Can a fresh coat of lippy and some mechanical tweaks keep the 4 Series at the top of the game? We find out
What do we have here?
In many ways, the 4 Series name seems to have been with us for much longer than it has, while the car itself still feels fresh and new, so a mid-life facelift comes as a bit of a surprise.
Yet time flies as the 4 Series, name and vehicle, has been around since the summer of 2013.
It’s available as a two-door Coupe, two-door Convertible and a four-door coupe called the Gran Coupe, itself taking up to 50% of all 4 Series sales globally.
New for the 2017 model is a larger air intake, LED headlights and redesigned daytime running lights at the front.
The rear gets a new apron and redesigned taillights with new light graphics.
Under the skin, the 4-Series gets stiffer suspension, a wider track (front 14mm, rear 22 mm), improved traction control, better damping and upgraded steering. Overall, it has a lower centre of gravity (Coupe 40 mm, Gran Coupe 30 mm, Convertible 20 mm), to reduce roll and enhance stability.
Inside the car, changes include chrome surrounds to the air conditioning and audio controls, high-gloss black trim, double stitching across the instrument panel, while the sports steering wheel is wrapped in new high-quality leather.
The switch for the folding hardtop roof in the Convertible and the belt guides now have an electroplated finish as do the door mounted controls in all 4 Series models.
All 4 Series are available with a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines. The petrol options start with the 2.0-litre 420i that develops 181bhp, while that same engine is tuned to produce 249bhp in the 430i. Fancy a 3.0-litre? Then go for the 440i with 322bhp.
Parking in front of the diesel nozzle is a 2.0-litre 420d with 187bhp and two variants of a 3.0-litre in the form of the 430d and 435d, producing 254bhp and 309bhp, respectively.
Each model either comes with a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed ZF automatic. The auto is also available as a cost option if it’s not fitted as standard.
Not happy with rear-wheel drive, then go for xDrive, BMW’s all-wheel-drive system.
The Coupe and Convertible are available in Sport and M Sport trims while derivatives include; 430i, 430d, 430d xDrive, 435d xDrive and 440i.
Gran Coupe versions get SE trim with either the 420d, 420d xDrive, Sport trim on the 420i, 420i xDrive, and M Sport trim with 430i, 430d, 430d xDrive, 435d xDrive and 440i models.
There’s a new interface for the professional navigation, which is standard on M Sport models, while an optional digital cockpit for the instrument binnacle has been introduced as has wireless phone charging.
Prices for the updated 4-Series start at £33,555. We’re testing the 440i Gran Coupe in M Sport which costs £45,490.
How does it drive?
In the 440i, you’re presented with a machine that’s powered by an engine so flexible and immediate to respond, it makes you look at the M4 and wonder, why?
The twin-turbo petrol pulls tenaciously from right away right through to the red line as maximum torque is on tap from a lowly 1,380rpm. It sucks in the road ahead like a demented Dyson vacuum powered by the thrusters from the Endeavour Space Shuttle.
What amazes though is just how smooth and consistent the power delivery is, how instantly accessible its reserves are at almost any speed and for that how much power reserves it always has available.
More impressive is the way the 4 Series stays arrow straight as your punish the accelerator (and rear tyres no doubt). The transaction control system in a masterpiece giving the impression of all-wheel traction.
Do the same on a damp twisty road and the rear will want to play, although the traction control does well to keep it in check.
Next, you’ll be checking that you bought an M Sport. Those horror stories (often true) of rock hard bones crushing suspension just isn’t present. The 4-Series happily mops up the lumps and bumps the road has to offer.
Engage Sport mode on the Drive Performance Control and it will stiffen up the suspension and you’ll start to feel smaller imperfection but you’d hardly call it uncomfortable.
The same Sport mode adds weight to the steering. A steering system that has been revised and allows the front wheels to talk to you through the wheel, chattering away in the palms of your hands letting you know what’s going on up ahead.
Generally, the steering is delightfully light around town and at low speeds and silky, direct and responsive on the open highway.
The eight-speed ZF gearbox effortlessly changes gears when left to its own devices but then if you switch to Sport mode or flick the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, changes are performed with urgency.
At motorway speeds, the 4-Series generates a little wind noise but tyre noise is prevalent more often, although, it’s not disruptive enough to ruin your day.
Visibility to the front and sides is good while the sloping rear roof pillars do block some over-the-shoulder view.
What's it like inside?
Inside the 4 Series exudes class, elegance and feels fresh. Yes, it’s instantly recognisable as a BMW with the now familiar dashboard layout but it continues to work well.
The sports seats are comfortable and with electrical adjustment and memory settings, it should be easy enough to find a comfortable driving position (and save it).
Wrap your fingers around the new leather-clad steering wheel and release the side lever to adjust for reach and tilt. The former adjusts well while tilt could be a little better.
All dials are clear and easy to read and the instrument binnacle dials turn red when Sport mode is engaged.
The door has a good sized door bin, there’s a small tray and two cupholders ahead of the gear lever while the bin under the central armrest houses the wireless phone charger.
In the rear, the sloping roof makes the door opening a little tight and you need to twist as you get in. Once seated in the comfortable and sculptured seats, there’s plenty of leg and knee room while head room will be an issue for taller passengers.
There’s a small door bin and a fold-down armrest with two cupholders.
The boot has a large electrically operated hatch that opens to a large boot floor offering 480-litres of capacity. The floor is flat and square, there’s good underfloor storage, a bag hook and a side compartment.
On an official combined cycle, the 440i is claimed to return 41.5mpg while it emits 159g/km of CO2.
That’ll mean company car drivers will face a 30% BIK tax banding.
The 4 Series gets a three-year unlimited mileage warranty that includes BMW Emergency Service featuring breakdown assistance, roadside recovery and vehicle hire.
The 4 Series is a brilliant driver’s car that exudes class, exemplary road manners and in the 440i guise, explosive performance.
Audi’s S5 runs it close but does benefit from all-wheel drive and a sensational soundtrack.
However, picking between the two will be a personal choice and one of the better more difficult decisions life can throw at you.