Jos van As, BMW’s head of driving dynamics, is grasping an imaginary steering wheel as he enthusiastically details the character of the new 4 Series Coupé. “It’s more sporting in every way compared with the old model,” he says. “But we’ve managed to improve overall comfort as well.”
Having just driven a prototype of the new model at 175mph along a German autobahn and then on some magnificently smooth back roads, I was eager to hear first-hand what the man responsible for its development had to say about its clearly more engaging properties.
But before I’d even had a chance to even pose the question after we pull into a shady layby in a sleepy town to swap cars (from the four-wheel-drive M440i xDrive into the altogether milder rear-driven 430i), he’s already singling out the variable electromechanical steering as the biggest benefactor among a whole series of changes that have been made to the Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class rival.
“We’ve concentrated on making it more direct and responsive than in the recent past,” says the man who has spent more time yet in the upcoming two-door than probably anyone else with obvious pride. “There’s greater clarity and added linearity, too. We’ve incorporated measures to make the body structure a lot stiffer than before. It’s a better basis than with the four-door.”
So that’s the message: the new 4 Series Coupé, which goes by the BMW codename G22, is intended to be not only a more sporting car than any of its predecessors but also more comfortable and, crucially, further differentiated from the 3 Series upon which it’s heavily based.
This is an observation that could be made of its styling as well. Although the two prototypes I drove were both heavily disguised, the new 4 Series appears sleeker than the current model and is clearly more differentiated from its saloon sibling.
We’ll avoid any comment on the controversial grille, which is set to mirror that of the Concept 4 Series Coupé revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last September, until we see the production version.
However, the car certainly cuts a sharper profile than before, with a long sweeping bonnet, a more heavily sloping roofline and a rather high-set bootline providing it with clear aesthetic links to the larger 8 Series Coupé and, according to van As, improved aerodynamics – namely a lower drag coefficient and added downforce. There’s also greater volume to the wheelhouses, allowing them to accommodate rims of up to 20in in diameter.
The new 4 Series looks bigger up close, although not excessively so. Underneath, it’s based around the same CLAR (Cluster Architecture) as all other recent BMWs that have a longitudinally mounted engine, giving it a wheelbase 42mm longer than its predecessor’s, at 2851mm.