New & Used BMW 4-Series: In Depth
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BMW's 4-Series is a competent competitor for cars such as the Audi A5, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, and the two-door Cadillac ATS.
Split from the 3-Series lineup in 2014, the 4-Series lineup is comprised of what was once the 3-Series coupe and convertible. The pair now gets its own series-differentiated styling and is joined by the 4-Series Gran Coupe hatchback sedan. Sportier M4 variants of the coupe and convertible are also available. Below the 4-Series in BMW's lineup is the 2-Series and above is the 6er in the Bavarian "coupe" hierarchy.
The 4-Series still draws its lineage and design cues from the 3-Series family that has been in production for decades--and like those cars can even trace its roots back to the famed 2002.
MORE: Read our 2015 BMW 4-Series review
At first, the 4-Series lineup consisted only of two-door versions of the latest 3-Series sedan. Sculpted front fenders and far more aggressive styling treatments for the front and rear give this model more of a high-performance look compared to the 3-Series, while the smoothly arched roofline matches up well with a taller greenhouse. As with the latest 3-Series, the 4's cabin is a bit roomier than in the coupe it replaces, although the 4-Series models get a new 2+2 layout, with bucket seats in back. The 4-Series gets seriously charming with its more ritzy interior trim packages (although perhaps too splashy in others that attempt to be sporty or ultra-modern), and its seats give grip just where it's called for in sporty driving. But the backseat is somewhere we'd stay out of, which admittedly is often the case with small two-doors.
At launch, the engine lineup included both the 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine and the 3.0-liter turbo in-line six, in 428i and 435i models—both with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel-drive and xDrive all-wheel-drive models are a part of the mix, and the 4-Series gets BMW's latest electric power steering system, tuned slightly differently from how it is in the 3-Series for a more sporting feel.
Despite significant gains in comfort, safety (as already proven in crash-test ratings), and fuel economy (of up to 34 mpg highway)—and despite an ever-greater number of high-tech options—the 4-Series cars remain among the most confident, dynamically engaging models in their class. Name change aside, the 4-Series continues as the yard stick by which others in the segment are measured.
For the 2015 model year, the Gran Coupe edition arrives, as do the fearsome BMW M4 coupe and convertible, which carry the torch for the former two-door M3 performance variants. The Gran Coupe, like the 6-Series version, is a sort of coupe-sedan, although the 4-Series GC uses a hatchback in the rear while the 6 has a conventional trunk. The new M4 is powered by a twin-turbo version of the classic in-line six that makes 425 horsepower. It's one of the best-driving BMWs in recent memory, making improvements over the last-generation M3 coupe and adding more power to boot. Its hugely upgraded power comes with a choice between six-speed manual and seven-speed M Double Clutch gearboxes. With an available Active M limited-slip differential, and an available Adaptive M suspension, the new 2015 BMW M4 takes after the larger M6 in ride and sophistication, yet it keeps its weight down, to enable a supercar-league 0–60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds (in DCT form).
The rest of the 4-Series lineup sees some minor changes for 2015, mostly dealing with interior trim and feature availability. Notably, Bluetooth audio streaming is now standard across the board, and the so-called Enhanced Bluetooth (with a USB port) is now a standalone $500 option.
Changes announced for the 2016 3-Series are likely to migrate to the 4 as well. They include a mile refresh inside and out as well as a new turbocharged six to replace the 335i's N55 engine. This new engine, dubbed B58, makes 320 hp and is said to sound better as well; on the 3-Series it even warrants a new model designation: 340i. A similar 440i likely will replace the 435i models soon.