BMW went to great lengths to give the 4-Series a different shape, but its performance doesn't stray from the 3-Series benchmarks. It's a sweet-shifting, hard-charging, road-gripping delight that leaves plenty of room for an M edition.
Gone are the hybrid and diesel versions of the 3-Series, no detuned turbo-4. The two engines offered are a 240-hp turbo-4 displacing 2.0 liters, and twisting out 255 lb-ft of torque; and a 3.0-liter turbo-6 with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. With the former, 60 mph arrives in 5.7 seconds; the latter does it in 5.2 sec. Top speed on both reaches 155 mph. Either engine pours out power from near idle to nearly 5000 rpm in a steady, smooth stream.
All-wheel drive is available with either; BMW's default configuration is rear-wheel drive. An 8-speed automatic is standard, and its gears are spaced very well to handle the wide torque plateaus of these engines, and to respond quickly to paddle-shift inputs. A 6-speed manual shifter with light action is a no-cost option.
With a lighter, more complex suspension than in its past, the 4-Series coupe and sedan benefit from a stiffer body and a wider range of tuning possibilities that comes with it. It's by default a grand tourer, but adaptive driving systems mean you can tailor its steering weight, shift schedule, and throttle maps. It's happy to loaf along in low-aspiration Comfort mode, but it only truly comes alive in Sport and Sport+ programs. The throttle zings toward redline, the automatic cracks off instant shifts, the steering tackles turns instantly.
Of all the changes that have been wrought on the latest 3-Series and now in turn, the 4-Series, the electric power steering system has probably done the most to shake the foundations of the BMW faithful. The standard flavor weights up evenly but quickly, and with the larger wheel/tire combinations of up to 19-inchers offered, steering just feels heavier than it needs to, and follows the crown on the road more than it should. Feedback is lacking. There's a variable-ratio steering rack that can change its ratio; we haven't tried it yet in the standard 4-Series.
Yes, there's also the M4. It's blessed with dramatically higher power output of 425 hp and 406 lb-ft) from the inline-6 turbo, and a choice between 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch gearboxes. A limited-slip rear differential and an optional adaptive suspension let the 2015 BMW M4 tackle bigger cars like BMW's own M6 in sophistication, but it's still smaller and lighter, which keeps 0-60 mph times down around 4.2 seconds.