BMW has gone back and forth on the name several times since our Georg Kacher reported more than three years ago that the 3 Series coupe would be replaced with the 4 Series. How could BMW give up on the M3 name? M4 sounds too much like a British motorway.
There’s precedent, though, in the form of the 6 Series coupes slotted between the 5 and 7 Series with which it shares components, and the 8 Series, the Bavarian Mercedes SL. Then there is Audi, which delineates the A4 coupe from the sedan by calling it the A5. Never underestimate any German automaker’s preponderance for mimicking a competitor. Finally, there’s the matter of an upcoming 4 Series Gran Coupe in the form of a smaller version of the 6 Series Gran Coupe.
With the outgoing 3 coupe, BMW already had emphasized the two-door’s more spectacular proportions by making it longer and lower than its corresponding sedan. BMW’s press kit breathlessly describes the length, the low silhouette and the width of the new 4 Series. Suddenly, it’s 1957 all over again.
The 4 makes its debut at the North American International Auto Show – that’s Detroit, in January. Its wheelbase is 110.6 inches, or two inches longer than the suddenly stubby-looking 3 Series coupe. BMW has added 1.8 inches to the front track, for 60.8 inches, and 3.1 inches to the rear, for 62.7. It’s 71.9 inches wide overall, 1.7 inches more than the 3 Coupe, and 0.6 inches lower, at 53.6. Overall length is 182.7 inches, still compact next to many other sport coupes out there (we’re looking at you, Mustang, Camaro, Challenger).
BMW’s self-description of the 4 Series reads like a Biblical chapter describing the second coming of the 2002, though with that car’s Teutonic flavor replaced with tasteful dollops of satin finish chrome, and with leather from the world’s most supple cows.
“The BMW Coupe is surrounded by a halo of fascination,” it begins, and it might as well end there, though it doesn’t. The “classy” (BMW’s word) satin finish chrome highlights such functional details as the air intakes and vents, door handles and sideview mirrors, proving that in a global, international economy, the right car company can turn what would be gauche on Detroit iron into glamour.
Bayerische Motor Werken’s latest take on the iconic twin-kidney grille adds an optic fiber line off the hexagonal full-LED headlamps, to form a visual link between the inner, high-beam headlamp and the kidney. It will be a striking vision with just the parking lights on, a crafty update on the BMW halo lamps that so many others have mimicked. There’s a large intake at the lower fascia, which its maker insists hints at the “extra air required by the powerful engines,” which will certainly include the turbo fours, a new inline six for the, gulp, M4 and very likely a diesel four even for the North American market.
It has very pronounced front and rear wheel arches, the latter marking the widest point on the car, under which are 20-inch wheels.
Two flanking vents on either side of the front fascia’s lower maw differ in thickness and are specifically for brake venting or oil cooling, and for the Air Curtain, which is the EfficientDynamics engineering feat that channels air around the outside of the front wheels, for better airflow and reduced fuel consumption. Read, “trick aero.” See what you can do when you’re not blowing half your engineering budget on Formula 1 engines?
The 4’s profile borrows the 3’s double-swage line, and of course, features BMW’s latest iteration of the Hoffmeister kink, just appearing there in all its glory to emphasize that long, low roofline.
That large, satin chrome C-shaped accent behind the front wheels you’ve been wondering about (“does it do something, or is it just a fake air scoop?”) is called the Air Breather. It works with the Air Curtain at the edges of the lower front fascia (remember? From a few paragraphs above?) for drag reduction around the front wheels. And you don’t need to be one second behind the first-place car, in the DRS zone, for it to work.
In back, L-shaped taillamps taper toward the center and will look familiar to devotees of all BMW’s latest models. The rear bumper features another piece of satin-finish trim, in aluminum.
Then there’s the interior. What would a new BMW be without an interior? Except that this is no black-on-black Bauhaus interior hearkening back to the Bavarians’ glory days of the early ‘70s. Here’s all you need to know about the new 4 Series’ interior: the cupholders are covered in leather. Yep. This, from a German automaker that as recently as the Gerhard Schroeder administration was loath to give American consumers cupholders of any substance at all.
Please avoid using the leather cupholders for bottles of milk. That’s just too perverse. It’s certainly not kosher.
The show car is painted Liquid Metal Silver, and the interior is two-tone black and Schiaparelli Brown, consisting, BMW says, of “sustainably tanned leather.” Hand-braided leather trim elements run vertically down the seats.
It’s all very appealing, a very modern sort of opulence, though it’s not the sort of thing that will make the average middle-class enthusiast think, “hey, this is a Bimmer I might actually afford.” We’ll have to wait to see how opulent more quotidian version look when the 4 Series goes on sale in 2013, some time after its official unveiling at the Detroit show January 14.