Full 2014 BMW 4 Series Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 BMW 4 Series is an all-new model.
What's in a name? At first glance, it might seem like the new 2014 BMW 4 Series is little more than a clever BMW marketing ploy to dig deeper into your wallet. Here you've got plus-one on the BMW Richter scale. Yet compared to the related 3 Series, you're paying more (almost four grand when new) for plenty of identical hardware, two fewer doors and less practicality than the sedan. Hey, what gives? But take a closer look and you'll see that the 4 Series justifies its premium and fortifies BMW's position as a creator of exceptionally desirable luxury coupes and convertibles.
The 2014 BMW 4 Series is a replacement for the previous 3 Series coupe and convertible, and it shares its underpinnings with the latest-generation platform that started with the sedan in 2012. But more so than in the past, the new 4 Series is distinguished by a sleeker presence than the sedan. Its low-slung, low-cabin profile is impressively sporty and highlighted by flared fenders and a character line rising from the front fender to the rear taillights. The specs back up this visual impression: The 4 Series is about 2 inches lower to the ground than the sedan, and its wheels are pushed farther outward for improved handling stability and grip. Special styling details, such as vents just aft of the front wheels (BMW claims they improve aero efficiency) further differentiate the 4 Series.
Underneath the 4 Series sheet metal you'll find two of the same efficient yet powerful engines that BMW offers in the 3 Series sedan. Base BMW 428i models get the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Rated power doesn't really change (241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque), but BMW's engineers have dramatically enhanced its aural characteristics; instead of workaday thrumming, you get a revvy, inspiring soundtrack not unlike a classic BMW straight-6. Should you want the real thing, of course, there's the top-spec 435i model and its 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder.
If you are looking for an entry-level luxury coupe or convertible, you're likely aware of your other choices. The 2014 Infiniti Q60 (nee G37) still offers plenty of strong performance and value, while the 2014 Audi A5 and S5 are still visually stunning and the 2014 Mercedes C-Class coupe is polished and refined in the way you expect a Mercedes to be. But the 4 Series, with its excellent handling and performance, eye-catching styling and best-in-class interior room, strikes us as the most complete and desirable luxury sport coupe and convertible available this year.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 BMW 4 Series is available as a coupe and a convertible. There are two trim levels: 428i and 435i.
Standard equipment for the 428i includes 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, eight-way power front seats, driver memory settings, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, fold-down rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch display screen, BMW's iDrive electronics interface, Bluetooth phone connectivity, BMW Assist and a sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface, an auxiliary audio jack and HD radio. The 428i convertible has an automatic power-retractable hardtop and a wind blocker.
The 435i is equipped similarly but comes with a more powerful engine and 18-inch wheels.
Naturally, a wealth of option packages is available to help you customize your 4 Series. Starting things off are three optional equipment lines -- Luxury, Sport and M Sport -- which include different wheel designs (up to 19 inches), color schemes and trim and upholstery types. The Sport and M Sport also include summer performance tires and sport front seats, while the M Sport further adds a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive suspension dampers and a sport steering wheel.
The Premium package equips the 4 Series with keyless ignition/entry, four-way power lumbar for the front seats, satellite radio and leather upholstery. The Technology package adds a higher-resolution 8.8-inch display screen, a touchpad iDrive controller, a navigation system, a head-up display, Bluetooth audio connectivity, BMW Apps (a suite of connectivity apps for iPhones and select Android devices, including Pandora, Stitcher and Facebook) and BMW Remote Services (which allows Apple and Android users to lock the car remotely and turn on the climate control, among various other tasks).
The Lighting package tacks on LED headlights and automatic high beam control. A Cold Weather package adds heated front seats a heated steering wheel and, for the convertible, front seat-mounted neck-warming air vents. The Driver Assistance package adds a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. Opting for the Driver Assistance Plus package gets you those features plus blind-spot monitoring, a side- and top-view camera system and speed limit info. Finally, the Dynamic Handling package enhances the car's performance with adaptive suspension dampers and variable-ratio sport steering.
