BMW 4 Series
BMW had long considered a radical change in its model-numbers when around 6-7 years ago, it launched the 6-series as a 2 door version of its 4 door 5 series sedan.
The 4 series had long been rumored for a release but had never been confirmed until 2012, when the Munich based car-maker and major auto magazines began releasing spy-shots of the then up and coming successor to the E92/93 3 series coupe.
BMW Australia launched the F32 4 series in late October 2013 and as a BMW owner who had purchased my 3 series coupe from a major Sydney dealer (Trivett Classic), I was one of the lucky customers who was invited to try out this new beast!
As expected, a die-hard BMW enthusiast and a petrol-head like me immediately jumped to the occasion and this is what happened.
The First Few Minutes
At around 11:30 AM on October 20th, I walked into Trivett Classic BMW (The largest prestige car dealer across Greater Sydney) and headed straight for reception to confirm and await my appointment.
Most BMW dealers across the world (and Sydney dealers being no exception) look after their customers like you're at an airline's waiting lounge and I didn't expect anything else even today, but as soon as I walked in, I was greeted with a kind of a 'valet' service to park my car and offered unlimited rounds of canapes and beverages.
As I made myself comfortable on the sofas, I already noticed that a shiny black 4 series (alas the diesel variant, the 420d) was parked for people to open and see (Refer to the picture above).
As I sat inside the diesel 4 series, ignoring the engine which lay under the hood, I just couldn't believe how comfortable the black leather seats were and while one may not notice it, the 4 series is a bit bigger but lower than the 3 series and somehow, BMW's engineers at Regensberg have managed to make the cockpit more accessible for the driver in comparison with the outgoing E92 3 series coupe.Realizing that this was what I was to go by when I was about to test-drive the F32's petrol counterpart, my impatience began growing even further and I was greeted by my contact at the dealership (who also happened to be the same guy who sold me my E46 3 series M-Sport a while ago) and we prepared ourselves to check out our ride!
Upon signing my indemnity form and having my driver licence photo-copied, we headed through the side doors to check out the very beautiful and striking 428i, finished in BMW's brand new shade of blue, 'Estroil Blue', which I believe is the prettiest shade of blue BMW have applied to their 3 series coupes since the iconic Le Mans Blue available on the E46 M3.
As I planted myself in the driver seat and fiddled with the controls a bit, I just couldn't believe on how far ahead the on-board technology of the 3 series (or should I say 4 series) had leaped since the days of the E46 and E9x but amazingly, the interface (unlike the ones found on Mercedes and Volvo) is surprisingly easy to use thanks to everything being blended into BMW's i-Drive system.
After setting up my perfect driving position (the seat-memory functions being exactly the same since the 90's!), we set-off.
Now having being aware that my frame of reference on a BMW's handling was from an E38 7 Series and my own E46 3 Series 2 door-M Sport (The latter which I feel is probably still the best handling sports car BMW made in modern times), I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the new 4 series.
In general, car makers have increasingly mated more and more electronics to their machines making computers do a lot of the assisted-driving for the driver with a view to the driver being comfortable and not knackered even after an angry day on the track.
The feel on the 4 series is no different, as I was driving out of the dealership to being the test-run, the steering was so amazingly light and feather-touchy that I could practically move it to full lock with my little finger!
This car being the entry-level petrol engine variant, the 4 cylinder 428i (which on paper is just 300 cc more than my own 6 cylinder 325Ci), I wasn't really expecting too much excitement from a performance perspective - little was I prepared what was waiting for me as I stepped on the pedal ..
What I didn't know (or probably forgot) was that despite BMW's trimming down on larger engine capacities and cylinders on their modern cars, they've adopted mating their traditionally aspirated engines with in-line turbos which offer a kind of a 'boost' to engine output despite the figures looking rather frugal.
For example, the 420i diesel and 428i petrol actually come with 2 liter engines (and not a 2.8 liter engine as the model designation would suggest) but thanks to the in-line turbo on the 428i, this model (and the one I happened to be driving that day) manages to churn out at least 20 more kw of power as against the diesel (and even the 420i petrol which was confirmed after my test-drive) to appeal to the more budget-conscious buyers.
Driving the 428i was amazingly sublime! Despite the 2 liter engine, the acceleration from 0-60 kph (or 40 miles/hour) was blisteringly fast (given by standards of the relevant class of car in that segment) and thanks to the supremely light steering and very easy to use steptronic transmission (which also offers paddle-shifts behind the steering and can literally be operated by a button and gentle push up or down without actually displacing the lever), I could simply rest my elbow on the soft lumbar support and blitz past traffic on both surface streets and the nearby M4-Western Motorway while playing around with the on-board entertainment unit.
The 428i I was driving came equipped with Heads-up-display and a 10 speaker Harmon Kardon Surround system and SatNav apart from other gizmos (I'm unsure of how much of this was standard equipment and how much was optional) which delivered studio-like clarity of sound and a brilliant Sat-Nav (both which when compared to the Sat-Nav on the E46's was a mammoth leap of technology and user-friendliness). With amazing grip from its Bridgestone Potenza tires and rear-wheel drive setup, the 4 series (at least in my mind) proved once again that BMW is undoubtedly the king of the compact luxury car market and they do indeed know how to build the ultimate driving machine!
So there you have it, my little snapshot of what could possible be my next purchase after 2-3 years once the 4 series matures a little and any problems have been identified and rectified.
The 4 series coupe (as far as BMW Australia's marketing strategy goes) will be sold in 4 variants, a 420d diesel and the 420i, 428i and 435i Petrol variants (with the 435i being the only one being mated to BMW's traditional 6 cylinder/24 valve setup.
Pricing in Australia starts at roughly $75k-$85k for the diesel and will cap out at around $130k-$140k for a fully optioned 435i.
Sometime towards mid to late 2014, the coveted and long-awaited replacement for the outgoing E92/93 M3 will be revealed and released as the F82-M4 coupe (with a cabriolet expected by 2015) and the flagship will also be dropping the thirsty 4 liter V8 for an in-line tri-turbo 3 liter setup! You might have already read my review of the E92 BMW M3 and I just can't wait to see how the first ever M4 fares against its tradition and whether it would retain the crown of being the ultimate compact luxury sports coupe.
Would I actually buy a 4 series if I got the chance? Well, that's a 50-50. The main reason being that because I'm still of the 'angry E-46' mentality, I feel that current BMW's (even within the compact 3 series family) have grown a bit too big for my liking (the main reason being that BMW's been targeting its cars for the North American market where people seem to be getting bigger and bigger) and in a city like Sydney (which like many European cities including London) where roads a somewhat narrow and precise where parallel parking can be a hassle, I'd buy something that's a bit more compact.
Word's already out and BMW have confirmed that a new 2-series (which will essentially replace the 1 series coupe and convertible) will be on its way sometime in 2014 (with an M235i confirmed for 2015 to compete head to head against the Mercedes A45 AMG and CLA-45AMG) and that is what I'd be seriously considering when its time for me to upgrade :)
Please also read further about the BMW 6 Series