For BMW fans or even just new-to-the-brand car shoppers, decoding BMW's model monikers used to be a simple and logical process. The first number indicated the model series. For example, 3 Series was the company's compact model. The 5 Series was the midsize model and the 7 Series the large sedan. The numbers that followed stand for engine size. A 540i was a 5 Series with a 4.0-liter V8, for example. More recent times have seen that system replaced by one that doesn't indicate engine displacement, but rather a somewhat vague output hierarchy. Other premium brand carmakers have also done this, so BMW is not the only player in this confusing name game.
If you're shopping for a luxury sport coupe or convertible, you will encounter some "new math" as you look at the 2017 BMW 4 Series. This model was already using BMW's revised naming convention, but now has new numbers to reflect more power from its engines.
In other words, last year's 428i and 435i have become the 430i and 440i, respectively. Basic engine assignments are unchanged: The 430i is powered by the workhorse 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine while the 440i gets its motivation from BMW's turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder. Depending on body style, transmission choices include a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic, while both rear- and all-wheel drive (called "xDrive" in BMW's language) are available.
Despite output increases of 8 and 20 horsepower, respectively, both engines see small increases in fuel economy. Official EPA mileage estimates range from 23 mpg combined (19 city/29 highway) with the turbo six and manual transmission to 27 mpg combined (23 city/34 highway) for the turbo four and automatic. Perhaps most impressive is how these powertrains manage to provide such good fuel economy with such strong performance. We've been pleasantly surprised by the punchy acceleration of the previous turbo four, so the infusion of more power is nice, if not wholly necessary. Other changes this year include an improved iDrive infotainment interface, newly available wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
In both the coupe and convertible body styles, the 4 Series checks most of the boxes for those shopping in the compact premium brand segment. In addition to spirited performance, you also get confidence-inspiring handling along with a fairly supple ride, a spacious cabin, excellent build quality and easy-to-use high-tech luxury and safety features. With an engaging driving personality that few rivals can match and a combination of exciting performance and strong fuel efficiency, the 2017 BMW 4 Series merits strong consideration, even in a segment chock full of fine choices. When it's time to find your perfect 2017 BMW 4 Series, Edmunds is ready to help.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.