- Low, sporty stance
- Variety of looks through trim lines
- Both manual and automatic transmissions offered
- Available all-wheel drive
- 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 has some adventuresome lines and trim that can lift the 4-Series out of its basic-black doldrums.
Performance is about what BMW offers in the current 3-Series. BMW excels at engineering sweetly tuned in-line engines, transmissions that shift with ease, suspensions and tires that bear-hug the road. The 4-Series outlines a quick and easy path to M-world, too, with a rasher of performance and braking upgrades.
The base 428i coupe makes 240 hp from a 2.0-liter turbo-4, and 255 lb-ft of torque. The 435i powers up 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque from a 3.0-liter turbo-6. On both, a 6-speed manual comes standard. An 8-speed automatic is an option, and it's required on all-wheel-drive cars. Manual 428i coupes can hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, but the 435i drops it in about 5.2 seconds, approaching M territory not just with speed but with M Sport adaptive dampers, sport brakes, and a lower ride height. On either model, steering feel is the dull spot on the 4-Series' glossy polish, but the ride is remarkably absorbent, probably linked to the 4er's chunky curb weight.
There's ample room in front, but the back seat is no place for anyone you'd call a friend. Charm oozes from the pricey trim packages BMW makes available, and the sport-seat bundle is well worth the upsell. It's also possessed of a quiet interior.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA have crash-tested the 4-Series. BMW tosses in options like a rearview camera, surround-view cameras, parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control.
BMW groups options in trim bundles. Luxury cars get nicer leather, three wood trim choices, unique color combinations, chrome swipes on the body. Sport cars make that chrome black, and wear red leather with red highlights inside. M Sport cars have their own aero bodywork, sport seats, and M-style interior details.
BMW's iDrive system runs the infotainment system, with a new layer of touchpad input. Block off a few hours a day for the first week you drive with it; a Kaplan course wouldn't be too extreme.
A 4-Series Convertible has been 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.
2014 BMW 4-Series
Sure, it's pretty--but has any BMW two-door escaped the 8-Series orbit yet?
The 4-Series poses the usual luxury-coupe quandary. It's more sensually styled than its four-door cousins, but it's too content with that. Handsome? Yes. Daring? No.
It would overlay almost perfectly with the old 8-Series Coupe--if the wheelbase weren't actually a half-foot longer, that is.
The shape has the same general feel and proportions of the 8er, and of the past generations of 3-Series coupes. It could use new inspirations. The 4-Series front end is composed of big negative spaces that stand out against its low roofline. The shape wouldn't look odd on a Mustang.
The sweep of the 4-Series' cockpit makes more sense in the coupe versus the related sedan, despite the reminders of a similar theme that divides some Toyota cockpits. The driver is walled off by arcs of wood and plastic and metal. The cabin's dominated by a bright, big screen stuck on the dash and by the huge iDrive controller knob. That can all be corrected by applying the trim packages that elevate the 4-series out of its most basic, blandest look.
2014 BMW 4-Series
It's another notch in the bedpost for BMW's cadre of engineers, except for the 4-Series' feedbackless electric steering.
Now that it's been spun off from the 3-Series lineup of sedans, wagons, and hatchbacks, you might think the 4-Series would develop a much different personality--maybe more brash, more cocky? It's just not the case, as the slightly lower, slightly more sporty 4er doesn't do much new compared with the latest 3-Series. It fires up BMW's hallmark in-line engines, flicks through gear changes with manual or automatic ease, and grips the road effortlessly, plotting a clear path to the M range with suspension, power, and brake upgrades.
Build a better Supra, and they will come, in other words.
Two engines are offered in the 4-Series. Neither has any numeric relationship with the badge. The 428i sports a 2.0-liter, 240-hp turbo-4 with 255 lb-ft of torque. It can reach 60 mph in 5.7 seconds when fitted with grippy summer tires and either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, and can reach a 155-mph top speed.
