by Ian Wright
Despite only being two generations deep, the BMW 4 Series is now solidifying its split from being the two-door version of the 3 Series sedan. Its reputation as a premium compact coupe with a driver's edge is well deserved, and now the new 4 Series is longer and wider than before. Its range of engines has also grown in power, with the base 2.0-liter turbo-four cylinder engine making 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. In comparison, the top-of-the-range turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six takes advantage of a mild-hybrid system to generate 382 hp and 369 lb-ft, while the choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive is limited depending on your powertrain choice. Inside is a typical BMW, uncluttered, pleasant and equipped with the brand's excellent iDrive infotainment system. The new 4 Series comes with plenty of standard features, but just as importantly, it's even more refined as a driver's car and as fun to launch down a winding road as it is relaxing on a daily commute. Now more than ever, the Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupes have their work cut out for them.
Now in its second generation, the 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe arrives as an all-new model. The coupe has been fully redesigned with a fresh - and controversial - exterior, while the cabin is thoroughly modernized and shares much in common with the latest 3 Series. It's quite a bit bigger than the coupe it replaces; length has increased by over five inches, for instance. Inside, the quality has gone up and there is more tech, such as an available 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. As before, there is a choice of a 2.0-liter turbo-four and a more powerful 3.0-liter inline-six, also with turbocharging. It's more powerful than before, however, with the latter power plant now producing 382 horsepower while being equipped with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. A more rigid body than before contributes to even sharper handling. Thankfully, the base 430i remains available with rear-wheel drive.
See trim levels and configurations:
Much has been said about the new 4 Series' grille in prior reviews of its styling upgrade, so we won't go into too much detail here other than to say that it remains enormous but works far better if you choose a darker paint color. The latest 4 Series is bigger than the car it replaces, and visibly so. The new headlights and taillights are smartly styled and create an impression of width, while the doors are considerably long. The side profile is a bit underwhelming, and while BMW may claim it's still present, there's no longer a Hofmeister kink present. It's a more aerodynamic vehicle, though, with a drag coefficient of just 0.25. The 430i comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, Shadowline exterior trim, power-folding mirrors, a power moonroof, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and adaptive brake lights. The M440i has more aggressive body styling such as larger dual-exit exhaust outlets.
In all key dimensions, the 2021 BMW 4 Series has grown relative to its predecessor. It's an inch wider, 0.4 inches taller, and a notable 5.2 inches longer. The entry-level model measures 187.9 inches in length, 72.9 inches in width, and 54.6 inches in height. As for the wheelbase, it extends to 112.2 inches. The 430i xDrive shares these dimensions but is marginally taller at 54.8 inches, which is the same height as the M440i. However, the latter model is the longest variant with a length of 188 inches. The curb weight begins at 3,578 pounds for the 430i, increasing to 3,708 for the 430i xDrive and 3,977 lbs for the M440i xDrive.
Starting with the entry-level 430i allows you access to two no-cost colors: Alpine White and Jet Black. Following this are seven metallics, each of which goes for $550. These are Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Sunset Orange, Bluestone, Portimao Blue, San Remo Green, and Arctic Race Blue. However, Portimao Blue requires that you spec the M Sport package at $3,800. The M440i doesn't offer Jet Black, Sunset Orange, and Bluestone, but gets exclusive shades like Dravit Grey metallic ($1,950) and Tanzanite Blue II metallic ($1,950). As the M Sport package is already equipped as standard to the M440i, Portimao Blue won't cost more than $550 on this model. In general, the new 4 Series looks better in darker colors which fulfill the dual purpose of making the grille and the body as a whole look smaller and sleeker.
Two engines service the new 4 Series and both do a great job of hustling the coupe around with vigor. The base 430i produces 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from its turbo-four. It's the only version to be exclusively rear-wheel-driven and can reach 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. The 430i xDrive with the same engine powers all four wheels and is slightly quicker, hitting 60 in 5.3 seconds. Although both refined and flexible, the 430i twins can't match the M440i xDrive which generates 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers represent a palpable improvement over last year's 440i, which managed 320 hp and 330 lb-ft. The new M440i doesn't disappoint away from the traffic lights, launching itself from 0 to 60 in only 4.3 seconds on to a top speed of 130 mph or 155 mph if equipped with performance tires. That 0-60 time is now a tenth of a second quicker than the Audi S5 Coupe. Combined with the quick steering responses of the 4 Series, our test drive revealed this to be a genuinely fun coupe to drive quickly.
