TEST DRIVE: 2021 BMW 420d xDrive Coupe (G22)

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Three full days spent with the new, controversial BMW 4 Series Coupe have showed me an actually entirely surprising car, boasting superior dynamics, an impressive design that sets to be instantly noticed and a highly attractive everyday usability.

When BMW finally lifted the veil off its brand new G22 4 Series generation in June, the fan community was instantly divided. It was like we were reliving the famous Bangle era at its inception point once again. If in the past the Bangle butt and the flame surfacing were main topics of intense discussion, now the controversy was reduced to a single centerpoint: the new, upright kidney grille.

The Big Grille Is Here To Stay

TEST DRIVE 2021 BMW 420d xDrive Coupe G22 37 830x553

As much as some would rather have the tall kidneys go away, they are proudly here to stay. I must confess that I too was shocked by BMW’s new approach, but I slowly digested the big change and tried to get myself comfortable with the new reality. I agree that BMW needed to somehow set the 3 Series and 4 Series apart, after the preceding generations were somehow difficult to set apart visually, despite some specific details.

The new 4 Series Coupe is now a more individualized car, a true niche model in an automotive world that seems determined to get rid of the beautiful, classic 2-door models. This was mostly achieved thanks to the daring team of designers that penned the G22 model series. The radical looks of the new 4 Series Coupe will certainly draw a lot of attention and might open the way to new clients compared to the F32 traditional customer base.

TEST DRIVE 2021 BMW 420d xDrive Coupe G22 39 830x553

If BMW applied a more careful and reserved recipe for the first-ever 4 Series that came out if 2012, the Munich-based constructor now took the liberty to explore new heights with the second generation of the mid-class premium Coupe. And it is brave from them they’ve managed to deliver such a spectacular visual fest with the G22 – even though they were fully aware of the mixed feelings that the new model would cause.

Getting to know the test car: The Specification

The tested BMW 420d xDrive Coupe came finished in the Dravit Grey paintwork and sporting the 797 M alloys (as part of the M Sport package) equipped with winter tires. Inside, the car was specced in the Vernasca Oyster leather upholstery with the BMW Individual polished aluminum trims for the dashboard.

The equipment list included mostly all the relevant options such as: heated steering wheel, electrically-assisted tailgate, Comfort Access, BMW Live Cockpit Professional, Gesture Control, wireless smartphone charging technology, electrically-adjustable heated front seats with memory for the driver, Harman/Kardon sound system, M Adaptive chassis, variable sport steering, BMW Laserlight headlamps, Stop & Go automated pilot and Parking Assistant Plus.

The list price was EUR 41,950 (w/o VAT) or EUR 49,920 incl. VAT. Adding in the M Sport trim line (EUR 3,109) and all the extra equipment, the final price for this 420d xDrive Coupe eventually rocketed to EUR 61,491 w/o VAT or EUR 73,174 incl. VAT. Quite a hefty tag for a 2-door model, to be honest.

Exterior design: creating a powerful impression

The new 4 Series Coupe is all but going unnoticed. The signature front-end is the main business of the new 2-door model. As blatant as they may look in pictures, the new kidneys are simply a jewel to look at in person. They create a wonderful effect of power and solidity and further help differentiate the 4 Series from the 3 Series.

In terms of styling, the new G22 4 Series displays a unique design in all aspects. The “eyes” are brand new and have almost nothing in common with the 3 Series. Furthermore, they are not connected to tall kidneys. Thanks to the M Sport package, the new 4 Series Coupe gains added presence thanks to the trapezoidal black surrounding of the LED fog lamps.

The sheer muscularity the new 4 Series generation transmits is further amplified by the robust appearance of the huge kidney grille. Adorned in a shiny chrome finish, it delivers an outstanding, aggressive effect especially when looked at in the rear-view mirror. The honeycomb pattern specific to the lower-end M Performance models is doing wonders for the front end of the G22 and helps add more cohesiveness than, for example, the traditional pattern with vertical slats that would have looked a bit overdone in this case.

Even the side profile of the new 4 Series Coupe is radically reshaped, giving up some traditional lines that have stood for generations. For example, the waist line is now more integrated within the whole design of silhouette and is significantly less pronounced compared to the F32 model. Furthermore, the new wheel arches have gained more presence, now being more physically emphasized.