The 435i swaps in a 300-hp, 300-lb-ft turbo-6 displacing 3.0 liters. Performance is as brisk as the last-generation M3, with 60 mph landing in 5 seconds when the 8-speed automatic is specified (it's 5.3 sec for the manual).
Power pours out from either engine in lump-free buckets. The Bimmer is smoother and quieter than, say, the turbo-4 in Cadillac's ATS. The six-cylinder still pulls with the in-line smoothness that quantifies the value of BMW engineering; it accounts for most of its perceptual superiority to the Caddy and, say, the Mercedes C-Class.
Rear-wheel drive is the standard configuration, but BMW offers all-wheel drive with either powerplant.
An 8-speed automatic is BMW's transmission of choice, but it'll fit a 6-speed on rear-drive coupes for anyone that asks, free. The manual's lovely clutch uptake and clean gearchanges are their own recommendation, but the trans is destined to be rare. The automatic comes shame-free, with 8 well-spaced gears, paddle shift controls, and a sport-shift mode that's quicker than any human we know.
BMW's adopted electric power steering, and it's not a welcome development. It weights up evenly, but cars with large wheel-and-tire kits feel too heavy, and don't track as well as they should, given BMW's long history of beautifully communicative steering. A variable-ratio system is offered, but more complexity doesn't usually add up to clearer, more telegraphic feedback.
BMW has composed the 4-Series suspension of a lot of lighter-weight aluminum, and the body is stiffer. It's a fairly heavy car, and it's crept into grand-touring status as a result. To get around its size, BMW lets drivers pick from a few variables-shift speed, damper stiffness, throttle mapping-to give the 4er a wide range of driving personalities. In truth, it feels most alive in Sport and Sport+ modes. It cuts sharply into turns, the 8-speed snaps off instantaneous shifts, the throttle flies, its stability control unlocks a virtual chastity belt.
The next step toward utopia: the M Sport package, with its lower ride height, firmer springs and dampers, 18- or 19-inch wheels, available summer tires, and the option for electronically controlled dampers. With smart concessions to ride smoothness in the form of near-zero body lean, it's as close to a track-ready effort as the 4-Series comes--that is, until that M4 arrives, sometime in mid-2014.
2014 BMW 4-Series
Comfort & Quality
Mark it down a few points for the semi-senseless rear seat, but put it in the bonus for warmly conceived trim packages.
The 4-Series doesn't have practicality on its to-do list. That means the back seat is a low priority, and you won't want to be in it if you're in your second decade on the planet or in anything beyond a size medium. If you're lucky and are riding up front--or driving--it's an entirely different story.
The 4-Series shares some engines and transmissions with the 3-Series, even has an identical 110.6-inch wheelbase as well as 182.5-inch overall length. It's lower by about two inches, and sits about a half-inch wider than its sedan kin.
The driver seat is low in the 4er, the steering wheel the size of an SUV's rudder. The base front seats have great comfort and support. We'd approve them for hours of use, but they don't have as many adjustments or the very firm bolstering of the excellent sport seats offered on the M Sport package. Those seats grip in all the right places for the kind of sporty driving the 4-Series encourages; heating and ventilation are a part of the deal.
Back-seat space suffers in the 4-Series because of its design. It sits three inches wider in all across the rear end versus the 3-Series, but the roofline drops quickly, and even long doors don't make it easy to get in back. It's a tough vehicle to justify if you carry three passengers often, but on short trips small adults won't have too much to complain over.
The bright spot: trunk space nearly matches that of a mid-size four-door, and in-car storage counts real cupholders, door-panel bottle holders, and a sizable glove box.
BMW fits a pretty spartan cabin in base 4-Series cars. They're dark and drab, and don't flatter the sweeping design. It's worth spending for some of the superior finishes on the options list, alluring combos of wood and metal and contrast-stitched leather.
BMW's big, beautiful dash-top screen displays crisp output from iDrive, but it's stuck on the dash like an afterthought.
