Along with its new name, the all-new 2014 BMW 4 Series coupe is much more defined than the 3 Series coupe it replaces.
Variations of the 4 Series include the coupe, convertible and four-door Gran Coupe. For our test drive, BMW provided us with a 428i xDrive coupe with a 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. Rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission are also available. Our particular test car came equipped with more than $5,000 worth of performance options, including the M Sport Package, Dynamic Handling Package and M Sport brakes, and not much else. The $50,775 as-tested price did not include expected convenience features like navigation, a smart key access system, satellite radio or Bluetooth streaming audio.
The car's competitors include the Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti Q60 coupe (compare them side-by-side here).
Exterior & Styling
This new coupe is still derived from the 3 Series sedan, though in my opinion it's been transformed into one of BMW's strongest modern designs. I don't recall ever being stopped in a similar luxury car to be excitedly asked what I was driving, as I was in the 4 Series. For 2014, the coupe is wider and longer than the old car, it rides lower, and its sleek profile is stretched over a set-back cabin for that racy look. The coupe is trim, sleek and muscular where it needs to be. Attractive rear-wheel arches and a 3-inch-wider rear track are strong, eye-catching characteristics the old coupe never had. Compare the 2013 328i coupe to the 428i here. Our 428i's aggressive nature was augmented by the M Sport package's ($3,500) 18-inch wheels and aero package that do all the right things to the exterior.
How It Drives
BMW's 240-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder is one of the most capable turbo four-cylinders around, with punchy acceleration and impressive fuel economy that rarely go hand in hand. It replaces the old coupe's 230-hp six-cylinder. One gripe, however, is the noticeable acceleration lag when having to move quickly from a stop. Punch the accelerator and be prepared to wait before the car starts to scoot with any aggressiveness. The lag is less noticeable once you're at speed, where the eight-speed automatic transmission consistently picks the right gear when it's time to pass or merge.
The various driving modes of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ provide a mild to wild attitude. Want compact car fuel economy? Eco Pro does it. I observed up to 35 mpg cruising gingerly on the highway, though the cost was a big reduction in throttle response and very early shifts from the automatic transmission. An aggressive and intrusive auto stop-start function helps fuel economy, though it's hardly seamless. The 428i xDrive is rated 22/33/26 mpg city/highway/combined — impressive given its performance and all-wheel drive. Rear-wheel-drive 428i models are rated 23/35/27 mpg with the automatic transmission and 22/34/26 mpg with the six-speed manual, which isn't available with the 428i's all-wheel drive.
Choosing the xDrive 428i bumps the price up $2,000 over a rear-wheel-drive model, from $41,425 to $43,425 (prices include destination). All-wheel drive is familiar territory to luxury coupes like the Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti Q60. An A5 2.0T with Quattro all-wheel drive is $39,895, a C350 with all-wheel drive is $46,775 and the Q60 with all-wheel drive is $43,505.
Flip the selector to Sport+ and the 428i wrings every last drop of horsepower from its four-cylinder engine by holding gears longer and boosting throttle response. In cars with the optional adaptive suspension, which our test car had, it also tightens the car's suspension and the electronic traction control enters a less restricted dynamic mode. An added bonus are the paddle shifters, which are super precise and fast considering they're controlling an automatic transmission that isn't of the dual-clutch variety.
Our 428i test car came equipped with nearly every performance part you can throw on an all-wheel-drive version. (Some parts you simply cannot, like the six-speed manual transmission and M Sport suspension, which are exclusive to the rear-drive 428i.) The M Sport Package on our test car included lightweight 18-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance tires and the appearance goods, but not the M Sport suspension. Instead, our tester used the Dynamic Handling Package ($1,000) with an adaptive suspension and variable sport steering, as well as M Sport brakes ($650) with larger rotors and painted aluminum calipers. The adaptive suspension on all-wheel-drive models doesn't lower the car as much as the one on rear-drive models.
