2014 BMW 4-Series coupe review
BMW differentiates the 4-Series Coupe from its 3-Series siblings.
- 8-speed automatic transmission is superb
- Stout engine selection
- Attractive looks
- BMW steering feel is gone
- Interior styling a bit questionable
- Sport suspension too stiff
Earlier this year BMW sent ripples of dismay through the world's young urban strivers when the company announced that yuppiedom's unofficial vehicle of choice was to be no more — the 3-Series Coupe was dead. Luckily for fans of one of the best driving machines on the road, BMW was just renaming the coupe: from here on out it's the 4-Series Coupe. Wanting to cast a unique shadow and differentiate the coupes from the sedans in the lineup, BMW lengthened the wheelbase, widened the hips and chopped the top to give the new coupe its own sense of identity.
Xenon headlights, a bit of luxury that you'll find optional on a 3-Series, come standard on the 4-Series. Power is plentiful as both turbocharged engines turn in zero-to-60 mph times under six seconds while doing a good job of being miserly with fuel.
While we're excited about the new Coupe, there are still a few things that kept us either wanting more or scratching our heads wondering what BMW was thinking. Questionable interior trim and a display screen that seems like an afterthought didn't sit well with us. The Servotronic electric power steering still doesn't do the best job of connecting driver to road, either.
The 4-Series Coupe is broken down into two variants based on the engine selection: the 428i and the
435i. As far as standard features go, both are almost identical, save for the 18-inch wheels found on the 435i instead of the 17-inch rollers on the 428i. Although the options list is extensive, the cars come well-equipped from the factory with features such as Driving Dynamics Control, Bluetooth connectivity, Xenon adaptive headlights and BMW's Efficient Dynamics-inspired Air Curtain and Air Breather for increased aerodynamic efficiency at highway speeds.
Within both the 428i and 435i BMW offers three main trim lines: Sport, Luxury, and M Sport. The Sport line features mostly blacked-out trim and plus-one wheel sizing for both the 428i and 435i (18-inch and 19-inch, respectively). Rear-wheel-drive iterations also receive a sport suspension to enhance the driving experience.
If you like chrome, look no further than the Luxury line as BMW chromes-out just about every piece of trim inside and out. Plus-one wheel sizing is also part of this line, along with some elegant ash grain wood-trim inlays.
Our favorite trim line by a longshot is M Sport. The already athletic exterior is given an extra shot of protein with the M aerodynamic package, featuring enlarged air intakes, a rear bumper with a diffuser and deeper side skirts. Special M design wheels are included in the package, in 18-inch and 19-inch (435i only) sizes. Behind the wheels you can also opt for the M Sport brakes with their noticeable blue calipers. The M Sport suspension is available on rear-drive only. In case you forget what line you selected, you will find the letter "M" adorning everything from the unique steering wheel to the footrest. The M Sport line is also the only trim with which you can select BMW's gorgeous Estoril Blue paint.
As with all BMWs, multiple option packages are available, adding features that include advanced real-time traffic information (Technology package), park distance control for those tight parking spaces (Driver Assistance package), and side- and top-view cameras (Driver Assistance Plus). The available Harmon Kardon surround sound stereo is also not to be missed.
Under the hood
The 4-Series Coupe is all turbo all the time. In the 428i you will find a 2.0-liter turbocharged double-overhead-camshaft 4-cylinder engine producing 241 horsepower from 5000 to 6500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1250 to 4800 rpm. That's a torque curve most 4-cylinders could only dream of. The standard transmission is an 8-speed automatic with a 6-speed manual as a no-cost option. Unfortunately, the 6-speed is not available on the all-wheel-drive 428i xDrive. The 428i may not have the soul of the old normally aspirated inline-6 engine, but the power delivery definitely helps ease the pain.
The other forced-induction engine resides under the hood of the 435i. It's the familiar fire-breathing 3.0-liter turbocharged double-overhead-camshaft inline-6 pumping out 300 horsepower from 5800 to 6000 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque from 1200 to 5000 rpm. Transmission options are the same as the 428i, with the 8-speed automatic and 6-speed manual, but you can actually get the manual option in the xDrive version of the 435i. Matched up with the aforementioned 6-speed transmission, the rear-wheel-drive 435i sprints to 60 mph in a mere 5.3 seconds.
Much like the 3-Series Sedan model range, BMWs xDrive all-wheel drive system is available on both the 428i and the 435i.
The driver continues to be the focal point in the 4-Series Coupe, with the dash and controls canted distinctly toward the pilot. The gauges are a familiar, easy-to-read BMW layout. The Technology package also brings in a head-up display projecting vehicle speed and navigation cues above the dashboard.
BMW's iDrive 4.2 with a 6.5-inch center screen is standard on all iterations and is becoming easier to use. Through the center screen you can also add BMW apps to sync your mobile devices as well navigation with "pinch zoom" controlled through the iDrive touchpad.
Plush Dakota leather seating options are available, and the M Sport line packs in supportive 10-way adjustable sport seats. Heated seats and steering wheel can be added with the Cold Weather package. Much like the 3-Series Sedan, though, we're still not sold on some aspects of the new interior styling. The colored highlight piping available in the leather seating option has a somewhat cheapening effect on the car. It's something you would expect to see in a Ford Focus ST, not a BMW. Ditto the accent stripe across the dash, which can be had in both red and blue, depending on the "line" of 4-Series you choose.
Another gripe is the navigation screen. It seems like it should pop up and then retract, but it's fixed and looks to be more of an afterthought than fully integrated into the design, not unlike the screen found in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA.
On the road
The 8-speed transmission works flawlessly and is quickly becoming a favorite among MSN Autos staffers. It seems to know what gear you need before you even think of hitting the gas. We're not ready to give up on manuals yet, but this makes a strong case for the future of automatics.
When really flogging it down back roads that have any kind of texture, we found Comfort a better setting for the suspension than Sport, which is just too stiff to optimize grip. On a glasslike surface its performance is preferable, but on some real-world roads it's simply too much. And we know we sound like a broken record, but electric power steering still isn't there, yet. The Servotronic system in the 4-Series Coupe is as accurate as any, and the electrically simulated weight can be adjusted, but you just don't know what the wheels are doing. Good thing there are advanced electronics to do all the "feeling."
The 13-inch brakes on our 428i test vehicle provided drama-free decelerations, and the aluminum front calipers help reduce unsprung weight. The 435i receives slightly larger 13.4-inch rotors to work with the increased power. Anti-lock braking, dynamic brake control and cornering brake control are all on hand to assist the driver in dicier braking situations.
For the power available, the fuel economy returns are quite good. The four-banger in the 428i gets an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 23 mpg city/35 mpg highway, while the more powerful 435i is close on its heels with a rating of 22/35 mpg. These surprising fuel economy numbers are no doubt aided by BMW's Eco Pro driving mode, which cuts fuel consumption by almost 20 percent.
Right for you?
BMW has always been able to design a great-looking coupe from the 3-Series to the 8-Series (OK, maybe we'll overlook the 6-Series). The altered dimensions really set it apart from the 3-Series Sedan, and the list of standard features and options keep it at the head of the class. We're big fans of both available powerplants but would certainly pass on some of the multicolor interior options. On sale now, the 428i starts at $40,500 and the 435i will set you back $46,000. Going with the all-wheel drive xDrive requires an extra $2,000 for either variant.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.