Another first hand account of the 2014 4 Series at sneak peak event in London
Another enthusiasts, MEGA, got a chance to see the F32 4 Series coupe in person at a What? Car event.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a What? Car "Special BMW Event" yesterday (28th May 2013) in Teddington, West London at the Haymarket media group HQ.
I'd had several email exchanges with a lovely girl there named Emma about the nature of the event, and I guessed long before getting the "unofficial" nod (as Emma was sworn to secrecy) that it was going to be the new BMW 4 series that I was there to see.
I took Naomi along, why not after all - and we got there at 15:30 or so. We were ushered into this kind of "holding area" with tea/coffee/cakes - and what first struck me was there was only about 6 of us there!
For whatever reason, I expected say 20 or 30 people to be invited to this. There weren't. This drove home that I was pretty fortunate to be afforded the opportunity indeed. When applying, they wanted to know age, occupation, current car - and why we were applying. No doubt this was to get a good cross section of consumer opinion? Or maybe BMW just wanted people whom were "likely" to be able to buy the car when it came out. Either way - I seemed to fit the profile which was great news.
What was less great news was the photoshoot and video shoot! I'll soon be online looking like my usual less-photogenic-than-jabba-the-hut self, and will share the link to much to my own detriment in due course.
I make one apology at this point though, which is I have 0 pictures to share right now at all. There is a press embargo on the car until the 14th of June and as such I wasn't able to snap a single pic. There were 2 bmw men there pretty much just to make sure no pictures were taken, and whilst I tried for a covert iPhone snap midway through I could immediately feel the stares just for looking at my phone: I didn't get as far as opening the camera app.
But enough rambling, onto the car itself
Most people will have seen the concept 4 by now . This was the next step: A "prototype pre production". I have therefore to add a disclaimer to some of my negative comments as I have no idea whether the final version of the car will still be like that? Certain elements seemed 'unfinished' or 'illogical' and as these are two adjectives I'd never normally apply to BMW I think it's quite reasonable to assume it's the "prototype" word to blame here. I bet the finished one will have sorted all of this.
I think this is a natural evolution from the E92. It's a beautiful looking car, personally. But BIG. The 19s on the model we saw look "right". I don't think any smaller wheel (like the standard 18 which they have chosen NOT to fit on their own demo .. Hint hint) would look good at all. It's almost the size of an E60 5 series, it must be.
But it's proportioned so, so well overall. I really like this car in the metal.
The bumper on the sport version showed to me was a bit dull. It still had the twin nostrils displayed on the concept with the flare bottom left and right, but I just can't get on with the "tameness" of the non- M sport bumpers. The lights still merge to the kidney grills but there's an interesting feature here with the "nose" of the car extruding quite a bit more than the "chin" so to speak. This leads to a 3d kidney grille where you can see a good 2-3 inches of the side of the kidney grille where this difference in extrusion is bridged. I actually really like it!
Apparently, one of the upgraded headlight packages available on the M sport model WILL include the LED "sweep" seen in the lights of the concept. I think this will be great! But.... the corona rings will not be squared off, that was just a concept feature.
I think the nose protrusion as it is is a little reminiscant of the old 8 series, perhaps if one were to roughly merge it in with an M6!! It's an odd juxtaposition but I really liked it. I just want the M sport to come out though because the bottom corners I'm not a fan of. I want a proper splitter on there, and also - there was some very cheap looking grey plastic in the venting within the corners. I hope that was just a pre production thing.
I also like the muscular lines of the bonnet, being slightly bulged. It looks like someone's shot it with a mild fish eye lens, and given that's how I usually edit any picture I take of an E92 from this angle: To me, it's perfect! Maybe they were watching the enthusiast pics going up on the forum when taking styling cues... heh...
Moving back a bit and I love the side vents. It seems a bit of a pointless detail but apparently (I asked) helps to cool the brakes. Given that I've taken my E92 on track and brake fade is a real problem: Then this sounds like great news to me. I've set brakes on fire, so if they've worked on this: Superb. Seems a bit unnecessary on the little 320d demo car but rather have continuity in design I suppose.
From the rear. the lights are once again stunning and are LED from day one on the 4 series (Just like the front headlight is only offered as xenon, unlike the F30 where a halogen option is still available). I also like the extra 7cm or so of boot space - which for me means a bigger subwoofer!!! They've used the ~80mm extended wheelbase very well in utilizing extra rear passenger legroom and extra boot space (something which seemed almost more important to the What? Car people than anything else, strangely! )
So far, everything I've reviewed when compared to the E9x makes the F32 a better car. Unfortunately though I can't fully extend this to the interior which is where some of my gripes are.