BMW continues with what are fundamentally the same two power plants as before, but with a few upgrades and improved outputs. Both the 430i and 430i xDrive use an updated B46 2.0-liter four-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged engine with outputs of 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. If you can stretch to the M440i xDrive, you won't regret it. The B58 3.0-liter six-cylinder TwinPower turbo engine makes 382 hp and 369 lb-ft - that's a full 62 hp more than last year's model. This model also gets a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can recuperate energy during, for example, deceleration. This system improves efficiency and also enhances the functioning of the auto stop/start system. All configurations of the 4 Series make use of a super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
While not as powerful, BMW's four-cylinder engines still delight with their smoothness and responsiveness. However, driving enthusiasts will want to step up to the straight-six, which is still BMW's sweet spot when it comes to power plants. The smaller mill overachieves and is rewarding, but the six-cylinder lump does pack a silky punch, particularly with the 48-volt hybrid system smoothing things out even further, which demands its premium pricing.
BMW's refreshment of the suspension and steering system has made the 4 Series an even sportier drive, but it's still as smooth and compliant on city streets and freeways as ever. On a winding road, its handling is bolstered by a wider track at the rear and a lower center of gravity. The result is that the 4 Series doesn't rely solely on its engine to deliver the zest a coupe should on a back road, particularly with sport mode engaged in sharpening up responses. There's no question it's the most rewarding car to drive in its class, despite the curious lack of feel in the steering.
In day-to-day driving, the 4 Series is a relaxing drive with compliant suspension but can change its demeanor in a moment to deal with getting into gaps in traffic or joining fast-moving freeways. We would go further, though, and say the 4 Series works as an excellent grand tourer with its athletic yet comfortable ride over long distances. It's not a visceral experience, but as far as Jacks of all trades go, there's not much the 4 Series isn't adept at.
In rear-wheel-drive guise, the 430i has the edge over its natural competitors. This model can achieve an EPA-rated 26/34/29 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. By comparison, both the four-cylinder derivatives of the Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe can only manage a best overall figure of 27 mpg. With the heavier xDrive system, the 430i's numbers drop to 24/33/27 mpg. As expected, the more powerful M440i xDrive isn't quite as efficient, returning 22/31/25 mpg, and that depends on how much you use its full performance capability. Once again, though, the equivalent Audi can't match it, as the S5 Coupe's gas mileage estimates work out to 20/28/23 mpg. Equipped with a 15.6-gallon gas tank, the 430i RWD has a combined cruising range of around 452 miles.
Throughout all its years on sale, the previous 4 Series delivered strongly on the driving dynamics front. However, its interior had begun to age. Unlike the dramatic exterior, the 2021 BMW 4 Series has a cabin design that is a model of restraint, while feeling plusher than the old car's innards. Clean lines and a high-tech feel combine to create a pleasing ambiance, although perhaps more differentiation from the 3 Series would have been welcomed. What can't be disputed is the quality; dense, soft-touch plastics and solid switchgear are the order of the day. Surprisingly, not even the M440i gets a fully digital instrument cluster, which has to be optioned. Instead, there is a rather plain-looking analog cluster with a 5.1-inch display between the main dials. The 4 Series is otherwise decently equipped, with the 430i getting 10-way power front seats, automatic climate control, a two-way power glass moonroof, active blind-spot detection, and lane departure warning.
Buying a two-door coupe generally means you don't plan on using the back seats often, but if you do, the 4 Series will comfortably fit two in the back. The rear legroom is a decent 34.5 inches, which is just seven-tenths of an inch less than the 3 Series sedan. The back seats are not an afterthought, either, and are comfortable, but with only 35.2 inches of headroom, other German coupes provide more space in this regard. It's one of the few sporty coupes that can comfortably take the same size of people in the back as the front. It also gives the 4 Series a practical justification over the 2 Series for those that expect to carry passengers.
In the front of the 4 Series, the driving position is low and easy to get just right through the seat's 10-way power adjustability. Visibility is excellent out the front despite being sat low, and the only awkward spot to see clearly is, predictably, over your right shoulder.
The base version comes with Sensatec upholstery in either Black or Canberra Beige. For a classier environment, customers can choose Vernasca leather for $1,450, an option that automatically requires upgrading to ambient lighting for another $250. With the Vernasca leather, the color palette expands to include Canberra Beige/Black, Tacora Red, Black, Mocha, Oyster, and Cognac. All of these options include contrast stitching. Black Vernasca leather with blue contrast stitching is also on offer at $1,450, although it can only be paired with the $3,800 M Sport package.
The M440i also ships with default Sensatic-covered seats, but only in Black. It then offers the same Vernasca leather upgrade. On the 430i variants, Open Pore Fine Wood Oak Grain trim and an Anthracite headliner are standard, while the M440i instead features aluminum Tetragon interior trim. This model additionally has a Sensatec-covered dashboard. There are numerous other trim choices in the range such as mesh-effect aluminum and high gloss Fine Wood Ash in Grey/Brown. A leather-wrapped steering wheel features on all iterations.
