Car Comparison

2016 BMW 2 Series vs. 2016 BMW 4 Series: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2015

If you're in the market for a sporty new BMW coupe, you've probably realized there are currently two models available at somewhat similar price points: the 2016 BMW 2 Series and the 2016 BMW 4 Series. Of course, the 2 Series is smaller than the 4 Series -- but what else sets these two cars apart? We've created a close comparison to help you understand all the key differences between the 2 Series and the 4 Series before you make your next purchase.

Exterior

There's no doubt that the 2 Series and the 4 Series bear some similarities on the outside -- but there's also no doubt that these two cars have some key differences, too. Namely, the 2 Series offers a more abbreviated look with a higher roofline, while the 4 Series seems a bit more elongated, with more traditional luxury 2-door proportions. With that said, many 2 and 4 Series design touches are quite similar, such as the character lines down the side, wheel designs and front- and rear-end styling.

It's worth noting that, while most shoppers looking to compare the 2 Series and the 4 Series will be interested in a coupe or a convertible, the 4 Series is also available in 4-door guise. Dubbed the 4 Series Gran Coupe, the 4-door 4 Series offers a rear hatchback and a more stylish take on the popular 3 Series sedan.

Interior

The 2 Series and the 4 Series have a lot more in common on the inside than they do on the outside. In fact, the two cars share a center control stack design, a center screen, a gauge cluster and a center console. They also boast the same overall dashboard and door panel design -- and they feature virtually all the same switches and buttons, too. As a result, the only real interior difference is space: The 4 Series has more of it, whether that's for front-seat occupants, rear-seat occupants or cargo in the trunk.

Mechanicals

Despite the size difference between the 2 Series and the 4 Series, the two models actually offer the same powertrains. The 228i and 428i both tout a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, while the M235i and the 435i both offer a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder -- though the M235i's 320 hp slightly beats out the 435i's 300 hp.

The reason for the M235i's extra power is that BMW also offers a more powerful M4, which takes a huge step up over the 2 Series in terms of performance. The M4 offers a raucous 425-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder -- a big increase over the 365-hp high-performance M2, which is scheduled to reach dealerships sometime this spring.

Features & Technology

BMW does a great job of including a wide array of features and technology throughout its entire model range so that shoppers who want a smaller vehicle don't need to compromise on equipment. That's certainly the case here, as the 2 Series and the 4 Series offer roughly the same level of gadgets and features.

For example, both models offer the latest in safety technology, including automatic high-beam control, a backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parking system, a lane-departure warning system and forward-collision warning with automated braking. Both models also tout a wide range of convenience and comfort equipment, boasting a large 8.8-inch center screen, leather upholstery, keyless access with push-button starting, dual power front seats and a multispeaker Harman Kardon audio system.

While there may be some differences between the 2 Series and the 4 Series when it comes to equipment, they're fairly slight -- and we suspect most drivers won't notice any real discrepancies on the two cars' options lists.

Driving Experience

Whether you prefer the 2 Series or the 4 Series behind the wheel largely depends on your priorities. Although both cars feel fairly similar, the 2 Series offers a little more zip: It's smaller, sportier and a little more engaging than its larger stablemate. As a result of its ever-increasing size, the 4 Series feels a little more relaxed and a little less dynamic than it used to back when it was called the 3 Series Coupe and Convertible.

With that said, the 4 Series offers more interior room than the 2 Series, so shoppers who frequently find themselves carting around others likely won't have much of a choice when they're deciding between these two models. We also think the 4 Series' ride is a little smoother than that of the 2 Series, though not by much.

Safety

Neither the BMW 2 Series nor the 4 Series has yet been rated in crash tests carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the 2 Series earned excellent crash-test ratings from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and garnered the firm's sought-after Top Safety Pick+ score. Meanwhile, the 4 Series has not yet been fully tested -- though the 3 Series on which it's based earned generally good scores, save for a troubling Marginal rating in the firm's challenging small front-overlap crash test.

As for safety equipment, these cars offer a lot of reassuring features. Both come standard with side-curtain airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes, while both offer an impressive array of options, including a backup camera, a lane-departure warning system, an automatic parallel-parking system and a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking.

Although the 2 Series seems to demonstrate slightly higher crash-test ratings than the 4 Series, these two cars are otherwise fairly similar when it comes to safety features and equipment.

Conclusions

In the world of BMW ownership, the mantra of many drivers seems to be: Get the one with the highest number. In this case, that's the 2016 BMW 4 Series. But if you actually compare the 4 Series to the 2016 BMW 2 Series, we suspect you won't find many measurable differences between the two cars -- except when it comes to interior space. If you really need the extra few inches of legroom, hip room and trunk space offered by the 4 Series, you should get it. Otherwise, we suspect you'll be happy with the 2 Series -- unless, of course, you don't think having a 2 on your trunk is as prestigious as having a 4.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 BMW 2 Series vs. 2016 BMW 4 Series: What's the Difference? - Autotrader