2014 BMW 4 Series first drive
Three gives way to four
Photo: Francis Brière
Estoril, Portugal – Choosing a name for a car is serious business, but there’s no one right way to do it. Some brands prefer to use elegant sounding names like Continental, or Legend. Others, prefer a string of letters – CTS, RLX – while others prefer a blend of letters and numbers – M37s, 335i. As you’d expect, there’s little consistency between brands. At one point in time, a BMW 330i meant you had a 3 Series with a 3.0-litre fuel injected engine. Its veritable successor, the 328i, is a 3 Series, but its engine isn’t a 2.8-litre. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with a turbocharger that generates the equivalent power of a 2.8-litre. Try to figure it out on your own and you’re destined for a headache.
But things are changing. The latest comes in BMW’s decision to parse its lineup in terms of even and odd numbers for consistency’s sake. Odd numbers now designate sedans, wagons, and practical vehicles, with even numbers reserved for sleek and sexy convertibles, coupes, and four-doors (known as Gran Coupes). And so, the 3 Series Coupe has been reborn as the 4 Series, joining the 6 Series, i8, Z4, and the X6.
A real coupe
For something with an all-new name, the 4 Series has familiar underpinnings: the latest 3 Series platform. And while there are visual links connecting the two – the sharper edged headlamps that connect to the exposed edges of the double-kidney grille – the 4 comes across as sleeker with a sportier edge. Where previous 3 Coupes looked like two-door sedans, the 4 Series actually looks like a coupe. From the side, the profile is classic sports car: long hood, pushed-back cabin, and a short tail.
A walk around the car reveals a couple of neat touches: a vent on the outer front fenders extracts hot air from the engine bay and shapes air flow around the car, while the windows lack frames. These details, combined with the new proportions give the 4 an especially purposeful look on the road. Break out the measuring tape, and the differences are clearer still: it’s 44 mm wider at the front and 80 mm wider at the rear. It’s also 16 mm lower and 26 mm longer.
Changes to the interior are more reserved. The dashboard and infotainment system are straight from the 3 Series, but to give the 4 a unique feel, it features differently styled door panels. Quality is consistently high here – soft-touch materials throughout, with aluminum and carbon fibre accents. And, like the outgoing 3 Series Coupe, there is a power-operated arm which thoughtfully hands you your seatbelt when you hit the engine starter button.