What is it?
The past seven years have been kind to the BMW 4 Series.
Introduced with a good deal of fanfare in 2013, it has now recorded more than 800,000 sales worldwide, with nearly 150,000 of those in the UK, its second-biggest market behind the US. Its success is spread across three models – Coupé, Cabriolet and four-door Gran Coupé – and a range of four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, which have given it a broad appeal.
But the talk surrounding this new, second-generation 4 Series is not of the task it faces in living up to the sales performance of its predecessor or its new engines, which include the 369bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit of the range-topping M440i xDrive Coupé driven here, but of – yes, what else? – that grille. The 4 Series’ design has widely divided opinions but, like it or loathe it, there is more to the second-generation model than its controversial styling.
BMW says it has conceived the new 4 Series, known internally as the G22 in coupé guise, to be a more distinctive, stand-alone model with greater exclusivity than before and this is reflected in its controversial appearance and improved quality. In dimensions, too, the new model shifts further away from the model it replaces. It’s 128mm longer (at 4768mm), 27mm wider (1852mm) and 6mm taller (1383mm), giving it greater presence and a more sporting form than the car it replaces.
As with its predecessor, the new line-up starts with the Coupé, which has traditionally accounted for 33% of 4 Series sales in the UK. It will be followed next year by the new Cabriolet (17% of sales last time round) and Gran Coupé (50%). The new 4 Series shares its CLAR platform and electric architecture, including 48V capability, with the latest 3 Series. Its wheelbase has grown by 41mm to 2851mm and, as part of efforts to provide it with a more sporting feel, its tracks are wider than the previous 4 Series’, at 1575mm (28mm wider) at the front and 1611mm (18mm wider) at the rear.
Crucially, for keen drivers, the new model’s centre of gravity is also 21mm lower than the first-generation 4 Series’, model for model. This has been achieved partly through a new material mix, with aluminium now used for the bonnet, front wings, doors and front suspension.
Further changes are centred on making the body structure stiffer than that of the 3 Series. To achieve this, BMW has fitted the 4 Series with a new shear panel within the front bulkhead, a newly designed strut across the front suspension towers and an extra A-frame support at the front of the engine bay.
Inside, the layout is familiar, with a layered dashboard from the 3 Series, complete with standard 12.3in digital instrument and 10.3in infotainment displays – the latter of which can be operated via a rotary controller or touch commands as well as optional speech and gesture controls – in the M440i xDrive. Overall, the cabin features much higher perceived standards of material and finish than the previous 4 Series.
The driving position is quite different from that of the 3 Series, courtesy of a more heavily angled windscreen and lower mounting of the front seats, which in combination with the multi-function steering wheel offer generous adjustment. While you’re never going to buy the new 4 Series for its accommodation, it now offers greater space up front than the old model. There’s also claimed to be more room in the rear, although head room is quite limited in the back, even though the individual rear seats are set fairly low. Boot space, meanwhile, has been reduced by five litres to 440 litres.