You see, the 4-series is the two-door version of the 3-series, but then there’s the 4-series GranCoupe, which is the four-door version of a two-door-version of a four-door car. We then have the 3-series GT, which is like an SUV-style wagon, and the 4-series Cabriolet, all based on the same platform.
The outgoing 4-series has been on the market for a while and with the 3-series being updated over a year ago, the 4-series has finally caught up and received a raft of styling and tech updates. I had the updated 420i fitted with the M Sport kit on test recently.
BMW inside and out
If you’re looking for massive updates visually, the facelifted 4-series may disappoint, but underneath, BMW claims to have changed well over 2 000 components. The most notable change comes in the form of the headlamps, which are now LED items. In side profile, the car differs with new alloy wheel designs, while the front and rear bumpers have been reshaped too.
Inside, you’re greeted by a familiar BMW cockpit, with updates that even a brand fanatic would struggle to spot, with new materials used throughout the cabin, a hint of chrome and some piano-key black detailing. If you specify the car with the Professional satellite navigation version of the iDrive infotainment system, you’ll get the updated operating system from the 5-and 7-series sans the touchscreen functionality.
Much like a certain other German manufacturer, the 4-series can be specified with a digital instrument cluster; my test unit used a more traditional system, but I have seen a 4-series with the system equipped and it looks fantastic. Other than the updates, expect a quality feel inside, with the harsh plastics and questionable surfaces of BMWs a decade or so ago well and truly a thing of the past.
The highlight of many a BMW product is the driving experience, and I’m happy to report that the 420i, despite having a small 2.0-litre turbo petrol motor, is still a great car to drive. The 2.0-litre four might not produce the creamy exhaust and engine note of the new B58 six-cylinder mil, but it’s no slouch with 135kW/270Nm available.
This engine makes for a good compromise between power and economy; it will get to 100 km/h in a claimed 7.5 seconds while my week stint with the car returned a respectable 7.8-litres/100km, with some spirited driving in the mix too. The benefit of having a smaller lump up front also means less weight over the front-end, leading to a lovely responsive and neutral front-end, even if the electronic power steering and large steering wheel detract from the feel somewhat.
My test unit was the sports-auto, meaning it was equipped with the ubiquitous and equally superb ZF-eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, complete with steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles. The gearbox provides fast, efficient shifts and is supremely adaptable across a broad spectrum of driving conditions.
The BMW 4-series, much like its 3-series coupe predecessor, is certainly not as much a volume seller as its 3-series sedan sibling, but after spending some time with the car, it’s clear that the charms associated with the Bavarian marque are well and truly present.
My test unit was priced at R670 698 without options, meaning that at this price point, you’d have to really want a slinky coupe for the lure of other performance machines available to not grasp your attention.