STELLENBOSCH, Western Cape – BMW’s radical reboot of its 4 Series Coupé has certainly managed to divide opinions with its bold front-end styling, but there’s more to the latest two-door addition to the Bavarian marque’s line-up. We got behind the wheel of the BMW 420d Coupé at the local launch in the Western Cape to see what lies behind those provoking looks.

You’ve no doubt formulated some strong opinions regarding what’s perhaps the boldest interpretation of the kidney grille to ever grace the snout of a BMW, so let’s deal with the elephant in the room that’s the 4’s design up front before delving into what really matters; its talents on the road.

Say what you will of the new BMW 4 Series Coupé, but it’s anything but derivative. The previous car, graceful as it was, trod a little too closely to the 3 Series in terms of its styling, but there’s no danger of misrecognition here. While the juxtaposition of graceful curves on the rear haunches and flanks terminating in a decidedly bluff, aggressive-looking nose won’t sit well with everyone, there’s no denying it’s a real attention grabber, making its rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz look quite pedestrian by comparison.

Under its striking shell the 4 shares a modified version of BMW’s wide-ranging CLAR modular platform with the 3 Series, adding a 23 mm wider rear track, additional structural bracing above the suspension struts and engine bay, and a power steering module that’s been tuned specifically for the coupé's lower centre of gravity and stiffer springs.

The result is not a massive departure from the sedan in terms of general road manners. The 420d we drove on the local launch event was equipped with the optional M Sport package (R45 400) and while it largely proved as supple and composed as the 3 in most driving scenarios, the stiffened suspension and larger rims shod with thinner run-flat tyres unearthed some unwelcome lurch over larger road scars. In fact, the accompanying M440i xDrive seemed more settled on the varied surfaces we encountered on the launch route; perhaps an upshot of the additional weight that inline-six engine and all-wheel drivetrain place over the axles.

Pressing on in a more spirited manner does, however, reveal a car that’s appreciably sharper than its four-door relative; comfortably tucking its nose into strings of corners such as those on the Franschhoek Pass and Clarence Drive stretches of our Western Cape launch route. The four-cylinder turbodiesel is an impressively refined and flexible unit, courtesy of the 400 N.m of peak torque available between 1 750 and 2 500 r/min. Its 140 kW is rather modest for a car with such an accomplished chassis, but that’s perhaps magnified after climbing out of the 275 kW M440i.

Inside, the general layout is a very subtly massaged version of the 3’s facia, replete with the same impressive fit and finish. Rear legroom is slightly more generous than that of the outgoing 4, owing to a platform that’s around 40 mm longer in wheelbase than that of its forebear, although being 57 mm lower and possessed of a dramatically raked C-pillar means rear headroom isn’t particularly generous. Fortunately, the boot is a more practically packaged affair that looks capable of swallowing a golf bag or two.

In all, the 4 Series Coupé feels thoroughly polished and has the both the visual and experiential distinction from the 3 Series for which its predecessor was found wanting ... just see it in the metal before making a final judgement.



FAST FACTS

Model: BMW 420d Coupé
Price: R807 316  
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel 
Power: 140 kW @ 4 000 r/min 
Torque: 400 N.m @ 1 750-2 500 r/min 
0-100 km/h: 7,2 seconds 
Top Speed: 240 km/h  
Fuel Consumption: 4,8 L/100 km 
CO2: 127 g/km 
Transmission: 8-speed automatic 
Maintenance Plan: Five-year/100 000 km