A superb ride and quiet comfort are hallmarks of the BMW 4 Series, available in coupe, convertible, and five-door Gran Coupe hatchback versions. Based on the 3 Series, the 4 Series is a bit longer, lower, leaner and bolder. It uses the same engines as the 3 Series, and offers rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel drive.
The BMW 428i uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, and accelerates from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, on grippy summer tires. It will go 155 mph, at which point an electronic limiter will whoa you.
The beloved 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder comes in the BMW 435i. It makes 300 hp, 300 lb-ft, and zooms to 60 in 5.3 seconds with the manual transmission and 5.0 seconds with the automatic.
The hotrod M4 pumps out 425 hp and 406 lb-ft, with the 6-speed manual or 7-speed twin clutch, with an Active M limited-slip differential to keep the tires biting, along with available Adaptive M suspension. The M4 rides and handles like the bigger and more expensive M6, but it’s lighter, and will blast to 60 in a brief 4.2 seconds with the twin clutch.
For a car this spectacular and sleek looking, the 428i’s EPA fuel mileage of 27 miles per gallon Combined is off-the-chart sensational. The 435i with its powerful twin-turbocharged inline-6 still gets 25 mpg, which might be even more sensational. The high-performance M4 gets more like 21, which still is a lot, in a car with that kind of speed.
The Convertible uses a folding hardtop that goes up or down in 20 seconds at up to 11 mph. It has been improved to leave 7.8 cubic feet of space in the trunk when the top is down, out of 13 cubic feet when it’s up. The Convertible also features a standard wind blocker, neck warmer, and extra sound insulation.
The BMW 428i ($41,850) and BMW 435i ($48,850) come with rear-wheel drive, with the xDrive versions of those models costing $2000 more.
Models or trim lines include Sport, M Sport, Luxury and Modern. The Sports have black exterior trim where the Luxury has chrome, as well as red stitching on the leather sport seats and steering wheel. The M Sport adds an aero kit and other styling tweaks.
The 4 Series Coupe has a striking and lovely profile, with sharp shoulder creases and an athletic stance from the rear, as well as a beautiful balance of glass and metal. The front half of the car, forward of the windshield, is slathered with daring concave spaces that work well with the low roofline.
The driver’s side of the cabin is separated from the passenger side by gentle arcs of plastic and wood across the center stack, with instruments slightly angled toward the driver. The iDrive rides high on the dash and dominates the instrument panel with its wide and bright screen.
The sports seats are grippy, and the rear seat folds down to extend the trunk for cargo, but there isn’t much legroom for adults back there.
The fancy trim packages are classy but might go too far for some. Luxury models get glossy wood trim, while Modern coupes get satin trim, grey or black leather, and inlaid wood trim.
The 4 Series drives more like the 3 Series than we expected, given BMW’s efforts at a distinctive design. Smooth and road-hugging, but not so aggressive as might be indicated by the stiffer and lighter suspension, using more aluminum parts, and the retuned steering.
The steering works well in the 428i with standard wheels and tires, but with the 19-inch wheels and fatter tires it’s heavy enough to steal some feel of the road. We found road feel sorely lacking.
We got a bit of seat time in a 428i with the Variable Sports steering that changes the ratio of the steering rack, and it provides better weighting and more lively feedback.
Both engines offer consistent train-like torque from idle all the way up to 5000 rpm. The 2.0-liter four is quieter and smoother than the similar engine in the Cadillac ATS, and we find it a satisfying replacement for the legendary inline-6 that was normally aspirated.
The automatic transmissions do an excellent job of handling the torque delivery, and their paddle shifters and driving modes fine-tune the driving. But if you’ve ever hankered for a manual transmission, this 6-speed is one to get. It’s inspiring, with its sharp and clean shifts and sweet clutch engagement.
The Driving Dynamics Control adjusts the shift, throttle and steering sharpness and quickness. In Normal mode it behaves in a rational manner, while in Sport or Sport+, the steering snaps the car into turns, the transmission pulls super-quick shifts, and the throttle zips. Meanwhile, the stability control gives room for fun but not too much for big error.
As for the extraordinarily athletic 425-horsepower M4, we got it on the track and got our extreme thrill. But on back roads over the patches and bumps, it lacked the feedback we hoped for. We got the feeling that the electronics were holding us back. We would say it’s made for smooth, high-speed sweepers, more than two-lane twisties.
The sporty 4 Series is for drivers who need more than the sedate 3 Series sedan can give them. It’s got the best of the 3’s dynamics, and about the same power, but offers a racier identity.