2014 BMW 4 Series Driving Impressions

The 2014 BMW 4 Series coupes are fun to drive in practically any situation, and both of the available engines are more than capable.

Like other BMW models, the 4 Series allows drivers to choose from four modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport plus, and Eco Pro. Each tweaks throttle response, steering and handling for a distinctly different ride. Comfort is the best for normal driving around town. We prefer Sport mode for spirited driving and twisty roads. Sport plus is best left to the track or autocross course, as it reduces the invasiveness of stability control and therefore requires more active, skilled driving. Eco Pro is designed to improve fuel efficiency, though it comes at the expense of power. We found this mode best for steady freeway cruising.

The 4 Series has the lowest center of gravity of all BMW models, and this is evident in the form of a composed ride and virtually nonexistent body roll when putting the car through its paces. Handling is excellent on all variants, and each offers a good balance of ride quality and response. Our test car was fitted with the Dynamic Handling package, which adds an adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering. The electric steering is light at low speeds, with proper resistance and feedback at higher speeds. Near-50/50 weight distribution leaves the driver in full command. Braking is excellent in all models, especially those equipped with the M Sport's giant rotors. Our biggest complaint was road and tire noise, which was evident at all speeds, and especially pervasive on highly textured road surfaces.

We found the power of the 428i perfectly ample and prefer this variant for everyday driving. The 2.0-liter inline-4 isn't BMW's best-sounding engine, as the clatter of the direct-injection is noisy and audible in the cabin at lower speeds. But it delivers plenty of pep, with its 241 hp and 258 lb-ft. of torque available from as low as 1200 rpm. It easily climbs steep mountain terrain at freeway speeds, when the cars around us were struggling to keep up. It's also easy to pass, and getting from just about any speed to 80 mph is a breeze. Plus, the constant tick-tick-ticking of the engine's direct injection isn't so audible when charging down the highway.

The 435i's turbocharged six-cylinder engine produces a satisfying purr, but in most situations, we found the power advantage of the 435i over the 428i to be negligible. While its 302 hp and 395 lb.-ft. is certainly superior, its power delivery doesn't feel as exhilarating as one might expect. It's buttery smooth, but feels a bit flat. In our book, there's no need to spend nearly $6,00 more for the bigger engine unless you're going to the racetrack.

The 8-speed automatic transmission on our test car worked very well. Some drivers prefer to shift with the paddles, but most will simply put it in Drive and let it do its thing. A six-speed manual is also available on all variants except for the 428i xDrive, but that gearbox has no performance advantage over the automatic (except, of course, for a larger right bicep from rowing through the gears). We've now entered an era where automatics are not only more efficient, but also faster than their stick-shift counterparts. A 435i coupe equipped with the automatic achieves a quick 0-60 mph time of 5 seconds flat, compared to 5.3 seconds with the manual.

An automatic Stop/Start function comes standard on all sedans. And while it helps fuel economy, BMW's system, which is also found on other models, continues to annoy us. The latest version doesn't shutter quite so violently as the first iteration, but continues to be invasive and seems to kick in way too soon. The system can be turned off, but at the expensive of added fuel savings. Generally we think stop/start technology is a good idea, but we wish we could adjust BMW's stop/start sensitivity, instead of just choosing on or off.

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Rick Hendrick BMW Charleston
1518 Savannah Highway
Charleston, SC 29407

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