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BMW 420d SE: Test Drive Review

Date: 25 September 2013   |   Author: Tristan Young

Category: Sports
P11D price: £31,520
Key rival: Audi A5
On sale: October 2013

Two years after the arrival of the latest 3-series BMW is launching the coupe version. However, unlike its predecessor it won't be called the 3-series Coupe but instead will be known as the 4-series.

This move allows BMW to justify the (slightly) higher pricing over the saloon and makes it easier for owners to describe what they've bought.

As with the outgoing model, the fleet mix of sales for the coupe will be around 45% of the annual total of some 6500 units, with the 420d being the most popular model.

It's not hard to see why. The 420d SE is capable of more than 60mpg, has a CO2 output that puts it in the 19% benefit-in-kind band and still retains a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds.

Against its equivalent main rivals, the Audi A5 and Mercedes C-class Coupe, the BMW has the best performance figures and is near equal for CO2 and fuel consumption with the Audi, though well off the Mercedes. According to KwikCarcost, the cost per mile figure puts the BMW between the two. However, it has a more attractive standard equipment list including niceties such as heated seats, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a digital radio, which have been offered to attract user-choosers who not only want a sporty, good-looking and efficient car but who also value the overall package.

The car is undoubtedly attractive, particularly at the front where the 3-series' nose has been redrawn to accentuate the width of the 4-series. The vehicle also has a lower roof-line and has wider rear wheel-arches than the 3-series. The result is less rear headroom in the four-seat 4-series, but there's still good legroom. The boot, too, remains a decent size at 445 litres - plenty big enough for a couple of sets of golf clubs.

With all these gains one would expect the driving experience to be streets ahead as well. However, while the car is good at both a steady motorway cruise or through a twisty B-road, there are flaws. For example, both wind and tyre noise are prevalent at higher speeds, although the latter may have been exaggerated by the optional 18-inch tyres and wheels (17s are standard) fitted to our test car.

The biggest issue, however, with the way the car drives is how the 4-series copes, or rather doesn't cope, with bumps and sharper undulations in the road. With the optional (£750) clever suspension the 420d was best in 'Comfort' mode, with 'Sport' making the car feel like it wanted to skip over bumps rather than absorb them, even though the suspension didn't feel too stiff.

But even with this flaw in the 4-series' character, the overall package for user-choosers able to pick a prestige coupe is incredibly attractive and well worth adding to any such shortlist.

BMW 420d SE manual
P11D price £31,520
Model price range £31,520-£41,435
Fuel consumption 60.1mpg
CO2 (tax) 124g/km (19%)
BIK 20/40% per month £100/£200
Service interval variable
Insurance (1-50) group 33
Warranty 3yrs/unltd mls
Boot space 445 litres
Engine size/power 1995cc/184hp
Top speed/0-62mph 149mph/7.5secs


Attractive, but not far enough ahead of rivals for how it drives.