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2018 BMW 4 Series: Performance Poetics

The BMW 4 Series hopes to split the difference between the smaller, more agile and sporty 3 Series, and the more roomy, more luxury immersed 5 Series. The 2018 BMW 4 Series arrives with better chassis tuning and a few other tweaks for the new year.

As I wrote this, I was about 9 hours in to this year’s Daytona 24 Hour race. It is, like all modern endurance races, a crazed series of sprints that last from the green to the checker. There is, as you would expect, packs of Porsches and Ferraris and Audis. The current overall leaders were Cadillacs (of all things).

There were, unsurprisingly, BMWs in the GT categories. They came across as amazingly tough cars. The engines especially pull like a locomotive and sound like something out of a Focke-Wulf FW-190.

Practical Applications & Perfect Fits

One of the BMWs was their current art car. Thankfully, this is not the art car that hack Jeff Koons did a while back. This is a new one, and looks like a refrigerator attacked by a four-year-old armed with colorforms. There might have been 4 Series BMWs in the race, but I could not tell. All of them, not just the BMWs, but any other road car-based racer, is chopped full of vents and louvers and NACA ducts; flairs, dive planes, kick ups, flips, and lips.

BMW will, if it’s not already doing it, propagate good (and appropriate) racing bits from any and all of their cars into any, and all, of their other cars as they see fit. The 4 Series included. They’re smart that way, and Germans have a tendency to do stuff like that as a matter of course.

BMW recently introduced the 4 Series, as a car to fit, technologically and performance-wise, between the 3 Series and the 5 Series. With the 4 Series came the news there would be no more M3. There was much consternation. The M3 is an immortal, beloved to fans of Bayerische Motoren Werke. Simply doing away with it was anathema. This is all by way of pointing out how the 4 Series hit the streets with a black mark on its copybook. But then it literally did hit the streets, and all things (or most things) were forgiven. People liked it.

No, it is not quite as small and light and chuckable as the 3 – especially the M3s – but the 3 Series had been getting bigger and more unwieldy anyway. And the new 4s seemed to be quite a lot of fun and a good blend between crazed sports-racer and luxo-cruiser (e.g. the 7 Series).

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“The maxim guiding the BMW 4 Series model update was stick to the proven formula but add extra richness to the car’s character. That’s why the exterior design shines the spotlight most brightly on the dynamic and elegant qualities of the BMW 4 Series family,” said Domagoj Dukec, Head of Exterior Design, BMW Automobiles. The 4 Series models pictured here were inspired by the Concept 4 Series Coupe from 2012. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Performance & Precision

The differences from the 2017 to the 2018 model are rather slight, with the exception of the new suspension tuning. BMW says the new chassis consists of a sharper suspension for greater agility, a statement implying the outgoing model was too soft. The new BMW 4 Series, both Coupe and Gran Coupe, come with a stiffer suspension, more advanced damping technology, and improved steering. There is reduced roll, greater stability, and the 4 Series displays noticeable gains in both lateral and longitudinal handling.

Engine-wise, the new BMW 4 Series has two available gasoline choices. The 430i comes with a 248 horsepower mill and the top-of-the-range 440i features a 320 horsepower engine. These are bolted to a standard eight-speed Steptronic Sport Automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual gearbox is available in the 4 Series Coupe.

The other improvements of a “might-be-interesting-technical-meaning” are the new, upgraded front and rear aprons. Now, this could be seen as little more than a styling tweak, but if you’re messing about with the rear for things near the underbody, that means you’re fiddling with underbody airflow, especially if you are upgrading the front apron too. You only need to upgrade it if you’ve come up with a better idea on what the air passing beneath the car should do. And if you’re doing that, then you’ve got to get the air out the back.

Hence the new rear apron.

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The BMW M4 Coupe and M4 Convertible are outfitted with a six-cylinder engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology. The engine creates 425 horsepower, although the available Competition Package jumps it to 444. With the latter mated to the M Double-Clutch Transmission, the BMW M4 Coupe hits 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds, while the M4 Convertible gets there in 4.1 seconds. Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Color Me Crazy

BMW points out how there are two new exclusive colors for the 2018 4 Series. Exclusive to the 4 Series or all BMWs they don’t specify, but they do tell you what the colors are called: Sunset Orange and Snapper Rocks Blue. Sunset Orange seems easy to comprehend. Snapper Rocks Blue . . . whoo-boy.

I dunno where to start, but I usually end up thinking of a band stuck in the purgatory of the small-market casino circuit with a Glenn Danzig fetish.

The other announcement is there are now four new rims on offer. Not one, not two, not three, but four. Don’t overexert yourself BMW.

Waxing Poetics

It’s worth explaining what the “Gran Coupe” is too. The 4 Series Gran Coupe is a four-door “coupe” (the second after the 6 Series Gran Coupe). The roofline is low and elongated and a rear pair of doors are added. Yes, I know, coupes have two doors, sedans have four. There is no such thing as a four-door coupe. Yes, this is an affront and there will be an accounting for it. Oh yes there will.

What BMW is trying to do, in general, is make a sedan as aesthetically pleasing as a two-door, while giving you the practicality of four doors, like an easily accessible back seat. They say rear seat comfort and space is not negatively impacted. I still remain skeptical, because it looks like there has to be less headroom.

However, the 2018 BMW 4 Series has spoken. In short, better chassis tweaks, reworked underbody airflow, four new wheels, and two new colors.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

BMW 4 Series M Sport

BMW 4 Series Luxury Convertible

BMW 4 Series M Sport Gran Coupe

BMW 4 Series Interior

Photos & Source: BMW of North America, LLC.