2016 BMW 4-Series Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 13, 2016

The 2016 BMW 4-Series Coupe and Convertible break away from the 3-Series sedans with a little more flamboyance.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series is a relatively new name in the BMW stable, but it's not a new concept. The 4-Series has taken up residence where the 3-Series Coupes left off. Somewhat longer, lower, and leaner than the 3-Series sedans on which they're based, the 4-Series occupies the same space in the market that the BMW 3-Series Coupe used to, but it leaves room for its own styling cues, features, and tuning. The 2016 BMW 4-Series is handsome, that's for sure; and it's even more flamboyant than the 3-Series sedans on which it's based. Yet a lot of shoppers are going to be conflicted about whether it's that much more daring, or different, to be its own model.

With the 4-Series, BMW has tweaked the design of the 3-Series in ways that wouldn't quite work in the sedan—to bring out some of the same proportions of the long-ago 8-Series, as well as some of the styling cues of former generations of 3-Series coupes. The 4-Series has a somewhat wider, broadened look and some bolder cues, with a lot more "negative" space in front. Despite it all, the 4-Series actually works extraordinarily well in profile. It has a perfect balance of glass to metal, a decathlete stance (especially from the rear quarters), and some spot-on details, like its sharply creased shoulder line. And the cabin's definitely more adventurous, with some sweeping arcs and trim packages that lift its basic-black wardrobe into something a little more couture.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series lineup is definitely simpler than that of the 3-Series. There's no diesel, no hybrid, and no base-model 420i. Altogether, this slightly lower, slightly more aggressive-looking Coupe or Convertible doesn't actually go through the paces much differently than the 3-Series. And that's fine; it fires up sweetly engineered in-line engines, shifts with ease, and bear-hugs the road—while plotting a clear trajectory into M territory with performance upgrades, and with the new M4.

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The engine lineup isn't all that much different than in the 3-Series. The 428i uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder to generate 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. It can get to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds with either the manual or automatic transmission, and to a 155-mph electronically limited top speed. And grippy summer tires give its performance all the backing it needs. You get the familiar 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine in the 435i models. It's rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft, and it's realistically just as quick as the last-gen M3, with the 435i sprinting to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds with the manual transmission, or five seconds flat with the automatic.

With either engine, you can get rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; and yes, you can even get all-wheel drive on the Convertible. A 6-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option on rear-drive coupes, although there is no manual 428i xDrive. We think if you have any affinity for manual transmissions you should get it here; it's an inspiring thing, with clean shifts and lovely clutch uptake. Yet the automatic does really well in handling either of these engines and their wide torque spread, and paddle-shifters and a sport mode handle a range of driving styles. Steering is hardly a boast-worthy point in the latest 3-Series sedans; and now in the 4-Series it's been tuned for better weighting and feel, but it's still not handing out enough feedback with some of the larger wheel-and-tire combinations.

At the top of the lineup there's the M4, and its hugely upgraded power ratings (now 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft). You can choose between 6-speed manual and 7-speed M Double Clutch gearboxes, while an Active M limited-slip differential helps get the power to the pavement and an available Adaptive M suspension keeps contact and aids traction. The 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).

All this sounds promising, yet we've ended up with two very different impressions of the M4. On the track, we've found it an extraordinary athlete and an absolute thrill to drive. Yet on the road, the M4's limits are high and it lacks the sort of feedback most drivers seek on back roads and over imperfect pavement—especially in a car with these power levels. Electronics reel you in and keep you stable, but there's a feeling that the car's not filling you in on all that happens at the tires. Ultimately it's a track hound and a car for high-speed sweepers, far more than one for canyon-carving.

The entire 4-Series lineup does make good on many counts, and one of them is ride comfort. There's also a relatively hushed cockpit. It gets seriously charming with its more ritzy interior trim packages (although perhaps too splashy in others that attempt to be sporty or modern), and its sports seats give grip just where it's called for in sporty driving. But the backseat is somewhere we'd stay out of.

And don't forget about the 4-Series Convertible. With a folding hardtop that 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.

There's also a 4-Series Gran Coupe, an odd niche model that essentially packs in the low-set four-door layout of the 3-Series, but with the more aggressive front-end treatment of the 4-Series plus a fastback/hatchback rear-end design.

Crash-test ratings are still an open question, although 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 its speed-limit info, side- and top-view cameras, and electronic driver aids; a rearview camera and park distance sensors; and automatic high beam headlights. Between Coupe and Convertible styles, rear- or all-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmissions, and 4- or 6-cylinder engines—plus the high-performance M4—there's a lot of variance within the 4-Series lineup.

Just as it does on the 3-Series sedans and wagons and hatchbacks, BMW groups the 4-Series into trim lines also, giving buyers a choice of M Sport, Sport, and Luxury themes. All come with the usual Bluetooth connectivity, power windows/locks/mirrors, and automatic climate control.

