- the second-generation bmw 4-series features a new, vertical grille design that has already been the subject of intense scrutiny on social media.
- u.s. buyers will get two models at launch: the 430i, with a 255-hp 2.0-liter four, which comes with rear- or all-wheel-drive; and the awd-only m440i with a 382-hp 3.0-liter inline-six and 48-volt hybrid system.
- the 2021 4-series coupe launches worldwide in october; expect more variants, including an m4, in the near future.
ever since chris bangle and adrian van hooydonck launched the infamous e65 7-series, bmw has been no stranger to controversial design. back in their day, models like the z3 coupe or the electric i3 provoked similarly strong emotions. and now it seems that we are entering another one of these periodic events. starting when the first photos of the new, second-generation 4-series leaked, social media has lit up with critical commentary.
the 2021 bmw 4-series coupe makes a bold statement and is sure to trigger discussions among brand aficionados. its most controversial feature is the new vertical grille, while its other qualities nicely expand on the predecessor's strengths.
indeed, the bavarians have reached deep into their brand's stylistic history and retrieved two long, vertical kidneys, clearly inspired by prewar models. the prominent kidney reappeared after world war ii, and on the 4-series, they are placed closer to their position on the 2000c/ca/cs from 1965, the mid-size coupe that later morphed into the more masculine and aggressive e9.
as design is a matter of taste, we'll say this much: the vertical kidneys don't look nearly as prominent as they do on some photos, which are taken from the frog perspective. the provide welcome differentiation from the 3-series, and they accentuate an altogether exceedingly clean and elegant design. other notable features include aggressively styled led lights, and you can even get laser lights (an option mostly for the "wow" effect).
the m440i gets the well-established cerium gray treatment on its kidneys and decor, or buyers can substitute shadow line black. and every 4-series features a mesh-type pattern on the grille; bmw designers tell us that vertical slats would have made the car look too conservative.
the 4-series features functional design: despite growing in every dimension, the drag coefficient on the not-for-the-u.s. bmw 420d is a mere 0.25. and the larger footprint translates to more space for passengers and luggage. the rear seats are comfortable even on extended trips, there is plenty of legroom, although headroom is somewhat limited.
the front passengers sit considerably lower than in the 3-series, but they are looking at virtually the same dashboard. it's not a terribly modern or forward-looking design, and the center-console cover looks good but feels somewhat flimsy. perfectionists will applaud the fact that the infotainment system now displays the animated car in menus in the actual color of the car.
with a wider track, a lower center of gravity, and an even 50/50 weight distribution, the 4-series has no problem putting its power to the ground, as we found out in late april during a coronavirus-compliant prototype drive on upper bavarian country roads and a largely deserted autobahn.
for the u.s. market, the 4-series coupe comes in two variants: the 430i, with a turbocharged 255-hp 2.0-liter four, and the m440i, with a turbo 382-hp 3.0-liter inline-six and a 48-volt hybrid system that can provide a small boost at low rpm. rear-wheel drive is standard on the 430i, and xdrive all-wheel drive is an option; it is obligatory on the m440i for now, although bmw says a rear-drive m440i is coming later. there is just one transmission: zf's 8hp eight-speed automatic. not even the europe-only entry-level models can be ordered with a manual anymore, but the forthcoming m4 will have it.
u.s. pricing for the new 4-series starts at $46,595 for the 430i coupe, $48,595 for the all-wheel-drive xdrive version, and $59,495 for the m440i xdrive.
when it comes to market in the summer, the 4-series will face the audi a5, the aging lexus rc, and the coupe versions of the mercedes-benz c-class and e-class. meanwhile, bmw is dropping not-so-subtle hints of a 4-series cabriolet with a soft top instead of the current model's hard top, a four-door hatchback called the 4-series gran coupe, and an ultra-competitive new m4.
and that's plenty to talk about. before we even get to those new kidneys.