HAVING undergone a complete overhaul, and with a look that is nothing short of polarising, the 2021 BMW 4 Series is more agile, offers greater comfort, and features improved driving dynamics and technology.
As part of a BMW drive day, we got the chance to jump behind the wheel of the new 420i, 430i and M440i xDrive and take them for a proper spin. But first things first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
The 2021 4 Series coupé certainly has a unique design language, inspired by the 328 and 3.0 CSi from years gone by, with its most prominent feature being a large vertical kidney grille. It’s certainly got plenty of hate.
But after seeing it in the flesh, doing the old touch and feel, and looking at where this design inspiration came from, we actually get what BMW’s design team was aiming for, and we like it.
Some might think we are bonkers, but give it time, it will grow on you too. That said, the positioning of the front camera in the middle of the grille does look out of place. Enough about the grille though, that’s not the sum total of the design methodology here.
Its sleek body lines and rear end are equally engaging, with the back of the car pulling inspiration from the 8 Series, while still retaining a unique 4 Series look.
The coupé segment is all about making a statement and making your ride stand out from the crowd. And stand out from the crowd it does.
First cab off the rank for our drive day was the mid range 430i, splashed in the fantastic looking Tanzanite Blue Metallic. We headed for the Blue Mountains, an hour west of Sydney, with plenty of looks as we drove along on our journey.
Inside, the 430i, and the entire range, features high quality elements that produce a modern feel, characterised by cleanly designed surfaces, and those all important sport seats, with a newly designed M leather steering wheel as standard.
We did find the steering wheel a little thick, but it does give a sense of something solid to hold on too. It all feels very BMW. Visibility is great too. Coupés are notorious for having crappy vision out of the side mirrors and the rear windscreen in many cases.
Not here though, as the new 4 Series opens everything up nicely. The seating position is a tad lower across the range than the first generation, but not by much. An aggressive roofline and steeper rake to the windscreen keeps the coupé feeling roomy and airy.
The driver-focused cockpit and BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant are also standard, with the latter providing a full digital instrument cluster, with 12.3-inches of screen to display everything you could possibly need.
This huge screen provides enough room to accommodate an excerpt from the navigation map, status indicators for the driver assistance systems, or a 3D visualisation of the surrounding area.
Our test cars were fitted with a few optional add-ons, which made things a little more comfortable and shiny, but even if you didn’t opt for any extras on your 4 Series, it’s still superbly finished.
The 430i comes with BMW’s proved and tested TwinPower turbo 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 190kW and 400Nm, paired to a ZF 8-speed steptronic sports automatic transmission, and is driven by the rear wheels.
The 430i has ample power to move the coupé down the road. The engine is responsive and precise. The only down side is the connection between the transmission, the engine and your foot. It’s a little too long of a wait to kick down and get moving.
Road noise has been improved as well, with minimal noise making its way into the cabin, despite rolling on 19-inch BMW Individual alloys. Handling through the corners is done with simplicity in the 430i too.
With the standard M Sport suspension incorporating specially tuned lift related dampers, you do feel a little body roll in some of the bigger twisty stuff, but overall the 430i is planted and stable.
There is a head-up display fitted as standard across the range, which provides important information directly in the field of view of the driver. Before we knew it, our time was up with the 430i, and after a quick coffee stop (for that extra buzz), it was off to Lithgow.
This time we were aboard the tarmac smashing M440i xDrive, draped in Dravit Grey Metallic. Boy oh boy, doesn’t that thing move. On the inside, the M440i looks very similar to its siblings, but gains some additional body stylings in line with its M nature.
These include lower exterior skirts and a few more technology trinkets inside and out. The biggest change though, is the 3.0-litre 6-cylinder engine under the hood, mated to the same ZF 8-speed box. It’s paired to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system.
And for those that don’t know what that means, AWD translates to extra grip around the corners and improved handling. You need it too. The engine puts out a nice 285kW and 500Nm, which sees a 0-100km/h sprint in only 4.5 seconds.
