Style. Above all else, it’s the reason people buy coupés. They want to be seen, and are willing to sacrifice just a little practicality for the privilege. That slightly-more-daring attitude towards looks has seen BMW take a radical approach to the design of its new 4 Series, expanding its iconic kidney grilles in a potentially divisive direction.

It’s a more in-your-face look than the rivals from Audi and Lexus that we’ve lined up here. Audi moved to oversized grilles a long time ago, but even so, this facelifted A5’s styling is still more conventional than the BMW’s. The Audi mixes a look that’s both sharp and relatively understated.

Then there’s the Lexus RC. It’s something of a left-field choice, but offers individual design, tech and quality – exactly what any premium coupé must offer. Here, hybrid plays pure-petrol power, though, which is an interesting point of difference.

Yet all three competitors are close on price, so the question is: has BMW created the best coupé on the market for the money? Or are you better off spending your money on the updated A5 or the hybrid RC? 

BMW 4 Series

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Model: BMW 420i M Sport
Price: £40,460
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 181bhp
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Test economy: 36.3mpg/8.0mpl
CO2: 146g/km
Annual road tax: £475

BMW can arguably be credited with creating the four-seat coupé class back in the sixties with its 02 Series. Although there have been several identity changes on the way to the current 4 Series, it’s always remained the car that every rival wants to beat. So does the latest G22 model line continue the brand’s success?

Design & engineering

While the controversial new nose is undoubtedly a talking point, the rest of the 4 Series under the skin is very familiar. It uses the same mechanicals as the latest 3 Series, including the lightweight, rigid Cluster Architecture (CLAR) that forms the basis of everything from the next 2 Series Coupé to the vast X7 SUV. 

The rear track is 23mm wider than the saloon’s, while the axle itself gets additional bracing to give a stiffer platform on which to operate. The sleeker roofline means the 4 Series stands 1,383mm tall – 52mm lower than the 3 Series – and this has contributed to a drop in the centre of gravity by 21mm when compared with the saloon.

The 4 Series comes with passive dampers as standard, although the £2,500 M Sport Pro package that’s fitted to our test car introduces adaptive units whose damping rate varies according to the driving mode selected. 

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The cabin, meanwhile, is much the same as the 3 Series’ up front, with the pair sharing the same dashboard architecture. In other words, it’s packed with tech, while the build quality matches the sky-high standards of both of its rivals here.

Driving

With such a strong starting point as the 3 Series, it would be a bit of a shock if BMW had managed to mess the 4 Series up. Thankfully it hasn’t. If the brief was to produce a car that’s fun enough to keep enthusiastic drivers entertained, yet cosset at times when a long-distance cruise is the order of the day, then BMW has nailed it.

Equipped with optional adaptive dampers and riding on 18-inch wheels, the 4 Series manages to deliver both the sharpest handling and the most compliant ride of this trio. The difference between Comfort and Sport modes on the adaptive dampers isn’t night and day, though; regardless of setting, the 4 Series feels agile, responsive and relaxing all at once. 

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