The Sport line replaces the Luxury line's chrome with high-gloss black exterior cues, red-stitched leather in the interior, and red highlights in the instrument cluster, among other upgrades. And 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 an M-themed appearance.

Last year BMW added Bluetooth audio streaming as standard, while the so-called Enhanced Bluetooth (with a USB port) is now a standalone $500 option. Sport Line trim is now standard across all models, with the sport seats, Anthracite headliner, sport leather steering wheel, and chrono-scaled instrument cluster. Keyless entry is now standard on all 435i Convertible models, and an anti-theft alarm system are also now standard on all 4-Series models. Also, Harman Kardon surround sound is included in 435i models, along with a year of satellite radio.

Fuel economy is generally good in the 4-Series, but a lack of powertrain options like the related 3-Series hamstrings the coupe here. At best, the 4-Series manages 27 mpg on the highway in base, 428i guise. The high-performance M4 is predictably the guzzler of the group, but even it manages 24 mpg on the highway.

8

2016 BMW 4-Series

Styling

The 2016 BMW 4-Series isn't a head-turner in most venues; but it's uncontroversially good-looking.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series is handsome, that's for sure; and it's even more flamboyant than the 3-Series sedans on which it's based. Yet a lot of shoppers are going to be conflicted about whether it's that much more daring, or different, to be its own model.

That's how we've felt ever since BMW decided to spin its coupes and convertibles off under the 4-Series banner. Yes, it did allow a bit more freedom to give these models some of their own styling details and exclusive features, but at the same time we don't see the 4-Series delivering on the sort of flamboyant design that breaks away from that of the sedan—like Lexus has with its RC, or Audi with the A5.

Actually BMW has tweaked the design of the 3-Series in ways that wouldn't quite work in the sedan—to bring out some of the same proportions of the long-ago 8-Series, as well as some of the styling cues of former generations of 3-Series coupes.

Looking toward the rear flanks, the so-called Hofmeister kink long ago lost its kinky appeal, once every other automaker started to copy it, and the side sculpting has steered away from the heaviest Frank Gehry touches, into a safe, simple stamping that could be on a Ford Mustang or a Jaguar F-Type or a Buick Regal.

The front end remains its most adventurous point of the 4-Series' design. Until recently, BMWs have rigidly adhered to a certain size, shape, and manner; yet this one is a collection of massive negative spaces—more pronounced because of the low roofline.

Despite it all, the 4-Series actually works extraordinarily well in profile. It has a perfect balance of glass to metal, a decathlete stance (especially from the rear quarters), and some spot-on details, like its sharply creased shoulder line.

While the 4-Series Coupe might not make a big statement on the outside, inside is where these models are an aesthetic leap forward from the old 3-Series coupes. Although it's not the simple performance-focused look you might expect, it's definitely a driver-oriented layout that's walled off from the passenger by those arcs of plastic and wood and metal across the center stack. It's a version of what's offered in the sedan, but the organic sweep of the cockpit works better in the coupe than in the sedan.

The wide, bright screen of iDrive, riding high on the dash and a permanent installation, dominates the look of the instrument panel. Luxury versions get glossy wood trim, for example, while Sport-package 4-Series cars have red accents and blacked-out details, while Modern coupes get satin trim, gray or black leather, and inlaid wood trim.

Review continues below
8

2016 BMW 4-Series

Performance

The 4-Series offers performance that delivers in the numbers, but its numb electric steering is a cause for grimaces.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series lineup is definitely simpler than that of the 3-Series. There's no diesel, no hybrid, and no base-model 420i. There are two powerplants are on the order sheet, and you have to keep in mind that displacement no longer has anything to do with those numbers on the badge.

Yet if BMW went through the trouble to break the 4-Series away from the 3-Series, you might expect a different driving personality. That's not exactly the case, and this slightly lower, slightly more aggressive-looking coupe or convertible doesn't actually go through the paces much differently than the 3-Series.

That's fine, actually; it fires up sweetly engineered inline engines, shifts with ease, and bear-hugs the road—while plotting a clear trajectory into M territory with performance upgrades, and with the new M4.

The engine lineup isn't all that much different than in the 3-Series. The 428i uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 to generate 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. It can get to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds with either the manual or automatic transmission, and to a 155-mph electronically limited top speed. And grippy summer tires give its performance all the backing it needs.

You get the familiar turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 in the 435i models. It's rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft, and it's realistically just as quick as the last-gen M3, with the 435i sprinting to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds with the manual transmission, or 5 seconds with the automatic.

Both of these models crank out the torque, from idle all the way to about 5,000 rpm. The inline-4 in particular is quieter and smoother than the turbo four in the Cadillac ATS, and it builds as it revs just enough to make it a satisfying (albeit not quite sweet-sounding) replacement for the naturally aspirated inline-6. With either engine, you get lump-free power delivery, and a gravy train of torque from just above idle to about 5,000 rpm.

