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BMW 4 series


BMW Alpina B4

Summary

BMW 4 series

Life comes at you fast, especially in the automotive industry, where model lifecycles are becoming shorter as each new generation comes and goes.

Take the BMW 4 Series for instance. It’s been a segment stalwart since 2013, but the current model’s time in the sun is finally coming to an end a little later this year.

And that got us thinking whether or not the old saying rings true in this context. So, we put the flagship 440i coupe to test to find out if the older you get, the wiser you are.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating4 seats

BMW Alpina B4

If you're looking for a sleek, two-door coupe with a sparkling chassis, rear-wheel drive and a charismatic turbo straight-six, BMW has you covered with about eight choices. That should be that, then. But wait. There's more. 

Since 1965, Alpina - the name of a resurrected a typewriter company - has collaborated closely with BMW to produce distinct, high performance Alpina-badged cars. It actually started with a Weber dual-carburettor unofficial conversion for the BMW 1500 in 1962 and over the years built into a racing operation winning championships and races like the Spa 24 Hours.

Alpina returned to Australian shores in 2017 after a long hiatus with a new range including the BMW 4 Series based B4. Not long after, BMW updated the 4 in what it calls LCI (Lifecycle Impulse), so Alpina followed suit with a price drop, new gear and called it the B4 S.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

BMW 4 series7.5/10

Is now the right time to buy a 4 Series coupe? With the next-generation model a matter of months away, probably not.

That said, those buyers who decide to park a new ‘old’ 4 Series coupe in their driveway will be very pleased with their purchase.

At the end of the day, the current-generation model is still a cracking sports-luxury coupe, and more so when in 440i form. It’s just that good.


BMW Alpina B47.4/10

You could almost call the B4 S the anti-M4. It's still fast and practical but from a completely different perspective. It's much more a grand tourer than the M4 and even with the Akrapovic exhaust (usually a byword for joyous, anti-social racket), subtle.

For some, the price won't matter because the Alpina delivers what they want - M4-like straight line performance without the histrionics or the uncompromising chassis. And there's also a bit of that perverse exclusivity of the styling that you won't get anywhere else.

Is Peter right? Is it the anti-M4? Or just a tarted up 4 with a bit of extra grunt?

Design

BMW 4 series7/10

The first-generation 4 Series coupe has aged relatively well, despite sharing most of its design cues with the superseded sixth-generation 3 Series sedan.

Compared to current BMW models, the 4 Series coupe’s signature kidney grille is small, flanked by angry-looking adaptive headlights with hexagonal daytime running lights, all of which are of the LED variety.

The 440i’s standard M Sport body kit adds to the aggressive styling with chunky front bumper with three large air intakes, the outer two of which also contain the LED fog lights.

Around the side, a strong shoulder line stretches from the front wheel arches to beyond their rear counterparts, while BMW’s Air Curtains split the difference between it and the sporty skirts.

The rear end is the 440i’s simplest angle, although its bumper is spruced up with a dark-grey insert and dual exhaust tailpipes. Predictably, L-shaped LED tail-lights punctuate the styling at the rear.

Inside, the 4 Series coupe is holding up well, but it's still clearly a generation behind most other new BMW models.

That said, it’s a throwback we quite like, particularly iDrive6, which is still arguably BMW’s best multimedia system to date. Powering a floating 8.8-inch touchscreen in this instance, it’s just so intuitive, partly thanks to its rotary controller.

An 8.8-inch digital instrument cluster is a late-life addition for the 440i, and while it looks great with its drive mode-specific views, it lacks the breadth of functionality of Audi’s set-up.

The 4 Series coupe’s cabin is otherwise pretty basic despite its apparent emphasis on sportiness, although the selection of luxurious materials used throughout is top-notch.

The entire dashboard, chunky M Sport steering wheel and old-school handbrake lever are trimmed in high-quality leather, while lower-quality Dakota leather covers the sports seats, armrests and door inserts.

