its petrol-powered brother, but the level of performance it offers is more than adequate. It’s effortlessly quick both in a straight line and around corners, cruises in beautifully composed fashion and delivers all the driving kicks you’d expect of a BMW coupe. BMW’s marketing department hasn’t done enough to convince us it warrants the 4 in its name (perhaps that’ll come with time), but there’s no denying the people that actually built the thing have delivered something quite special.
Model tested: BMW 4 Series Coupe 420d SE
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel + 6-speed manual
Acceleration: 0-62 in 7.5 seconds
Top speed: 149mph
Emissions: 124g/km CO2
Price: From £30,795