With either engine, you can get rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; and yes, you can even get all-wheel drive on the Convertible. A 6-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option on rear-drive coupes, although there is no manual 428i xDrive. We do think if you have any affinity for manual transmissions you should get it here; it's an inspiring thing, with clean shifts and lovely clutch uptake. Yet the automatic does well in handling either of these engines and their wide torque spread, and paddle-shifters and a sport mode handle a range of driving styles. 

The Driving Dynamics Control programming lets drivers tune shift points, throttle mapping, and steering response from a base level into an efficiency profile, and in either, it loafs along with rational, responsible moves. In Sport or Sport+, the steering pounces into turns, the automatic snaps off almost instantaneous shifts, the throttle zips up and down the powerband. The stability control unlocks its chastity belt.

The path to that highly evolved 4-Series is clearly defined, from the way its suspension has been altered with more aluminum components and more structural stiffness than before. It still wants to be, and can be, a smooth grand tourer.

Steering is hardly a boast-worthy point in the latest 3-Series sedans; and now in the 4-Series it's been retuned for better weighting and feel. It works reasonably well with the base tire-and-wheel setup in the 428i, but with any of the larger wheel-and-tire combinations offered (up to 19 inches), the steering gets heavier than it needs to be, and that seems to negate any feel of the road, which is sorely lacking. Based on a brief drive, we think the premium Variable Sports steering setup, that changes the rack's ratio, offers a more enthusiastic feel and better weighting overall, once you get used to the ratio changes.

At the top of the lineup there's the M4, and its hugely upgraded power ratings (now 425 hp and 406 lb-ft). You can choose between 6-speed manual and 7-speed M Double Clutch gearboxes, while an Active M limited-slip differential helps get the power to the pavement and an available Adaptive M suspension keeps contact and aids traction. The 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).

All this sounds promising, yet we've ended up with two very different impressions of the M4. On the track, we've found it an extraordinary athlete and an absolute thrill to drive. Yet on the road, the M4's limits are high and it lacks the sort of feedback most drivers seek on back roads and over imperfect pavement—especially in a car with these power levels. Electronics reel you in and keep you stable, but there's a feeling that the car's not filling you in on all that happens at the tires. Ultimately it's a track hound and a car for high-speed sweepers, far more than one for canyon-carving.

Review continues below
8

2016 BMW 4-Series

Comfort & Quality

The back seat in the 2016 4-Series seems a little silly, yet its cabin is warm and welcoming otherwise.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series probably differs most from the 3-Series sedans in packaging. Of course it has two doors rather than four—unless you're talking about the 4-Series Gran Coupe, oddity as it is—but the 4er Coupe and Convertible don't entirely use the 3's dimensions.

Yes, it's the same 110.6-inch wheelbase, and overall length of 182.6 inches, but the 4-Series' roofline is two inches lower, while it's also a half-inch wider than the sedans; and that makes a big difference in overall space.

So let's get this out of the way: The 4-Series doesn't have a very useful or comfortable back seat, and it's certainly not enough for most American adults. Though it's three inches wider across the rear axle, the 4-Series still doesn't net out with much adult-sized space in the back seat, and in a tight garage its long doors don't make entry or exit very easy. For adult-sized occupants, head room might ultimately be the issue, even if those in back are willing to scrunch knees a bit.

In front, the seats are wonderful and the space is great for all sizes and shapes. You do sit low, gripping a steering wheel that's as thick as those in any SUV's. And a seatbelt presenter helps avoid rotator-cuff issues. 

If we had our pick from the lineup, we'd choose the seats you get with the M Sport package, for their adjustability and side support.

Trunk space is almost the size of a mid-size sedan, and storage in the cabin is a brighter spot than ever, with bottle-holders in the door panels plus real cupholders ahead of the joystick-style shifter (how did they negotiate that with the engineers?) and a decently sized glove box.

Convertible versions of the 4-Series, surprisingly, are nearly as spacious and daily-driver usable. 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.

Ultimately, those super-comfortable front seats plus lots of cargo space are what together make the 4-Series a great weekend-getaway car—or one for empty-nesters who have another vehicle for when the kids (and grandkids) visit.

BMW's wide, beautiful LCD screen displays crisp maps and iDrive functions, but it's also propped up the dash like a digital picture frame, something it has in common with the Mercedes CLA. Audi's A3 has a better idea: make a slide-away screen standard.

You have a lot of flexibility in choosing interior trims for the 4-Series. Some of those basic-black interiors can seem drab and dark, and they amplify the 4-Series' sweeping dash curves in an unflattering way. So we recommend going with some of the warmer trims, as then the coupe's interior gets the sophisticated allure of the bigger 6-Series, with handsome leather and contrasting stitching, some daring colors and some very pretty wood and metal finishes.

