A few weeks ago, our own David Rose chronicled his experience with the new 4 Series coupe. While much of the automotive community was obsessing over its divisive styling, a form of which has since debuted on the upcoming M3 and M4, automotive journalists were busy putting the new Four through its paces in the gamut of reviews and first drives. Although the 4 Series has remained distinctly varied from the 3 Series when it arrived nearly seven years ago, those who’ve had a chance to get behind the wheel of the new G22 chassis found that, depending on engine choice, the new generation offers two highly contrasting driving experiences.
Something has happened to the BMW lineup over the past few years. In the past, when you wanted a model you could toss around in the corners, the choice was easy in that the 3 Series was the default. But as with every model that’s remained in production longer than a few generations, pricing and dimensions have inevitably grown. Although it remains an exceptional drive, the 3 Series of today is expanded in terms of footprint so that it takes up nearly the same space as an E39 5 Series from twenty years ago.
Of course, if you want a small, tossable coupe, there’s still the 2 Series, but the particular F22 has been in production since 2013, and has grown long in the tooth as it approaches a generational refresh. This is where the 4 Series comes into play, depending on whether or not you choose to specify it with a four- or six-cylinder power plant.
There’s no denying the 4 Series resembles a scaled-down 8 Series, with a distinct side profile and a rear three-quarter angle which illustrates the undeniable lineage. And if you’re wanting a practical grand touring car with one of BMW’s best engines, the M440i is the clear choice.
It’s tough to say what BMW specializes in. The company makes a great roadster, helped usher in the sport sedan, has a cult following in the two-wheeled world of motorcycles, and also builds some of the most luxurious vehicles on earth between the 7 Series and the Rolls-Royce brand. Offering an exceptional ground tourer isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but from the 2000CS and E9 generation forward, BMW has consistently offered a vehicle that’s designed to cover miles by the continent.
The B58B30O1 turbocharged inline six-cylinder of the M440i is the most powerful variant of the B58, and develops 382 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 to 4,500. When coupled with xDrive, that’s enough to push the M440i from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds—on pace with the G20 M340i, and the outgoing F80 M3 and F82 M3. Rather interestingly, the M440i and the M340i both come standard with xDrive, while the M440i convertible can be had in rear-drive form.
But what if you appreciate the presence and class of the 4 Series, yet want something a bit more willing to let its hair down on a twisted road? After all, opting for the six-cylinder G22 translates to 53.8% of the vehicles weight hanging over the front axle. For the plain-Jane 430i, which can be ordered without xDrive, weight distribution is 51.8% / 48.3% front to rear respectively, while the drag coefficient is also 0.25 compared with 0.30 for the M440i.
One wouldn’t expect those numbers to translate to a big different in terms of driving experience. After all, the six-cylinder M440i is blisteringly fast, while the B48-powered 430i makes due with 255 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque from 1,550 to 4,400. BMW assigns the four-cylinder 430i a zero-to-60 time of 5.5 seconds; adding xDrive drops the figure to 5.3 seconds, but adds 130 pounds to the 3,578-pound curb weight—the M440i weighs a hair below 4,000 pounds.
Nevertheless, a few who’ve actually driven the new Four can attest to the dichotomy between the model variants. The focus has understandably been on the potent M440i, but when the 430i or other four-cylinder-powered models are given a fair shake, they’ve demonstrated themselves to be sharp and competent—which shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise, given BMW’s history with chassis tuning. This video review of a base-model 420i shot over in the U.K. seems to get straight to the point: Balanced, capable, fun, engaging, confidence inspiring, well-equipped, and comfortable over long distances. What’s not to like?—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]