BMW 4 Series long-term test: report 1

The BMW 4 Series scooped up our Coupé of the Year award back in January, but what's it really like to live with? We're finding out...

BMW 4 Series front

The car BMW 4 Series 420d M Sport Run by Darren Moss, deputy editor

Why it’s here To show that a stylish coupe can still be a practical choice as well as great to drive

Needs to Be fun to drive, reasonably economical, and function as a mobile office when needed

List price £43,095 Target Price £40,259 Price as tested £48,865 Mileage 3175 Official economy 61.4mpg Test economy 53.5mpg Options Technology Plus Pack (£3650), Comfort Plus Pack (£1950), Sun protection glass (£320)

1 May 2021 - Welcome to the fleet

It’s safe to say that reactions were mixed when this latest BMW 4 Series was unveiled for the first time. Turning to the bastion of calm and reason that is online internet forums, you find opinions ranging from “the rear bumper already looks like it’s been in an accident” to “not as bad as I was expecting”. However, whether you love or hate the way this latest 4 Series looks, there’s no getting around the fact that this is the best coupé you can buy in the UK. In fact, we gave it that very title at our most recent What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

Darren driving BMW 4 Series

What will the 4 Series be like to live with, though? That’s the question I’ll be answering over the next few months, because a 420d model in spectacular Arctic Blue metallic paintwork is currently sitting on my driveway, gathering both admiring looks and finger pointing from my neighbours.

You’ll notice that while we gave the petrol-engined 420i model our award, the one I’ve gone for is powered by the demon drink, that dastardly devilish diesel. Well, diesel power still makes sense for a good number of drivers, and especially those who, like me, cover a lot of motorway miles.

I’ve stuck with our recommended M Sport trim, though, which gets me 18in alloy wheels, heated leather seats, cruise control and tri-zone climate control. To that little list I’ve added BMW’s Technology Plus Pack, with its parking assistant, head-up display and upgraded Harmon Kardon stereo; the Comfort Plus Pack for its electric seat adjustment and lumbar support, and special glass that protects me from harmful sun rays. All this has only added around £5000 to the 4 Series’ total price, but will it all prove useful? Well, I’ll already admit that the gesture control feature for the iDrive infotainment system seems an unnecessary gimmick when using the rotary controller on the centre console is so easy, plus there’s touch and voice recognition to fall back on should I need it.

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe 2021 interior detail

Early impressions, though, have been positive. The driving position is just as welcoming and comfortable as I remember from the 3 Series saloon I ran in 2019, and everything you touch feels solid and built to last. The technology works seamlessly, too. I love the way, for example, that my phone automatically connects to Apple CarPlay wirelessly when I slot it into the charging bay on the dashboard, and how the front seats slide forward electronically when I need to put my bag onto the back row.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine in my car produces 188bhp – slightly more than the 2.0-litre petrol motor in the 420i – and produces plenty of low-end grunt. Certainly, overtaking the Amazon Prime delivery vans that litter my local roads has never been so easy. Team that punchy performance with agile handling and sweet steering thath seems to egg you to go faster, and every journey I’ve undertaken in the 4 Series so far has ended with a smile.

I’m not sure my passengers will smile, though, if they end up sitting in the back seats; while most adults will be fine for short journeys, those who shop in the plus-size section will find they have about as much wiggle room as a Brexit negotiator. Still, those situations are likely to be rare, and for most of the time I’ll only ever have a maximum of two people on board.

Darren in the back of BMW 4 Series

The boot is far smaller than I’m used to, too, but these are sacrifices I’m willing to make in return for the svelte looks a coupé offers. And despite the opinions of internet forum-dwellers, I’ll say here and now that I don’t mind the front grille. I think it gives the car a sense of occasion, and if ever a car can have an air of drama and theatricality about it, surely it’s a coupé.

Will those sacrifices turn out to be too great, though? And will I reach the end of my time with the 4 Series yearning for something more sensible? Let’s find out together.

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