BMW’s sassy coupe
CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer
Since the iconic BMW 2002 evolved into the 3-Series nearly 40 years ago, the little coupe has been the sassy prince of the Munich-based dynasty. Small, sporty, refined and with just the right amount of attitude, the 3-Series coupe was the car you would enjoy thrashing wide-open on the Autobahn or precisely slicing up narrow ribbons of dragon asphalt. To set itself apart from 3-Series sedans, and to follow the naming logic of larger BMW coupes, the coupe flips its main digit to become the 4-Series.
It has a much more aggressive stance, taking on the muscular brawniness of the bigger M6 but with more finessed bodylines. A wider and longer wheelbase underlie initial impressions. Short overhangs, 18-in. M Sport alloys, deep bodyside lines, Hofmeister kink in the rear windowline and a wider version of BMW’s iconic double-kidney grille make it clear who built this fab coupe. The sweet way the hood edge slices above the headlamps and brake calipers with blue M logo whip the cake.
Slip your loafer into the base twin-turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine to kick out 240 horsepower — routed to the ground through an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. Paddle shifters allow drivers to get the most out of the direct-injected engine. Gathering digits, the coupe thrusts from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. If that doesn’t juice you, opt for the 300 horsepower 3.0-liter turbo-six. Just don’t expect to match the 4-cylinder’s 22/33-MPG city/hwy.
To command all of that majesty, you’ll have to slip your digit into the tight little cabin. As in most BMWs, the interior is a balance of serious driving environment and upscale luxury. I snuggled into our test car’s comfy heated sport seats with lower cushion extensions, curled all my digits around the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and gazed at the alloy dash trim. Big analog gauges, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic climate control make the car easy to drive. The presenter arm for the seatbelt is a bit much and entrance to the rear seats is best left to elves. Fortunately, the trunk is pretty large.
When put to pavement, the 4-Series raises fleshy flags to most competitors. The solid structure lets the stiff four-wheel independent suspension to seemingly feel the road by the inch and never feels bothered — especially with uber-grippy AWD managing power. BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control with Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes modulate the throttle, steering, and suspension for vastly different personalities. Eco mode makes the throttle less sensitive to conserve fuel. Comfort balances handling with on-road relaxation. Sport mode tightens everything — the best choice for tearing up backroads.
It’s not perfect. The blue (or optionally red) trim around the aluminum sheets on the dash looks garish. Getting comfortable can be a challenge as the instrument cluster and steering wheel seem high relative to the seating position. Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to pair a smartphone or use the iDrive infotainment system. Bitch is complicated!
BMW earned its reputation for building “Ultimate Driving Machines” with the 2002, 3-Series, and now, the 4-Series. All of these cars offer an exquisite driving experience, reasonable utility, and the satisfaction of knowing your neighbors will be envious. BMW’s idea of ergonomics is questionable, but if driving is believing, the 428i is the ultimate. Let journalists complain. Just flip them your bigger digit, stomp the throttle, and feed them green dust.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 12, 2014