Aside from saloons, EVs and SUVs, something BMW does very well are Coupes.
The E9 Coupe from '68 that evolved into the 6-Series, the 8-Series that has been around since 1990 and the 4-Series was introduced in 2014 as a Coupe evolution of their highly successful 3-Series.
Well, now the 4-Series is in its 2nd Generation and BMW NZ let me play with the 420i model.
OK, so it's hard to talk about the 4-Series without discussing that grille, so let's get that out of the way up front. The iconic kidney grilles have been on the nose of BMW vehicles since 1933.
First seen on the 303, their top and bottom rounding and the placement of BMW's blue and white quarter circles between the upper arches became an instant brand feature and their huge size a statement - does any of this sound familiar?
Certainly the kidney's size and shape have been fettled with over time, from the 'slim' on the 503, 1500 and CSi to the 'narrow' on the 507 and new Z4. Vertical oblongs on M1 and horizontal 3rd Gen 3.
However, regardless of size and shape, the kidney grilles remained unmistakably BMW.
The most recent development of the kidney grille for production vehicles has it looking large, upright and forward-leaning, and a look back at BMW history and the evolution of the grill shows just how much the new BMW 4 Series Coupé follows the legendary sports car tradition at the automaker.
For the new 4-Series, BMW has evolved their grille to somewhat epic proportions, drawing inspiration from such classics as the BMW 328 Coupé of the 1930s, the BMW 3.0 CS from the 1970s and the original 303, sure it's big, bold and positively unmissable but it demonstrates the new era of the brand and as such should be heralded - in my opinion.
Back to the 420i itself. The new 4-Series Gran Coupe's dimensions are bullet-like, with an overall length of 4.68m while its height is a mere 1.4m. The nose, apart from that big grille, features LED headlight and cup-shaped DRLs. I had been given the M-Sport variant so areas such as the lower valance and air curtains (that were blocked off) came with added black which contrasted well against the bright white body work.
The coupe's profile came with M-Sport badging and M-Sport 19-inch black alloys, large wide-opening doors for easy access front and rear plus a long flowing roofline that dipped down to the tail. The rear itself offers more LED lighting, a pair of exhaust tips that are actually connected to the exhaust and a boot lip spoiler that conceals 440L of 'golf bag holding' boot space within.
Under the long sloping bonnet is a 2L Twin-Power turbo engine that is good but not outstanding. It offers up 135kWs of power when your rev needle gets to 5000 and 300Nm of torque from 1,350. 0-100km/h comes at 7.5 seconds which is OK, however the fuel-economy is good, 6.4L/100km - although not the figure most BMW enthusiasts will be searching for. Mind you, there is a 3L 440i for those in a sub 5s hurry.
The cabin is full of BMW luxury with a sporty flair. The black leather seats come with BMW blue contrast stitching and there's actually room for those in the rear to breathe (just with limited viewing options). The landscape feels very familiar and presents the driver with more technology and assistance than you can shake a stick at - although I'm not sure why you'd be shaking a stick.
The infotainment display is 6.5-inch's and comes with BMW's sat-nav system included which has live traffic alerts. It's controlled via the usual i-Drive dial, gesture control of 'Hey BMW' voice activation. The options seem limitless and offer 'solutions' to virtually every driving situation.
Driving Assistant keeps the BMW between the lines and other vehicle aware for those stuck in traffic or on extended long trips, Parking Assistant Plus gives you 3D surround vision and will even automatically reverse out the way you came in and all manner of blind spot alerts and cross traffic assists ensure you get to where you need to - safely.
The steering is positive and it handles nicely in Sport, offering a dynamic drive around the countryside when pushed. The 2L may be a little lazy on the straights but you feel confident enough to carry any additional car speed into the corners, so should you wish to drive for the 'sheer pleasure' you are amply rewarded.
BMW New Zealand's new 420i is a Gran Coupe that upholds the brand's impressive Coupe tradition. It's easy on the eye (even with the Grille) and even easier to drive. Personally I would opt for the 440i, just because, but that doesn't detract from the fact of just how capable this 2nd generation is.
Why you should:
- Friends will love that grille
- A sporty drive that is great for long runs
- Noticeably good economy.
Why you shouldn't:
- Friends will hate that grille
- Lacks some oomph under foot
- View from the rear seats is minimal.
What else you may consider:
- BMW 440i
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
- Audi A5 Coupe
- Lexus RC.