Let’s be honest, the BMW 4 Series is a divisively-styled car. Ever since it was first revealed, all anyone could talk about was its grille – its supposedly heinous grille that the offensiveness of was drastically exacerbated by the awful editing of the press photos.
It’s easy to dismiss this tribute to the tall kidney grilles of classic BMW models as misguided nostalgia that’s ruined the 4er, but that ignores two key points. For one, it looks much, much better in person; secondly, it’s still a great car when you look past its looks.
To drive home that point of just how good it is, we’re looking at the cheapest version of the four-door BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe range – the 420i, priced from $75,900.
In a time when new car prices are driving further and further skywards, this still seems a very fair figure for a car like this. It’s a $4000 increase over the equivalent BMW 3 Series, which seems fair given the completely unique styling and the changes that come with it.
Say what you want about the looks, but I actually dig it. The 4 Series has grown on me a lot since the initial reveal – particularly after a week spent looking at it out of my office window, and after getting these moody snaps of it with our resident photography pro, Marcus Cardone.
To me, it’s a very good thing that BMW has changed it up with this new 4 Series, as the old model looking practically identical to the 3 Series was a bit of a detriment to it – especially so in the case of the Gran Coupe, which was a pointless purchase next to the 3er sedan.
Now, even this base BMW 420i Gran Coupe stands out with its bold and unique styling both front and rear. Add in the flush door handles and frameless windows in the doors, and it’s one classy-looking car.
Of course, the 420i is classy inside as well, although the cabin design isn’t as much of a departure from the 3 Series as the exterior. Indeed, it’s all identical inside with its stand-out 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and lashings of leather and aluminium everywhere.
Although my tester wasn’t fitted with the $1846 Comfort Package – the heated seats would’ve been nice after the stormy photoshoot – it still features seats clad in leather and Alcantara with blue contrast stitching, and even has two-position memory and adjustable side bolsters for the driver. Unless you plan on heading to the snow in it every winter, then, there’s no real need to spend the extra money.
The $4462 Visibility Package was the one big-ticket option pack it was fitted with, which adds Laser headlights and a sunroof. Both are certainly nice to have, but at that much money, sticking with the standard LEDs and doing without the sunroof is probably wiser in a base 420i.
Obviously, the driving position is classic BMW – you sit at exactly the right height, the wheel is chubby but exactly the right diameter, and everything around you is easily viewable and accessible.
Unlike its predecessor, the 4 Series offers a solid amount of rear legroom as well, once again making the Gran Coupe model a bit more relevant and worthwhile in the range than it once was.
Let’s talk engines, though, as the 420i is just the most attainable of a plethora of options in the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe range. On paper, this 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder isn’t that impressive, with just 135kW and 300Nm on offer. The brilliant ZF eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, of course, is standard with it.
However, spend an extra $8000 and you’ll get 190kW and 400Nm with the 430i, which also runs a 2.0-litre but with upgraded brakes and adaptive suspension. You can also have a straight-six with all-wheel drive in the M440i xDrive or a fully-electric version with the i4 eDrive40, but you’ll be spending six digits for either.
Certainly, you can’t knock this engine for its smoothness. It’s perfectly befitting of the luxury image the 4 Series projects, remaining hushed and unobtrusive at all times. In traffic, there’s plenty of low-down torque to help you whip through traffic with ease, and the ZF ‘box always manages to be in the right ratio at the right time.
It’s masterfully economical for a rear-drive saloon as well – after 615km of driving in a mix of conditions, I saw fuel consumption of a mere 7.3L/100km. That right there is hugely impressive.
The only real flaw of this engine is exposed when you head out of the city, though, as it’s clearly not been built for having some real fun with. Its 7.9-second 0-100km/h sprint time is only confirmation of that. The harder you rev it, the more choked-up it feels – the boost constantly being limited to remind you that you’ve bought the base model.
This is only such a shame as the BMW 420i has a really brilliant chassis. It might lack the 430i’s adaptive suspension, but the ride quality is exceptionally smooth yet it still remains poised through the corners. Four-pot, rear-wheel drive BMWs all have this brilliant character to them – perfect weight distribution, quick turn-in, and just a hint of oversteer is the recipe for a ‘normal’ car that’s brilliant to drive.
Truth be told, you’re better off with the 430i. Sure, the 420i makes for an exceptionally good daily driver and classy office commuter, but for just an $8000 premium, the 430i presents a package that’s really impossible to turn down.
But yet, there’s still no shame in buying the base model. As a ‘my first BMW’ kind of car, the 420i presents a brilliant offering. It’s smooth, comfortable, economical, and doesn’t need to be optioned up too heavily – even if a few of the optional items probably should be standard at this price point.
I’m sure some will still deride it for its looks, but trust me – the 4 Series is a genuinely solid buy, even as a base model. That’s how you know BMW knows just what they were doing with it.
2022 BMW 420i Gran Coupe List Price: $75,900
- Performance - 7/107/10
- Ride & Handling - 9/109/10
- Tech & Features - 8/108/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 8/108/10
Pros: Smooth and economical turbo four-pot, solid amount of standard equipment for a base model luxury saloon, classic BMW rear-drive dynamics
Cons: Engine feels choked-up at higher revs, heated seats should be standard at this price point, the styling is divisive
In a nutshell: Although the 430i is probably the smarter purchase if you’ve got the money to spend, the BMW 420i Gran Coupe still makes for a brilliant, luxurious daily driver. The looks may split opinions, but the new 4 Series is brilliant even as a base model.
Principal photography by Marcus Cardone. Additional photography by Patrick Jackson.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by BMW Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.