We can confirm it can do it too. The performance is relentless. In maximum attack (Sport Plus), the M440i sees the power managed predictably, holding gears and keeping the revs up while decelerating for corners.
Under hard acceleration, it dispatched changes and speed very quickly. BMW deserves credit for dialling in the engine, gearbox and suspension setup on this car. It’s just right.
Structural changes across the entire range enhance the driving experience and improve its dynamic handling. BMW has lowered the entire car by 57mm, allowing for a 21mm lower centre of gravity.
In the M440i, that translates to outstanding road and corner feel, and with no significant body roll either, a great driving experience.
The adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers along with the M Sport differential, see’s the M440i just chew up and spit out the corners. We have to say though, if the M440i is like this, what does the 2021 M4 have in store.
The 6-cylinder is clearly going to be enthusiast’s choice, with a strong, sweet exhaust note that works alongside that relentless performance too. All too soon though, our journey in the xDrive variant came to an end. We literally didn’t want to get out of it.
After a quick bite to eat, and some more gawking at the 4 series, it was time to head back to reality and return this well rounded coupé to the good people of BMW. This time our trip would be in the entry level 420i.
Don’t be put off by the ‘base model’ here though, as aside from missing some tech that’s in the 430i and M440i, the same level of refinement and quality can be found in the 420i.
The 420i comes packing the same 2.0-litre 4-cylinder TwinPower turbo engine found in the 430i, but with a small difference. It only offers 135kW and 300Nm. The same ZF 8-speed transmission is on board too.
But don’t turn your nose up just yet, as the the base 4-cylinder sounds tough, with a refined exhaust note, the engine revs willingly and it still pulls, even at higher engine speeds.
We did see the same lag in kickdown as the 430i, so maybe this is a trait of the 4-cylinder engine and gearbox combo. Everything still feels very BMW, but what the 420i offers is an everyday coupé that well, doesn’t need much. Just jump in and drive.
All 4 Series variants come with a built-in SIM card with 4G connectivity through the BMW Connected Package Professional, enabling use of digital services including BMW TeleServices, intelligent emergency call, and real time traffic information.
Remote and concierge services are also included and the new 4 Series coupé will also optionally offer the advanced remote engine start feature. Drivers and passengers benefit too from the inclusion of BMW Operating System 7.0.
This means enhanced navigation and an array of quality improvements to the infotainment system. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard to broaden the vehicle’s technology offering to more users.
BMW’s digital key, which we first experienced on the 2 Series Gran Coupe range, is also on offer. You can lock and unlock the 4 Series, and even start it with the digital key. Pretty crazy stuff right there. Just don’t let your phone go flat.
This is only available to iPhone users at the moment, but you can authorise up to five people to access and drive your ride.
If you have a young driver in the house, and they are begging you to drive your new 4 Series, you can even limit the drive power and maximum speed through the key system. All 4 Series models also receive remote software upgrades.
Overall, the 4 Series no longer feels like the sedan derivative it once was, with its unique exterior design and more aggressive handling character distancing this coupé from its four-door counterpart.
It just feels more like the kind of statement BMW wanted. The front end might not be your cup of tea, and it might some design aficionados noses out of joint, but the 2021 4 Series will resonate with consumers.
BMW has announced a convertible option coming in late 2021, but there is no plug-in hybrid planned (probably a good thing). Pricing starts from $70,900 (plus on-roads) for the 420i, with the 430i coming in at $88,900 (plus on-roads).
The range topping M440i xDrive will ask you to squeeze out $116,900 (plus on-roads) from your wallet. As with all BMW vehicles, all three 4 Series models are available in an multitude of exterior colours and interior trims, which can be tailored to your personality.
Our test vehicles were provided by BMW Australia as part of a drive day. To find out more about the 2021 4 series 420i, 430i or the M440i X-Drive, contact your local BMW dealer.