By Matt Degen
The 2014 BMW 4 Series is an all-new model but a familiar concept – it's essentially the replacement for 2-door versions of the 3 Series. The new nomenclature sets the 4 Series coupe and convertible apart from the growing variety of 3 Series models, and numerically aligns it with other 2-door BMWs such as the current 6 Series and new 2 Series. Slightly larger than the outgoing 3 Series coupe, the 4 Series boasts sleeker sheet metal, a more tech-rich cabin, and a new base engine – BMW's potent-yet-efficient 4-cylinder. An optional 6-cylinder remains for those seeking more power. Like the Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe and Infiniti Q60, the 4 Series blends performance and refinement to go with its $40,000-plus starting price.
If you want to be seen in a prestigious 2-door sports car with German badge appeal and performance chops, get ready to be among the first to own the new 4 Series. Drivers who live where it snows will be happy to know all-wheel-drive versions are part of the lineup, convertibles included.
BMW didn't just slap a number 4 on a carryover 3 Series that happened to have two doors. The new 4 Series features fresh aesthetics inside and out, powertrains boasting 8-speed automatic transmissions, and the lowest center of gravity of any vehicle in BMW's lineup.
Driving Impressions The new 4 Series takes the benchmark 3 Series performance traits – agility, acceleration and overall balance – and goes one better. With a wider stance and lower center of...gravity, the coupe is an expert at cornering. The 428i uses BMW's phenomenal 240-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to power the rear or all wheels. Unlike the 4-cylinder in Mercedes' C250, not a hint of lag is felt in the BMW, even when the car is in "comfort" mode. BMW says this engine can zip the 4 Series to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. With its performance-minded suspension and near-perfect weight distribution, the 428i feels athletic and nimble. The 435i uses a 300-horsepower 6-cylinder strong enough to propel all-wheel-drive models to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Both transmission choices – the 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual – are excellent. The convertible variants are impressive in their own right, boasting a next-generation retractable hardtop that's capable of operating at speeds up to 11 mph. Tradeoffs for the 4 Series' performance include noticeable road noise and a stiff ride on less-than-perfect pavement.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED 4-CYLINDER ENGINE
The base engine in the 4 Series is so good that it leaves little reason to pay thousands more for the 6-cylinder variant. Beyond its impressive specs – 240 horsepower, 255 lb-ft of torque, 35 mpg on the highway – is its immediate responsiveness.
SLEEK CENTER SCREEN
Every 4 Series gets the latest version of BMW's iDrive command center, and the screen that relays everything from navigation to what song is playing is a real beauty. The thin, 6.5-inch screen sits atop the center dash like a high-tech jewel – easy to see, and easy on the eyes.
The 4 Series' 4-passenger cabin is comfortable for those in front and just adequate for two people in back. Not surprisingly, the driving position is very good. Controls are within reach, and iDrive is getting easier to operate. If your front-seat passenger plans to apply makeup, she should bring her own mirror – those in BMWs are surprisingly small. Another downside is that the visors don't extend to block the sun, a pity in a $40,000-plus luxury vehicle. The available head-up display offers information such as speed and navigation functions, but can be difficult to discern when wearing sunglasses.Exterior
BMW didn't reinvent the wheel for the 4 Series' external design vs. the outgoing 3 Series coupe, but that's hardly an insult. The new coupe and convertible are slightly larger and lower, with headlights that flow into the "twin-kidney" grille and boomerang-shaped vents behind the front wheel wells. Both the 428i and 435i feature dual exhaust outlets, with the 435i separating them farther apart for a sportier effect. All-wheel-drive versions feature rear "xDrive" badging, and all models boast a long, dynamic side-crease. Optional "Line" models – Luxury, Sport, or M Sport – receive a distinctive front end and their own wheel design.
Step into a 2014 428i and you'll get an excellent-driving vehicle with features such as power front seats, your choice of 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission, xenon adaptive headlights, a moonroof, dynamic cruise control, and automatic climate control. Standard audio is a 9-speaker system with HD Radio and a USB audio input. Higher-end 435i models feature a more powerful 6-cylinder engine and 18-inch wheels (versus the 17-inchers found on the 428i). Models with xDrive feature traction-enhancing all-wheel drive instead of the standard rear-drive. All new BMWs come with "Ultimate Service," which covers routine maintenance for four years or 50,000 miles.
There are plenty of ways to make the 4 Series safer and more entertaining. As with other luxury cars, tempting options can quickly add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Notable offerings include navigation with touchpad entry, heated front seats, and a sweet-sounding 16-speaker/600-watt harman/kardon sound system. If you want leather or a rear-view camera, you'll have to pay extra for those, too. If your arms are regularly filled with groceries, Comfort Access may be your savior. Part of the Premium Package, it allows you to open the trunk with a swipe of your foot below the bumper.
Two turbocharged engines are offered in the 2014 BMW 4 Series: a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder on 428i models, and a more powerful 3.0-liter 6-cylinder on the 435i. All-wheel drive (AWD) can be had in place of rear-wheel drive (RWD) with either engine, and a 6-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option in lieu of the 8-speed automatic for every setup except all-wheel-drive 4-cylinder models (if you must have that combination, look to an Audi A5). Both engines feature automatic start/stop technology that shuts off the engine during periods when it would otherwise sit idling, such as at stoplights. Restarts tend to be jarring, however, and can cause frustration in stop-and-go traffic. The feature can be disabled at the touch of a button. Both engines require premium gasoline.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,000-6,500 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/35 mpg (automatic, RWD), 22/34 mpg (manual, RWD), 22/33 mpg (automatic, AWD)
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6
300 horsepower @ 5,800-6,000 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 mpg (automatic, RWD), 20/30 mpg (manual, RWD), 20/30 mpg (automatic, AWD), 20/28 mpg (manual, AWD)
A base 2014 428i has a starting price of just over $41,000, while a 6-cylinder 435i starts near $47,000. Convertible models tack an additional $8,000 to the base price of either trim. Opting for all-wheel drive on any model will set you back an extra $2,000. Like other BMWs, prices can inflate quickly with options. Even most exterior paint colors cost extra, unless you want non-metallic black or white. A fully-loaded 435i xDrive Convertible model can reach well over $65,000. The 4 Series has a slightly higher starting price than the Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C250, but its base engine is also more powerful than those rivals. The Infiniti Q60 (formerly G37) coupe, meanwhile, has nearly the same base price as a 4 Series and comes with a 330-horsepower V6. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the new 4 Series. Since the 4 Series is brand new, we have yet to predict its resale value.