You’ve probably already caught a glimpse of it, but the new BMW 4 Series is here. Yes, it’s got the same kidney grille design BMW first showed the world with last September in Frankfurt. For those that don’t know, BMW is one of the most prominent automaker on social media, with the vast majority of the content coming directly from drivers. From the moment it was unveiled last year, the 4 Series Coupe—more specifically its design—has been among the hottest BMW-related topics online. Regardless of where you stand on an individual basis, the consensus of public opinion seems to has taken a decidedly negative view of the 4 Series, and the people’s gripe is with the grilles.
There’s an old (and often challenged) phrase in marketing and public relations that says, “all publicity is good publicity.” In the case of something like the new 4 Series, what if BMW might be on to something? Take the car without the objectionable grille, and what do we have? In a lot of ways, the design language seems like an attempt at a scaled-down 8 Series. The lines may not have the sharp, angular, and in many ways classic BMW look to them, but they’re present nonetheless. The rest of the front end may not initially be your thing either, but even with the grille there’s a certain aggressiveness that can come across as refreshing. The large air intakes of the concept have been refined, and the headlights use the new LED illumination style found on cars like the facelifted 5 Series.
Wherever you happen to stand on the lines of the new 4 Series—either thinking it lacks the conformity of decades of BMW design, or are appreciative of what’s clearly an undeniably sporty and individual look—there’s one overarching trait that seems universal, and that is the car’s presence. From any angle, the new 4 Series demands attention, and this relates directly to the marketing adage mentioned above. People haven’t stopped talking about the forthcoming Four since the concept was revealed, and we’re wondering if that might just translate to some being enticed to put one in their garage. Whether it’s a desire to be different or a genuine appreciation of the design, this might just be one of those things that initially shocks, and then slowly wears off to become, dare we say, normal.
As we move further back, the rear of the 4 Series Coupe offers a sense of familiarity. Once again, we see plenty of 8 Series, with lighting and the rear diffusor being among the most preferable individual elements. The trapezoidal exhaust openings aren’t bad either, but it’s hard to prefer them over the quad round tips found on M cars. Wide hips are drawn in to meet rear end rather abruptly, but it seems to lend itself to the aggressive attitude that appears present at every angle upon further examination. The one major issue some might find with the act section of the car are the vents, which are said to mimic the look of the Air Curtains on the front bumper—on the rear end however, they don’t actually serve a functional purpose.
As expected, the cabin is almost all 3 Series. There are subtle changes here and there, but because the 4 Series started life as a replacement for the 3 Series coupe, the continuity of design and shared parts is by no means surprising. Like the 3 Series, the 4 Series will be available with a strong representation of BMW’s current technology suite, like a digital gauge cluster and large iDrive display screen.
Speaking about the 3 Series leads us to the inevitable comparison, something BMW addressed early in its press release:
“Compared to the 3 Series Sedan, the new 4 Series Coupe (using 330i and 430i for comparison) is 2.2 inches longer, 1.0 inch wider, 2.2 inches lower and with a 1.0 inch wider rear track while sharing the same wheelbase.
Compared to the previous generation 4 Series Coupe, the new 4 Series is 5.2 inches longer, 1.0 inch wider, 0.4 inches taller and features a 1.6 inch longer wheelbase and 1.4 inch wider front and 1.2 inch wider rear tracks.”
Yes, the 4 Series has grown in nearly every dimension over its predecessor, which boasted the distinct advantage of being a good bit lower than its F30 3 Series stablemate, but there’s a silver lining. The new Four is now slipperier than ever, with the drag coefficient dropping from 0.29 to just 0.25 for the 430i.
This entire time, we’ve been looking at photos of the M440i (which hits 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.3 seconds according to BMW), that wears M aero bumpers and a few other distinct treatments. The model lineup will also include the B48-powered 430i, which will be available without the M sport bumpers, big wheels, and contrasting mirror caps, to name a few things. Here’s a comparison photo below, in which the 430i’s front end offers a markedly different view of the kidney grille. One thing some might find preferable about the 430i (and 330i) is the use of round exhaust tailpipe finishers, as opposed to the design which sees different shapes integrated with the rear bumper.
The new BMW 4 Series will use the corporate engine lineup including the B58 six-cylinder in the M440i and the B48 four-cylinder in the 430i. However, like the G30 5 Series LCI, all models of the upcoming Four will also have a 48-volt mild-hybrid system with an electric motor joined with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
Is BMW in uncharted territory with the front end and kidney grille design used on production cars like the new 4 Series, and concepts like the i4 and iNext? We don’t think so. The company started with narrow, vertical kidney grilles, and is giving the look another shot. Regardless of how you feel about it, there is some precedent here, and for better or worse, it’s started a lot of conversations, not just among BMW enthusiasts, but within the larger auto market as a whole. Will it translate to sales? At this point, that’s anyone’s guess, but there’s little question that the performance of the 382-horsepower M440i will speak for itself, and the presence of the new 4 Series Coupe effortlessly outdoes that of its competitors.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Bring a Trailer Media LLC.]