The new 4 Series Coupe wants to further deepen the rift between the generations with the addition of the reinterpreted Hofmeister Kink. The straight inferior side window line made way for a new, rear-sweeping line, whose visual effect is further amplified by the BMW Individual Aluminium Line ornament that the test car was equipped with.

At the rear end, the accents lies mostly on the minimalistic touch to balance the whole exterior design. You get the traditional L-shaped lamps, but for the new 4 Series they went through a consistent diet and evolved slimmer and more streamlined compared to the outgoing generation. The new rear lights are also heavily influenced by the new 8 Series, seeing the accentuated “L” red diode and the greyed-out area above it.

Interior Design: A Familiar Venue

Whereas the exterior of the new 4 Series Coupe is a decisive departure from the 3 Series, the cabin of the G22 is more closely shared with the G20/G21. BMW played a safe card and I am glad that common sense prevailed in the interior. The atmosphere inside the premium mid-sized coupe is thus typical to the brand. The degree of noise insulation is acceptable to good, in line with the 3 Series.

Expect for some details on the door covers and center tunnel, the dashboard is basically shared with the 3 Series. As the model was fitted with the BMW Live Cockpit Professional package, it came up with two digital screens: a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.5-inch control display. This architecture is not only visually attractive and high-tech looking, but it is also very useful and dramatically simplifies the driver’s access to relevant functions.

The control and operation concept remains unchanged and true to the brand – touch functionality from the central screen, the iDrive rotary controller, the buttons on the steering wheel, the Gesture Control or the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The area around the charging tray has been slightly altered and now features more prominent outer edges compared to the 3 Series.

Also, given the fact this a coupe, the two doors are substantially larger in length, sporting a revised door cover and a frameless architecture. The test vehicle also had galvanic applications for the buttons, including the door lock/unlock and set memory controls on the driver’s side.

When driving the new 4 Series Coupe, you also have to accustom yourself to the lower height compared to your ordinary sedan. This creates a sense of inherent dynamism, but for taller people it will somehow tricky to get in. Even though the space for the rear seat area has marginally increased compared to the previous model, the rear seats are mostly suited to be occupied just in case. Otherwise, the new 4 Series Coupe is mostly being addressed to clients as a two, front-passenger car.

Anyway, the new G22 feels well suited and properly luxurious inside, able to create a cosy atmosphere for all passengers and adding a decisive note of individualism to the entire traveling experience, both as a driver or non-driver.

G22 vs. F32: A Look Back At The 4 Series Pioneer

I have always liked the 4 Series ever since its inception. The F32 was a typical BMW coupe model, sporting a traditional design philosophy and more sophistication over the 3 Series sibling. For this test, I also borrowed an LCI model of the preceding 4 Series Coupe generation to see how things evolved and why the new model is so much more radical and advanced. To begin with, I lined up the 420d xDrive Coupe test car in M Sport trim line with a decisively classic 420i xDrive Coupe in the former Luxury Line trim, which is no longer offered for the G22 generation.

From the first glance, it is clearly visible that the badge is essentially the only feature identical to the compared models. While I still enjoy the F32, putting it alongside the G22 reveals the intricate and substantial difference between the two generations. It is like we are discussing about completely distinct models.

The F32 puts an emphasis on preserving tradition, with the Luxury Line adding a galore of chrome accents and ornaments all around the car. The generation is essentially distinguished through its horizontally-displaced, wide kidneys that connect with the headlamps, that are just slightly different from those of the F3x 3 Series models, and the chrome element surrounding the front air vent area.

The visual effect that is created by the former design adds extra wideness to the front-end and makes it look very streamlined. On the opposite, the new 4 Series Coupe heralds a departure from past influences and comes up with the vertically-developed grille, delivering a more aggressive and rebel stance.

Nevertheless, the design of the F32 will age pretty well, but seeing the new G22 model series shows to me that its controversial design will refine through the passing of time. It simply looks astonishing and fresh compared to the former generation, and in many aspects, better. Of course, it is all down to a matter of personal taste, but I feel that even the most adverse advocates will change their mind a bit once they get the chance to see the car in person.

