by Jared Rosenholtz
For most of its existence, the BMW 3 Series was available as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible. Then in 2013, BMW decided that the two-door coupe and convertible models of the 3 Series should be spun off into their own model lineup called the 4 Series. Now entering its second-generation, the 2021 BMW 4 Series has just been announced after a long lead-up filled with spy shots, teasers, and leaks.
As expected, the 4 Series shares much in common with its four-door counterpart, the 3 Series. But BMW is quick to point out that the new 4er is more than just a 3 Series with two doors cut off. It features completely different styling, some unique changes under the hood, suspension modifications, and most noticeably, a massive kidney grille.
Fans or detractors of this new 4 Series will undoubtedly live or die by its massive new kidney grille. BMW says the larger grille opening serves a purpose to cool its new, more powerful engines but we imagine the design will be polarizing regardless. As for the rest of the car's dimensions, it measures 2.2 inches longer, 1.0 inch wider, and 2.2 inches lower than the 3 Series even though the two share a wheelbase. These measurements form a sleek coupe design with an improved drag coefficient of 0.25.
The slim LED headlights with cornering lights look different than any other BMW model and pair well with the three-dimensional mesh front grille. We think the 4 Series looks best in its side profile, where a minimalist design with frameless windows, aggressive fenders, and the famous Hofmeister-kink work in concert to create an attractive flow. Around back, the 4 Series remains fairly simple, leaving the front end as the only polarizing styling element.
The exterior of the 4 Series may look radically different than its sedan counterpart but on the inside, the two look nearly identical. All of the switchgear remains the same, as do the steering wheel, shifter, iDrive system, and infotainment/gauge cluster screens. An 8.8-inch center touchscreen and a 5.1-inch color gauge display come standard but a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen and a fully digital 12.3 gauge cluster are optional. BMW has also added wireless compatibility for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Unlike the 3 Series though, the 4 Series includes sport seats and a sport steering wheel as standard equipment. Every light in the cabin is LED and buyers can opt for an ambient lighting package with adjustable color options across the instrument and door panels.
A fast M4 model is forthcoming but for now, the 4 Series will be available with two different engine options. The base 430i model is powered by a familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 255 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque going out through an eight-speed automatic transmission. With rear-wheel-drive, the 430i can hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and this number drops to 5.3 seconds with xDrive all-wheel-drive.
Those who need more speed should opt for the M440i xDrive, which is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six sending 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. With AWD as the only option, the M440i takes just 4.3 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph. The B58 engine in the M440i is familiar but like the facelifted 5 Series, it now features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to boost performance and aid the stop/start system.
Opting for a two-door coupe instead of a sedan or crossover obviously comes with practicality compromises. The 4 Series can only seat four people (whereas the 3 Series can squeeze a 5th) and getting into the rear seat obviously requires moving the front seats forward. Those who need more doors but still enjoy the 4 Series styling should wait for the Gran Coupe model. Once you do hop into those rear seats, you will find 34.5 inches of legroom and 35.2 inches of headroom (compared to 35.2 inches and 37.6 inches in the 3 Series).
As for the trunk, it is also noticeably smaller than the 3 Series (17 cubic feet) with just 12 cubic feet of storage. BMW does allow you to fold down the rear seats though, opening a surprising amount of space for a compact coupe. Fuel economy has not been rated yet but we expect the 430i to be close to the 330i's ratings of 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined. The M440i should be slightly more efficient than the M340i, rated at 22/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined, due to the new 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
As with the previous model, the 2021 BMW 4 Series will cost more than the 3 Series and compete directly with other two-door coupe models from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Pricing for the BMW 430i starts at $45,600 while the 430i xDrive costs $47,600 plus a $995 Destination fee. These numbers are about $5,000 more than the equivalent 3 Series, around $2,000 more than the Audi A5, and around $300 less than the Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe.
The more powerful M440i xDrive model starts at $58,500, which is almost $7,000 more than the Audi S5 but the exact same price as the Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC. In the two-door coupe market, the purchasing decision will come down to the styling, interior design, and driving dynamics. We expect the 4 Series to feel more nimble than the Audi A5/S5 but slightly less luxurious than the C-Class. It won't struggle to find buyers but with coupe sales dwindling, it will likely be a niche model in BMW's lineup.