New models deserve new model designations. That's why the new two-door 1 Series coupe and cabriolet will be rebadged as the 2 Series. One rung up, the two-door BMW 3 Series and the upcoming Gran Coupe will be sold as the 4 Series. The reason for these moves is simple: cleverly repositioned models command higher prices. Just look at the 6 Series Gran Coupe that costs almost one third more than an identically-equipped 5 Series sedan.
Although the 3 Series segment is much more price sensitive, the days of the coupe being $1300 more expensive than the corresponding notchback are definitely over. In the future, a two-door 428i will likely fetch a $4500 premium over an identically-equipped 328i. A similar amount is required to upgrade from a four-door Audi A4 to an A5 coupe. If the current pricing policy is anything to go by, you can double that amount for the 4 Series Gran Coupe and triple it for the 4 Series cabriolet. The high-roof, five-door GT model, which will be part of the extended 3 Series range, is expected to cost about $5800 more than the sedan.
Unlike the rival Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, the BMW 4 Series coupe retains its ungainly B-pillar. Also there to stay is the retractable hardtop, which looks ho-hum in bright colors with the top erect and the cutline mars the pretty silhouette. An improved folding mechanism is said to be more space-efficient and easier to handle when loading the trunk.
The Gran Coupe shares the extended wheelbase of the 3 Series GT. The greater length makes provisions for better space utilization and for an allegedly breathtaking shape that is said to be both sporty and elegant. Characteristic styling elements include slim pillars, a striking greenhouse with a steeply raked windshield, made-to-measure sheet metal, as well as unique front and rear ends. Extra money buys LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, an M sport package, and extroverted color and trim combinations. In addition to a sunroof, navigation, and leather seats, one can specify adaptive dampers, xDrive four-wheel drive, variable-rate dynamic steering, and an extended choice of driver assistance systems.
M3 or M4?
Is the next M3 going to be renamed M4? Yes and no. The legendary model designation does survive, but the M3 badge will only be found on the four-door sedan. Coupe, convertible, and Gran Coupe models will be badged as M4. Although the normally-aspirated V-8 is being phased out in favor of a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six, the power output will likely remain in the same ballpark as the current M3 (420 hp) and the M3 CTS/GTR (450 hp). Another significant drivetrain-related improvement concerns the faster-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that is going to be offered as an alternative to a six-speed manual.
Thanks to doors made of aluminum and to a roof, hood, trunk, and brake discs baked from carbon fiber, the M engineers intend to push the curb weight under the magic 1500 kg (3300 lb) mark. As a result, the next M3/M4 should shave about 0.3 seconds off the 0-62 mph acceleration time; the current M3 coupe does the run in 4.5 seconds.
In addition to these two cream-of-the-crop crackerjacks, we may see two dedicated M Performance models. While the M440i will probably be reserved for North America to replace the 335is, the M440d should be a desirable addition to the European line-up. Both engines are said to deliver an identical 340 hp.
The rest of the powertrain lineup should mirror that of the 3 Series. However, earmarked for the 4 Series are two new diesels: the 218-hp 425d slots in below the 430d, the 286-hp 435d ranks above it. Although the full hybrid drivetrain module offered in the sedan would also fit in the 4 Series, BMW is likely to switch straight to the more advanced plug-in hybrid when it becomes available in 2014.
Coupe and convertible 4 Series models go on sale in Europe early next year. While the 3 Series GT follow is September 2013, we shall have to wait until spring 2014 for the 4 Series Gran Coupe. Expect M variants to follow after the base model introductions.