The all new 2021 BMW 4 Series is almost here and BMW has given the keys to a handful of European journalists in a pre-launch press introduction. The early verdict? While the cars driven were still undergoing their final round of tuning revisions, it’s clear that the new G22 4 Series is a more engaging and rewarding than the car that preceded it.
Let’s take a quick look at the reviews and some of the more interesting early opinions.
What BMW has achieved is a heightening of agility and driver engagement while further refining the levels of ride quality and comfort. Predictably, they’re similar to the improvements reflected on the latest 3 Series and are very much dependent on the selected driving mode. But with five different settings (Adaptive, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus), the new 4 Series offers an even broader range of driving characteristics than before.
There’s precision and assurance in the latest incarnation of BMW’s variable sport steering system. It’s also more finely tuned, with less build-up of weighting and greater feedback. It quickens with lock, providing quite direct turn-in in combination with relaxed on-centre properties and impressive ease of manoeuvrability around town.
“We’ve concentrated on making it more direct and responsive than in the recent past,” says the man who has spent more time yet in the upcoming two-door than probably anyone else with obvious pride. “There’s greater clarity and added linearity, too. We’ve incorporated measures to make the body structure a lot stiffer than before. It’s a better basis than with the four-door.”
So that’s the message: the new 4 Series Coupé, which goes by the BMW codename G22, is intended to be not only a more sporting car than any of its predecessors but also more comfortable and, crucially, further differentiated from the 3 Series upon which it’s heavily based. BMW has clearly listened to the criticisms of the old model, not least of all its lack of true steering feel and overall engagement, and reacted with the sort of engineering solutions traditionally only reserved for its high-performance M models. As van As suggests, “It’s more authentic.” And that’s a good thing.
We jump into the M440i first, and are immediately impressed. You sit low, cocooned by the cabin and peering over the bonnet, concealing that powerful six-cylinder engine. On our test route, close to BMW’s headquarters in Munich, the 4 Series has no problem reaching its limited 250kmh (155mph) top speed on the autobahn. In fact the engine feels as if it has more to give.
The 4-series has been tuned to offer a sportier driving experience as well. Compared to the 3-series sedan, the front wheels feature more negative camber, and the rear track is wider by 0.9 inch. Unique bracing up front and in the rear make the 4-series stiffer than the 3-series, and the center of gravity drops thanks to a lower roofline. Steering tuning is set up to be more responsive and to filter out less of the road. Brake feel has been redone as well and is on the edge of being too grabby upon initial application. The dampers gain firmer tuning, too. And before we forget, there’s a rear spoiler to reduce lift.
BMW tells us that the coupe and Gran Coupe will weigh nearly the same as the 3-series, and the convertible should be substantially lighter than its hardtop predecessor. Under the hood, the 4-series shares its engines with the 3-series: The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in the 430i produces 255 horsepower, and the M440i’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six will have 382 horsepower. But the six gains a 48-volt starter-generator that provides up to 11 horsepower of extra boost at low rpm. The extra jolt of power is to mitigate and fill in the gap before the turbocharger starts producing useful boost.
The new extra-, extra-, extra-large kidney grille is the main attraction in BMW’s upcoming mid-range 4 Series coupe. The car isn’t official yet, but rest assured it will be extremely controversial when it debuts, much like the Concept 4 that the Munich-based company showed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2019.
Daniel Ferrufino, head of the 4 Series (including the i4), seems to live with that frustration pretty well, though: “People are talking about the car more than ever before, and that’s good. Many 4 Series customers, not only in the U.S. but also [in Germany], wanted more differentiation from the 3 Series and they’re definitely getting it now.”
Much like the excellent G20 3 Series before it, BMW has gone back to the basics of suspension and chassis tuning to re-make the 4 Series into a car with more engagement. While we won’t drive the car until the fall, these early reviews point to a car that should carry the tradition of the much loves 3 Series coupe forward.
The G22 4 Series will be revealed later this summer with sales in the US beginning in the spring of 2021.