The 4 Series Coupe's trunk is a decent size at 12 cubic feet. However, as noted in last year's BMW 4 Series review, the previous model actually had a bigger trunk. That's despite the fact that the new 4 Series has grown in size, but actually pertains to a change in BMW's measurement system for the US market. Still, it's a bigger trunk than the 10.9 cubes you'll find in the back of the Audi A5 Coupe. The BMW's trunk is a usefully square shape, so it's not too much of an effort to load large suitcases. If that's not enough, the rear seats can be folded down to increase storage space if you need to.
Interior storage space is fair, with two covered cupholders ahead of the shift lever. On the downside, when the wireless charging pad is equipped, it's difficult to reach your mobile phone when the cupholders are in use. The center console storage compartment is a good size, as are the door pockets, but the glove box is rather small. At the back, a center fold-down armrest houses two more cupholders, plus there are some smaller bins on each side.
As standard, the 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe comes with 10-way power-adjustable front seats including two-way power side bolsters and a memory system for the driver. You'll need to cough up another 500 bucks for heated front seats, though. Among the other highlights in the cabin are automatic climate control, an auto-dimming function for the driver's side exterior mirror and the interior rearview mirror, a two-way power glass moonroof, a 5.1-inch driver information display, and a universal garage door opener. The safety spec boasts dynamic cruise control, automatic high beams, active blind-spot detection, and a rearview camera. Opting for the M440i introduces comfort access keyless entry and an M Sport differential. The options list is lengthy and includes a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, parking assistance, remote engine start, ventilated front seats, and wireless charging.
The 4 Series standard infotainment system consists of an 8.8-inch center touchscreen and BMW's iDrive system controlling access to navigation, wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio (12 months free). Also standard is a 205 watt, 10-speaker audio system and two USB ports. A 10.25-inch center screen and a fully digital 12.3-inch gauge cluster are optional, as is a 16-speaker, 600-watt Harman Kardon sound system for $875.
Whether using the standard or larger screen, BMW's iDrive system is one of the best available. It's as intuitive to control as the interface is to navigate; and hard to fault.
The outgoing BMW 4 Series Coupe had a strong J.D. Power quality and reliability rating of 81 out of 100. In another year or so, we'll be able to gauge whether the 2021 model can improve on this. To date, the 2021 4 Series has been the subject of two recalls, one for a side curtain airbag that may not deploy correctly, and another for a malfunctioning rearview camera display that affected nearly the entire BMW product lineup.
BMW's competitive warranty is in place to cover you if anything goes awry. The 4 Series gets a standard four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, four years of roadside assistance, and 12 years of coverage for rust perforation regardless of mileage covered. The coupe also enjoys three years or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance.
Both the IIHS and the NHTSA have not yet put the new 4 Series through its paces, so for now, the BMW does without an official safety rating.
Although missing one or two driver-assist technologies as standard, the new 4 Series is well-equipped with numerous active and passive safety systems. All models boast dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control, dynamic cruise control, a rearview camera, and tire-pressure monitoring. A total of eight airbags includes knee airbags for both front occupants and a head protection system for all outboard occupants. Along with all of this, the BMW comes with forward collision warning, automatic city collision mitigation and braking, active blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, post-crash braking, and a fatigue/focus alert function. The options list is extensive, with several standalone or package upgrades that can add safety gear like adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, parking assistance, front/rear parking sensors, a traffic jam assistant, and a surround-view camera system with 3D view.
If you're looking for the best premium coupe in terms of driving dynamics, the 4 Series is still the best option on the block. It's also the best sporty coupe for carrying two passengers in the back thanks to several inches more legroom than most rivals, so if those are the two boxes you want to be ticked, the 4 Series is a no-brainer. Overall, rivals may challenge the 4 Series in individual aspects, such as the Mercedes C-Class Coupe in interior opulence, but the 4 Series is the best and most complete package in its class.
Unfortunately, we have to discuss styling and the big kidney grills. It's subjective, but driving one for a week, we found the styling grew on us in the metal. We also got unsolicited compliments, leading us to wonder if it's a loud minority bagging on the bold new front end. If you like it, we say go with it.
The most affordable model is the RWD 430i that has a starting MSRP in the US of $45,600. Next in line is the mid-range 430i xDrive with a base price of $47,600 and, finally, the M440i xDrive at $58,500. These prices don't include BMW's destination charge of $995. In the USA, the 2021 Audi A5 Coupe begins at a more affordable $44,000, although there are more trims on offer which can raise the price to above that of the 4 Series.
