With updated steering and chassis tuning, BMW’s already-good 4 Series gets a fair bit better.
– Munich, Germany
The BMW 4 Series lineup gets a number of updates for the 2018 model year, though I’ll forgive you for not being able to immediately spot the differences. Keen-eyed Bimmerphiles will notice the reshaped LED running lights up front, the new light design inside the taillamps, and the redesigned alloy wheels. But those tweaks don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The important updates are found beneath the surface, where BMW has tweaked the 4 Series’ steering and suspension setups to make it an even more enjoyable driver’s tool.
Better steering. BMW sort of lost its way with steering feel a few years ago, its electrically assisted setups proving more numb than entertaining. But things are slowly improving, and the 2018 4 Series offers more feedback through the helm than before. There’s still a noticeable dead spot on center, but weight builds progressively while cornering, and the whole experience feels more natural, more involving than before.
Composed chassis. Three different suspension setups are available – standard, M Sport, and Adaptive M – and all get a bit stiffer for 2018. The M Sport car tested here provides great ride comfort on smooth Alpine roads, but keeps roll to a minimum in fast corners. If you like the way a 3 Series drives, the 4 Series is even better, thanks to its wider track and lower ride height (and thus center of gravity). This chassis is indeed tuned with sporty driving in mind, but offers enough compliance not to kill you over rough roads.
Lovely powertrain. The 440i – née 435i – uses BMW’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, with 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The twin-scroll turbocharger kicks in early, allowing full torque to come on strong at 1,380 rpm. With a snappy eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, the 440i will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds; the all-wheel-drive version shaves 0.2 seconds off that time. Standing-start quickness aside, the 3.0-liter engine offers smooth, effortless power all throughout the rev range. It’s a fantastic engine.
Drab interior. Get inside an Audi S5 or a Mercedes-AMG C43 and you’re greeted with interiors that make a statement. Audi’s cabin speaks to tech; Mercedes takes a more stylish, luxurious approach. The 4 Series’ interior fails to make any real statement, especially in the cold color palette of black and gray seen here. Warmer hues are available, but the overall design and the layout of the controls leave a bit to be desired, in contrast to its key German rivals. Speaking of which...
The competition is hotter than ever. Audi and Mercedes both offer special cars in this segment, the S5 and AMG C43. Each of those coupes has more power, and both stick out in my mind as being more memorable to drive. If you want to fly under the radar, the 440i is certainly the way to go. Just remember, at this price point, sportier options exist.