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7

2016 BMW 4-Series

Safety

The BMW 4-Series still lacks U.S. crash-test results, although this model builds on a solid reputation earned with the 3-Series.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series hasn't yet been rated by federal safety officials or the independent IIHS.

The 3-Series sedans, on which the 4-Series is based, have earned impressive ratings from the IIHS. However the 4-Series is different enough that the agencies won't carry those scores over; we're especially curious about the 3-Series' "Marginal" score for small overlap frontal protection from the IIHS, and whether the 4er would do better or worse.

The 4-Series has some of the best safety equipment among coupes and convertibles, albeit with a few holes. All models include a full suite of airbags, stability control, adaptive brake lights, and anti-lock brakes. There's also an Automatic Collision Notification system that relays important information to emergency responders. Yet we're puzzled as to why a rearview camera is an option on the more basic models—in a model with far-from-ideal outward visibility and a price tag above $40,000.

Options include a park-distance system, plus a surround-view camera system that has a top view and a bird's-eye view of obstacles approaching at low speeds. Full-LED headlamps with automatic high beams are also available. You can get blind-spot monitoring, coupled with a lane-departure warning system and a camera-based collision-warning system with braking capability. Active cruise control is also offered, and it has the ability to stop the car, and to restart and carry a slow pace with traffic.

The only thing we have trouble justifying (as it feels like a novelty after the initial "wow" and a few demos to friends) is parking assist, a feature that automatically parallel parks the car.

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2016 BMW 4-Series

Features

You can go several ways with the 2016 4-Series, making it a lean, sporty premium coupe or a lavish grand-touring machine.

Between Coupe and Convertible styles, rear- or all-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmissions, and four- or six-cylinder engines—plus the high-performance M4—there's a lot of variance within the 4-Series lineup.

Just as it does on the 3-Series sedans and wagons and hatchbacks, BMW groups the 4-Series into trim lines also, giving buyers a choice of M Sport, Sport, and Luxury themes. All come with the usual Bluetooth connectivity, power windows/locks/mirrors, and automatic climate control.

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 an M-themed appearance.

With the optional navigation system you get 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 letting drivers write out text such as addresses with fingertips. It comes with real-time traffic data, and can be teamed with a data subscription adding Google search capability.

Overall, iDrive is a system that's grown many layers, compared to the original, austere version that relied only on a rotary knob—and lots of spinning and clicking. It remains a maze of functionality that takes a few weeks to truly understand and customize.

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 Track Package combines M Sport Brakes, the Adaptive M Suspension, Variable Sport Steering, and 18-inch V-spoke Orbit Gray wheels.

Last year BMW added Bluetooth audio streaming as standard, while the so-called Enhanced Bluetooth (with a USB port) is now a standalone $500 option. Sport Line trim is now standard across all models, with the sport seats, Anthracite headliner, sport leather steering wheel, and chrono-scaled instrument cluster. Comfort Access Keyless entry is now standard on all 435i Convertible models, and an anti-theft alarm system are also now standard on all 4-Series models. Also, Harman Kardon surround sound is included in 435i models, along with a year of satellite radio.

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7

2016 BMW 4-Series

Fuel Economy

The 2016 BMW 4-Series bucks conspicuous-consumer guilt with some reasonably good fuel economy—though it lacks the diesel and hybrid options offered in BMW's sedans.

The 2016 BMW 4-Series offers more fuel-efficiency than is typical for luxury coupes or convertibles. Yet, you won't find a diesel or hybrid here, as you could in the closely related 3-Series sedans. 

No matter which of these models you choose, BMW outfits the 2016 4-Series with stop-start and an EcoPro mode, which slows down the throttle tip-in, softens automatic-transmission shifts, and puts accessory and climate-control systems in their most conservative mode. It also has electric power steering, reducing feedback but also reducing gas consumption. And it's lost a little weight, too, versus the 3-Series coupe it complements.

The base 428i equipped with the 8-speed automatic gets up to 23 mpg city, 35 highway, 27 combined, according to the EPA. With the 6-speed manual, the 4-Series still earns 26 mpg combined. Automatic all-wheel drive 428xi models manage up to 26 mpg combined. Or choose the 435i and its very powerful twin-turbocharged inline-6, you won't see mileage drop much. With the automatic it earns an EPA-certified 20/31/24 mpg, or 20/30/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. With the manual transmission and either rear- or all-wheel drive, the 435i posts 22 mpg combined.

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December 19, 2015
2016 BMW 4-Series 2-Door Convertible 435i RWD

My 7th BMW and BEST so far!

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I bought loaded 435, M-pkg, Track pkg, drop top, etc. handles and the ride is GREAT! Only drawback with BMW is EVERYTHING is an "option", adds up quickly!
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