Soft-touch plastic is used for the door shoulders and bins, even in the second row, while hard plastic is limited to the centre console, and gloss-black trim is used on the centre stack’s audio and dual-zone climate control surrounds.


BMW Alpina B47/10

Alpina has always had a particular aesthetic that could uncharitably be termed as mid-'80s West German - all set square angles and body graphics. Think David Hasselhoff's Berlin Wall look. The company has never really deviated from adding squared-off body bits to the various BMWs it has rebadged under its long-running agreement.

For the B4S, Alpina adds the signature billion-spoke alloy wheels (only a slight exaggeration), a new front splitter complete with Alpina lettering, a weirdly proportioned boot lid lip spoiler and - not even joking - pinstripes. Like I said, mid-'80s West German. You can still recognise the sleek 4 Series Coupe but perhaps the worst of it is the super-sized, wonky-looking ALPINA B4S on the boot.

Inside is rather more restrained apart from the ill-fitting Alpina plaque under the climate control. Again, it's all 4 Series in here, with the lovely Merino leather liberally applied across the cabin. Less lovely is the wood on the door pulls and console but the door cards have an oddly appealing woven leather which looks and feels good.

Sadly the standard 4 Series steering wheel is along for the ride. There's nothing wrong with it - although the Alpina logo does look out of place - but if I were a product planner, I'd beg for the lovelier M wheel.

Practicality

BMW 4 series7/10

Measuring 4640mm long, 1825mm wide and 1377mm tall, the 440i coupe is a true mid-sizer, and that means it’s surprisingly practical – for the most part.

Cargo capacity is more than solid, at 445L, but stow the 60/40 split-fold rear bench via a pair of manual latches located in the boot and more storage space is quickly liberated.

To make matters even better, the boot has two bag hooks and four tie-down points, making securing a load a cinch. That said, the high load lip means bulkier items can require a little more effort to accommodate.

Up front, the door bins are large enough for a regular bottle each, while a pair of cupholders separate the gear selector from a seriously shallow storage tray.

The central storage bin is on the shallow side, too, albeit not to the same degree as the dedicated storage tray. That said, much of its space can be taken up by the optional wireless smartphone charger ($200), which was fitted to our test car.

The glovebox tries its best to make up for the lack of genuine in-cabin storage options by being quite large, while storage nets are attached to the backs of the front seats.

Rear occupants can also make use of a large storage tray that resides where a middle seat would otherwise go. They also have access to a fold-down central armrest that incorporates two more cupholders.

Speaking of armrests, the rear side ones are incredibly narrow, leaving tired elbows in a bit of a pickle.

It’s not all bad news in the second row, though, as legroom and toe-room behind our 184cm driving position are very generous, with the former offering several inches of wriggle room.

We’d go as far as to say the rear quarters are comfortable, but that would require ignoring the fact that headroom is seriously compromised with the optional power-operated sunroof ($3000) fitted, with our head pressed firmly against the 440i coupe’s Anthracite roofliner.

Either way, child seats can be fitted in the second row, with ISOFIX anchorage points available for the outer seats. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting ingress and egress to the rear bench isn’t too bad, with the front seats folding forward via manual latches.

Connectivity-wise, two USB-A ports are found in the first row, split between the centre stack and the central storage bin, while three 12V power outlets are spread across the front and rear of the centre console, and the boot.


BMW Alpina B46/10

If you're in the front, you're in luck - it's a comfortable place to be, with plenty of leg and headroom. Down back isn't terrible despite the coupe roofline. The two seats are nicely shaped for maximum comfort and separated by an odd plastic tray. The fold-down armrest has two cupholders.

Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders (bring the total to four for the car) and the long doors will hold a bottle each.

The boot swallows a reasonable 445 litres, which isn't at all bad.

Price and features

BMW 4 series7/10

The 440i coupe is priced from $103,200 plus on-road costs, positioning it as a more affordable alternative to its main rivals, the Audi S5 coupe ($105,400) and Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe ($116,500), although it’s not as fully featured.

