Car Reviews

2021 BMW 4 Series review

Our independent 2021 BMW 4 Series review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.

For some, the 4 Series name is still settling in. Now in its second generation after departing from the 3 Series nomenclature, the G22 two-door coupe has taken important and positive strides to keep pace with its German arch-rivals. It’s a competitive and premium segment, one in which brand loyalties usually keep customers returning to their preferred badge.

Overall dimensions have grown, with the length increasing by 130mm, width by 27mm and the wheelbase by 41mm. Both the front and rear tracks have widened by 28mm and 18mm respectively. Along with model-specific bracing, components have been stiffened and aerodynamic lift has been reduced. Greater negative camber has been added and the stroke-dependent dampers have been tweaked.

So, has BMW done enough to sway staunch buyers to the famous roundel?   

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

For now, the 4 Series line-up includes three variants. It comprises the entry-level 420i ($70,900), mid-spec 430i ($88,900) and the range topping M440i xDrive ($116,900). Two additional body styles, Convertible and Grand Coupe, will arrive in 2021 as well as the all-out M models.

WHAT DOES IT COST TO OWN?

BMW offers a range of servicing packages for the 4 Series line-up. BMW Service Inclusive Basic packages cover scheduled services from three years/40,000km to five years/80,000km. The programs include annual checks, oil and filter changes, spark plugs and labour costs throughout the period. Opting for five years/80,000km will set you back $1650.

WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?

As one of the last BMW cabins to be overhauled, the 4 Series receives an extreme makeover inside. Essentially a G20 3 Series transplant, the dash design and layout are a big step forward. While the current-gen models seem to be the pick in terms of styling cohesion, the use of high-quality materials is evident and it’s a luxurious place to be. However, cabin NVH levels could be slightly better supressed.

Overall vision is decent, while rear legroom is spacious thanks to the extended wheelbase. However, headroom isn’t, so taller adults will struggle in the back. If you’re after more rear headroom, the 4 Series Convertible lands in Q1 of 2021, while the popular Gran Coupe arrives in the second half of next year.

WHAT’S THE EXTERIOR LIKE?

Umm, we’ve avoided mentioning it thus far, but now ‘that’ grille can’t be swept under the carpet. To say it’s been viewed as controversial is an understatement. And while opinions on design vary, the general consensus online seems to be that BMW has missed the mark. Much like the Bangle Butted E65 7 Series and the contentiously styled E60 5 Series, only time will tell if the Bavarian’s have got the G22 4 Series right.

Still, the two-door, coupe silhouette has presence on the road. Look beyond the chrome surrounding of the grille and the standard M Sport pack adds enticing body work and design elements, while all 4 Series models are fitted with attractive 19-inch alloys.

WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE?

The days of infuriating iDrive are long, long gone. In a modern context, BMW’s infotainment, now in operating system 7.0, is one of the best in the business. The control wheel is ergonomically sound, while the 10.25-inch colour display is both visually appealing and now touch-enabled. You can also carry out predetermined commands via voice by simply saying “Hey BMW” followed by your verbal instruction.

The driver is greeted with a digital dash, or Live Cockpit in BMW-speak, which measures 12.3 inches and houses everything from speed, revs, gear selection and maps. However, it’s not as cohesive or legible as other marques and having the rev counter in reverse is frustrating.

Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard (there’s also a wireless charge pad) and works a treat with fast and easy connection. There’s even a handy USB charging port between the cupholders if your phone can’t be charged without a cable. Those using devices outside the Apple realm can rejoice, too, as wireless Android Auto is now also available.

The 4 Series also utilises an NFC Key Card, which essentially turns your smartphone into a digital key and allows you to lock and unlock the car using your device alone. It’s previously been an Android Auto-only feature; however, BMW now offers it to Apple users – which is a first for any car manufacturer.

WHAT’S THE STORAGE LIKE?

The demeanour of the 4 Series says stylish cruiser, while the boot screams weeklong holidays. For a two-door, the 440-litre capacity is cavernous and commodious enough to swallow enough luggage for any couple’s getaway. The floor is flat, and the rear seats fold flat if you feel the need to entertain an IKEA or Bunnings trip, too.

Inside the cabin have various cubby holes and two accommodating cup holders up front, while the front door cards house provisions for bottles and larger items. The rear pews also gain cup holders via the folding centre armrest, while there is storage built into the side pockets, too. Both the glovebox and centre armrest offer addition stowage space. It’s a practical two-seater.

WHAT ENGINES ARE AVAILABLE?

If you want turbo-diesel propulsion, you’re out of luck. But then, oil burners aren’t really in keeping with a two-door coupe. Instead, a pair of 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrols are on offer in the 420i (135kW/300Nm) and 430i (190kW/400Nm), while the M440i (285kW/500Nm) gains the venerable B58, a petrol 3.0-litre inline six with a twin-scroll turbo.

The B48 four-pot is strong, with plenty of mid-range torque in both applications. The 420i’s performance is more adequate than inspiring, but the 430i pulls cleanly to redline and is deceptively fast. So much so that it’ll reach 100km/h from rest in 5.8 seconds. That’s a full 1.7sec faster than the entry model and verging on being hot hatch quick. Not bad considering the 1545kg mass.    

