- Low, sporty stance
- Variety of looks through trim lines
- Both manual and automatic transmissions offered
- Front-end styling is very aggressive
- No manual transmission with AWD
- The inevitable 4-Series Gran Coupe -- a four-door 4-Series
The 2014 BMW 4-Series stays resolutely in the same orbit as the last 3er two-door: everything's just a little better than it was, except its steering and its styling.
What is the BMW 4-Series? It's what used to be known as the 3-Series Coupe, except it's completely new and rather different than the latest 3-Series lineup. The 4-Series uses the same engines, and most of the same equipment, as the 3-Series sedan, but it's longer, wider, and lower, as well as having two fewer doors.
The silhouette is no big riddle. We'd venture BMW has a lot to gain by making this two-door the last to rely too heavily on the BMW grille and the Hofmeister kink to carry the day. It was perfected on the old 8-Series coupe, and this is a near-copy--if the 4-Series weren't a half-foot longer, it would overlay the 8er neatly. The cabin's more adventurous, with some sweeping arcs and trim packages that lift its basic-black wardrobe into something a little more couture.
Performance delivers just about what you'll find in today's 3-Series. The 4-Series fires up sweetly engineered in-line engines, shifts with ease, bear-hugs the road--and plots a clear trajectory into M territory with performance suspension and braking upgrades. The 428i uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to generate 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque; the hood of 435i models get the familiar 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (available only on rear-drive models), while an eight-speed automatic is available. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available with either engine.
The manual-shifted, rear-drive 428i is as nimble as the 4-Series gets, with 0-60 mph times of 5.7 seconds and quick-footed moves. If you're angling for something more along the lines of an M car, you'll have to start with the 435i: accel runs fall by a half-second, tire sizes and grip both rise, and an available package goes headlong into M Sport territory with adaptive dampers, lower ride height, and sport brakes--all for performance that's just a few hairs off the last-gen M3 coupe. No matter which version you drive, the 4-Series' steering will be the dull spot in a driving experience.
It's made brighter by good ride quality and a relatively hushed cockpit. The 4-Series gets seriously charming with its more ritzy interior trim packages, and its sports seats give grip just where it's called for in sporty driving. Still, the backseat is somewhere we'd rather not be as grown adults. Mark it down a few points for the semi-senseless rear seat, but put it in the bonus for warmly conceived cabin themes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) haven't crash tested the 2014 BMW 4-Series yet, but the 2013 3-Series earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. The 4-Series' structure is different, and that may change safety ratings, though.Standard safety equipment includes a full suite of airbags, stability and traction control, adaptive brake lights, and anti-lock brakes, plus optional add-ons like the Driver Assistance Plus package (with speed limit info, side- and top-view cameras, and electronic driver aids); a rearview camera and park distance sensors; and automatic high beam headlights.
Equipment and features are grouped into those "lines," trim packages with specific themes. M Sport, Sport, and Luxury are the three divisions, available on any 4-Series model. As the name implies, the Luxury package adds upgraded leather in the cabin, a choice of three interior wood trims, unique color combinations, and exterior high-gloss chrome accents. The Sport line replaces the chrome with high-gloss black exterior cues, red-stitched leather in the interior, and red highlights in the instrument cluster, among other upgrades. The M Sport line gets a unique M aerodynamic kit, an optional exclusive Estoril blue exterior color, Shadowline exterior accents, an anthracite headliner, sport seats, and M-themed interior details.
As for infotainment, the 4-Series' iDrive system is more powerful than ever, but some of the power comes from new interface layers, like voice commands and touchpad input. It's still something to grow accustomed to over a period of time--one best measured with a calendar.
Finally, there's a 4-Series Convertible already made official, coming to showrooms soon. Its folding hardtop retracts in 20 seconds. For that inevitable M4? You'll have to wait a little longer for confirmation.