Bold grille leads the way for new BMW 4 Series

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 7:30 am
Updated Thursday, 4th June 2020, 7:30 am

BMW has lifted the wraps from its all-new 4 Series coupe, and it won’t have escaped your notice that it introduces a bold, new styling. Principal amongst the changes is the introduction of BMW’s huge new kidney-shaped grille.

We’ll return to the grille — which I suspect will be something of a Marmite feature, in that you either love it, or hate it — later. From launch, prices start from £39,870 for the 420i M Sport (up £3,670 on the equivalent 3 Series) and rise to £53,875 for the M440i. First deliveries are expected to start in October.

Set to go head-to-head with the likes of the Mercedes C-Class Coupe and Audi A5, the 4 Series remains an evolution of the 3 Series. The previous 4 Series saw BMW separate the coupe and the 3 Series on which it was based; essentially the 3 Series Coupe became the 4 Series. (Hope you’re keeping up) And really, most people saw it as nothing much more than a change of name.

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However, step forward to the new 4 Series. This latest two door certainly has its own identity — the large front grille notwithstanding — and has clearly been designed to be its own standalone model.

Isn’t it a 3 Series in new clothes?

Well, it shares its platform with the current 3 Series, but the engineers have introduced a number of significant revisions to ensure the 4 Series feels much sportier. Amongst the improvements are a wider rear track — increased by 28mm — and standard M Sport suspension.

At 4,768 millimetres, the new car is 128mm longer than its predecessor and 27mm wider (now 1,852mm), and its wheelbase has grown by 41mm to 2,851mm. Only 6mm has been added to the vehicle height, which is now 1,383mm. Short overhangs, slender pillars, long doors with frameless windows and a flowing roofline all combine to deliver what is, unquestionably, a sleek look.

Indeed, from the side the car’s profile is similar to that of the 8 Series; note the roofline which tapers all the way down to a small spoiler which has been beautifully built into the bootlid.

What’s new apart from the grille?

Of course, the most noticeable difference is the rather ‘in your face’ new vertical kidney grille. How long will it be, I wonder, before you have one of these zooming up behind you in the outside lane of a motorway?

In addition to the grille, other changes at the front include full LED headlights with hexagonal lighting signatures fitted as standard, plus a contoured apron with vertical air intakes on either corner. Adaptive LED units, or a set-up using BMW’s Laserlight technology, are available as an option.

There are further changes at the rear, which is now completely different to the 3 Series. The rear bumper gets a subtle diffuser design and dual-exit exhaust tips, while there are big changes to the rear lights. Gone are the blocky units seen on the saloon, to be replaced by larger tail-lights.

And what about safety?

As you would expect, there’s a host of safety and driver-assistance features included as standard. These include cruise control with a speed-limiter function, and front-collision warning. BMW’s Driving Assistant Professional, which enables semi-automated driving on motorways, plus adaptive cruise control are options.

What’s it like inside?

Pretty much the same as the 3 Series. The overall design — certainly in terms of layout and materials — is the same as the 3 Series, which is no bad thing. The cabin is dominated by BMW’s iDrive 7.0 operating system.

Standard kit includes an 8.8-inch central display, while the partially digital instrument panel features a 5.1-inch driver information display. There are though — as you would expect — options. Buyers can choose a 10.25-inch central screen, or the BMW Live Cockpit Professional set-up; the latter comes with a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. A head-up display is also is also available.

Worth highlighting that if you opt for the 10.25-inch info screen, you also get a new cloud-based map system for super slick route calculations. Oh, and Apple CarPlay and now Android Auto are standard-fit too.Sports seats, thankfully, are standard in the front, as is part-leather trim, which comes in a choice of five colours. Extended and full leather upholstery are also found on the options list.

Bearing in mind the 4 Series is a strict four-seater, the rear bench folds 40:20:40, while boot capacity is 440 litres.

What about the engine range?

It’s comprehensive. And the 4 Series introduces 48-volt mild-hybrid technology — which features a belt-fed starter generator to recoup energy under braking — across the diesel line-up; it’s also on the range-topping 440i six-cylinder petrol. The additional power can be used either to assist the combustion engine to help reduce CO2 emissions and boost fuel economy, or be supplied to the car’s 12V electrical system.

The entry-level 4 Series, the £39,870 420i M Sport, gets a turbocharged 181bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine; it doesn’t though feature mild-hybrid tech. Developing 221lb/ft, BMW says it’s good for 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, will continue on to a max of 149mph, and return up to 53.3mpg.

Next up, and using the same engine, the 430i sees an increase in power to 254bhp; correspondingly, the price also jumps to £44,055. The £53,875 M440i xDrive, capable of 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds thanks to its 369bhp and 369lb/ft, completes the petrol line-up.

Is there a diesel in the 4 Series line-up?

There is, but at launch only one will be available; the four-cylinder 420d. Producing 187bhp and 295lb/ft, BMW says it’ll return up to 72mpg and emit just 103g/km. Prices start at £42,440, with an extra £1,590 if you tick the xDrive four-wheel drive box on the options list.

The diesel choice will increase next March, when the range will be supplemented by the addition of two new 3.0-litre options, the 282bhp 430d xDrive and 335bhp M440d xDrive. The more powerful will return 42.2mpg and cover 0-62mph in 4.7s.

Ok, I’ve got to ask; is there an M4?

There certainly will. Expect to see it in September. Other than that, BMW’s keeping very tight lipped on the details of the new M car.

Oh! And what about that grille?

There’s no denying it’s controversial. BMW has been quick to emphasise the first kidney-shaped grilles were always vertical, going back to the 328 or, more recently, the E28 5 Series. But is this now a grille too far? Certainly not according to Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW brand design.

“The bold grille should be the core of BMW,” he said. “It should make a statement. It’s also unmistakably BMW, unmistakably 4 Series. There’s no other grille like it. Good design is about a very strong and unique character; it’s not about beauty.”

Interesting. So too is the fact that the designer’s pure design is then subsequently ruined when the number plate is stuck across it.

Personally, and strangely, I quite like it which, I have to be honest, surprises me.