Long-term report: Finding things to complain about with our BMW 4-Series
It’s been a couple of months since BMW delivered this 420i to my front door as our latest long-term test car. And as I discussed in my introduction piece, first impressions have been mighty impressive.
To recap, despite what the internet might try to tell you, it looks great in person, while the interior quality is top notch. And on my brief essential shopping journeys during lockdown, I’ve found it a delightfully comfortable car.
However, with lockdown rules easing, I’ve been undertaking a few longer work journeys, which means I can finally pass judgement on what it’s like to drive – and the results are, boringly, quite positive.
The driving position is spot-on with loads of adjustability, meaning you feel like you can sit low while still having great visibility. This has huge benefits when you find yourself on a fun country road, because it feels like a sports car, yet you can still see where you’re going.
It handles pretty nicely, too. Although it looks and feels a bit like a sports car, it’s not really pretending to be one, instead being something good looking and comfortable with just a hint of dynamics for when you want it.
The 2.0-litre engine’s 178bhp won’t set the world alight, but it makes a fruity parp from the exhaust when you’re pressing on and feels sprightly enough. It’s not a car you push hard, as the tyres start to give up and lose the sharp response that comes from the direct steering, but keep it within its limits and there’s fun to be had.
It’s also very comfortable, which is the premium coupe’s USP. It looks like a sports car and can be fun to drive, but for the 98 per cent of driving when you’re just chilling, the suspension soaks up bumps nicely. Oh, and I’ve been averaging about 40mpg, which is very close to official figures. Nice.
As you can tell, I’m pretty smitten with the 4 Series. And as a journalist that makes me uncomfortable. So with this in mind, I’ve started nit-picking, because nothing is perfect.
The first thing to note is that the angle of the footrest makes it so my knee doesn’t rest naturally on the side of the dashboard – I find myself either resting my foot correctly, leaving my knee hovering, or resting my knee on one side and turning my foot unnaturally.
I’ve also noticed that I occasionally get pins and needles or just a general soreness in my left leg on really long trips, which might be related to this.
The gearbox is also a minor irritant. It’s not necessarily bad, responding pretty quickly when you ask something of it, but it can occasionally lurch when caught in two minds about which gear to give you.
Couple this with the brakes, which have quite an inconsistently grabby nature, and smooth driving can take quite a bit of concentration.
With the brakes, there’s a lot of bite very quickly, which is fine in slower traffic when you can be smooth, but if you need to quickly react to something with a dab of brake, you can misjudge it by even a small amount and put a jolt through the car. It’s a rare occurence, but annoying when it happens.
Finally, getting into the rear seats is a tedious experience. As a two-seater, you need to push the fronts forward, but they’re on an electric motor. Looks cool and sounds great when the dealer is explaining the car’s features to a prospective buyer, but it’s just so incredibly slow and I’m so incredibly impatient that it genuinely annoys me.
Fortunately I rarely carry passengers, but if you’ve bought a 2+2 because you want the style and practicality of taking mates and family along for the drive, I imagine this would become old quickly.
Two months in and so far about all I’ve had to really complain about are slow-moving seats, so I’d call that a positive result. Oh, and the fact white cars are a pain to keep clean, but I’m not sure I can really pin that on the 4 Series.
I think it’s time to get our 420i together with some rivals to see how it stacks up alongside, because right now I’m struggling to think of any competitors I’d recommend over it…
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