My email Inbox this week has been loaded with press releases about the latest changes to the 2017 BMW range of passenger cars.
New is the most used word in the titles of these releases. In fact most of the changes are for detailed styling changes, upgrades to equipment or the introduction of new levels of specification, sharper handling with steering and suspension changes for the 4 Series and in some cases global adjustments to prices.
The announcement of all these changes coincided with the UK media launch of the refreshed BMW 4 Series range of Coupe, Gran Coupe and Convertible models. The 4 Series story started in 2013 with the launch of the Coupe which replaced the famous 3 Series Coupe and since then the line up has been extended with Gran Coupe and Convertible version. The 3 Series has Saloon, GT Hatchback and Touring estate versions.
James Thompson, BMW UK’s Product Operation Manager for medium cars told journalists at the revised 4 Series media launch, “The UK market is the second largest in the world after the US for 4 Series sales. Around 23,000 units will be sold in its first full year of sales in this country. The four door Gran Coupe, because of the demand from corporate buyers, is the most popular body style with an expected 10,000 annual sales. Next are the two door Coupe with 9,000 predicted sales and the two door Convertible is expected to achieve around 4,000 registrations.”
He added the introduction of the 4 Series has had little or no affect on UK sales of 3 Series models with 26,000 3 Series Saloons being sold last year in addition to 11,000 Touring and 3,000 GT versions.
Prices for the revised 4 Series models start from £32,580 for the Coupe and Gran Coupe and rise through the range to £46,550. The Convertibles start from £37,630 and rise to £50,670. The high performance M4 Coupe is priced at £58,365 and the M4 Convertible at £62,460.
However James Thompson said that from July global prices will rise by an average 1.3% for 4 Series models and 1.6% as an average across the brand’s entire range of all models.
Depending on the body style chosen the 4 Series mainstream engine line up is petrol 420i 184hp with rear and xDrive options, 430i 252hp and 440i 326hp. Turbodiesel units are 420d 190hp and 430d 258hp both with rear wheel drive and xDrive options and the 435d 313hp unit with xDrive as standard. In addition there is the M4 six cylinder 3.0-litre 431hp petrol unit. Depending on the engine and model chosen there is the option of six speed manual and eight speed Steptronic transmissions.
The 420d turbodiesel unit will be the most popular choice for all body styles accounting from 29 to 43% of sales. The xDrive option varies between 11 and 15% and M4 sales varying between 16 and 17% of total 4 Series UK registrations.
When it comes to specification levels, in addition to the specific M variants, there are Sport and M Sport for the Coupe and Convertible and the Gran Coupe has an additional starter level of SE because of corporate sales. The previous Luxury level has been deleted. Three out of every four UK customers choose the M Sport specification.
Specification and styling changes include LED headlights, rear lights and fog lights as standard, Sport versions have new style front and rear bumpers and there is a range of new styled alloy wheels and bodywork colours. Inside leather upholstery is standard across the range, there is new detailed interior trim including metal finish carbon fibre inserts, all models have the sixth generation professional navigation system, real-time traffic information including a function for inter-car connection with other new BMW warnings of traffic or road conditions ahead and there is a new voice control information command system. All versions retain the Eco-Pro driving mode function with Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings. The M4 versions also have minor styling changes outside and in, plus the option of and Exterior Carbon Package.
Most significantly all 4 Series models have revised suspension settings to improve handling but not compromising the ride comfort. There are new shock absorbers, anti-roll bars and the power steering has been recalibrated as well.
The single best selling 2017 model year 4 Series variant will be the 420d M Sport four door plus tailgate Gran Coupe priced at £36,405, the same price as the two door plus tailgate 420d Coupe M Sport which is only marginally not the best selling version. The Gran Coupe has higher sales due to demand from business/corporate customers in the UK.
Unfortunately the 420d Gran Coupe was not available for testing at the media launch so I went with the two door 420d Coupe instead but with the by far the most popular M Sport spec.
The detailed styling changes inside and out are not obvious from a casual glance but immediately noticeable just after a mile or so of driving on winding Cotswold country roads was the improved handling and ride compliancy. The changes to the suspension settings with new dampers, roll bars and the recalibrated steering is a significant step forward and the A4 Coupe/Gran Coupe was good before. It is hard to put a value on such an improvement but it is certainly the most striking change for the 2017 model year cars.
The handling is taught, the steering needle sharp and the ride comfort excellent and that cannot always be said about sports BMW models. The latest 420d Coupe just felt so well balanced and a car you would really enjoy driving miles in whether it’s on winding country roads or during more mundane motorway journeys. Normally it takes a while of driving for suspension and steering changes to become noticeable, not with this revised range, the improvements are felt immediately.
As for other changes in spec and trim, its improvements all round, some more significant than others and the sat-nav, spec upgrades, iDrive infotainment and communication functions have all evolved just as with most other premium brand cars have as years of sales progress.
The 2.0-litre 420d 190hp turbodiesel engine is well known and well liked and extensively used throughout the BMW range. With 400Nm of torque from 1,750rpm response is strong, mid range flexibility refined even in Eco mode and all done with little engine noise and no stress. My test car had the six speed manual gearbox which added to the ‘sports’ driving appeal of this rear wheel drive model. Top speed is 149mph, zero to 62mph takes 7.3-seconds, the Combined Cycle is 62.8mpg and on my brief but swift test drive the 420d Coupe returned 50.4mpg. With CO2 emissions of 119g/km this M Sport spec variant will have VED road tax costs of £160 First Year rate and then £140 thereafter. Company car drivers will pay 25% Benefit-in-Kind tax. The insurance rating is likely to be the same Group 30E as before.
We expect new or upgraded models to be better than their predecessors, it’s all about evolution. The latest BMW 4 Series Coupe does just that but with the added benefits of sharper handling and improved ride compliancy.
MILESTONES: 2017 BMW 4 Series 420d M Sport Coupe. Price: £36,405. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel, 190hp, 400Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual, rear wheel drive. Performance: 149mph, 0-62mph 7.3-seconds, Combined Cycle 62.8mpg (50.4mpg on test), CO2 119g/km, VED road tax £160/£140, BiK company car tax 25%. Insurance group: 30E tbc. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,640mm, W 1,825mm, H 1,377mm, boot 455-litres, 2-doors/4-seats. For: Classy and rewarding to drive, significantly enhanced handling and compliant ride comfort, latest in-car infotainment/connectivity technology, more standard higher grade specification. Against: Not as practical as the four door Gran Coupe but it still costs the same, small price increase due from July.
Miles Better News Agency