The latest incarnation of the BMW 3 Series is the best ever - finding a home on thousands of UK driveways since its release. However, the coupe and convertible models now fall under the 4 Series nameplate, distancing these sportier cars from the saloon on which they are based. The shift in naming policy also gives 4 Series buyers the chance to own something more exclusive and desirable.

You can't deny the 4 Series is a good looking car, with an athletic stance accentuated by wide rear wheelarches, swept back lights and flowing proportions. It dimensions are longer, lower and wider than the 3 Series Coupe it replaces, and the 4 only shares one piece of exterior bodywork with the 3 Series saloon - the bonnet.

On the engine front, the 4 Series comes with a comprehensive mix of petrol and diesel powerplants. Kicking off the petrol range is the 420i - a 2.0-litre petrol with 184bhp, then we move up to the 2.0-litre 428i with 245bhp and the 306bhp 435i six-cylinder unit.

Diesel-wise, the 4 Series is available in 420d, 425d and 435d guises - producing 184, 218 and 258bhp respectively. All engines are available with BMW's 8-speed automatic gearbox and xDrive four-wheel-drive if the standard rear-wheel-drive in’t grippy enough. 

Trim levels consist of SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport - the latter of which provides more aggressive, sporty styling with redesigned bumpers, larger alloy wheels and a suite of M badges on the exterior and interior of the car. There's also a 4 Series Convertible and 4 Series Gran Coupe four-door coupe available under the new model range.

Topping off the range is the performance M4 - putting out 431bhp, a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds (4.1 seconds if equipped with an auto' box) and a limited top speed of 155mph.

With an attractive design, strong engines and a practical interior, the BMW M4 is a very tempting car. However, it comes at a higher price than its predecessor and we recommend you specify the £750 optional dampers if you want a true BMW driving experience. 

Styling

First impressions count when buying a coupe, and the 4 Series certainly hits the spot here. Its relationship to the 3 Series is clear, but it only shares the bonnet with the saloon and is different enough to be able to justify its place in a separate model range under the 4 Series moniker.

SE models come with 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon lights and black vents in the famous BMW kidney grilles. There's a range of alloy wheel options available at extra cost, so you'll easily be able to spec a 4 Series to your tastes. If you want more aggressive styling, the M Sport comes with sportier bumpers, side skirts and detailing at a cost of £3,000 over the SE model.

On the inside, the layout will be familiar to anyone who's been in a 3 Series, with a logical, smart design combined with an upmarket feel. Highlights include slender buttons for the audio and heating controls, as well as the excellent central infotainment screen, controlled by BMW's revised touchpad iDrive controller.

Standard kit includes Bluetooth, a DAB radio, cruise control, leather seats and an extended interior lighting pack, while options like £230 brushed aluminium trim, £215 anthracite headlining and £1,990 Professional Media Pack and navigation create even more of a premium feel. Better still, a low-set driving position enhances the car’s sporty personality.

Inside, the layout will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a 3 Series, with the same combination of an upmarket feel and a simple and smart layout. Highlights include the slender buttons for the air-con and audio system, as well as the excellent central infotainment screen, while the 4 Series also benefits from BMW’s revised touchpad iDrive controller.

Standard kit includes Bluetooth, a DAB radio, cruise control, leather seats and an extended interior lighting pack, while our car was given more of a special feel by its £230 brushed aluminium trim, £215 anthracite headlining and £1,990 Professional Media Pack and navigation. As you’d expect, fit and finish are first rate, with top-notch materials used throughout. Better still, a low-set driving position enhances the car’s sporty personality.

Driving

The 4 Series feels an even more engaging car to drive than the accomplished 3 Series saloon. This is thanks to having the lowest centre of gravity of any BMW in the current range, a wider rear track and new springs and dampers.

Sharp, fast and accurate steering is matched to a lovely rear-wheel-drive handling balance, while there’s plenty of feedback, too. A little bit of body movement is noticeable, but aside from a slightly rigid ride at low speeds – on account of the run-flat tyres – the BMW is smooth enough.

If you want tighter responses, go for the 4 Series M Sport, but the SE is still lighter and faster to respond than its most direct rivals. You get sharp throttle response, especially with the Drive Performance Control set to Sport mode – providing the best steering weighting for keen drivers. 

There’s a bit of vibration in the gearlever during the operation of the stop-start system and, as with all four-cylinder BMW diesels, the engine rattles a bit at low revs and at idle. But the 184bhp 2.0-litre smooths out when worked hard and is hushed at cruising speeds.

