2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe Axes Manual Transmission, Goes Hybrid, Adds… That Grille
Controversial? Yes. Handsome? Absolutely.
It's been six years since BMW first launched its sporty 4 Series, essentially splitting off the 3 Series coupes and offering a new take on an old classic. Today, BMW announced its second-generation 4 Series, which officially brings the aging luxury car into modern times with all-new everything, including more power, more performance, and—you guessed it—a hell of a lot more grille.
Previously, BMW offered four trims across the 4 Series Coupe, separating powertrain and drivetrain into different trim levels. For the launch of the 4 Series, the automaker is now simplifying this lineup by offering three trims with the new 4 Series Coupe: 430i, 430i xDrive, and M440i xDrive.
Both the 430i and 430i xDrive are equipped with BMW's B46 turbocharged four-cylinder which produces an adequate 255 horsepower and 294 foot-pounds of torque. However, the 430i is the only vehicle in the 4 Series Coupe lineup to offer rear-wheel drive—for now. In a call, BMW clarified to The Drive that the automaker plans to offer a rear-wheel-drive M440i later in the product lifecycle. The real winner here is the M440i xDrive Coupe, which uses the same 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged inline-six found in the revised 2021 Toyota Supra.
Like the Supra, the new 4 Series gets a boost in power and is now rated at 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque—an increase of 62 horsepower and 39 pound-feet compared to the 2020 model. But that's not all.
The M440i's powertrain has been amped up—literally. In addition to the added horsepower of the internal combustion engine, BMW says that the M440i will feature an all-new 48-volt mild-hybrid drive system. While driving in Sport mode, the car will utilize the electric assist to produce an extra 11 horsepower during hard acceleration, meaning a three-percent boost of pure electric power. The system is also capable of regeneration, meaning it recoups energy back to the battery during deceleration and braking.
BMW's auto start-stop function also gets an interesting improvement thanks to the hybrid system. As the driver applies the brakes, the car will switch off its engine at nine miles per hour, enabling a seamless switch between driving and stopping.
In an unfortunate twist, the maker of the "Ultimate Driving Machine" has dropped the manual transmission from the entire 4 Series lineup. Instead, power is deployed to BMW's quick-shifting eight-speed Sport automatic transmission, and, in all vehicles except the base 430i, it is sent to all four wheels. This means that those expecting a rear-drive top-tier 4 Series will be out of luck. However, BMW says that its xDrive system, along with its variable mechanical torque vectoring, will feature a rear-drive bias under normal driving conditions.
With its bump in power and standard all-wheel-drive, the M440i xDrive Coupe will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.3 seconds, per BMW.
The design—more specifically, the 4 Series' front grille—is obviously the elephant in the room. For quite some time, BMW has been quietly adjusting the world to its larger grilles. Finally, the new 4 Series completely shows off the revised design language that BMW has been waiting to show off to the world. The grille essentially acts as a keystone to the entire car's design.
As it continues to flow down to the bottom of the front bumper cover, the profile ripples across the rest of the bumper and into the shape of the hood. Its aggressively-styled headlights complement the car's form and provides a significantly modern appearance. BMW says that the new kidney grille shape and size is specifically meant to help provide adequate cooling for the car's turbocharged engine.
Classy-yet-sporty BMW styling defines the side profile, leading back to the iconic Hofmeister-kink rear coupe window, and broad shoulders to signal the car's strength. All of that design doesn't come without bloating—overall, the new 4 Series is 5.2 inches longer, one inch wider, 0.4 inches taller, and packs on just over 100 pounds compared to its predecessor.
Lastly, it wouldn't be a luxury car without a number of tech-based commodities. We'll start with the plethora of advanced driver assistance systems, such as active cruise with stop and go, lane-keeping assistance, automatic collision mitigation, and more. There's even a drive recorder that uses multiple cameras to collect video footage of the vehicle's drive, similar to Tesla's dashcam functionality.
The 4 Series also comes with a number of optional performance-oriented gadgets as well, including electronically actuated Adaptive M Suspension and Variable Sport steering.
Polarizing design aside, it's no secret that BMW was looking toward the future when designing the new 4 Series. The lack of manual transmission is a bit of a disappointment, but not in the least bit surprising given the feature's low take rate and introduction of electrification. Perhaps the best way to view the new 4 Series is as a more tame, grown-up Supra. The elements are there, even if the platform isn't tearing up the road like it did in its youth.
Pricing for the 4 Series will begin at $45,600 for the 430i Coupe and jump to $58,500 for the M440i xDrive Coupe. Deliveries will begin in October of this year.
Correction: Tuesday, June 6, 2020, 1:30 P.M. ET: BMW clarified that it will offer a rear-wheel-drive version of the M440i later in the product lifecycle.
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