2021 BMW 4 Series coupe front driving view

Even though the new 2021 BMW 4 Series coupe shares much of its powertrain, interior, and mechanicals with the 3 Series sedan, you wouldn’t know it from the outside. That’s because the design of the 4 Series has gone in a totally new direction from BMWs past—and it’s not just the car's aggressive grille. The coupe is now longer and wider than the sedan and features a smoother silhouette that drops a lot of the distinctive design cues that have influenced how BMWs have looked for decades.

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In addition to its divergence from the 3 Series, the new 4 Series also departs from its coupe predecessors with a new mild hybrid that’s available with the more powerful engine, a chassis that BMW says is stiffer and lighter, and—for the first time in a BMW—Android Auto. A manual transmission is no longer available.

BMW told Consumer Reports that the new 4 Series coupe is expected to go on sale in October. Those in the market for a convertible version or the even sportier M4 will likely have to wait until September to learn more.

We will get to drive the 4 Series in due course and will report driving impressions. In the meantime, here’s what we know. 

What it competes with: Audi A5, Ford Mustang, Infiniti Q60, Lexus RC, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
What it looks like: No other modern BMW
Powertrains: 255-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or 382-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine with 48V mild-hybrid system; 8-speed automatic transmission; rear- or all-wheel drive
Price: $45,600-$58,500
On-sale date: October 2020

CR's Take

Seven years after splitting off from the 3 Series, the 4 Series finally comes into its own with a unique design that’s more than just a coupe version of the 3 sedan. The look might be polarizing, especially to BMW purists. But the real proof for a sporty coupe is in the driving experience. The 4 Series promises to be even more engaging than the 3 Series, which means drivers will be in for a treat. 

Outside

Look at the 4 Series head on and you’ll immediately notice the gargantuan “twin kidney” grille that dominates its front. It stretches from the leading edge of the hood to the midpoint of the front bumper and is likely to be interrupted by a front license plate.

The grille is the most striking difference between this and other BMWs of the recent past, but others exist, too. For example, designers squared off the “Hofmeister kink”—the backward bend just before the bottom edge of the rear side window that’s been a part of BMW design DNA since then-design director Wilhelm Hofmeister introduced it in 1961. Absent this visual cue, the 4 Series shares a resemblance to the Infiniti Q60 and Audi A5 from the side.

The 2021 4 Series is also longer and lower than the 3 Series sedan. Much of that length appears to have been added between the edge of the door and the trunk, and the car’s rear fenders have some bulk to them. 

2021 BMW 4 Series interior view

Inside

The 4 Series essentially shares its dashboard with the current 3 Series. In our tests of the 3 Series sedan, we appreciated its solid-feeling buttons and knobs, high-quality materials, and attractive trim. Obviously, rear-seat access will be more difficult in a coupe than in a sedan.

Every 4 Series will come standard with the iDrive infotainment system. It takes some getting used to but gives users the option of inputting commands with a rotary controller, touch screen, or gesture controls. There’s also a voice assistant that can perform vehicle functions such as lowering the windows or adjusting the climate temperature.

One big change is the addition of standard wireless Android Auto. Although BMWs have offered wireless Apple CarPlay, Android-using BMW drivers have been without a way to access their phone’s navigation and music through the Android interface on iDrive until now. 

What Drives It

Two engines are available: The 430i and 430i xDrive both get a 255-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The M440i xDrive gets a 382-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can improve fuel economy by turning off the engine at very low speeds and recovering energy normally lost to braking. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the 430i, and the 430i xDrive and M440i xDrive get all-wheel drive. The only available transmission is an eight-speed automatic transmission, as the manual option has been discontinued—a move that’s become more common even in sports cars.

We were impressed with the turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain when we tested the 3 Series, praising its punchy acceleration, smooth-shifting transmission, and superb fuel economy. Based on our experience with the sedan and BMW’s performance claims about the coupe, we expect even more exhilarating acceleration from the 4 Series. BMW says we’ll see a 0-60 mph sprint of 5.5 seconds from the 430i, 5.3 seconds from the 430i xDrive, and just 4.3 seconds from the M440i xDrive.

BMW says it has made a number of improvements that should affect how the 4 Series handles, including lighter-weight body panels, a stiffer structure, and an improved suspension. We hope it makes the coupe’s ride more comfortable than the sedan, which we found taut and tense in our road tests. A stiffer M Sport suspension is optional, as is an adaptive suspension that the driver can electronically adjust for firmness or comfort. 

Safety and Driver-Assist Systems

Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and rear cross traffic warning are all standard. Buyers can opt for adaptive cruise control and active driving assistance, a surround-view camera that can also automatically capture video if it detects a collision, and an emergency stop assistant that will automatically steer the car to a shoulder and stop if the driver cannot control the vehicle. 

2021 BMW 4 Series rear