The updated 2016 BMW 4 Series Coupe range made its Australian premiere this week, headlined mechanically by engines that are now more efficient and more powerful.
At the same time, the Bavarian company’s Australian arm has taken an aggressive stance on its iconic two-door, slashing prices and adding a ton of equipment into the mix.
With the brand new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe now on sale, and a new generation of the Audi A5 two-door due early next year, it’s not a surprising course of action. The 4 Series Coupe is the top-seller in its class, and BMW obviously likes the status quo…
Irrespective of this, the BMW 4 Series’ point of difference goes beyond the badge and into the realm of design. Where the Benz looks stunning in an upmarket, luxurious way and the new A5 looks muscular in evolutionary fashion, the low and wide Bimmer remains an ageless and unequivocal head turner in almost any company.
First, a little background. The F32 4 Series Coupe launched in 2013 is the first model to wear the even-numbered badge, following the wheel tracks of the E21, E30, E36, E46 and E92 3 Series two-door models.
It’s also the top-selling 4 Series variant, ahead of the Gran Coupe four-door, and the folding hardtop convertible. The majority of buyers come from other brands (’conquest’ buyers), are aged between 41 and 60, and are overwhelmingly men (76 per cent).
BMW 4 Series Coupe buyers once again get the choice of four engines — not including the hardcore M4 that accounts for a staggering 31 per cent of all 4 Series Coupe sales, but which is not being updated at the same time as the rest of the range.
The 420i’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder makes an unchanged 135kW/270Nm, and hustles the car from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds. Fuel consumption has been cut to 5.8 litres per 100km on the combined-cycle, however (down from 6.1).
The 420d still sports a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine with 140kW/400Nm, a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.1sec and claimed consumption of 4.3L/100km. Despite the impressive figures, though, the sole diesel offering only accounts for 8 per cent of sales.
The big changes come higher up the range. The 430i replaces the top-selling 428i. The rejigged B48 2.0-litre turbo-four makes 185kW (up from 180kW) and 350Nm, cutting the 0-100km/h time to 5.8sec and increasing economy to 5.8L/100km (was 6.4).
The range-topping sub-M4, the 435i, makes way for the new 440i, with its reworked B58 3.0-litre turbo inline-six punching out 240kW (up 15kW) and 450Nm (up 50Nm), cutting the 0-100kmh time by one-tenth to 5.0sec dead.
All engines are matched to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, sending torque to the rear wheels. This self-shifter remains one of the best in the business, giving the drivetrain instantaneous and fuss-free response off the line, unlike your average dual-clutch, and shifting through the cogs almost as decisively and quickly as said dual-clutch at pace.
We say this with the proviso that the engine/gearbox modes are set to their Sport setting. Naturally, throttle response and the gearbox’s decision-making are changed in Comfort and Eco modes to prioritise non-performance driving — each of which is more agreeable during the daily grind.
We drove the three petrols briefly on this week’s local launch event. Nothing really to report on the 420i, other than to say it remains a sweet engine around town that leaves you wanting a little more pulling power in dynamic driving, on account of the extremely well-sorted chassis.
The 430i’s revised engine (which like the 420i sports TwinPower turbocharging, Valvetronic variable valve lifting, and a Double VANOS system that varies the camshaft timing) is a suitable mid-range engine, with a muscular 350Nm of peak torque from 1450rpm and 185kW of maximum power from 5200rpm, giving it punch across a wide rev band.
The 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.8s is slick in anyone’s language, while the gruff and sonorous engine note belies the small displacement thanks to a symposer.
The headline act is the 440i Coupe with its revised straight-six, though we’d note that the ’40i’ denomination seems to imply something with eight cylinders… or is that just us? Our time at the wheel, as ever with these quick launches, was limited, so thoughts are ditto.
Being a straight-six, crisp responses are guaranteed, as is outstanding pulling power, with peak 450Nm torque on tap between 1380 and 5000rpm. That said, is the 0.8sec faster sprint time worth the $20,000 up-spend? You’d want to be married to the classical notion of BMW sixes, and if you were, you'd note the 440i's moderate lack of aural character.