2014 BMW 4-Series
No safety scores have been reported, but BMW's been hitting its Top Safety Pick marks as of late.
The NHTSA and the IIHS have left the 4-Series alone so far. With no crash-test data, there's no sense as to whether it'll perform in a mediocre way, as the 3-Series has done.
The 4-Series has nice safety features beyond the usual, like an emergency notification system for first responders when the car is in an accident. Bluetooth comes standard, but BMW makes a rearview camera optional on base models, though their stickers run more than $42,000.
The rearview camera and parking sensors are options, but you may as well pay up for beautiful surround-view cameras and LED headlights. We'd buy the blind-spot monitors, too; they're bundled with forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warnings.
Other options include adaptive cruise control and automatic parking assist, which spins the steering wheel and pilots the car into a parallel parking spot.
2014 BMW 4-Series
Its iDrive system is more powerful than ever, but some of the power comes from new interface layers, like voice commands and touchpad input.
BMW sells the 4-Series in a staggering number of ways: convertible or a coupe, with all- or rear-wheel drive, a 6- or 4-cylinder engine, an 8- or 6-speed transmission. Prices range from about $42,000 to more than $60,000.
Every 4-Series BMW has power features, Bluetooth, climate control, and an audio system with satellite-ready radio. Luxury-themed cars get better cockpit leather, chrome trim, a choice of three interior wood trims, and unique color combinations. 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.
The 4-Series Convertible's folding hardtop can lower or raise itself in 20 seconds, at speeds of up to 11 mph. BMW says it's fitted the folded top more effectively into the trunk this time, retaining up to 7.8 cubic feet of storage space when the top is down (or 13 cubic feet when it's up). A fold-down rear seat extends the usefulness of the trunk--and on the less practical side, BMW also fits a standard windblock, three-setting neck warmers, and more sound-deadening materials for a longer driving season and for a quieter ride than in the former 3-Series Convertible.
Other major options on the 4-Series include a color head-up display; active cruise control; a collision warning system; and a sport suspension and sport brakes with blue calipers, the latter as upgrades to the M Sport package.
The optional navigation system is governed by the latest version of BMW's iDrive, the roller-controller system that's now flanked by a host of buttons, augmented by voice controls, and layered with a touch-sensitive surface on the controller that lets drivers write out text such as addresses with a fingertip. It comes with real-time traffic data, and can be teamed with a data subscription that adds Google search capability. It's a system that's grown many override layers to the original, austere version that relied only on the knob--and lots of spinning and clicking--but it's still a maze of functionality that takes a few weeks to truly understand and customize.
2014 BMW 4-Series
At 26 mpg combined max, the BMW 4-Series acquits itself well for a luxury coupe.
Luxury sports coupes aren't always the best choices for drivers concerned with gas mileage, but the BMW 4-Series takes extensive measures to make fuel economy less of an issue.
BMW outfits every model with stop/start and an EcoPro mode, which slows down the throttle tip-in and softens automatic-transmission shifts, as well as shutting down some of the constantly running accessories and climate control systems, all in the name of saving fuel. It also has electric power steering, which reduces feedback, but also reduces gas consumption. And it's lost a little weight, too: it's up to almost a hundred pounds lighter than the 3-Series Coupe it replaces.
The result is a 27-mile-per-gallon rating on the EPA's combined cycle for the base 428i equipped with the eight-speed automatic; with the six-speed manual, the 4-Series still earns 26 mpg combined. Adding all-wheel drive to the automatic puts the 428xi at 26 mpg combined.
Gas mileage isn't even that awful with the very powerful twin-turbocharged six-cylinder. The 435i with the automatic earns an EPA-certified 25 mpg combined, or 24 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. With the manual transmission and either rear- or all-wheel drive, the 4er posts a 23-mpg combined rating.
Though there's an ActiveHybrid edition of the 3-Series sedan, it's not expected to make an appearance in the 4-Series lineup any time soon.