Take one look at BMW’s 4 Series and you can probably predict exactly what driving it is going to be like. The 4 Series is wider, lighter, and lower than the outgoing 3 coupe that it’s replacing. And what does it driving it feel like? Not surprisingly, it feels like driving a wider, lighter, lower 3 Series coupe. In and of itself, this is a wonderful thing.
There’s equally no surprises with the powertrain options. Want a four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive with limited options and a manual transmission? No problem. Need more power? You can opt for BMW’s venerable and time-tested N55 twin-scroll turbo six cylinder. Shifting gears too much work? Swap in the excellent automatic transmission and watch both your fuel economy and 0-60 times improve. Too old and fat for the sports suspension? No worries there either; the standard configuration rides complacently enough, at times even veering into the realm of “too soft”.
All-in-all, I find I disappointingly don’t really have a whole lot to say about the 4 Series. No doubt it’s a great machine. It carves corners with more authority than it’s dearly departed brother and the interior is cut from the same cloth (leather) as nearly every other model in the current BMW line-up. Rather, what makes this car a bit of a disappointment for me is that it’s so easy to predict; so easy to get a first impression that doesn’t deviate no matter how long you spend with it. I’ve complained that the most recent generation of BMW’s have been robbed of much of what made them, at one time, the “ultimate driving machines”. Softened, enlarged, and somewhat soul-less, this is the perfect car for someone who wants the look and feel of a coupe but really doesn’t want to be bothered with all that “sporty-driving” stuff. Just slap the shifter into D, turn on ECO-PRO mode, and quietly wush home from the office while sipping the most fuel and making the least noise possible.
Even this though, is not the largest problem with the 4 Series or even BMW in general. The 4 Series starts at $40,500 with no options, fake leather and the idle-noise-tastic four cylinder. But wait! Which “line” would you like with your car? Luxury, sport, or spicy M-Sport? Make sure to choose carefully; each line has a couple of exclusive options, and picking one might mean that you’ll miss out on some options that you really want. If you go for a fully-loaded M-Sport 435 (note that “435” might be the dumbest name for a car line possible) you’ll be nearing the $64K mark. This ranges the car beyond the 5 Series starting price and startlingly close to the base 6 Series. Of course, this is the same problem with the 1 Series. Even though it appears cheaper on the surface, the lease programs and finance rates are typically so poor for this “enthusiast” car that getting a monthly payment for less than a 3 Series is impossible.
This trend has continued across BMW’s so extensively that separating where one car starts and another one begins is all but impossible. Options are great, but BMW simply has far too many.
I miss the simplicity of looking at the badging on the vehicle and immediately knowing which series it was, the engine displacement, and that, as a BMW, it was going to be one of the absolute best things you could possibly drive.