Standard equipment not already mentioned in the 440i coupe includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, a mixed set of run-flat tyres (front: 225/40, rear: 255/35) and power-folding side mirrors with heating.

Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio, a 600W Harman/Kardon sound system with 16 speakers, a windshield-projected head-up display, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting feature.


BMW Alpina B47/10

If you thought BMW don't mess about when pricing up its cars, you best strap yourself in. The 440i-based B4S starts at a solid $149,900. That's $48,000 more than the 440i and significantly more than an M4 Pure. But there's plenty of gear on offer and some genuine, bespoke Alpina additions.

Standard are 20-inch signature Alpina alloys, 16-speaker harmon kardon-branded stereo with DAB, super-soft Merino leather everywhere, dual-zone climate control, around-view cameras, reversing camera, sat nav, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, heated and electric front seats, head-up display, auto headlights and active LED headlights, LED taillights and electric sunroof.

The stereo and sat nav are run by BMW's iDrive. It's a cracker of a system and almost gets away without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The absence of such simple pleasures at this price point is a bit lame, but here we are.

Engine & trans

BMW 4 series9/10

The 440i coupe is motivated by a silky smooth 3.0-litre turbo-petrol in-line six-cylinder engine that punches out 240kW of power at 5500rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1380-5000rpm.

An equally silky smooth eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission exclusively sends drive to the rear wheels – a characteristic that has become a rarity in this segment.

This combination helps the 440i coupe sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a scant five seconds flat with launch control engaged, according to BMW. Its top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.


BMW Alpina B49/10

A lot of your extra money turns up under the bonnet. These days the 440i packs BMW's slick B58 turbo straight six and the B4S does likewise. The boys from Buchloe in Bavaria (there are certain to be women there, too, I just liked the alliteration) added a pair of Alpina-spec turbos to generate a whopping 324kW and, more importantly, 660Nm. Alpina says 600Nm (the max torque figure of the brilliant M4 CS) is available from 2000-5000rpm, while the full 660Nm is available from 3000 to 4500rpm.

The M4 Pure has 317kW and 550Nm from the S55 straight-six. Just so you know.

Like the 440i but unlike the M4, the B4S employs the dependably brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic found throughout the BMW range.

Fuel consumption

BMW 4 series8/10

The 440i coupe will drink a claimed 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, while its carbon dioxide emissions are 159 grams per kilometre.

Our week of testing skewed towards city driving over highway stints, and we averaged 8.6L/100km, which is impressive given the six-cylinder performance on offer. And yes, we did put it to use...

The 440i coupe's 60L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum.


BMW Alpina B47/10

Alpina quotes 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle and we went through the premium unleaded at the rate of 11.7L/100km. I enjoyed myself, so that's not a terrible result.

Driving

BMW 4 series8/10

The 440i coupe toe the line between sports car and luxury vehicle very, very well.

The straight-line performance is definitely there thanks to its in-line six-cylinder unit, which is one of our favourite engines in any vehicle – period.

From top to bottom, the 3.0-litre unit is absolutely delicious. Maximum torque kicks in just above idle and remains on tap deep into the top end, at which point a fleeting moment of peak power is just 500rpm away. Needless to say, acceleration is strong.

Remarkably, the engine’s twin-scroll turbo exhibits next to no lag, making for a unit that you truly want to wring out. That said, don’t expect aural pleasure when you do so, as the sound it generates is lacklustre. Yep, no enticing crackles or pops are heard here.

The automatic transmission ties everything together beautifully, providing timely, quick and smooth gear changes on the regular, even without its Sport mode engaged. And, of course, there are paddle-shifters on hand if you want to take matters into your own hands – literally.

Given the 440i coupe’s apparent performance bent, you’d be forgiven for thinking it rides like an unforgiving sports car. Well, the good news is it doesn’t.

Consisting of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with adaptive dampers, its independent suspension set-up stands up really well to Australian roads.

While potholes and coarse-chip roads would usually be met with hesitation, the 440i coupe silences the doubters with its composed ride. Can you feel them? Yes, but they’re relatively muted, especially in a car with sporty aspirations, like this one. 

