Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 BMW 420i Coupe Luxury with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Much like many humans, cars often get face lifts whether they genuinely need them or not, although they give them nicer names these days, like "mid-life refresh".
That's very much the case for BMW's sleek 4 Series Coupe, which has just undergone a mid-life primping, with some added standard equipment, new pricing and not a lot else, because there wasn't much to fix.
Introduced in 2013, the 4 Coupe helped establish the newly even-numbered range that so diversified BMW's old prime-number line-up of 1, 3, 5 and 7, with the two-door joined by the convertible and, slightly confusingly, a five-door Gran Coupe.
Audi does understated-with-angles, Mercedes does bling-and-bloat. BMW does its own thing, evolving a design language that's been on the move for almost 30 years, without really moving much at all. It doesn't always deliver the elegance for which the Bavarian make is famous, especially in the SUV range, but the 4 got a big dose of it. Partly because coupes are simply sexier than sedans, and far prettier than soft-roaders.
Inside is pure 3 from the driver's seat forward, meaning an ergonomically impressive layout, comfortable pews and a wide central screen perched on the console.
The 4 Series Coupe is based on the 3 Series but somehow manages to look a hell of a lot better – where the 3 is unadventurously good looking, the 4 is actually a pretty car, especially in profile. It has a lovely silhouette and from the rear three-quarter view looks like it could do a million miles an hour.
Some observers believe the 4 can't live without the M Sport kit - the equivalent of Botox and cheek fillers - but some colours work better without it, particularly the lighter metallics.
Inside is pure 3 from the driver's seat forward, meaning an ergonomically impressive layout, comfortable pews and a wide central screen perched on the console. The dash itself is sleek and slim, opening up the cabin to feel a little more spacious (for front seat occupants at least) and light.
Rear-seat passengers have a reasonably easy way in after the front seats are flipped forward and once nestled in one of the two seats they should be quite comfortable, and certainly very cosy, if they're under 170cm. The rear windows don't open and hip room is restricted by a fixed console so it's not exactly luxury living in there, but if that's what you cared about you'd have bought the 3 Series.
The 4 Series Coupe has just four seats, the falling roofline knocking out a few centimetres of headroom and the slimmer hips narrowing the rear seat. The things we do for loveliness.
The middle perch is replaced with an open-topped bin that would be a decent home for passengers' phones.
The boot is a 3 sedan-matching 480 litres, jumping to 1300 litres when you fold down the rear seats. There are four cupholders, two in the front and two in the centre fold-down armrest and the doors will each hold a decent-sized bottle on its side.
Price and features
This 4 Series refresh has brought with it more gear than before but for less money, despite the Australian dollar heading south since the model's launch. These things happen when a key rival launches a brand new competitor (Audi A5, if you're wondering).
The 420i, as with the 420d, has had $2000 cut from the price, the entry-level model weighing in at $68,900. So, still not cheap, but being attractive never is.
Along with the price cut, the 2016 420i picks up brilliant adaptive M suspension across the range, the excellent head-up display, lane-change warning, autonomous emergency braking (low speed), and 360-degree around-view camera. BMW says this little lot, along with the drop in price, equals $8300 better value compared to the 2015 car.
On the Luxury Line tested here, you'll also find multi-spoke 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights, leather trim, up-spec sat nav, cruise control, keyless start, front and rear parking sensors, keyless start, electric front seats, power windows and mirrors, plus auto headlights and wipers.
BMW's iDrive runs a six-speaker stereo with USB, Bluetooth and DAB+ digital radio, as well as some basic app integration with your phone for services like Spotify.
Our car had the $846 Comfort Access System, which adds keyless entry; $154 Internet option, which adds internet access via SIM card and a $2246 glass sunroof. The champagne-coloured Orion Silver paint costs $1415, bringing the total cost to $73,561. That didn't take much.
Engine and transmission
The 420i sports BMW's modular 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo, the power outputs unchanged at 135kW and 270Nm. Power heads rearward via the ever-excellent eight-speed automatic from ZF. Zero to 100km/h for the 1540kg machine arrives in 7.5 seconds, which is quick enough but short of exciting.
Being a BMW, the 420i is terrific fun to drive, even though it's hardly a tarmac-tearer.
The engine also features direct injection, stop-start and energy recovery from braking and coasting.
While power and torque are unchanged, consumption is down on the combined cycle, dropping 0.3 of a litre to 5.8L/100km. Our mostly city driving with a few bursts on 80km/h roads saw us use 9.7L/100km.
All petrol BMWs demand premium unleaded.
Being a BMW, the 420i is terrific fun to drive, even though it's hardly a tarmac-tearer. The 135kW engine spins very happily to the redline, while the eight-speed transmission behaves almost perfectly.
As always, it's all about balance, and with the adaptive dampers now standard you're able to move between the more comfortable suspension tune - which is beautifully supple around the city - to the firmer Sport and Sport+ tune for when you're feeling a bit racy.
Sometimes you have to check the engine has actually started; it's that quiet.
In Sport mode, the throttle response is sharp without being jerky and the shifts are crisper than an Antarctic breeze. BMW's electric steering rack weights up and has plenty of feel. Threading together a few corners is more fun than the relatively modest outputs would suggest, which means you can have fun and have a licence.
Above all, it's a very quiet car. While BMW isn't saying much, the 420i seems noticeably quieter and smoother than the 2013 original. All sources of noise are very well suppressed, including road noise, and even with sizeable tyres fitted to the big wheels, there's no roar. Sometimes you have to check the engine has actually started; it's that quiet.
When the car is loaded up the engine struggles to drag you up hills, so if you're always carrying passengers or cramming the car full of stuff, you might want to consider the quicker diesel-powered 420d. The extra $2000-odd buys you a lot more torque, a faster 0-100km/h time and a likely lower fuel burn, but on fuel consumption alone, the numbers won't add up.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, blind-spot sensor, forward collision mitigation warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning with passive steering assist.
There are no ANCAP or EuroNCAP ratings for the 4 Series. The 3 Series on which it's based has a five star ANCAP rating.
All BMWs come with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the duration.
A five-year/80,000km servicing plan will cost you $1340 and includes oil, filters, spark plugs and brake fluid. You have to go in at least once per year and the car will tell you if you need to go more often. Prior personal experience of these service plans was sketchy at best because I rarely walked away without a bill for something not covered in the plan. Consider it the way you might private health insurance.
A more comprehensive package is available, but that's between you and your dealer.