By Nick Hodgson
Unbeknownst to the general population, the R536 and surrounding roads by Nelspruit are some of the most entertaining that this country has to offer. The views provided through the windscreen are enough to take your breath away and the twisting tarmac ensures that you’re at full attention the whole time.
This is the location I found myself face to face with the new BMW 4 series. Sure it’s effectively a facelift rather than a new model, but considering the first version hit our shores in 2013 it’s probably about due. The BMW 4 series gran coupe rather shot the marketing department in the foot as originally the 4 series was billed as the 2 door version of the 3 series so finally BMW has done an about face, billing it instead as a more driver focused, performance version of the 3 series.
Luckily those claims are backed up by some stats with the new 4 series having a 40mm lower center of gravity and a wider track, 14mm at the front and 22mm at the rear over the 3 series. This gives the vehicle a more purposeful prescience over its brother and will undoubtedly attract an audience more focused on aesthetics than practicality. A good thing too as it turns out South Africa is coupe mad. The rest of the world has flocked to gran coupe with all its four door practicality, while we sit here stubbornly bucking the trend and buying more coupes than anything else, despite them being near as dammit the same car underneath.
In fact it’s in the convertible where we find the most difference to the underpinnings, being less stiff and consequently more comfortable, decisions which were all made based on customer feedback. Interestingly the convertible is also the only model variant that won’t be sold with a Diesel engine. I guess customers aren’t so happy with the roof down and a tractor noise emanating from under the bonnet, sort of ruins with whole California dream somewhat.
But what are they like to drive. Well after covering nearly 500 kilometers in one day through twisty mountain roads and long highway stretches it’s safe to say I got a pretty well rounded experience from behind the wheel. What first stood out to me was the suspension setup and how excellent it was at both soaking up the bumps and keeping the car nice and level through the tight and twisty turns, striking an excellent balance between comfort and sporty handling. It’s clear that a whole lot of work has been done and a lot of emphasis has been place on getting this area of the car right. Slightly more disappointing was the steering, which in my opinion is still to light and doesn’t separate itself from the 3 series enough, especially as BMW is trying to distance the two models based on dynamics.
Most puzzling to me though is the sales figure differential between the coupe and gran coupe. Sure I’ll be the first to admit that the two door coupe looks sportier and better than the four door gran coupe, but quite honestly there is no difference in the way they drive or the price. Given this and the segment these cars operate in I’m surprised most people don’t opt for the more practical version as it’s certainly the one I’d go for. On the subject of what I’d go for, BMW has decided that all paint options on the 4 series are now free, which is great news as now there is no excuse for not choosing the frankly stunning new colours, snapper rocks blue and sunset orange. Colours that by the way are exclusive to the 4 series and that will undoubtedly help you stand out from the crowd.
420i: 135kw 290nm
430i: 185kw 350nm
440i: 240kw 450nm
420d: 140kw 450nm
Base Price Range
BMW 4 Series Coupe: R603,200 – R861,100
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe: R603,200 – R861,100
BMW 4 Series Convertible: R715,400 – R985,100