Upgraded brakes are a stand-alone option, as are a power rear sunshade, adaptive cruise control, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system and automated parallel parking assist.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BMW 4 Series coupe comes with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The convertible is rear-drive only. For both body styles, an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. A manual transmission is a no-cost option for rear-drive coupes. Both transmissions come with an automatic stop-start function that turns off the engine when the car stops in order to save fuel.
The 428i model uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, the stout little coupe with the automatic transmission raced to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. The EPA estimates an automatic-equipped 428i coupe will deliver 27 mpg combined (23 mpg city/35 mpg highway). We recorded 32 mpg on the Edmunds test loop. Opting for the convertible, manual or AWD drops these numbers slightly, but either way, you're looking at outstanding numbers for this class.
The 435i has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. At our test track, a 435i coupe equipped with the six-speed manual charged from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which is good for this class of car. With the coupe and automatic, the EPA estimates 25 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway). The manual version is rated 23 mpg combined, although we logged 120 miles on our test loop at 28 mpg with ease. The 435i xDrive checks in at 24 mpg combined with the auto and 23 with the manual.
Every 2014 BMW 4 Series comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and rollover protection (convertible). Simulated panic stops from 60 mph at our test track demonstrated excellent brakes, with stops between 110 and 113 feet for the coupe on summer tires.
The stability control system integrates several features designed to improve braking performance, such as periodically wiping the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are in use and automatically snugging the pads to the rotors when the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. BMW Assist emergency communications is standard and includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance. A visit to the options list will provide parking sensors (front and rear), a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system and an automated parking system.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 4 Series might be new, but the cabin is all 3 Series, with a classy design and premium materials. The company's classic analog gauges provide a historical link with BMWs of previous decades, while the Luxury, Sport and M Sport give you plenty of leeway to customize the cabin to your taste.
In terms of technology, the basic 6.5-inch display screen is adequate, but you'll want to get the larger, optional screen for a true, luxury electronics interface. This year's iDrive system has been updated slightly, with the most noticeable change being a touchpad on top of the controller that can be used to hand write inputs using your finger. Overall, iDrive is pretty easy to use, thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times. But compared to some rival systems, it typically requires a few more twirls and clicks to get what you want.
Behind the wheel, a lower seating position than the sedan helps add to the sporting persona of the BMW 4 Series. The front seats are very supportive and comfortable and good both for long road trips and spirited driving. Compared to the previous-generation 3 Series two-doors, there is also more room all around, particularly in the rear where there's an impressive amount of legroom and enough headroom for average-sized adults. The 4's trunk is also pretty roomy. The convertible is slightly less, but even with the top retracted you'll still have a reasonable amount of space.
The new 2014 BMW 4 Series' sleek exterior look promises a lot in the way of excitement, and it largely delivers on BMW's "Ultimate Driving Machine" tag line.
There's nothing wrong with picking the 428i, It hardly drives like a "base" model. In fact, you'll get nearly identical performance as the 435i for thousands of dollars less. Its four-cylinder delivers remarkably quick acceleration, and an engaging engine and exhaust note that will have you winding up through the gears, fuel economy be damned.
The same can be said for the 2014 BMW 435i, but to an even greater extent. The traditionalist's choice in terms of transmissions will always be the manual, but the eight-speed auto works exceptionally well in both the normal driving mode or under the driver's control via the paddle shifters. In fact, our testing revealed that the 428i with the lightning-quick automatic transmission was quicker from zero to 60 mph than the more powerful 435i with the six-speed manual. Not by much, but that shows just how proficient this new eight-speed is. One annoyance can be the gruff restart nature of the automatic engine stop-start function, though it can be disabled.
When the road bends, BMW has tuned the 4 Series to handle with more athleticism than the sedan. The car rides a little lower, the front and rear tracks are a bit wider, the suspension is firmer and the steering has more heft and precision to it. These are incremental changes to be sure, but they work. Driven through a turn with the Sport mode selected, the 4 Series is marvelously balanced for a luxury sport coupe and easily instills driver confidence. Some might find the ride quality overly firm, but opting for the driver-selectable adaptive suspension nearly erases road imperfections while further boosting the car's stability.