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Since its introduction to the BMW line-up in 2013, the three-model, strong and stylish 4-Series range, a successor to the 3-Series Coupe and Convertible, has reached more than 400,000 sales worldwide.
The UK is the second-biggest seller of the range, following only the US market. To maintain fruitful sales BMW has taken the opportunity halfway through the lifecycle of the range to give it a bit of a refresh. While the changes are relatively light, so light in fact they're barely noticeable, BMW thinks they will make the 4-Series stand out from fierce competition in the form of the Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
A pricier range
The 4-Series is available in three versions - Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible - and the range is more expensive than its competitors. If you want to be part of the 4-Series club the price tag starts at £32,580. This is compared with the A5, which starts from £31,535, and C-Class, which is even cheaper, starting from £27,665.
We drove the 420d xCoupe M Sport around the scenic country roads of the Cotswolds to give it a run for its money - literally.
Subtle but effective
On the outside, body changes are few. Up front, the model offers new headlights, and at the back the taillights have a new design as well, which, compared to the older model gives it a fresh and sophisticated appearance. The characteristic L-shaped styling theme for the lights has been retained but reinterpreted, and LED lights to improve visibility are now standard on the range. This trumps the A5 and the C-Class, which are both still both offering xenon lights.
Inside, there are similarly modest revisions, with a newly designed steering wheel, chrome trim surrounds to air vents, double stitching on the instrument panel, and a high-gloss black cover panel on the centre console, all of which James Thompson, product manager, believes are going to set the new range apart from the old and see the buyers of the older model coming back for the refreshed one.
Despite being a coupe and a 4-Series, the more stylish but less practical older sibling of the 3-Series, the model offers reasonably good interior space, sharing the attributes of the Gran Coupe range. The boot is 445 litres compared to the equivalent 3-Series, which offers 480 litres. The boot size also beats the 342 litres offered by the Infiniti Q60 Coupe. The rear seats provide a fair amount of legroom, although the headroom isn't the best and getting in and out feels a bit of a squeeze.
Although this model is better looks-wise, we advise going for the Gran Coupe as it feels far more spacious inside, comes with five doors, and also costs £1,500 less.
The cabin shows off an impressive quality and resolution and offers the sixth generation of BMW's navigation system, which we found user-friendly and easy to personalise, giving the user an option of a three-tile layout for the home screen. The system is fitted as standard to all M Sport models and is optionally available for the Sport model. The voice control has also improved to become more intuitive and now doesn't require you to speak in a particular order for your requests to be recognised, making it far more user-friendly.
A digital cockpit is also available for £295. This will display the speed more clearly in large red numbers as well as change the look of the display depending on the driving mode.
Under the skin
The most important changes, according to the guys at BMW, are ones that you are unable to see but feel. The car felt sharp and stable, going through corners without affecting comfort levels due to an improved chassis, and BMW has retuned the suspension for better overall performance, making the drive feel more engaging and stable.
The 4-Series range offers a choice of three diesel and three petrol engines. The 2.0 420d is the best seller of the range and is the most frugal and tax-efficient. It returns a claimed 70.6mpg combined, with average CO2 emissions of 142g/km.
BMW has also made the decision to do away with its luxury trim line and focus on Sport and M Sport. It offers full leather as standard unlike all competitors, higher-performance tyres, a sport suspension, a higher top speed, sport steering wheel, and also comes as standard with the 8.8-inch infotainment screen.
With the badge will likely come a good residual value, although the whole-life costs haven't been released just yet. But with a high P11D value from the start, we'll have to see how it stacks up on RVs compared with its rivals.
While on paper the 4-Series is just a coupe version of the 3-Series, it's clearly more than that. The 420d xCoupe M Drive proves that a luxury trim line is not always necessary and that even a powerful car can provide reasonable efficiency.