On paper, the BMW 4 Series is essentially a two-door coupe version of the 3 Series, but there’s enough differences to justify the name change. It’s a class act all round, with a top-drawer engine range that delivers great performance and economy, and composed yet entertaining rear-wheel drive handling.
The 4 Series is also a very practical car for a two-door coupe, with usable rear seats and a decent boot. And if you want even more versatility, then the 4 Series Gran Coupe offers four doors but a similarly sleek look, while the 4 Series Convertible is a great top-down tourer. It’s no longer the newest car on the patch, but it’s still up there with the best.
When BMW launched the latest 3 Series in 2011, it also took the opportunity to (eventually) launch the BMW 4 Series Coupe. Essentially, that means the old 3 Series Coupe was no more, with the 4 Series emulating the smaller 2 Series and larger 6 Series by being the sportier even-numbered relation to its mainstream counterpart.
The 4 Series Coupe was launched in 2013, around 18 months after the 3 Series in an effort to separate the two models further. In 2017 a light facelift was applied, with some new lights and extra in-car tech.
It was also launched as the 4 Series Convertible, which featured a folding metal hard top rather than a canvas roof, while later in 2014 the 4 Series Gran Coupe muddied the 3 Series variant waters even further by offering a five-door body that is sleeker than the similar 3 Series Gran Turismo.
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As you would expect, the 4 Series Coupe is a sleeker looking machine than the 3 Series saloon. The low roof line, wider stance and frameless door glass all add to the sporty looks, although apart from having less headroom than the saloon, the only major difference between the two is that the 4 Series’s back seats are a trickier to access.
Like the 3 Series, the 4 Series has been given a subtle facelift for 2017 to keep it competitive against newer rivals, although you’ll only be able to spot the differences if the old and new car are lined up side-by-side.
On the whole, the 4 Series uses the same engines as the 3 Series saloon, although some of the smaller capacity units aren’t carried over. At launch, the updated 4 Series Coupe range kicks off with the 420i, which has a 184bhp 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine. The 430i has a 258bhp version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder, while the 440i gets a 326bhp twin-turbo straight-six.
On top of that there’s the M4 Coupe, which is essentially a separate performance model. The rest of the range gets a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but BMW’s great eight-speed auto is offered as an option. You can add xDrive four-wheel drive to the 420i, too. The 420i comes in Sport and M Sport trims, while the 430i and 440i are exclusively M Sport models.
The 420d is a six-speed manual as standard, and the eight-speed auto is optional, as is four-wheel drive. The 430d and 435d feature the auto box and four-wheel drive as standard. While the 3 Series saloon is sold as a plug-in hybrid, currently there are no plans to introduce a 430e to the coupe range.
The 2017 updates for the BMW 4 Series Coupe are aimed primarily at keeping the car competitive against its latest rivals, the Audi A5 Coupe and Mercedes C-Class Coupe, although the 4 Series was arguably already the best handling of these three in the first place. These three have the premium four-seat coupe largely to themselves, and if you want a non-German four-door coupe, your only other choices are the Lexus RC and the recently introduced Infiniti Q60, although neither are as complete a package.
Engines, performance and drive
To drive, all 4 Series are improved over the already sharp handling 3 Series. Go for a Sport and it’ll be a composed cruiser with beautifully weighted steering and extremely good suspension damping.
Mild setup changes for 2017 aimed at improving feel and body control. It went some way to improving the sometimes distant feel of the rack, but in suspension terms you’d have to drive the cars back-to-back to tell the difference.
Go for the optional M Sport pack, as so many do, and you get bigger wheels and a more muscular body kit. It really adds to the 4 Series’ looks, although the ride is a little firmer as a result. It’s a price that’s probably worth paying as much for the positive effect that M Sport has on the residual values as for the sportier looks. One option we’d really recommend is adaptive dampers, as it goes a long way to reducing the firmness in the ride without upsetting the handling balance.
As with most BMW models now, you can specify the 4 Series with xDrive four-wheel drive, as a rival to Audi’s quattro and Mercedes’ 4Matic. BMW’s is a seamless system, and it doesn’t upset either the handling balance or the weight (too much) yet brings obvious benefits when the weather turns rainy, slushy or icy. It’s a good option for those with long commutes when winter rolls around.