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BMW 4 series


BMW I3

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 I3

I'm confused.

I'm not entirely sure the world needed this car. It's the new 2018 BMW i3s, a new sportier version of the regular BMW i3.

Why am I not sure if the world needed it?

Well, I would have thought i3 buyers were eco-greenies? People who are more into lower emissions than lower 0-100km/h times?

But, what do you know - the new i3s has both of those bases covered. It's more efficient, offers more range - but also happens to be quicker and more fun to drive.

Safety rating
Engine Type
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency0.6L/100km
Seating5 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 I37.4/10

If you want an electric hatchback that looks like it's from the future, then you should totally look at the BMW i3. There are no real competitors at the moment, and if the Tesla Model 3 production puzzle doesn't sort itself out soon, the i3 could have this part of the market to itself for a while.

This isn't a car for everyone, and it might not be a car for everyday, either. But as a second or third car, it is very convincing. It is unashamedly aimed at city buyers, people who need a car to get around without using fossil fuels... well, if you buy the pure electric model, that is.

The world may not have 'needed' the i3s – but buyers are definitely better off for having the option of the new sportier version of the compact electrified hatchback. This car means they can be eco-friendly and still enjoy the drive.

Does the BMW i3s appeal to you? Let us know in the comments section below.

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 I39/10

It's amazing to look at. I'm probably not the only person in the country, or the world, who doesn't think 'wow that's what cars of the future look like' when they see a BMW i3.

That's despite the fact the first-generation BMW i3 is now more than three years into its life, and the rest of the automotive world hasn't shifted quite as far as the i3 pushed things.

From the pillar-less body, carbon-fibre tub, fishbowl rear windows and rearward-opening back doors, this is still a design icon.

And the newly added i3s model has a bit more going on for it than the regular i3, with distinctive blackened wheelarches to help hide the wider tyres (now 20mm wider) on the 20-inch wheels. The entire i3 range finally has full LED headlights - so it should, as a tech-lead car (previously the LEDs were low-beam, and the high-beams were halogen).

If you think this i3 looks a little sleeker than the previous one, that's because there's also been a revamp to the bumpers and daytime running lights, plus you can get it in a range of new colours. And sure, the new rims mightn't have fatty tyres like you get on the back of an X5, but the rims fill the wheelarches nicely.

The i3s model has a black-top finish, and it looks the part -  as much as a semi-sporty electric hatchback can. Forget the sporty bit, though, and it still looks more high-tech than anything else on the market aside from maybe its (actually sporty) sibling, the i8.

The inside? Well, it's next-level amazing in terms of its design... but the space on offer could be better.

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 I37/10

It isn't a family car, and nor should it be considered one. This is more likely to be a second, third or even fourth car - the one that is used to get around town rather than hit the open road for a long-distance trip.

As a car for couples, or an occasional family shopping cart, the i3 has some really positive attributes. And, undeniably, my favourite part of all is the cabin finish and design. It's like sitting in an expensive furniture shop.

It's all very European and chic, and it seems even fancier when you learn that the so-called 'Lodge' interior trim that is fitted as standard uses "natural leather tanned using an olive leaf extract" and that the cabin also has "wool-based textiles" and recycled plastic on the doors and dashboard.

Seriously, if this is where BMW design is heading, I'm all in.

The cabin also benefits from a new 10.25-inch media screen with the brand's latest multimedia system, 'iDrive6', which is a big improvement on the old system. It's easy to use, the screen is clear, and you can get Apple CarPlay - but, cheekily, BMW asks you to pay an optional fee for it. On the plus side, this version is wireless, so no messy cables - a bit like a furniture showroom, really, you never see any exposed wires there!

Storage is really well sorted as well, with a big cubby on the dashboard, a bunch of storage holds and cupholders between the front seats, and big door pockets as well. In the back there is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, and there are door pockets on the rear doors, too.

Let's talk about those doors - suicide, rear-hinged, whatever you want to call them: they're not conventional, and while they might seem fiddly (you have to open the front door to open the rear one, and that can be annoying) the space is surprising in there.

An adult of about my size (183cm tall) can easily climb in the back with less awkwardness than in say, a three-door hatchback. If you have younger kids, loading them in and out could be a bit more difficult than in a small conventional five-door hatch - but there are ISOFIX anchors and top-tether points for kids. Also, it's worth remembering this is a four-seater, not a five-seater.

Coming back to what I said earlier - this isn't the car you buy if you want to move a family and all their stuff. The boot is still quite small at 260 litres, meaning you might have to limit the luggage you take with you. But for a couple heading (not too far) away for a weekend, it could be perfectly suitable.

The interior has three different styles - or "Interior Worlds" - it can come in, too: 'Lodge' (the standard); 'Loft' (a greyer look, at no cost); and 'Suite', a more premium version with brown leather and oak trim ($2000).

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 I35/10

I don't envy BMW's product team when it comes to laying out the groundwork for the pricing and specs for its 'i' product range. Electric cars are expensive, but buyers are taking a risk... so finding the middle ground can be hard.

I mean, a city-sized, efficient hatchback is an easy thing to come by, and there are some seriously good-value offerings out there. Think the Kia Picanto, which you can get for less than $15,000.

And at the other end of the scale there's the i3s, about five times the price of the Picanto. The battery version (called 94Ah in BMW speak) is listed at $69,900 plus on-roads, while the version with a petrol engine (94Ah with Range Extender) is $75,900.

You can still get a regular version of the i3 if this sportier S model isn't for you – and it's $1200 cheaper in both guises. But if you're asking me, that $1200 is well worth spending to get the S model.

It's easy to justify that extra splurge because - there is no question about it - this is an expensive car. But it's a technological powerhouse, and that famed rondel has plenty of badge cred.

