BMW'S updated 4 Series cut a swathe through the wet gloomy Victoria winter this week, their stylish good looks and powerfully athletic performance a rare ray of sunshine amidst the slashing rain and engulfing clouds.
The 4 Series, the sports coupe/convertible range based on BMW's ever popular 3 Series, already had reason to smile, gaining renewed traction of late in a segment it has been known to dominate.
But with competitors picking up the pace, the Bavarian manufacturer is attempting to invigorate buyer interest with sharper prices and a longer equipment list.
Oh, and there are new petrol engines too - B-series modulars - which bring improved power and torque as well as better economy and efficiency.
There is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection for the 420i which retains the same output figures, while the old 428i becomes the 430i with a 5kW boost in power. The 435i is rebadged as the 440i with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit under the hood and enjoys a 15kW and 50Nm advantage over the outgoing model.
There are few changes to the interior of the 4 Series, the inclusion of a standard leather-trimmed dashboard in the 430i and 440i the notable exception, and a sense of uncluttered luxury seems the relevant theme here.
Instruments are clear and sensible and all the relevant dials and buttons are close to hand but it could do with some flash, that little bit of panache, that allows some of the 4 Series' competitors to stand out.
Seating up front is super comfortable and adjustable with more side bolstering evident in the Coupe than the Gran Coupe and Convertible. There are a couple of cup holders and usable door pockets but the centre bin is quite shallow and storage for those ubiquitous odds and ends seems limited.
Accommodations in the rear are tighter in the two-door variants and of course trickier to access and while the Gran Coupe has better leg room, a sloping roof ensures reduced comfort for taller passengers. Still, cars like these are generally the preserve of two so that may hardly matter.
Cargo room ranges according to style but the Gran Coupe offers an impressive 1300 litres with the back seats down while a nifty lifting function in the Convertible that allows extra luggage room under the folded roof is worth a mention.
On the road
Victoria's drenching rains and heavy fog didn't offer up the best road conditions at launch but here is an overall picture.
The big change in this 4 Series is of course the petrol engines and the Adaptive M Suspension which brings electronically adaptable dampers in the entry models.
The 420i offers the same power and torque as the outgoing model (135kW/270Nm) and you won't notice much change in performance here although on its 18-inch alloys it often feels a touch more settled than the larger-wheeled models.
The 430i shares the same 2.0-litre engine but the power equation is rather different and the extra push and torque is noticeable in its no-fuss approach to acceleration around the twisties or when overtaking.
But it is the 440i and its new 3.0-litre engine that is the pick of the bunch for us, with the Gran Coupe in particular leaving a lasting impression. It is agile and balanced, its long almost loping style masking effortless acceleration, with excellent off-the-line response and a sonorous exhaust note adding to the appeal.
Despite its low centre of gravity the 4 Series doesn't offer the sportiest drive or the cushiest or the quickest for that matter. But it is powerful and dynamic with a bold road presence and the ability to create an exciting driving experience.
What do you get?
Adding value by improving standard inclusions was a big part of this update and as such the range-entry 420i (and 420d) gains a heads-up display, lane change assist, driving assistant and surround view camera with top and side views.
Of course those features we expect like sat nav, reverse camera, leather upholstery, electric sports seats and smartphone connectivity were already part of the package. The 430i adds 19-inch alloys, M Sport Package, electric lumbar support for driver and front passenger, and a nine-speaker stereo system.
The range-topping 440i boasts ConnectDrive internet and concierge service, leather dash, adaptive LED headlights, heated front seats, stop and go function, active cruise control, high beam assist and air collar neck-warming ducts in the Convertible. All Gran Coupe variants also get a powered tailgate.
BMW claim lower fuel economy and emissions figures across the 4 Series petrols ranging from 5.8l/100km in the 420i Coupe to 7.2l/100km in the 440i Convertible.
Warranty is three years unlimited kilometres with free roadside assist for three years. The big saving here is the Service Inclusive Program which for $1340 covers all service costs for five years or 80,000km.
The 4 Series has been at the top of the pile in this segment but the new Audi A5 is likely to stir the pot, adding impetus to the challenge presented by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60, Infiniti Q50 and Q60 and Lexus RC.
Two-door sporty cars are rarely practical; they are built for pleasure and performance. Still, the Coupe and Convertible can carry passengers if needed.
The Gran Coupe is no doubt the better option when it comes to melding desire with function, allowing for a dynamic drive with the family and their luggage in the back.
There are no external changes to the 4 Series - look out for those in 2017 - and it remains a sleek, eye-catching example of sport and style.
I always wonder at the value of a series update when a completely new edition is on the horizon but there is value added here with more powerful and efficient petrol engines, lower prices and higher equipment levels.
Almost half of 4 Series sales come from conquest buyers and it's easy to see why. The fact that much of the range is now below the luxury car tax threshold doesn't hurt either.
Models: BMW 4 Series Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible.
Details: Two-door rear-wheel-drive luxury coupe and convertible and four-door rear-wheel-drive luxury grand coupe.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 135kW and peak torque of 270Nm in 420i and 185kW and 350Nm in the 430i. 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 240kW and peak torque of 450Nm in 440i.
Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic (six-speed manual can be optioned at no cost).
Consumption: Coupes: 5.8 litres/100km combined in 420i, 5.8l/100km in 430i, 6.8l/100km in 440i Convertible: 6.2 litres/100km combined in 420i, 6.3l/100km in 430i, 7.2l/100km in 440i.
Bottom line plus on roads: Coupe and Gran Coupe - from $68,900 (420i), $79,900 (430i), $99,900 (440i). Convertible - from $85,900 (420i), $96,900 (430i), $117,900 ($440i).
What matters most
What we liked: Improved power, better equipment, fun drive.
What we'd like to see: Trendier interior, better in-cabin storage.
Warranty and Servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year capped-price servicing with Service Inclusive Program.
Driving experience 17/20
Features and equipment 18/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 17/20
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