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Walkaround and Interior
The styling of the BMW 4 Series is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and is clearly recognizable as a 3 Series coupe successor.
Like other BMW models, the 4 Series comes in a choice of lines: standard, Luxury, Sport and M Sport. Each gets unique exterior trim, interior trim and wheels.
BMW 4 Series coupes are wider and sit lower than the 3 Series sedans, giving them a bolder, more aggressive stance. The front fascia closely resembles the latest 3 Series, but it is not identical. Viewed from straight on, the coupe has a more flowing, aerodynamic appearance. The signature BMW twin kidney grille is ever-so-slightly lower and wider, flowing into headlamp housings that stretch back and wrap around into the front fender. Double-bezel headlamps are ringed and more pronounced, giving it that BMW angel eyes look. Foglamp housings are swoopier and a bit more accentuated.
From the side, the silhouette is lower and sleeker, with a curvier, sharper sloping roofline. Short front overhangs leave very little weight hanging over the front axle. A distinctive body crease runs from behind the front wheel, through the door handle, and tapers off over the rear wheel. Side windows are shorter and more stretched back, and a sharper version of BMW's distinctive curve, known as the Hofmeister kink, forms the tail end of the side rear windows.
Also setting the 4 Series apart is the side air breather, a vertical vent located on each side behind the front wheel arch that channels air from the engine compartment down the sides of the car for reduced drag.
Standard wheels on the 428i are 17-inch alloys, while 435i models get 18-inch wheels. Designs vary depending on trim line.
In the rear, the shorter back window is evident. Tail lamps look like slightly flattened versions of those found on the 3 Series. The rear bumper is more horizontal and uses straight, rather than upwardly curved lines out to the rear fenders. Double exhaust tips remain together on the left side; we would have loved to see one pipe on each side, perhaps integrated into the rear bumper.
The interior design of the 2014 BMW 4 Series is clearly more driver-oriented than that of the 3 Series. The center stack is slightly canted to the left, and a high, tapered dividing line just to the right of the gearshift cordons off the driver in her own little cocoon. Behind the shifter (and just below the center stack) is a shallow storage tray, which lifts out to reveal two standard-sized cupholders. We think this is an awkward design, since there is no designated place for the tray to go when the cupholders are being used. We threw ours in an already crowded glove compartment.
The center stack sits up high and is sleek and clean. Up top is the iDrive screen, with two air vents below. Beneath are the standard BMW radio and climate controls, which are easy to use.
The iDrive screen, which comes standard on all models, is large, bright and easy to read. But unless your car is equipped with navigation, it will be of little use. In one of our test cars, the screen simply displayed audio, phone and vehicle information. The loaded (but pricey) Technology package adds a whole suite of features, including navigation with real-time traffic information and BMW Connected, an app that allows users to sync their smartphones with their cars to use Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, a vehicle finder function and more. The BMW Apps suite also integrates selected subscription-based applications into the car such as Pandora, Stitcher and MOG. The tech pack also adds a head-up display.
The steering wheel is thick and easy to grip; M Sport models use an even thicker, more padded wheel, which we found practically too big to handle. We preferred the slightly skinnier version on our 428i test model with the Sport line trim.
The instrument cluster uses the standard BMW analog gauges. Four circular dials (fuel gauge, speedometer, tachometer and oil temperature gauge) come with a black panel display. Drivers can toggle through trip, fuel economy and other vehicle information via a button on the tip of the turn signal stalk.
Standard upholstery is a man-made material BMW calls SensaTec. Leather is optional. We found the Sport and M Sport seats had a good range of adjustability and were nicely bolstered to keep us snugly in place. We have not tried the standard or Luxury line seats.
For the most part, interior materials match the quality expected from BMW, but in some cases come up short: The metallic blue and textured silver trim on Sport Line models looks cheap and stuck-on. Some color combinations are classy and beautiful, such as the black gloss finish and burl wood trim. Others, however, were grossly mismatched. One example of a 4 Series we drove had tan interior primarily throughout, including the glovebox and center console. Yet the dash was black, with metallic silver and blue trims thrown in between. Some lines automatically include certain colors or finishes, so consider this carefully if you're going to custom-order.
Although windows aren't as large as in the 3 Series sedan, visibility is fine in the 4 Series coupe. The most significant difference is in rearward visibility, where the sharply sloping roofline makes for a shorter back window.
An optional Driver Assistance package adds a rearview camera and parking sensors. The Driver Assistance Plus package includes side- and top-view cameras, which create a bird's-eye perspective of the vehicle and the area around it. If that's not enough, the optional Parking Assistant helps the driver parallel park by finding a space, turning the steering wheel, practically parking the car itself. Most useful is the rearview camera and it can help the driver spot a child behind the car when backing up.
BMW 4 Series models seat four. Due to its lower stance, the 4 Series loses about an inch of front and rear headroom. Rear legroom is also reduced by more than an inch and measures 36.1 inches, 1.6 inches less than the 3 Series sedan. Still, the back seat offers reasonable space for the occasional rear passenger, and is slightly more spacious than the Audi A5 and the Mercedes Benz C250 coupe. Rear bucket seats are comfortable, and the standard rear center console includes cupholders. But because of its two-door design, getting in and out isn't the easiest, so the 4 Series is still best left to front-seat occupants.
Cargo space in the 4 Series coupe is plentiful at 15.7 cubic feet, compared with 13 cubic feet in the 3 Series sedan, 12.2 cubic feet in the Audi A5, and a paltry 11.7 cubic feet in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe.