Why we’re running it: To see if a coupé still has a place on today’s SUV-filled roads
Welcoming the 4 Series to the fleet - 6 January 2020
It’s probably best to get the grille discussion out of the way now. Yes, this BMW 420d is blessed with the controversial nose… Hmm, maybe ‘blessed’ isn’t quite the right word. Cursed? Damned? Either way, it features the grille and there’s very little getting away from it.
But we’ll get into that a bit more in a subsequent update. The road test verdict that you’ll have already read was less than enthusiastic – personally, I’m genuinely intrigued to see whether it grows on me.
What is less controversial than the grille is the styling around the rest of the car: classic coupé lines and all the better for it. A large crease on the lower edge of the doors helps to hunker the car to the ground visually, while the uptick lines towards the rear finish it all off nicely. The M rear spoiler is standard and seems a bit unnecessary on a four-cylinder diesel, so let’s call it a Gurney flap and feel better about ourselves.
The road testers were more enthusiastic about how it drives, so we won’t go into that again here. Instead, let’s focus on options and spec on this lower-powered car.
In this M Sport trim level, there are plenty of aggressive scoops and ducts (some fake, mind), but with our 420d’s Arctic Race Blue metallic paint (a £670 option), these don’t appear to be as aggressive as on paler cars because they blend into each other a bit more. On that paint for a moment – it’s superb. It doesn’t feel like we’ve followed the crowd and opted for a grey car, but it’s not so shouty that you’re attracting unwanted attention. A coupé should be classy and understated, and this one feels just that.
The paint also helps to distract your eye from the sun protection glass a bit. It’s an option at £320. In these darker, colder months, I’m not sure I’d bother with it, but then maybe my children will appreciate it on a sunny day.
Other options run to a Technology Plus Pack and Comfort Plus Pack. The former isn’t cheap at £3650, but it does come with plenty of goodies. Deep breath: Driving Assistant Professional, Parking Assistant Plus, head-up display, Harman Kardon surround sound, BMW Drive Recorder, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, gesture control and wi-fi hotspot preparation.
At £1950, Comfort Plus, includes a heated steering wheel, powered bootlid (who knew those wouldn’t be standard fit these days?), keyless entry, electric front seats, lumbar support and extended storage.
From my initial impressions (I’ve done only about 100 miles in it so far), I’d say the Comfort Plus Pack is well worth it, especially that heated steering wheel at this time of year. The Technology Plus Pack is a bit trickier to justify. Things like the head-up display and Harman Kardon surround sound are brilliant, and definitely worth ticking, and the gesture control keeps my son entertained for hours. But elements such as the Driving Assistant Professional leave me slightly cold. It contains features including active cruise control and lane control, neither of which I’m a huge fan of.
BMW Drive Recorder is something I hope I’ll never have to use. It comes in conjunction with park assist and uses the cameras from the parking system to record and store video footage from different points around the car. It will store 40 seconds of video and keeps 20 seconds of footage either side of a shunt. It’s a handy thing but, like I say, hopefully not something that will be needed.
The rest of the interior feels much as you’d expect – a pleasant place to spend time. There is a touchscreen but I’ve hardly had to poke it so far because BMW has sensibly stuck with buttons for all of the regular things you need access to. It will be a sad day if BMW ever decides to do away with those shortcut buttons on the dashboard. Ranging from one to eight, they can be programmed by the driver for quick access to all manner of things and they’re incredibly useful.
The 420d already feels like it will be an excellent cruiser. That could be a very handy thing when Autocar HQ opens back up again. I live north of Peterborough and the office is in Twickenham, so something to absorb that sort of journey is going to be a godsend. The four-cylinder diesel engine is refined, both from the inside and the outside, and with 187bhp and 295lb ft, it’ll do 0-62mph in 7.1sec. A fair to middling figure.
As you’d expect with a diesel, though, mid-range urge is more impressive and it’s easy to make decent progress in this car. The steering is sharp and the ride largely complements the slightly more GT nature of the 420d. The sensibly sized 18in wheels help.
What’s more disappointing is the fuel economy. To be fair, the car has done just 800-odd miles in total so far and it’s only been on short-squirt journeys, but the 35.7mpg that it’s reading at the moment is a long way short of the WLTP figure of 67.3mpg.
Hopefully, a few longer journeys will get the real and theoretical closer – something that’s not exactly a terrible prospect in this car.
Having recently spent a day with a modestly equipped 420i, I don’t think it will take Piers long before any apprehension about that divisive front end disappears. It was the BMW’s relaxed long-distance demeanour and rear-driven dynamic prowess, which doesn’t come at the expense of ride comfort, that stuck in the mind – not its nose.
Back to the topBMW 4 Series 420d M Sport Coupe specification
Specs: Price New £42,440 Price as tested £49,030 Options Arctic Race Blue metallic paint £670, Technology Plus Pack £3650, Comfort Plus Pack £1950, sun protection glass £320
Test Data: Engine 4 cyls in line, 1995cc, turbocharged, diesel Power 188bhp Torque 295lb ft Kerb weight 1605kg Top speed 7.1mph 0-62mph 149sec Fuel economy 67.3mpg CO2 112g/km Faults None Expenses None
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