The BMW Concept 4 Series is one sexy, production-intent concept, and it better be, as its stunning design will be a major reason why consumers eschew the 3 Series sedan for the upcoming 3 Ser...err, 4 Series coupe. Making its debut at the 2013 Detroit auto show, the BMW Concept 4 Series is a close preview of what we can expect with the latest BMW 3 Series-based coupe. And aside from one nagging real-world reservation about the upcoming production-spec 4 Series, we like what we see.
The coming 4 Series coupe, convertible, and rumored Gran Coupe will enter the mid-2010s with a higher numerical designation to signify that they're that much more special than mechanically related 3 Series sedans. Whether BMW can pull off its name game remains to be seen, but the product planning crew in Munich no doubt looked to the success Audi has had with the A4-based A5 when devising its 4 Series plan.
At least in concept form, the BMW 4 Series (currently lacking details like real-world door handles and more realistically sized wheels) looks to be a bit more than just a 3 Series sedan with two doors sliced off. Wider, lower, and longer than the outgoing car, the Concept 4 Series sports a roofline that gently sweeps down into the short rear deck. And before you roll your eyes at yet another automaker resorting to fake side vents to spice up a design, BMW says these are aerodynamically functional. Amusingly, the automaker calls each vent an Air Breather and they're paired with the Air Curtain, a front air intake channeling air outside of the front wheels to reduce fuel consumption. With the six-cylinder BMW 640i already hitting 33 mpg on the highway in EPA tests, we wouldn't be surprised if the production 4 Series mpg numbers go even higher, thanks to fuel-efficient tricks like Air Curtain that BMW will no doubt continue to employ in an effort to stay ahead of CAFE's wrath.
But at first glance, efficiency isn't really what comes to mind. Instead, the car -- albeit a concept with more room for design flourishes -- appears muscular and should serve as a good basis for the BMW M4. The concept rolls on multi-spoke, dual-colored 20-inch alloy wheels and has chrome trim on the side windows as well as BMW's signature Hofmeister Kink integrated into the rear side windows. A strong character line stretches from the back of the front wheel well arches to the edge of the L-shaped taillights, but it's the well-defined shoulders that add to the car's appeal. How much of this carries over to the production BMW 4 Series remains to be seen, though variations on the concept's special front and rear lighting details are sure to reach the car that will head to dealerships around the world.
When that happens, probably toward the end of 2013, the car should be available with a version of the Concept 4 Series' LED taillight "light tube" accents that BMW notes have more depth because the lights at the back are darker. The concept's four-unit headlights also have tweaked LED accent lighting that connects to the kidney grille in a much more elegant way than with the current 3 Series sedan. We hate to be a broken record, but we'll see just how many "hey, check this out" design features remains on the production 4 Series coupe.
Under the hood of the production BMW 4 Series you can expect the same 240-hp turbocharged I-4 found in the 328i as the base engine. Lest you think the 4 Series won't be a capable car, the new 2012 328 placed first in our recent eight-car near-luxury sport sedan comparison. A version of the underrated 300-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 should also be available, but we wouldn't count on any U.S.-spec diesel or hybrid variants. As for the M4, the prospect of an M3/M4 potentially using a turbocharged inline-six with an electronic turbocharger gets our attention, especially if BMW can get the two powertrain systems to work together seamlessly.
Once you step past the matching, boldly styled front and rear valences and into the cabin, you'll notice the influence of the BMW Individual division. Contrasting stitching lines the dash, and hand-braided trim covers the leather seats, which are colored in a black and Schiaparelli Brown combination. Even the cupholders are covered in leather, and, like the floor mats, adopt braided trim. The concept has non-glossy Natural Chestnut wood trim, but otherwise, current 3 Series owners will feel at home in this interior. BMW says the leather is the subject of an environmentally friendly tanning process, but if you really want a car that was good to the environment, you might not consider a 4 Series coupe at all.
With the Infiniti G lineup soon to be redesigned, the Audi A5 now refreshed, and Mercedes-Benz attacking the sub-$100,000 luxury coupe segment with the C- and E-Class two-doors, BMW definitely needs to impress with the 4 Series. The concept is a positive sign for fans of the 3 Series coupe, but it's unclear what premium BMW is hoping to charge for its renamed coupe. Currently, a 2013 BMW 328i coupe carries a base price of $39,595 after destination but before adding a navigation system, any metallic exterior color, or real leather. If the 4 Series coupe gets a price increase, it may lead more buyers to the upcoming 2 Series or its cheaper coupe competition, though from we've seen so far from the Concept 4 Series Coupe, the rebranding of the 3 Series two-door will likely turn out to be a solid move.
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