BMW 4 Series Coupé - Breaking New Ground
BMW has decided to do away with its 3 Series Coupé line in order to re-energise perceptions consumers might have had regarding its ‘smaller’ three-door ‘explosionistas’. Why ‘the 4’ you might ask? Simple... new car, new digit... . It has the added benefit of strategically repositioning BMW to compete more directly in the mid-range coupé market.
But enough of that. My intended route for the day will take me from the opulent setting which is Clifton to the vineyards of the ever-beautiful Franschoek. A quick meal overlooking Clifton beach on a cloud-free day, and my colleagues and I set off enthusiastically to the demarcated area where ‘the beasts’ lie in wait. As I approach the 435i, I realise that there is a small crowd standing outside the fences of the demarcated area, taking photos and no doubt feeling at least a tad of envy. And who wouldn’t be envious?
The all-new 4 Series looks the part in every way – from the slanting rear window to the elongated and dipped Z4-esque nose, from the air intakes situated behind the front wheel arches to the 19-inch double-spoke-style alloy wheels. In addition to these changes, the gurus at BWM have lowered the body by 16mm, and widened both the front and rear-wheel tracks by 45 and 80mm respectively. These factors all contribute to giving the 4 Series Coupé a menacing and athletic look and feel.
As I get in, instead of being blown away, I find what I would have expected from any other BMW model: a standard BMW interior. Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with BMW interiors. They are well crafted and exquisite places to find oneself in. In my opinion, though, a more over-the-top interior would have worked better with a car which is seen as BMW ‘changing things up’. Regardless of my opinion, the combination of quality leather and brushed aluminium trimmings make for an unexciting, yet aesthetically pleasing, environment.
I press the start/stop button and the three-litre, TwinPower Turbo, straight six-cylinder engine comes to life. I make my way through the bustling streets of Cape Town central, determined to travel from robot to robot in as little time as possible, dodging indecent hand signals and verbal assaults whilst making as much noise as I can. Once again, I come to the conclusion that there are few sounds in this world worth remembering, but that this ‘straight 6’ is one of them! Besides the beautiful noise emanating from it, the engine develops 225kW of power at 6 000rpm, giving it performance figures of 5.4 seconds from 0-100km/hour and a top speed of 250km/hour (governed). Worth mentioning in addition is the engine of the 428i, which is ‘only’ a two-litre, Twin Turbo, four-cylinder plant pushing out 180kW of power at 6 500rpm. This produces 0-100km/hour and top-speed figures of 5.9sec and 250km/hour, which could also be considered serious fun., and which isn’t too far off the standards set by Big Brother. Estimated combined fuel-cycle consumption figures are 7.2 and 6.3l/100km for the 435i and 428i respectively.
My fellow journalists and I turn right off the N2 and onto the R44 towards Gordon’s Bay, which might just as well have had a banner stating ‘The fun starts here!’ The winding roads set between cliffs on the one side and the ocean on the other make you feel a bit like James Bond with some beauty on your way to complete a dangerous mission somewhere close to the Greek islands... I stop day-dreaming and engage SPORT+ mode through the Driving Experience Control situated on the centre console and immediately feel the BMW’s chassis stiffen and the accelerator become part of my foot. The BMW eight-speed automatic gearbox is superb, giving you the benefits of efficiency when cruising and synergy with the engine when accelerating. ‘Pedal to the metal’, the 4 Series takes corners and devours them, with the rear threatening to come out, but never quite doing so. The adaptive suspension is a piece of engineering genius, limiting body roll to a minimum and ensuring that all the tyres are planted and deliver the required power as and when required. A 60% increase in torsion stiffness, a reduction in overall body weight of 25kg and a perfect 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution add to the sporty feeling of the 4 Series, and would turn even the local funeral director into a Sebastian Vettel wannabe.
How much would one be willing to pay for something as much fun as this? Which comes with so much pedigree? That is for every man, woman and child to decide. The 4 Series Coupé will be available in South Africa in three models, the 420i, the 428i and the 435i, and each model will have a Modern, Luxury and Sport Line, each with its own intricacies and specifications. I race down the Franschoek Pass, and, as the idyllic little town unfolds itself in front of me, I slow down to a crawl. The 4 Series becomes presentable and I sense the busy streets of shoppers and coffee drinkers noticing and point it out. I travel along a couple of minor roads and then enter the beauty which is the La Residence boutique hotel. Now staring at the 4 Series amid the vine-covered hills and classic French architecture, it surprisingly seems to fit in with its surroundings. I have arrived in style, and I have had a bucket-load of fun doing so!
Prices at a Glance*
420i 6-speed Manual: R448 000
420i 8-speed Steptronic Auto: R466 000
420i 8-speed Steptronic Sports Auto: R471 000
428i 6-speed Manual: R517 500
428i 8-speed Steptronic Auto: R535 500
428i 8-speed Steptronic Sports Auto: R540 500
435i 8-speed Steptronic Sports Auto: R686 500
* Standard model prices do not include Sport Line, Modern Line, Luxury Line or M Sport.
OUT OF OFFICE | CAR REVIEW
by Rudolph Raath
* Prices as at date of publishing