The adaptive suspension adjusts damper firmness on the fly and does a great job at preventing the choppiness that comes with many sport suspensions. At the same time, however, I wouldn't say this all-wheel-drive model has the sporting aggressiveness you'd expect out of $5,150 in performance upgrades. The 428i xDrive rolls through corners with a heft that I don't recall from the 328i M Sport sedan with rear-wheel drive and a fixed-firmness suspension that we tested during our Sport Sedan Challenge. All coupes are heavier than the sedan — by 60 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive version and by 40 pounds for all-wheel drive. My recollection is that the 328i rear-wheel-drive sedan with the fixed M Sport suspension was a lot livelier than this particular 428i with all-wheel drive and the M adaptive suspension. Our 428i xDrive would still wag the tail on occasion to let you know the all-wheel drive has a rear bias.
The 4 Series uses a nearly identical interior to the 3 Series: attractive, high-tech and high-quality. Backseat room is the big differentiator between the two, as seating capacity goes from five in the sedan to four in the coupe. Up front it's all good, with plenty of room for my 6-foot-tall frame, just like in the 3 Series sedan. You'll pay the price for those awesome aggressive looks and sloping rear roofline with less headroom in back, plus the backseat has less legroom and is narrower.
Various equipment lines provide a different interior experience in base, Sport, Luxury and M Sport trim levels (which come in the form of option packages). Our test car had the M Sport goods, with sport seats, Estoril Blue matte aluminum interior trim, an M steering wheel and anthracite-colored ceiling trim.
The M Sport's tires and suspension aren't the quietest over rough roads, though the roads we experienced during construction season in the Chicago area were more crappy than usual. A different wheel and suspension package may soak up road imperfections better than this sport-infused model. Regardless, the comfort level wasn't a deal-breaker, as rolling into the city's deepest potholes didn't upset the car very much. The engine is quiet enough with the windows up but thankfully not completely silent with the windows down; you can hear the whistle of the working turbocharger — a nice touch for those in tune with the performance noise.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Our 428i xDrive M Sport's $50,775 as-tested price with destination was packed with a ton of performance parts and style-enhancing goods, but not a lot of convenience features. It was fairly barren for its $50,000 asking price, missing a smart keyless access system, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and navigation. Ditching the performance and style pieces and adding the aforementioned features can still get you a 428i for around $50,000.
BMW's iDrive knob-based control system is a fairly well-laid-out system with the main controller in an easy-to-use location. The system doesn't put up too much of a fuss once you get familiar with its operation — except when trying to change the radio station or tracks on a music player, which requires two steps. The dedicated track-change button isn't very easy to reach, and it's inconvenient having to scroll then click with the steering wheel's thumbwheel or iDrive controller just to change a track. Though a minor gripe, Audi's knob-based Multi Media Interface has a dedicated track-change button/volume knob in a more ergonomically friendly location, next to the main controller.
Cargo & Storage
The coupe's trunk space receives a generous boost compared with the 3 Series sedan, with 15.7 cubic feet over the sedan's 13 cubic feet. It's also sizable compared with the A5, C-Class and Q60; Audi's A5 is the next largest, at 12.2 cubic feet. As is available on the sedan, the backseat folds in a versatile 40/20/40-split configuration. Nifty tricks include a kick-activated trunklid as part of the Comfort Access system; with it, waving your foot under the center of the rear bumper opens the trunk. Comfort Access is part of a $2,200 Premium Package.
There isn't much storage up front, with only two cupholders and a small tray that can be positioned on top for shallow storage — making the cupholders unusable.
BMW's 4 Series had not been crash-tested as of this writing, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader said the 3 Series sedan's safety ratings do not apply to the coupe because of structural differences.
Our test car was equipped with a Driver Assistance Package ($950), which includes a backup camera and parking sensors. A plethora of other safety features are also available. Those include a surround-view feature (in which multiple cameras show a top-down or side view of the car), blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and LED headlights with auto activation. Among the standard safety features is BMW Assist, including 10 years of emergency calling and automatic collision notification.
Value in Its Class
Our oddly configured test car didn't detract from what a fantastic coupe BMW has made out of the 3 Series, though I'd put all the performance packages our 4 Series tester had on a rear-wheel-drive coupe with a manual transmission instead of an automatic-only xDrive. The 428i xDrive combines six-cylinder-like acceleration and some of the best fuel economy in its class with gobs of style and year-round all-wheel drivability. Don't get too greedy with features, and all that can be yours for around $50,000. It's just too bad that a lot of the initial options will only get you to the standard equipment level found on many non-luxury cars.