The 4 Series. I agree, it sounds a bit odd but, unlike other new Series cars from BMW this one is more about marketing and less about a completely new segment.
The new badge sits on the bootlid of what traditionally would have been known as the 3 Series Coupé, but this time around the Germans felt that some differentiation was in order. The new Four, in the eyes of its maker, is now distinct enough to warrant its own slot in the manufacturer’s line-up. The move also plays to the tradition of BMW’s larger 6 and 8 Series coupé ranges, which carry their own identities.
At its world launch in Portugal last week we were told that the new 4 Series was “designed to be driven”, and drive it we did - through narrow mountain passes, little villages, and even on the famous Estoril race track - a former Formula One and current MotoGP facility).
TAR VACUUM CLEANERS
BMW’s latest mid-sized coupé is longer, lower and wider than the 3 Series Coupé it replaces, and sports not only the best centre of gravity of anything currently being Made in Munich, but also matches the current M3 in terms of lift coefficient (thatbasically means they’re on par as tar vacuum cleaners).
The coupé silhouette includes short overhangs and a long bonnet, a set-back passenger compartment, and quite a sexy roofline complemented by frameless doors and a sharply-angled rear windscreen.
But the nose is where the Four’s design magic really happens, with its suave forward-slanting kidney grille and headlights, large air intakes, and Air Curtain and Air Breather design tech - which help with drag and brake cooling around the front wheels.
The 4 Series has that hunkered-down look going for it, helped by a wide track and athletic rear haunches.
The back is probably the most 3 Series-like, and even with that rear wing I think more could have been penned here.
Under the skin BMW says it’s improved steering accuracy and handling - with body stiffness 60 percent better and weight 25kg lighter, and that hallmark BMW 50/50 weight distribution.
The chassis may be 3 Series-based, but various mechanicals including stiffer springs and dampers, stiffer control arms, wider mounts and supports, and even a new torsion brace are 4 Series specific.
A SENSE OF PRESENCE
There aren’t any surprises under the bonnet; the force-fed engine range pretty much mirrors that of the current 3 Series range.
South African buyers will get the 435i (225kW/400Nm) and 428i (180kW/350Nm) in October this year after the car’s unveiling at the Johannesburg International Motor Show, followed by the 420i (135kW/270Nm) in February and the 420d (135kW/380Nm) in June. Six-speed manual transmissions are standard across the range with eight-speed auto an option.
Driving Beemer’s new baby you immediately get a sense of wideness and presence from the car. The 4 Series commands most of a lane, and so it should with an 80mm wider rear track than its predecessor (11mm more than the current sedan), and the widest part of the body those pronounced rear-wheel arches.
Power delivery in the 435i we drove was similar to that of the 335i, but the Four gets two Eco-Pro segment premieres in the shape of a coasting function (which can decouple the powertrain between 50 and 160km/h) and a proactive driving assistant (which will render efficiency tips).
The track time gave us more of an insight into this premium coupé’s DNA. The 435i can best be described as a stealth bomber, an introvert until really provoked. Estoril is quite a technical track, with an unforgiving nature should you enter corners too hot or blur your racing line.
The rear-wheel drive range-topper felt balanced, and if anything was deceptive in the way it gathered steam between apexes. Bruising the odd apex didn’t seem to unsettle that revised suspension much either.
Switching to Sport modes sharpened and hardened the engine and gearbox responses up nicely; the electric power steering felt precise when manhandled and the vented discs kept me out of the kitty litter – sometimes only just. Get rid of the nannies completely in Sport+ and the 435i will happily hang its tail out or call in the services of the electronic rear LSD.
There are some cool go-faster options on offer too. Look out for the M Sport package with stiffer suspension and brakes with aluminium fixed callipers. Or wait for the angrier 435i M Performance version, which will include 25 more kilowatts and a mechanical limited-slip differential among a host of serious visual weaponry . And to answer your next question, it looks like the M3 sedan will precede the M4 coupé, with a concept unveiling confirmed for the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. - Star Motoring
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