Those wanting more oomph than the M440i don’t have long to wait, with the $149,900 M4 and $159,900 M4 Competition arriving Down Under in early 2021. Both variants use the new S58 unit, with the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six producing 353kW/550Nm and 375kW/650Nm respectively. The latter also dips below 4.0 seconds (3.9sec) for the dash to 100km/h. 

WHAT ABOUT FUEL ECONOMY?

Sans diesel and hybrid variants, the fuel-miser of the group is, unsurprisingly, the 420i with a claimed combined consumption figure of 6.4L/100km. The 430i increases to 6.6L/100km and the go-fast M440i returns 7.8L/100km on a combined cycle.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

A fun persona isn’t something you really expect from a luxury coupe, even if it is wearing a BMW badge. However, even in base 420i and mid-spec 430i guises, there’s dynamic competence and enjoyment to be found in the rear-wheel-drive layout.

The chink in the armour comes via the 19-inch alloy wheels fitted with Bridgestone Turanza run-flat tyres (225/40 R19 front, 255/35 R19 rear). Without adaptive dampers, the passive suspension setup struggles to quell sharp imperfections in the road due to the hard sidewalls.

It results in an unsettled ride quality and, if you encounter mid-corner corrugations, the 420i can be shifted off the chosen line. Optioning adaptive dampers would sweeten the base-model’s deal, as the 430i, which has them as standard, rides noticeably better in all conditions.

While not perfect, the steering is better here than the M440i given there’s no drive going to the front axle. Overall, the non-M Performance variants are sweet handlers, with a lightness of foot sometimes lacking in the M Performance offering.

HOW SAFE IS THE 4 SERIES?

In terms of active and passive safety systems, the 4 Series is well stocked. Driving Assistant Plus (optional on 420i) comes with tech such as active cruise control with Stop&Go functionality, cross traffic warning front and rear, lane keeping with steering control, side collision alert as well as crossroads warning and evasion aid. Multi-view reversing cameras (with fully automated parking) are also available, as is the reversing assistant, which stores the cars steering inputs for 50 metres at speeds below 36km/h.

The 4 Series has not been crash tested by ANCAP (or Euro NCAP), however, the 3 Series on which the Coupe is based has received a full five-star rating. All models are loaded with a full complement of airbags, ISOFIX child-seat mountings and electronic stability controls.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

Competition for premium two-door bucks is high – especially from BMW’s countrymen. The Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are its natural German rivals, with both offering spec levels comparative to the 4 Series.

The A5 offers up a gorgeous, luxe-feeling cabin in both 40 and 45 TFSI guises ($71,900 and $79,900 respectively). Both are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, with the lower-grade tune sending 140kW/320Nm to the front wheels, while the 45 gains all-paw traction and 183kW/370Nm. It submits strong competition for the BMW.

Mercedes chimes in with the $70,600 C200 and $89,800 C300. The C-Class Coupe gains the current updated interior, while all non-AMG variants remain rear-wheel drive. Power comes via a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, with the base model offering up 150kW/300Nm and the C300 delivering 190kW/370Nm.

The curveball is the Lexus RC350, which for the same price as the Germans, provides atmo V6 grunt. How much? The 3.5-litre bent six develops 233kW/378Nm, and it’s channelled to the rear axle via an eight-speed automatic. Yes, the antiquated trackpad grates and it’s getting long in the tooth, but for $70,636 the RC is an interesting alternative.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If all you’re after is a luxurious, mid-size coupe that makes a bold design statement, then the 420i is all the 4 Series you need. Stepping up to the 430i has merit, but only if mechanical superiority holds credence in your decision making. However, the caveat being adaptive dampers are a must-tick option. Ultimately, most buyers will be satisfied with the well-sorted 420i.        

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?


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Just SICK
4 months ago

I’m really sick of this front bumper of new BMW 4 series

Stuki Moi
Stuki Moi
4 months ago

For anyone not a professional, nor amateur, livery driver who uses his car to haul rear seat passenger a large share of the time; this, perhaps with a less premium badge and price and less overtly “sporty” messaging, is the sort of car which should be the mass-market go-to.

Lowering the COG and hip point, as BMW has done vs the 3, while widening track; allows for better body control even with more comfort tuned suspension. Similarly, placing driver seat cushions right in between axles, while pacing weighty components between the driver and wheels at both ends, both of which have long been a 3/4 series hallmark, allows for better suspension control, without negating driver comfort.

This is how a car intelligently built primarily for solo/2up commuting/roadtripping ought to be built. Even if occasionally, or even often, hauling children, once they are out of the childseat years where MPVs/vans are the most sensible option, as kids are plenty flexible to crawl into the back through decent sized front doors. (It’s mainly the constant, livery driver style, letting out at school/football practice, which argues for 4 doors, with the attendant annoyingly narrow front doors and B-pillar-in-peripheral-vision annoyances his choice entails, in anything but the longest of limos.

Anyone from the masses who think they want the 3, really ought to take a similar 4 out for a test alongside it. Then look at trunk space etc with seats folded. Then take a look at how neatly the trailer hitch negating most (though not by any means all) reasons for buying a ute, deploys and gets out of the way.

Trent Giunco

Trent Giunco