The 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe is offered in three trims: 430i, 430i xDrive, and M440i xDrive. Only the 430i is rear-wheel drive, while the remaining two variants send power to all four corners. Both 430i models employ a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot with 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the M440i gets a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo with 382 hp and 369 lb-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission is fitted to all new 4 Series variants.
Starting things off is the base model, the 430i which comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding mirrors, dual-exit tailpipes, Shadowline exterior trim, and a power glass moonroof. Inside, standard SensaTec upholstery covers the seats, which are 10-way power-adjustable in front. An 8.8-inch central touchscreen, a 10-speaker sound system, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic climate control are all standard.
The 430i xDrive shares all the features of the 430i but is slightly quicker to 60 mph thanks to its grippy all-wheel-drive system.
Finally, the M440i not only packs in a more powerful six-pot engine but gains the aggressive M Sport package with bolder styling, 18-inch M alloy wheels, an M Sport differential, variable sport steering, M Sport brakes with blue calipers, an aerodynamic kit, and a SensaTec-trimmed dashboard. Additionally, this model makes do with added convenience in the form of the Comfort Access keyless entry system.
Few BMWs leave the showroom without any options, so it's worth exploring what's on offer for the new 4 Series. For the 430i, the M Sport package - standard on the M440i - costs $3,800 and adds 19-inch M double-spoke alloy wheels, an M steering wheel, variable steering, M Sport suspension, and unique access to certain colors and trim options. For $900, the Convenience package introduces keyless entry, ambient lighting, and lumbar support. The $3,200 Premium package adds all of this plus a head-up display, a fully digital instrument cluster, and heated front seats. The $4,400 Executive package adds to these features with gesture control plus Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight. Adaptive cruise control and an extended traffic jam assistant are both included in the Driving Assistance Professional package at $1,700.
Standalone options that look worthwhile include remote engine start ($300), heated front seats ($500), wireless charging with a Wi-Fi hot spot ($500), and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system ($875).
Unique to the M440i is the Cooling and High Performance Tire package at $1,500. It includes an enhanced cooling fan, an extra engine oil cooler, bigger wheels with high-performance tires, and an adaptive M suspension. One of our frustrations is that heated seats aren't available individually and are part of the overtly expensive Executive package.
The obvious choice for enthusiasts is the M440i with its sweet six-cylinder engine, particularly as it won't be around forever. Those wanting a more old-school BMW experience should resist shying away from it for not being available in rear-wheel-drive as the dynamics are truly excellent. If you're leaning toward that, you may as well go for the Cooling and High Performance Package, although we're on the fence if the adaptive M suspension is a worthwhile upgrade.
We lean towards the 430i, though, and would only opt for the xDrive version if we expect winters full of slippery roads. The M Sport Package is more than just aesthetic, adding better tires, M Sport suspension, and variable sport steering, but we don't think it's absolutely necessary and would instead add the Convenience Package, remote engine start, wireless charging, and the excellent 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system as options.
The latest Audi A5 Coupe isn't as new as the 4 Series, but following a significant refresh in 2020, it remains one of the most appealing two-door premium coupes. Like the BMW, the Audi blends strong performance, acceptable efficiency, solid dynamics, and a premium cabin. They differ in character, though, with the softer A5 being more comfortable across a range of varying surfaces, but the 4 Series coming across as the sharper tool for the enthusiastic driver. The base 430i also offers sporty rear-wheel-drive dynamics, whereas every A5 gets AWD whether you want it or not. The BMW's engines are more efficient while providing comparable acceleration. Neither coupe is especially spacious at the back, with the 4 Series providing more legroom but the A5 winning in terms of headroom. The Audi will suit a more laid-back customer, while the shoutier BMW will appeal to keen drivers.
Is the new M4 worth the much higher price over the regular 4 Series? To make this somewhat of a closer comparison, we'll compare the M4 with the next most powerful 4 Series Coupe, the M440i. On paper, it's a tough start for the base RWD M4. It costs $13,300 more than the M440i but is only two-tenths quicker to 60 mph. Then again, the M4 does come with all three things that really matter to BMW enthusiasts: rear-wheel drive, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a six-cylinder engine in front. The M4 Competition is even quicker, hitting 60 in just 3.8 seconds. With its carbon-fiber roof, performance tires, and adaptive M suspension, the M4 is a true M car and will be the more absorbing car to drive. Inside, you also get tasty upgrades like 14-way power M sport seats. We'd go for the M4, although we'd always be wary of an M440i driver with quick reflexes.
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