We're sure we'll get used to the all-new 2014 BMW 4 Series in time, but right now its name still seems pretty weird. Known and loved for decades as the 3 Series coupe and convertible, the 4 Series models forge their own identity this year, leaving the 3 Series sedan and wagon to their own devices.
It's no big deal, really. After all, Audi did the same thing about five years ago, branching off from the A4 family with the distinct A5 coupe and Cabriolet. And anyway, BMW's other 2-door cars have tended to be even-numbered, so in that sense the company is just tying up a loose end. Nonetheless, the 3 Series is such an iconic car it's hard to imagine the coupe and convertible wearing any other nameplate. Suffice it to say that the 4 Series siblings have a lot to live up to.
Happily, it takes about two seconds behind the wheel for most of these concerns to melt away. With their lower suspensions and wider tracks, the 4 Series cars actually handle better than the already adept 3 Series sedan. Acceleration is strong no matter which engine you choose: The 428i's turbocharged 4-cylinder serves up plenty of punch, while the 435i's turbocharged inline 6-cylinder is sports-car fast. Through it all, the trademark refined ride remains intact, making any 4 Series a superb companion in all conditions.
In other words, the 2014 4 Series may have a new name, but it's up to the same old tricks on the road. This just may be the best car BMW makes, and that's something that hasn't changed a bit.
What's New for 2014?
The 4 Series coupe and hardtop convertible are all-new this year.
What We Like
Strong yet fuel-efficient engines; high-quality interior; advanced cabin technology; superb driving dynamics; hardtop convertible security
What We Don't
Options can get pricey; convertible's styling isn't exactly graceful
The 428i features a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission comes standard, but a 6-speed manual can be specified on the rear-wheel-drive coupe (the convertible and all-wheel-drive 428i xDrive coupe are automatic-only). Fuel economy for the coupe is an impressive 23 miles per gallon city/35 mpg hwy (automatic), 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy (manual) and 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy (all-wheel drive).
The 435i features a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder rated at an even 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed automatic is again standard, but the manual is available on both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive coupes (the 435i convertible is rear-wheel-drive only and automatic only). Fuel economy for the coupe is 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy (automatic), 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy (manual), 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy (automatic all-wheel drive) and 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy (manual all-wheel drive).
The convertible's fuel economy has not received a rating from the Environmental Protection Agency as of this writing.
Standard Features & Options
The base 428i ($41,475) comes standard with 17-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, fog lights, a sunroof (coupe only), push-button ignition, auto stop/start (a fuel-saving feature that can be disabled), Driving Dynamics Control (offering three settings for throttle sensitivity and steering effort), power-adjustable front seats with driver memory functions, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, iPod/USB connectivity and the iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in screen.
The primary appeal of the 435i ($46,925) is the powerful inline 6-cylinder engine, but it also gets an upgrade to 18-in wheels.
The 428i convertible ($49,675) and 435i convertible ($55,825) feature an expansive power hardtop and available neck-warming air vents among the handful of convertible-only features.
All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option that's available on all models except (for now, at least) the 435i convertible. Yes, that includes the 428i convertible, so you can have a true all-season drop-top if you want it.
The 4 Series can be customized with one of three trim packages: Sport Line, Luxury Line and M Sport. These are comprehensive appearance packages (the Sport also has a lowered sport suspension) that offer unique wheels and interior decor. The M Sport Package adds Shadowline exterior trim, a body kit, a sport suspension, an M steering wheel, sport seats and extensive M badging inside and out.
In typical BMW fashion, the options list is lengthy and hazardous to your financial health. The Premium Package adds power lumbar support and keyless entry/ignition, while the Cold Weather Package brings a heated steering wheel and heated front seats. Standalone options are highlighted by M Sport brakes, dynamic cruise control, a self-parking system, side- and top-view parking cameras, a Harman Kardon audio system and a navigation system. All 4 Series models are compatible with BMW Apps, which leverages your smartphone to bring social media into the driving experience.
BMW claims a whopping 15.7 cu ft of trunk space for the coupe, remarkable given the car's relatively modest dimensions. The convertible impresses with the top up, checking in at 13 cu ft, but drop the top and you're down to 7.8 cu ft. All that folded metal has to go somewhere.
The 4 Series comes with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with collision-mitigation features and a full complement of airbags (including front, front-knee and side). Among the other available safety features are BMW Assist (which adds automatic crash notification and roadside assistance) and a lane-departure warning system.
The 4 Series has not been crash-tested in the U.S. as of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
The 2014 BMW 4 Series model's glowing orange dashboard suggests a sense of purpose. You won't find any virtual LCD gauges here, just a simple round tachometer with a speedometer to match, a layout BMW has employed for years. Of course, there's no escaping modern technology, and the 4 Series has plenty of it, starting with the visually arresting iDrive system and its standard 6.5-in display screen. But the overriding impression is that this is a driver's car, a 3 Series tradition that the 4 Series seems eager to carry on.
As usual, the optional M-spec front sport seats are the ones to have, offering extensive multi-way adjustments that include wonderfully snug power side bolsters. No matter which trim you choose, you'll enjoy the high-quality materials and classy accents for which these cars are known. The hardtop convertible version demands few compromises, and its elaborate folding roof goes up or down in 20 seconds at speeds up to 11 miles per hour. The convertible-only 3-stage neck warmers are new this year, giving the 4 Series a direct answer to Mercedes' similar AirScarf system.
If you've driven older 3 Series coupes or convertibles, the 2014 4 Series feels notably larger and heftier. This is no longer a compact car; rather, it's more of a personal grand touring car, and a convincing one at that. High-speed stability and smoothness are impeccable, yet cornering limits are higher than ever. The question is whether the sprightly base 4-cylinder engine is enough -- it's certainly stronger than the turbo 4-cylinders from Audi and Mercedes, but we'd be sorely tempted by the 435i's hugely capable inline 6-cylinder. Either way, it's a bonus that BMW offers all-wheel drive with both engines and body styles.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi A5 -- The A5's slinky styling remains a big draw, and if the engine's not perky enough for you, there's always the S5, which was conceived as a 435i (nee 335i) competitor. The convertible's not a hardtop, though.
Infiniti Q60 -- Unlike the Q50 sedan, the Q60 is a straight carryover from the old G37, but it still has a ton of power and a cool sports-car vibe inside, plus a hardtop-convertible option.
Mercedes C-Class Coupe -- The C Coupe looks and feels like a smaller car, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as we kind of miss when the BMW felt that way. There's no convertible, however; you'll need the E-Class Cabriolet for that.
We can't resist the inline 6-cylinder's 300 hp, but the convertible doesn't look sexy enough to justify its price premium. So make ours a 435i coupe, and make sure the M Sport package is part of the deal.