Of course, there are angles in which I do prefer the F32 over the G22. As crisp as the new generation may look, I feel that the former, more classic window line and Hofmeister were better suited for the model. And marginally, I prefer somehow the previous sophistication of the rear end, even though the new tail lamps look positively dynamic and the symmetrical positioning of the exhausts is preferable.

But, in the end, it is the first impression that matters the most. And certainly the new 4 Series Coupe is really making a powerful statement of individuality and complete departure from the past values. It does not want to be liked, it only wants to draw attention to it and it masterfully manages it, positively or negatively. In any way, it won’t pass by unnoticed.

Powertrain and Dynamics: Precise, Poised, Characterful

The new 4 Series Coupe impressed me with its clean, nimble ride. It is miles better than the preceding generation and substantially different to the 3 Series, the model family it shares the underpinnings with. The G22 boasts some razor-sharp dynamics, a more precise steering response and better stability thanks to some dedicated chassis modifications.

It is a joy to ride with the new 4 Series Coupe as it feels natural, uncomplicated, effortless and also stays true to the traditional BMW tagline “Sheer Driving Pleasure”. For a non-M car, it actually behaves quite spectacular and, on all fronts, better than the 3 Series. It is quite impressive to discover that the same CLAR platform can spawn a completely different car with some fine-tune adjustments.

The variable sport steering, even though largely electrically-assisted, is sharp and responsive under all situations, enabling a precise handling and more predictability. The new 4 Series Coupe achieves impeccable stability under all circumstances, enabling you to push it towards the most unimaginable limits.

The G22 is a very fun car to drive, offering both a relaxed or engaging ride. Even though it is slightly bigger and heavier than the outgoing generation and the 3 Series Sedan, the new 4 Series Coupe feels a tad more agile and fast, even powered by the mild hybrid 2.0-liter B47 diesel unit.

The car achieves a 0-100 km/h acceleration in around 7.4 seconds, which is arguably 0.5 slower than in the similarly powered 3 Series Sedan. But the way in which the engine throttle responses to the firm pedal touch is entirely thrilling and is actually helping the car achieve faster stints when needed.

Of course, an important contribution to the impressive performance of the new 4 Series Coupe comes from the great teamwork between the engine and the 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, enabling fast and smooth gear shifts in every situation, and the xDrive all-wheel drive system.

Thus, the extra kilos added to the kerb weight don’t seem to matter very much, as they don’t jeopardize the sheer dynamic feel and the all-rounding agility of the car. The 420d xDrive will essentially become a hot seller at least here in Romania, where the 20d versions merged with AWD are highly sought after by clients, mostly because of the recognized engine reliability and reduced consumption figures.

Of course, I can guarantee that the M440i xDrive promises even more compelling dynamic virtues and an exhilarating level of driving pleasure. Or the forthcoming 430d xDrive with MHEV 48-volt technology and 210 kW / 286 PS (282 hp), expected for March 2021. But for everyday driving and scattered weekend getaways, the 420d xDrive is just about the right choice.

Would I buy the new 4 Series Coupe?

As much as I like its looks and as delicious the idea of owning a coupe would sound, my real life necessities don’t mix very well with the confined space for the rear seats and the significantly reduced trunk size. Most likely, if I were to buy a 4 Series sometime, I would definitely choose the Gran Coupe variant. That one blends in quite perfectly the attributes of the seductive, daring design with practicality.

Other than that and the restrictive pricing, the new 4 Series Coupe is a positive surprise in almost all aspects, offering a compelling package of technology, styling and driving pleasure.

Photo Set 1 – In the quietness of the forest

Photo Set 2 – Meeting the forefather

Photo Set 3 – Lazy Sunday afternoon with The Rebel

Exterior Appeal – 8.5

Interior Quality – 8

Steering Feedback – 9

Performance – 8

Handling – 9

BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine – 8

Price Point – 6

8.1

If you are the active kind, who also likes to be noticed and doesn’t care about spending extra money to satisfy an automotive fad, the new BMW 4 Series Coupe is a rather ideal pick. For families with more than two members, the G22 generation is not the best tradeoff, sacrifizing an important amount of space and luggage in favour of design and sheer style. But certainly, you can’t resist the temptation of buying one after driving it for the first time. It’s like love at first… drive.



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