But it’s in the areas of pricing and specification where BMW Australia has really sharpened things up. The MRLP (pricing before on-road costs) of the 420i and 420d have both been cut by $2200 over the previous prices (which had, admittedly, crept up over the life cycle), to $68,900 and $71,200 respectively.
At the same time, the company has made the following extra equipment standard over the old versions of both: adaptive M suspension (adjustable dampers), a head-up display, anti-dazzle mirror, lane change warning, autonomous brakes and a surround-view camera. The total added value, factoring in the price cut, is about $8300.
The 430i is $2500 cheaper than the 428i at $79,900, and gets new features such as a M Sport Package (19-inch alloys, M design details, leather steering wheel and Dakota leather seats), keyless-go and a BMW Individual instrument panel in addition to much of what is new on the 420i. Total added value differential over the 428i: $10,500.
But the star of the show is the 440i, which is $10,000 cheaper than the 435i at $99,900, and gets $12,745 worth of extra equipment to boot, including (above the aforementioned) adaptive LED headlights, heated seats, automatic high-beam, self-parking and adaptive cruise control. Damn.
For context, the Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupe costs $65,900, and the C300 costs $83,400.
Being BMW, you can spec-up with an options list as long as your arm. Our test cars had between $4000 and $7000 of options, but you can go well beyond this. A few examples fitted to the cars we drove included premium paint ($1400, which is a little greedy) and a sunroof ($2250).
The extra equipment makes a big difference — no more so than with the addition of the adaptive dampers. The ability to soften them up around town and stiffen up the car when tackling challenging roads de-compromises the ride/handling balance nicely.
But the extra gear also spruces up the cabin, which is ergonomically sound and driver-oriented like all BMWs, but also lacks a little design pizazz. The HUD in particular really takes the edge off the austerity. The coupe comes with novel automatic seatbelt feeders for front occupants.
Rear seat space is obviously limited, but it would be feasible to carry around two kids in the back easily enough, with good legroom and the long doors making entry/egress manageable. The low roof limits headroom, but such is the price you pay for design.
As ever, the 4 Series’ handling remains excellent, with a balanced chassis and typical rear-drive alacrity, with a stability control system (in Sport Plus) that doesn’t mind you eliciting a little power oversteer. That lower centre of gravity really helps, with the coupe feeling incrementally sharper again than the already good sedan.
On our wet test roads, an Audi quattro rear-biased all-wheel-drive system may have added some surety, but the Bimmer’s Potenza rubber offered plenty of grip and we only got squirrelly over a tricky old wooden bridge.
The steering on the 420i and 430i is excellent, with plenty of sharpness on centre and ample resistance in its sportiest setting. In fact, it’s more fun (in a non- point and shoot fashion) in corners than the 440i, which is a little heavier over the nose and has BMW’s Variable Sport Steering, which adjusts the steering ratios depending on the angle of the wheel and can feel a little remote and detached.
Based on the very brief launch drive, my gut says that this tendency isn't as marked on the coupe as in the sedan, but then again there are no spec changes between the bodies. Any changes must be chalked up to different weight, centre of gravity and suspension geometry.
From an ownership perspective, the 4 Series comes with BMW Service Inclusive, which gives you five-years/80,000km of servicing, plus replacement engine oil, filters, spark plugs, and brake fluid over the tenure, for a flat payment of $1340 when you buy the car. So, it's not really that pricey to run.
As far as mid-life updates go, the 2016 BMW 4 Series Coupe is a ripper. Notwithstanding what buyers of the pre-facelift must be thinking, the superior drivetrains at the top and value improvements of between $8000 and $23,000 are pretty much impossible to ignore. The $79,900 430i is the sweet spot, in particular.
This is a range-wide launch review, so the final rating is a general finding, but keep an eye out for our subsequent individual-variant reviews when we get them through our garage soon.