A STYLISH EXECUTIVE COUPE

14 September 17 / Jonathan Crouch

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BMW 4 SERIES COUPE (2013 – 2017)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

2dr executive coupe (Petrol – 2.0 184bhp [420i] & 245bhp [428i], 6 cylinder 306bhp [435i], 6 cylinder 431 & 450bhp [M4] / Diesel – 2.0 184bhp & 190bhp [420d], 3.0 6 cylinder 262bhp [430d] or 317bhp [435d] – trim levels SE, Sport, Luxury & M Sport)

Introduction

BMW has a long track record in bringing us desirable mid-sized sporty coupes. This 4 Series Coupe model, launched in 2013, turned out to be the most stylish yet, with class-leading 3 Series handling dynamics matched to extra exclusivity, a powerful road presence and, if specified correctly, an even sharper-feeling drive. Potentially, it’s everything you’d want in a car of this kind.

The History

Launched in 2013, the 4 Series Coupe, in contrast to its 3 Series Coupe predecessor, was intended to be far more of a stand-alone model. Even though under the skin, it still shared pretty much everything that made its less stylish but more practical showroom stablemate, the ‘F30’ generation 3 Series saloon, such a brilliant car. BMW launched this model to better target the threat posed by Coupe versions of Audi’s A5 and Mercedes’ C-Class. A Convertible version was launched in 2014 and a five-door Gran Coupe 4 Series model followed a year later. BMW upgraded the petrol engine line-up in 2016, then facelifted the range in the Spring of 2017. It’s the pre-facelift Coupe model we’re going to look at here as a used car buy.

What To Look For

Most of the 4 Series Coupe buyers in our ownership survey were very happy with their cars but inevitably, there were a few that had issues. One owner had to replace a catalytic converter, an exhaust pipe and an auxiliary radiator, while on another, the air tube on the turbo broke. Elsewhere in our survey, there were problems with water pump thermostats and rear indicator bulbs. On one car, the front camera tended to fail in high climate temperatures or when sunlight directly shone on it. Niggly problems included a failure of the trunk release, the remote entry system and the front passenger’s electric seat. There are also issues with the surfaces of the alloy wheels pitting: check the rims carefully on the car you’re looking at.

On The Road

Dynamically, the Munich engineers would have struggled to go too far wrong with any car based on underpinnings as good as those of the E30 sixth generation 3 Series saloon, a design seemingly forever unchallenged as the dynamic model of choice in its segment. So let’s remind you of the basic winning formula here: front engine, rear wheel drive and near perfect 50:50 weight distribution, further aided here by a low-slung stance that gives this 4 Series the lowest centre of gravity of any BMW from this era.

It helps that feedback from the tactile, pleasantly chunky three-spoke sports steering wheel is far better than you fear an electric steering system might offer, complementing corner turn-in aided by the fact that the front end of this car is fully 60% stiffer than that of its 3 Series Coupe predecessor. So it impresses at first acquaintance, but it's also the sort of car that has more to give the more you ask of it. Just how much more depends upon a number of factors, the first of which is your selection of modes from the standard Drive Performance Control system, the rocker switch for which you’ll find down by the gearstick.

You might be familiar with this kind of thing by now, a set-up that allows you to tweak the steering, throttle and stability control system thresholds depending on the operating mode you select. Gearchange times too if you’re in a car whose original owner decided against the slick 6-speed stick shifter ordered his or her car with the 8-speed auto transmission that comes with steering wheel paddles and a natty launch control system for would-be Schumachers. That auto ‘box was standard on more powerful models. Ignore Drive Performance Control - or select its most relaxed ‘Comfort’ or efficient ‘ECO PRO’ settings - and the travelling experience in this car, though very comfortable, isn’t especially memorable. Push the rocker switch forward into ‘Sport’ though and the reaction you get immediately feels keener and more alert. More like the kind of 4 Series enthusiasts would expect this car to be.

Overall

So is this BMW 4 Series the coupe that does it all, the class benchmark from its era, the go-to choice in its segment? The answer’s probably yes. Overall, there's a sustained level of excellence throughout this car that rivals can't quite match, something especially evident when it comes to handling dynamics. There's a levity about this 4 Series, a certain joy you get in driving it that the others can't quite match. Great then, that it does all the sensible stuff really well too. You get impressive safety systems, a big boot, plenty of rear legroom, excellent day to day running costs and residual values that are markedly superior to this model’s two key rivals. Which all helps your conscience. Why? Because this is a car that, exactly because of those attributes, you can buy and use – and use hard – without that nagging sense of guilt that you may have over-indulged yourself.

Can it be criticised? Perhaps. Some have found it a rather overly mature proposition, but these we think are people who would be better suited by Toyota GT86-style coupes more aimed at hot hatch folk – an approach that wouldn’t really work with the target demographic here. Otherwise, assuming you can afford the asking price, just about the only thing that's perhaps open to complaint is that the interior isn’t quite as exciting as maybe it ought to be. But a carefully specified version of this 4 Series can still be pretty special in that respect. What’s not up for debate is that here, BMW built decisively the best car in its class.

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