It isn't like the i3s is packed with equipment when you delve into the options list. Obviously Apple CarPlay at $623 is a bit rude, but other things like heated seats ($730) a sunroof ($2920) and tyre pressure monitoring ($370) are items that could arguably be fitted to a high-spec car.

The comfort package is something I think should really be included as standard - it bundles keyless access (unlocking for the doors), seat heating and a 12-speaker harman/kardon sound system. It costs $2000. It should be on the i3s, right?

Still, the standard kit list includes some good (but not ground-breaking) safety inclusions, a new 10.25-inch media screen with sat nav, a four-speaker stereo with DAB+ digital radio, auxiliary jack, USB and Bluetooth, plus BMW's 'ConnectedDrive' online services system, single-zone climate control, LED headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, and auto wipers and lights. All of that is identical to the regular i3.

The i3s - specifically - adds 20-inch light alloys (19s on the regular one), sports suspension (lowered by 10mm), a revised traction control system and a sportier exterior design with flared wheel arches to help tuck those wider wheels in.

As for colour choices, there are two no-cost options, 'Fluid Black' and 'Capparis White', and four metallic versions at a cost of $1090, 'Imperial Blue', 'Melbourne Red' and 'Protonic Blue' (all with 'Frozen Grey' highlights), and 'Mineral Grey' with 'BMW i Blue' highlights.

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 I37/10

The i3 and i3s 94Ah models are separated by way of different power outputs from their electric drivetrains.

The regular i3 has 125kW/250Nm available from its electric motor, while the i3s pushes that to 135kW/270Nm.

There's no engine in the regular model - but there is in the range-extender version: a two-cylinder (647cc) unit mounted mid-rear.

All i3 models are automatic - a single-speed transmission, so there are no steps or gears to worry about - and rear-wheel drive.

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 I39/10

Running costs could be very low in the BMW i3s, particularly if you have your own solar set-up. Even if you don't, the cost of recharging the battery (33kWh x $0.22c) is very cheap: $7.26 for 200km of driving. By my maths (with fuel being about $1.35/L) a petrol or diesel car would have to be getting 2.7L/100km to be close to that.

And to speak in geeky electro-talk for a second, the i3s's power consumption is rated at 14.3kWh per 100km.

Bit more geek-talk coming up: charging can be done by way of a Type 2 CCS plug. You can recharge using a regular powerpoint (single-phase, 7.4kW), a three-phase charger (which you can get as a wall-box from BMW, 11kW) or a 50kW fast charger (if you can find one).

BMW claims that you will see 'everyday range' of up to 200km for the regular i3 and i3s - not bad, but not Tesla-rivalling... but nor is it Tesla-priced.

The range-extender model has 330km of claimed range thanks to its nine-litre fuel tank and two-cylinder petrol engine. Claimed consumption for that drivetrain is 0.6L/100km for the i3 and 0.7L/100km for the i3s.

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 I38/10

Enjoyable. That's the word that sprung to my mind. Not sporty. Not crazy fast. Not unpleasant. It is really, really enjoyable.

We didn't spend time in the range-extender version - instead, our short drive was limited to the plain EV model.

Either way, though, you get that whooshy feeling of instant torque from a standstill because it's an electric car (the range extender model will just kick its two-cylinder engine into life to help charge the batteries up and keep you moving on electric power alone).

Apart from a slight whirring from the electric motor when you push the throttle, there's not a lot of noise to speak of - a bit of wind noise from the side mirrors (it was a gale-force windy day in Melbourne at the launch), and a little bit of tyre roar from those new shoes.

Speaking of the tyres, they're now 20mm wider to enhance the stability and handling of the i3. Not only does that add extra width to the car's footprint, the i3s has lowered sports suspension with new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.

The existing model looked like it was rolling on bicycle wheels, but the new rubber definitely has an impact on the levels of grip available and stability in corners. The previous version (and the regular regular i3 below this one) were/are fitted with slimmer tyres that can make it feel a little skittish at times, but these new broader contact patches help out a lot.

Being rear-wheel drive, and because it doesn't have gears to get in the way of driving like in a conventional car, the i3s is a pretty sporty experience. There's even a Sport mode to help justify some lead-footedness, which is pretty exciting if you like to drive... and I do.

You put your foot down, and it throws you back in your seat - not quite to the degree a Tesla does, but it's definitely rapid enough. BMW claims the i3s can now sprint to highway pace in just 6.9 seconds - which is four tenths faster than the regular i3.

And with its aggressive regenerative braking system you pull up pretty swiftly too. It can take some getting used to, because it slows you up faster than you might think.

Just like any sporty car, though, you can only have fun in it for so long before you start to think to yourself 'wow, I'd better go easy or I'll run out of juice'... it's just that in the case of the i3s, you run out quicker because its 'tank' isn't that big, and you're refill isn't as easy as heading to the servo and topping up in a matter of minutes.

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 I36/10

The BMW i3 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2014 when it was tested. It remains a five-star car with this update.

The i3 includes six airbags (dual front, front side, curtain), an integrated roll-over sensor with a battery shut-off function, a reversing camera, parking sensors all around, forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, auto emergency braking (AEB), active cruise control, and lane-keeping assist.

The i3 base model gets semi-automated parking assist, but the i3s misses out on that. And, oddly, no i3 model comes with lane-keeping assist or lane departure warning, and nor can you have one with blind-spot monitoring or lane-keeping assist.

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 I38/10

BMW uses a so-called 'condition based servicing' program, whereby the car alerts the driver as to when maintenance may be required. And with fewer moving parts than a conventional car, costs should theoretically be lower.

The car itself is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, while the battery has a 'certificate' for eight years/100,000km.