Specifying an auto transmission adds £1,550 to the price and lowers emissions by 3g/km, but the standard six-speed manual box offers a beautifully precise shift action.

BMW has added its xDrive four-wheel drive system to the range this time. It comes as standard on cars with the most powerful 435d diesel engine, and gives the 4 Series a planted, secure feel on the road. It also allows you to make the most of the engine's power when accelerating out of tight bends, and increases the front-end's willingness to hold its line through corners.

As the xDrive system hangs lower under the car, it can't be had with the lowered M Sport suspension, although adaptive dampers can be fitted as they don't affect the ride height. 

In our most recent test, the 4 Series came equipped with the £750 optional Adaptive M Sport suspension, but without it, the car doesn’t have the taut body control of the AMG version of the Mecedes C-Class Coupe. If you want tighter responses, there’s always the M Sport version.

Even so, the SE is lighter and faster to respond than its rivals here. You get sharp throttle response, especially with the Drive Performance Control set to Sport mode – this setting also provides the best steering weighting for keen drivers. There’s a bit of vibration in the gearlever during the operation of the stop-start system, and as with all four-cylinder BMW diesels, the engine rattles a bit at low revs and at idle.

But the 181bhp 2.0-litre smooths out when worked hard and is hushed at cruising speeds. Specifying an auto transmission adds £1,525 to the price and lowers emissions by 3g/km, but the standard six-speed manual box offers a beautifully precise shift action.

BMW has added its xDrive four-wheel drive system to the range this time. It comes as standard on cars with the most powerful 435d diesel engine, and gives the 4 Series a planted, secure feel on the road.

It also allows you to make the most of the engine's power when accelerating out of tight bends, and increases the front-end's willingness to hold its line through corners. As the xDrive system hangs lower under the car, it can't be had with the lowered M Sport suspension, although adaptive dampers can be fitted as they don't affect the ride height. 

Reliability

The BMW 4 Series uses many of the same mechanical and electronic components as the current 3 Series, so you can buy the coupe safe in the knowledge that it should be a trouble-free ownership experience.

The latest 3 Series placed at an impressive 14th in our 2014 Driver Power survey, with BMW itself reaching 10th place in the manufacturer rankings - just behind Mercedes and two places ahead of Audi.

As you'd expect, the 4 Series can be specified with a host of extra safety equipment, including lane departure warning, a reversing camera, head-up display and active cruise control. Throw in a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and 36 months roadside assistance and owning a 4 Series should be fairly fuss-free.

The 4 Series hasn't been tested by Euro NCAP, but the 3 Series received the full five stars when it was tested, so it should be just as safe. 

Practicality

The 4 Series is surprisingly practical for a two-door coupe. Up front, there's plenty of room for drivers of all shapes and sizes, with good all-round visibility.

In the rear, there's more space for two adults when compared with its two main premium rivals - the Mercedes C-Class Coupe and the Audi A5, even with a curved roofline that impinges on headroom slightly.

Boot capacity is decent, too. At 445 litres it’s just 35 litres shy of the 3 Series saloon - and is accessed by a simple wave of the foot under the rear bumper, so long as you have the key in your pocket.

BMW’s optional ConnectedDrive is available, allowing the car to connect to the internet and give you accurate real-time traffic alerts. xDrive four-wheel drive versions are sure to be popular in the mixed weather conditions we get in the UK while the 435d twin-turbo diesel comes with it as standard.

Running Costs

To go with its more desirable and exclusive looks, the 4 Series has a price premium to take into account - costing around £3,000 more than the equivalent 3 Series to buy. However, each model claims marginally better performance, fuel economy and CO2 figures than the equivalent 3 Series. These will obviously fall if you drive enthusiastically, but the 4 Series' aerodynamic body will help cut fuel bills on a long motorway cruise.

The 8-speed automatic gearbox claims better fuel economy figures than the manual 'box, as well as being smooth and quick to change gear. Overall, the 420d takes some beating. Emissions of just 124g/km mean low tax bills for company car drivers.

Adding to the financial appeal – and making it easy for BMW owners to budget for maintenance – is a fixed-price servicing package, which provides five years or 50,000 miles of cover for just £425.

The icing on the cake is the class-leading 51.5 per cent residual prediction, which means the BMW will be worth around £4,000 more than its rivals after three years.

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