After months of image leaks and speculation, that grille is finally official. Both of them. Split down the middle as opinion is likely to be forevermore. Well, we say middle: a straw pole of the office left Matt Bird on one side and the rest of the office on the other, making jokes about his eye sight. But as big and brash and unmissable as the new BMW 4 Series’ enormous nostrils might be, there might just be enough engineering clout behind them to lend credence to the idea that the car deserves a second, longer look. For one thing, it is meant as an overtly more sporting car than the 3 Series in all guises, with a higher-grade setup from the base upwards, which culminates in an M440i xDrive range-topper - a model furnished with a 374hp straight-six and lots of M Sport running gear. Grilles excluded, it could be quite the thing.
BMW would have us believe that the whole line-up is more driver-centric than ever, although all powerplants come mated as standard with an eight-speed Steptronic auto, so you can put thought of a three-pedal 4 Series out of you mind for good. Inevitably that enhances the performance on offer, with the twin-scroll turbocharger B58-powered M440i channelling up to 369lb ft of torque into its all-wheel driveline, along with mild hybrid juice, for a 0-62mph dash of just 4.5 seconds. An M440d xDrive is only two-tenths off that while promising all the CO2 and economic benefits of an M-fettled oil burner assisted by MHEV tech. In fact, all diesel engines get mild hybrid help.
We know from the 3 Series that even the 184hp 20i motor has plenty of four-pot talent – and here it’s good for a 7.5 sec 0-62mph time and 149mph top speed – but it’s the 258hp 430i 2.0-litre which stands out. Not for the engine itself, but because unlike those aforementioned six-pot units, this one is rear-wheel drive. As such, a 5.8 second 0-62mph time will likely tell only half the story; we'd expect it to be lighter on its feet, too. At £44,055, it’s also £9,820 cheaper than the M440i, yet with M Sport bits it’s liable to offer all the same sporting prowess BMW has promised – albeit without a straight-six soundtrack.
Many of the manufacturer’s claims for on-road improvement centre around the advantages of the new G22 skeleton. Compared to the G20 3 Series, the 4’s part-aluminium platform is 57mm closer to the ground, delivering all the advantages of a lower centre of gravity. Admittedly it's grown elsewhere, by 128mm in length and 27mm in width, not to mention 41mm at the wheelbase - but BMW is pitching this as a zero-downsides win (unless you prefer your compact execs to be, y'know, compact).
We’re already aware of the bespoke suspension BMW has brought to bear, because it's been concertedly drip feeding information about how the 4 Series has been made different. There’s more aluminium in the hardware, and the advantages are hammered home by confirmation of a model-specific shear panel for connecting the front spring strut towers to the bulkhead, integral tower-to-front end struts and braces on the rear axle. The thrust of all this effort is to stymy anyone inclined to dismiss the 4 Series as a two-door saloon; this, to all extents and purposes, is a new car. So there.
All versions come with 18-inch alloy-shod M Sport suspension as standard, with adaptive dampers and 19-wheels the obvious upgrade. Unless, of course, you go for the M-fettled range-toppers; they get lightweight 19s or optional 20s, as well as M Sport Pro bits as standard, adding a locking diff – something that’s available as an option on 30 petrol and dieseSame goes for the M Sport brakes, which the M-badged petrol and diesel 4 Serieses get at no extra cost. They up stopping power with four-piston front calipers up front and shiny blue caliper paint.
In stark contrast to what's going on at the business end, the interior is restrained, with a cabin carried directly over from the G20 which includes standard-fit BMW Live Cockpit Professional, a 12.3 inch instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are included, as is BMW’s real-time traffic monitoring Connected Package Professional and the maker’s ‘Hey BMW’, smartphone-aping assistant and music software. Suffice it to say that all versions of the 4 come pretty generously specced, so from behind the wheel at least, all things look like a decent step forward.
Whether that’s enough for you to forgive the front end - or agree with Matt Bird that the G33 is a looker - will of course be entirely a matter of opinion. From the rear and side it’s a smart looking machine, and perhaps – like the Z4 – it’ll look better from the front in the metal, too. That’s what a BMW insider promised PH, anyway. It’s no secret that these more ‘eye-catching’ designs are often inspired by the tastes of Chinese and American buyers, where size really does matter. That being said, if BMW's declaration proves true, and this really is a 4 Series worth driving, then doubtless European buyers will find plenty to love when the model launches in October, priced from £39,870.
At any rate, you're going to stand out. Or else you'll need to wait for the M4 and hope that car's on-paper spec convinces you. Not least because close to 500hp and phat arches might help better balance the boat race.
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