Cornering is a lot of fun, too, thanks to excellent body control. Tip its 1555kg kerb weight into a corner with intent and you’re quickly reminded why SUVs are nowhere near this fun to drive.

Simply put, the 440i coupe loves a twisty stretch of road, where its M Sport brakes (front: four-piston fixed callipers, rear: two-pot floating stoppers) and traditional rear-wheel-drive dynamics come out to play.

This experience is enhanced by its superb electric power steering, which is speed-sensitive, meaning it’s quick at low speed, for improved manoeuvrability, and ‘slow’ at high speed, for improved stability.

We absolutely adore this particular system, mainly because of its perfect weighting and surprising amount of feel. And in a surprise to no-one, it also turns in really well, too.

Of course, if you want to take the 440i coupe’s handling to the next level, you can engage its Sport drive mode, which stiffens up the adaptive dampers for even flatter cornering and adds more heft to the electric power steering. But we’d say both are unnecessary.


BMW Alpina B49/10

One of the key differences between the B4 and M4 is the ride. While the M4 can crash over bumps and generally be a little hard to live with, the crew in Buchloe have gone after a much more plush ride. And in that they have succeeded because the B4 S is a mighty fine cruiser. Bumps are dismissed with a haughty disdain, even Sport + silliness doesn't completely write-off ride quality.

Very impressive too, is the steering. While still not at Lotus Elise levels of feel (few cars are), the Alpina tweaks connect the your palms to the road with more clarity than what you'll find in the 440i or M4. Where the M4 particularly adds too much weight, the 440i is a bit more circumspect in that regard.

And then we come to the engine. The B58 six is a belter, better even than the N55 that preceded it. It's still a 3.0-litre straight six but is part of BMW's modular engine family that starts with a 1.5-litre triple in the Mini and 1 Series. The Alpina-spec turbos are noisier, the Akrapovic exhaust lighter and also noisier. It doesn't have the all-out crackle and pop of an Audi or Merc (perish the thought), but when you're on it, the B4 means business. The 660Nm of torque, available over a wide rev range, delivers a steel fist wrapped in a velvet glove and bubble wrap - the speed builds rapidly but smoothly. 

The approach to the chassis tune seems to be based on the driving talents of mere mortals on normal roads, which is kind of like the 440i. It's terrific fun to drive hard but it's very forgiving and patient. The great thing about it is that you wouldn't think twice about jumping in it for the long haul, so comfortable and quiet is the cabin. The M4 will leave it for dead on a winding road, but that's perfectly fine.

One irritant is the replacement of the admittedly cheap BMW gearshift paddles with weirdly non-tactile buttons. They're not particularly easy to use and, probably worse for a sporty car, unsatisfying. It's an odd detail with which to go off the reservation. Cheeringly, the eight-speed ZF is its usual perfect self, so you don't have to worry too much about manual mode or go old school and use the shifter.

Safety

BMW 4 series7/10

Advanced driver-assist systems in the 440i coupe extend to low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, a manual speed limiter, speed-sign recognition, high-beam assist, park assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, hill-start assist and tyre pressure monitoring.

Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and brake assist, among others.

That said, high-speed AEB, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert are among the notable exclusions.

Neither ANCAP nor its European sibling, Euro NCAP, have awarded the 4 Series a safety rating yet.


BMW Alpina B48/10

The Alpina ships with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, forward AEB, road sign recognition and active cruise control.

There are also two ISOFIX points in the rear. Neither the Alpina nor the 4 Series has an ANCAP safety rating.

Ownership

BMW 4 series7/10

As with all BMW models, the 4 Series comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance, both of which are two years short of the premium standard now set by Mercedes-Benz.

The 440i coupe’s service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Owners can opt for a $1650 five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plan, which is well-priced.


BMW Alpina B46/10

Alpina offers a two-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty which is a bit behind the times and not in keeping with the price point. Servicing is another matter altogether and you're subject to your dealer's standard charges for servicing.