BMW 4 Series road test: Four scores with dynamics and looks
SPORTING vernacular walks a tightrope of success and failure in the world of "four".
In cricket terms it'll have fans on their feet in jubilation, but on the golf course the "fore" will have them running for cover.
BMW can thankfully lay claim to the former with the BMW 420d.
This is part of the new breed, as the Bavarian brand moves to a new nomenclature. Even numbers represent the more athletic offerings for the brand, including coupes and convertibles.
The 4 Series is essentially the old 3 Series Coupe.
While the entry-level 420i is coming soon, we stepped into the cheapest 4 Series currently available - the 420d which starts from just over 70 grand.
Clinical and classy, the 4 Series cabin is refined and surprisingly practical despite its coupe lines.
There are no pretensions about its intentions. Two sculpted rear pews make it purely a four-seater…getting three across the bench always was a challenge.
Getting into the back is also made dignified via the Easy Entry function. The front seats fold and roll well and we managed to comfortably fit kids into the back without having to do callisthenics.
And there is even a little plastic arm which hands the seatbelt to those up front once you're inside.
Embracing a more 1 Series-like set-up, we appreciated the steering wheel mounted cruise control rather than the old stalk system. For some reason we could never get the hang of the stalk - and always managed to cancel its operation rather than adjust the speed.
Following the lead of previous new models, there are a range of "lines" to choose from to suit various buyer groups. There is Luxury, Modern, Sport or M Sport depending on what features float your boat.
Our test machine featured the Luxury persona, where the standard interior trim looked the goods in combination with glossy black finishes on the console.
The driver has four analogue dials which are crisp and clear, while even the iDrive system is easier to use and more intuitive nowadays with the "back" button extremely useful for when you get yourself into trouble.
On the road
Life seems remarkably easy in the 420d.
The power delivery wasn't heavy-handed nor lifeless, it actually has a pretty handy turn of speed, negotiating the highway, city and rural environs with a typically regal aptitude.
While the electric steering might lack the precise feel of hydraulic BMW systems of old that were synonymous with the brand, it does make for a much lighter feel.
This could well work in favour for the propeller badge with greater appreciation from female buyers. Those who want a more traditional BMW feel can always option the Variable Sport Steering package.
The four-cylinder turbo diesel is a strong little unit.
Get it into the maximum torque sweet spot above 1750rpm and it responds nicely to each shunt of the
accelerator. There can be a minor lag with lower revs and sometimes you can catch it napping with a slight delay between planting your right foot and getting the power down.
Drivers choose between several modes, including Sport, Sport+ (which almost turns off all the safety gizmos), Comfort and Eco Pro for economical driving that can drop fuel consumption by as much as 20%.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is difficult to fault and we never managed to catch it out in the wrong gear even on some tough climbs and descents.
What do you get?
Your choice of "lines" delivers the standards to your liking.
They are a no-cost choice. On the complimentary list are a CD stereo with USB input/auxiliary port and 16.5cm colour screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, dual zone air con, six airbags, front and rear Park Distance Control with rear view camera, sat nav, electric sports seats with memory function for driver and front passenger, alloy wheels and leather trim. The athletic M Sport with an aero pack costs $4200.
You could also consider the Infiniti G37 GT ($64,400), Audi A5 2.0 TDI ($68,690) or the Mercedes-Benz C250 ($70,400).
Often, the official fuel consumption figures on the label are fanciful. Those numbers are achieved in near perfect conditions, no radio or air conditioning…and you can usually add a couple of litres for real-world driving. But this sporty Beemer went remarkably close of the quoted figure of 4.6 litres/100km. We managed an average of just over five litres.
Insurance and ongoing servicing can be a drain on tight budgets, it's worthwhile exploring the maintenance costs for those new to luxury cars.
The rear seats can fold in a 40-20-40 configuration, while the boot is reasonably deep, it has a narrow opening.
There are four cup holders, two up front and two which pop out from the centre armrest in the back. Both doors have a compartment which can cope with a one-litre bottle.
The 4 Series boasts gorgeous proportions. We would be inclined to opt for the Sport line for a more athletic edge to really show off the greater width and hunkered down stance. This model has embraced BMW's new theme of joining the headlights to the grille which really emphasises the wider appearance.
Strong lines across the flanks also point to a squat rear end which is actually wider than the front.
Model: BMW 420d.
Details: Two-door four-seat rear-wheel drive luxury coupe.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin turbo diesel generating maximum power of 135kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1750-2750rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 4.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.3 seconds.
Bottom line: $71,800.
What matters most
What we liked: Real-world fuel consumption, reasonable space for a coupe, striking style.
What we'd like to see: Less options, capped price servicing plan.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. BMW has condition-based servicing, but intervals are usually annually or 15,000km.