BMW 420d COUPÉ STEP­TRONIC

“Softly does it” just about en­cap­su­lates the up­dates meted out to this year’s 4 Se­ries

Car (South Africa) - - TEST -

IF ever there was a mas­ter of sub­tle facelifts in the au­to­mo­tive sphere, it has to be BMW. Granted, when it comes to a prod­uct as ac­com­plished as the 4 Se­ries, se­ri­ously mess­ing with the for­mula sim­ply isn’t a done thing. But, do these sub­tlest of changes make a big dif­fer­ence as the 4 Se­ries reaches four years into its pro­duc­tion cy­cle?

Ex­ter­nally, the most prom­i­nent change up front sees head­lamps that now sport hexag­o­nal LED el­e­ments for the day­time-run­ning lights and main head­lamps as stan­dard, flow­ing into a mildly restyled grille, with some ad­di­tional sheet­metal creases and an up­dated bumper lend­ing the 4 more pur­pose­ful­ness.

Out back, the full-led brake­lamp ar­rays re­tain an L-shaped mo­tif, but are now more elon­gated and sit above a re­vised rear apron. Our test unit was fin­ished in a strik­ing Snap­per Rocks Blue metal­lic paint. This colour, along with a sim­i­larly eye-catch­ing Sun­set Orange, is solely re­served for the up­dated 4 Se­ries. BMW has added four new al­loy-wheel de­signs for the Ad­van­tage, Lux­ury, Sport and M Sport trim lines.

The changes to the cabin are nu­mer­ous but even sub­tler, largely in­cor­po­rat­ing elec­tro­plated sur­rounds for the air vents and an­cil­lary con­trols, and three new leather-up­hol­stery op­tions – blue, off-white and bur­gundy – along with ad­di­tional op­tions for trim in­lays, pip­ing and stitch­ing.

The idrive in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem also un­der­goes a mild re­vi­sion that in­cor­po­rates a new, tile­ori­ented lay­out.

Me­chan­i­cally, lit­tle has changed. Ac­cord­ing to BMW, tweaks to sus­pen­sion damper set­tings and a slightly quicker steer­ing rack have smoothed out the ride and of­fer the 4 a touch more di­rect­ness, al­though from be­hind the wheel any dis­cern­able dif­fer­ences would re­quire near-su­per­hu­man in­ner ear re­cep­tiv­ity. Even so, the 4 Se­ries re­tains its broad spread of tal­ents, be­ing both dy­nam­i­cally en­ter­tain­ing and com­fort­able.

The 140 kw, 2,0-litre tur­bod­iesel re­turns un­touched, with its gen­er­ous 400 N.m of torque chan­nelled aft via the trusted, smooth-shift­ing, eight-speed ZF trans­mis­sion. It re­mains punchy, if some­what coarse, when pushed and is fru­gal, re­turn­ing a low 5,9 L/100 km on our mixe­duse fuel run.

TEST SUM­MARY

The up­dates to the 4, al­though in­cre­men­tal, are largely wel­come and of­fer its style-con­scious au­di­ence wel­come con­fig­ura­bil­ity. We’re a lit­tle sur­prised that the up­date didn’t bring with it any ma­jor me­chan­i­cal changes, al­though start­ing with a dy­nam-

Sur­pris­ingly for a Ger­man ve­hi­cle in this class, all 4 Se­ries mod­els now come stan­dard with satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion. Rear legroom is gen­er­ous for a two-door, but head­room is tight. Spec lev­els have been im­proved and the 4 Se­ries now has LED lights front and rear as stan­dard.

ically com­pe­tent pack­age does help plas­ter over such an omis­sion. So, while wel­come, the changes serve only to pro­vide the tini­est bit of pol­ish to what was al­ready an ac­com­plished prod­uct.

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