10 Cool Things: BMW 4 Series & upcoming M4

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BMW has been drip-feeding us information about its soon-to-be-launched 4 Series, but thanks to a new report, we have more clarity on the range’s line-up, the configurations of the three(!) M4 models and can look forward to the arrival of the range-topping i4.

1. Controversial grille part of a new BMW strategy

BMW sought to differentiate the 3 Series from its 2-door sibling by launching the F30-based version of the latter as the first-generation 4 Series in 2013, followed by a 4-door Gran Coupe – which, in 420d Sports Auto guise, was the winner in the business class category of the 2017/18 instalment of the #CarsAwards – powered by WesBank.

Although there were differences between the respective F30-based models, most would be hard-pressed to distinguish them from one another when viewing the cars directly from the front…

Well, that will no longer be the case… BMW, which previewed the controversial looks of the upcoming G22-generation 4 Series when it revealed the tall-grilled/beaver-toothed Concept 4 at the Frankfurt Show last year, is ringing the changes for next batch of 4ers, starting with that striking new frontal styling. Various spy photos have confirmed that.

The bold front end, which was inspired by the vertical kidney grilles of BMWs from the 1930s (such as the iconic 328), has been described by design chief Stefan Woerns as the first step towards giving each BMW model a unique interpretation of the brand’s most recognisable styling element, even those that are similarly sized/directly related.  

Plus, in terms of proportions, aerodynamics, weight distribution and handling dynamics, the new 4 Series is said to be markedly different from its G20-generation 3 Series sibling... 


2. Further differentiated from 3 Series

Apart from being 57 mm lower than its 4-door sibling (its centre of gravity is also 21 mm lower), the 4 Series’ rear track has been widened by 23 mm at the rear, while the front wheels are set up for negative camber. BMW has been testing the new 4 Series at the winter testing centre in Arjeplog, Sweden, at the BMW Group’s facility in Miramas in France, on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife circuit, as well as many other tracks.

The newcomer’s lift-related dampers are tuned for a more engaging and sporty drive and BMW has added model-specific front-end strut braces as well as bracing elements around the rear axle to increase stiffness. These measures are all said to be in aid of greater steering precision and improved suspension control compared with the 3 Series.

3. It will be available in three, no four, iterations

According to Autocar, the G22-generation 4 Series will be launched soon in coupe guise, followed by the cabriolet and the 4-door Gran Coupe. The latter is particularly important for BMW, because of all the units of the previous generation that were sold (700 000), half were 4-doors, while the coupe and cabriolet account for around 25% each.

It’s a credit to the brand’s ubiquitous CLAR platform that the all-electric i4 will be based on the same structure as that used by its ICE 3- and 4-Series siblings – it’s the only time, apart from the iX3, that BMW has not utilised bespoke underpinnings for an EV product.

Seeing that it is closely related to the Gran Coupe, the i4 will be built alongside its 4-door sibling at BMW’s plant in Munich; its significance compared with the M4 will be explained later.

4. Return of the soft-top

Does anyone remember the boxy 3 Series Cabriolet? Well, BMW used to utilise a folding fabric roof for its topless compact models from 1985 until the E93 3 Series Convertible arrived in the mid-Noughties, replete with a metal folding roof. Its 4 Series successor featured a (somewhat more elegant) convertible roof too, but while it offered more convenience and refinement, it blunted the cars’ dynamics (by adding weight), limited rear legroom and reduced boot space.

Well, the good news is that the upcoming 4 Series cabriolet will return to its roots by swapping its folding hard-top roof for a multi-layer fabric structure. Similar to the arrangement on the 8 Series cabriolet, this will include a composite tonneau cover and a dedicated storage area. This augers well for a tauter, more shapely rear-3-quarter design for the upcoming model.

5. Wide range of petrol-, turbodiesel engines

Although neither the launch line-up nor the estimated date of arrival for the 4 Series in the South African market has yet been confirmed, we know that the 4 Series will be produced in 420i (135 kW/300 Nm) and 430i (190 kW/400 Nm) 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol guises; there will also be 420d (140 kW/400 Nm) and 430d (195 kW/580 Nm) 2.0-litre 4- and 3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbodiesel versions, but perhaps not in Mzansi.

6. M440i xDrive will initially top the range

But before the 2nd-generation M4 – codenamed the G82 – is released around the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2021 (Autocar reports), the 4 Series line-up will be headed by the M440i xDrive and its diesel sibling, the M440d xDrive. Both derivatives will be powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-6 engine aided by a 48V mild-hybrid setup that provides off-throttle engine-idle coasting, regenerative braking and a Sprint mode that boosts acceleration under load.

Judging by the performance figures of the M340i xDrive and M340d xDrive, the corresponding 4 Series derivatives (equipped with an 8-speed Sport automatic transmission, an M Sport differential and adaptive damping), should produce peak outputs of at least 285 kW/500 Nm and 250 kW/700 Nm respectively.

The sedans are claimed to accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in 4.4 and 4.6 sec respectively; but, again, the M440i is likely to be more significant for our market than the M440d.

7. M4 will be a 6-speed manual with RWD

Performance-car purists will be overjoyed to learn that even though the upcoming M440i xDrive will be all-wheel-driven, the base M4 will be rear-wheel-driven and equipped with a 6-speed manual gearbox, at least if the recent report is accurate. As we reported last week, the M3 (and its M4 sibling) will be powered by a version of the twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline-6 engine that powers the X3 M and X4 M non-identical twins. It is believed the M4 will produce peak outputs of 353 kW and 600 nm of torque.

8. M4 Competition be an Auto with M xDrive

As is the case with the M5 sedan, the M4 Competition will feature an 8-speed torque-converter (not dual-clutch) automatic transmission in combination with an M xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Autocar believes it will be as powerful as its X3 M and X4 M Competition siblings with a peak output of 375 kW and 600 Nm of torque. Will it be offered with switchable, part-time 2WD drift mode? Time will tell...

9. The first M4 Gran Coupe

BMW resisted the urge to produce a full M-car version of the previous generation 4 Series Gran Coupe – probably to avoid cannibalisation of M3 sedan sales. However, such is the popularity of the 4 Series Gran Coupe model in North America and China (globally, the 4-door accounts for half of 4 Series sales, remember), that BMW has decided to build a junior sibling to the recently introduced 8 Series Gran Coupe (and discontinued 6 Series Gran Coupe).

The M4 Gran Coupe is scheduled to be launched in 2022 as a rival to the Audi RS5 Sportback, well-placed BMW sources told Autocar.

10. i4 will be the most potent 4 Series

We thought we’d save the juiciest news ‘til last. Even though BMW’s marketing gurus will do their utmost to position the upcoming i4 (based on the recent i4 Concept) as a standalone model, it is understood to be very closely based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe and, upon its launch later this year, it will effectively be the “most powerful 4 Series” of the lot. 

The i4 is the first in a wave of new electric cars being developed and brought to market by BMW over the next 3 years and the brand’s first all-electric sedan. Powered by a pair of powerful electric motors (one at each axle), the i4 will produce up to 390 kW and about 813 Nm of torque in its most potent guise – the (all-wheel-driven) i4 xDrive.

BMW claims that the i4, which is equipped with an 80-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, will have an impressive optimal range of 600 km (from a full charge) on the WLTP test cycle.

Further Reading:

Disguised 2021 BMW M3 at the Nurburgring [Video]

That grille! BMW 4 Series images leaked

Spy Shots: 2021 BMW 4 Series

BMW Concept 4 Previews New 4 Series

Leaked images: BMW 2 Series Coupe

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