As we always knew, the iDrive is still a kind of bolt on afterthought as with all of this generation of car. I much prefer the bangle double contour dash of the E9x. The transmission tunnel has been widened to accommodate some of the extra width on the car and is nice, but I miss the split adjustable armrest of the E9x.
To be fair to the iDrive, the screen is FANTASTIC. A much higher resolution than the old one, and the dash also has been improved significantly. Oil temperature is back! About time! Bmw have realized it's drivers care if the car is warm or not. And I like the full color instrument cluster screen as well. It looks really crisp and a big improvement..
..As does the new climate control dials, with again a much cripser OLED style screen.
Heated seats will be standard on this car, as well front and rear PDC. This is in contrast to the F30 where neither are true. This is so as BMW can standardize the controls on the front of the car and not have random extra button panels with blanks etc, which is one of the most disappointing things for someone with OCD like myself to find on a car. I don't want buttons that do nothing!!!
These features go some way to justify the price increase over the E92 - apparently with just 600 or so added to base prices (but no doubt options are more spendy than ever? )
What I miss far more than the iDrive positioning though is the lack of a side bolster adjustment. The seats have been made wider and although the M sport seats fitted to this car were pretty comfortable, they were definitely made for someone a good few inches wider than I am. On a track I'd be wallowing around quite alot. The old seats in the E9x are slightly less comfortable for a cruiser but alot more adjustable. I'm really concerned by the lack of the side bolster adjustment for proper drivers of this car.
I'd go as far as to say this is the biggest lacking feature on the car - and as I've now found out, on all upcoming / previously released BMWs (With even the M6 not having it!!! Madness when you consider the E60 M5 and the event that was pressing the M button and having the Adaptive sports seats envelope driver and passenger into a feeling of security. It really used to tell you that you were now 'driving' for real..
My other gripe was the extended leather as standard. It extends up to the inlay trim but no further. The door cards are only half covered, and the dash isn't covered. So rather than having just 2 materials: Plastic and t he inlay trim: We now have 3. Some leather, some plastic, and some inlay trim. I wish they'd either gone further or not done it at all. There's no way to unspec this option - it's seen as a real plus point by the marketing guys at BMW, but to me - I'd rather not have the extended leather as I don't think it suits the interior on the whole. I also hated the combination of trim elements in piano black around the instrument cluster, aluminium inlays, chrome surrounds, and even a mixture of red on black stitching on the wheel and just red stitching on the seats. I hope some of this is just due to the prototype as I said when starting out, as there's far too many styles going on at once in this car - and it's a bit insane.
The E9x interior seems very basic by comparison - but by comparison the F32 has danger of looking a bit like a clown car at least in this prototype guise. Let's hope there's some synergy between textiles and finishes in the final version of the car.
I've highlighted a number of negatives above, but everything else was a posittive. This is much less of a change when compared to how E46 -> E90 was. I was asked by What? Car to summarize my views in 3 words but I could only come up with 2: Evolution, Marketing. I think that's quite apt.
I'm never going to be on board with the change in badge but can see that there's a whole lot of extra thrown in FoC now. For example if I was taking this car on contract, the heated seats and iDrive (which will be standard in the M sport: Due about 10 months after the luxury and sport models I believe? EDIT: Perhaps not. Speak in this thread suggests M Sport will be available from launch..) being standard would be fantastic news for the monthly repayments.
I'm yet to be sold on whether I'd change in my 2010 335d when an M sport one of these comes along. I'd definitely not "drop down" to the sport version that was demoed to me mind you. The big question will be whether I take this car once the right engine and trim level is out or infact go for a 2 series. I think the M235i, which for around 32k will net me a WHOLE LOT more engine and an equally good chassis for almost exactly the same price as a 420d: Is probably going to win the battle for me.
And that's where I'd leave it. I think as an executive car on contract lease or business expense (the BIK will be very low indeed due to the ultra efficient 2.0d engine) this car could well break records. It's more or less beautiful, will come in cheap enough, offer 60 odd mpg on the motorway and turn a whole bunch of heads. But I do think they've slightly moved the 4 series out of reckoning for the younger "petrolhead" BMW owner. I'm almost certain the 2 series is going to win out in terms of where I spend my money. Mostly because I'll get exactly what I want from that car, without paying extra "Because it's a 4 series" (ahem).
Stay tuned for official BMW 4 Series details coming any day now.
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