This 2014 BMW 428i, in Estoril Blue, may just be the prettiest car the company makes. I haven't seen a small BMW that was this pretty since the late '90s BMW 3 Series coupe. Remember those "E46" chassis cars? They were -- and for some, still are -- the epitome of everything that was BMW. The current two cars, the 3 Series and 4 Series, to my eye at least are nearly as nice. 

Maybe it's the paint. I am a sucker for a good paint job, after all.

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Inside, there's a simplicity that I love. The gauges are analog, with simple needles suspended over printed numbers. The gauges don't spin into place, as they do on so many TFT-type digital screens these days. There's no flying BMW logo, no M Sport branding that flashes in front of you, just a tachometer and a speedometer conveying the most critical of information. The steering wheel is fat and squishy, but it's also comfortable in your hands, and the paddle shifters for the 8-speed automatic are right at your fingertips. At long last, automatic transmissions have paddles that make driving more fun and useful, instead of just being a silly novelty. 

The M Sport package on this particular 428i ramps up the fun factor, too. The chassis firms up when you've selected the right driving mode, and the transmission fires off even quicker shifts, at the expense of a little smoothness. The car is never harsh in its treatment of the driver, but the precise steering and willing chassis mean that it's capable of rewarding a skilled driver, and making even unskilled ones feel like they're driving something special. 

And at this price, they'd better. BMW separated the 4 Series from the 3 Series to move the cars upscale, and it's a promise BMW's keeping. This particular car has just two option packages on it: the $3,500 M Sport, and the $1,000 Dynamic Handling package. Tack onto that bigger brakes ($650) and that gotta-have-it blue paint ($550) and you're looking at an out-the door price of just over $47,000. And remember, this is for the 240-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder version; if you want the inline-6, it's going to cost even more. That's a lot for a car that doesn't even have a backup camera or navigation.  BMW is a luxury brand, and 4 is greater than 3, so therefore it costs more. 

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Luckily, there are two solutions sitting right next to it on the showroom floor. If you're OK with sedans, the 2014 BMW 328i with the same 240-hp engine, when outfitted the same, comes in nearly $3,000 less, and it's a pretty darn good looking car. If you're still insisting on a sexy coupe, then check out the just-released 2014 BMW 228i coupe, also with the turbocharged 4-cylinder, which similarly equipped will cost nearly $9,000 less. 

Look at it like that, and it starts to make sense. BMW may have moved the price skyward a bit, making the 4 Series more of a junior version of the super-exclusive 6 Series than a two-door version of the everyday 3 Series. But it's also blessed us with the notably less expensive 2 Series, which is a darn fine car in its own right. Well played, BMW.

If you want to dive deeper, read our full review of the 2014 BMW 4 Series

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