2021 BMW 4 Series Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Aug 06, 2021

Introduction - Find the best BMW deals!

In the late 1970s, the original 3 Series Coupe made BMW a legitimate luxury brand in the U.S. market. Today, that car’s direct descendant is known as the 4 Series. The redesigned 2021 BMW 4 Series takes several leaps forward in refinement, sophistication, and technology, and perhaps one big step backward when it comes to design.

For 2021, the BMW 4 Series lineup includes a 2-door coupe and a 2-door convertible. Both body styles are available in 430i and M440i specification, while the high-performance M4 variant is offered only with the coupe body style. Versions without the xDrive moniker are rear-wheel drive, and versions with the xDrive label have all-wheel drive.

For 2022, BMW will add an M4 Convertible and make xDrive more widely available. The 4 Series lineup will also expand with the return of the Gran Coupe body style, a 5-door sportback model blending rakish looks with added practicality. The new 2022 BMW i4 electric vehicle is based on the redesigned 4 Series Gran Coupe.

You can tell you’re looking at the redesigned 2021 BMW 4 Series by its oversized grille. It dominates the front styling and clearly separates the 4 Series models from the 3 Series Sedan with which they share a platform and powertrains. Additionally, the 4 Series boasts a new interior, more powerful and efficient drivetrains, next-generation infotainment and driving assistance systems, new colors inside and out, and more.

Despite the changes, the car’s overall mission remains the same: to deliver more style and sophistication than its 3 Series sibling.

What Owners Say About the BMW 4 Series - Find the best BMW deals!

2021 BMW M440i Convertible San Remo Green Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 70 percent of new BMW 4 Series buyers are male (vs. 63 percent for the Compact Premium Car segment), and the median age of a 4 Series buyer is 56 years (vs. 55).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the previous-generation BMW 4 Series in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you’ll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Powertrain
  • Feeling of safety
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design
  • Infotainment system
  • Driving comfort
  • Fuel economy
  • Getting in and out

In the 2020 APEAL Study, the previous-generation 4 Series ranks fifth out of eight Compact Premium Cars.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the BMW 4 Series - Find the best BMW deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of an M440i Convertible equipped with the following options:

  • Metallic paint
  • Executive package
  • Dynamic Handling package
  • Parking Assistance package
  • Neck warming system
  • Wireless charging pad
  • Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system

The price of the test vehicle came to $73,120, including the $995 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 BMW M440i Convertible San Remo Green Back Seat

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

BMW 4 Series owners rate getting into and out of their cars as their least favorite thing about them, but difficulty in this area is to be expected given the type of vehicle this is. With low-slung coupes and convertibles, style takes precedence over utility.

In any 4 Series (except for the M4 equipped with the optional M carbon bucket seats), getting into and out of the car is more manageable than expected. The trick is to raise the seat height to make entry and exit more comfortable. Nothing can be done about the long doors, though, so this remains less than ideal in cramped parking situations. Also, when parallel parking in cities, be mindful not to scrape the door on the curb.

Equipped with a range of power adjustments, the test car’s sport-bolstered and leather-wrapped front seats proved comfortable for long drives. Outfitted for chilly weather, the evaluation car came with options, including a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and a neck-warming system. It did not have ventilated front seats, though, which would cost another $350.

The 4 Series accommodates rear passengers in surprising comfort. The coupe easily transports four adults, though headroom is tight. The convertible’s back seat is smaller, and the backrest angle is more upright than in the coupe, but two couples can head out for a drive without a problem. My wife reported a minimum of wind buffeting with the side windows raised (but without the wind deflector in use). Triple-zone climate control adds to rear passenger comfort levels.

As is expected, the 4 Series features quality interior materials and refined surface detailing. The new dashboard is technical in nature, and modern geometric shapes dominate the design. Metallic trim on a portion of the climate control buttons represents a minor ergonomic misstep, making them harder to read. Also, as you might expect, direct sunlight washes out the infotainment screen and digital instrumentation when the convertible’s top is down.

Using the controls is typically straightforward once you acclimate to the dashboard and center console layout and how things work. Interior storage space for front-seat occupants is unexpectedly generous, too.

2021 BMW 4 Series iDrive 7.0 Infotainment System Review

2021 BMW M440i Convertible Interior Dashboard Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

If you’ve heard stories about how difficult BMW iDrive is to learn and use, banish them from your memory banks. The latest version of the technology is intuitive and offers five different ways to interact with it.

BMW iDrive 7.0 equips the 4 Series with the following standard features:

  • 8.8-inch touchscreen display
  • Bluetooth
  • Navigation
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Android Auto
  • HD Radio
  • SiriusXM 360L satellite radio
  • BMW ConnectedDrive services
  • Connected Package Professional
  • Natural language recognition system
  • Over-the-air update capability
  • 10 stereo speakers

The test car had the optional Executive package, which improves iDrive 7.0 with the following features:

  • 12.3-inch full digital instrumentation
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display

Note that for the 2022 model year, these two display upgrades are called Live Cockpit Pro and have become standard equipment.

BMW’s familiar iDrive controls remain perched atop the center console, complete with a handwriting recognition pad on the center dial. But the main complaint about them now is that it’s easy to accidentally press down on the top of the dial with your wrist when reaching for a beverage or an item in the storage area forward of the console.

The touchscreen infotainment system resides above the air vents at the top of the dashboard. It falls within easy reach and works like a smartphone, allowing you to swipe, scroll, pinch, spread, and tap to execute commands. 

Gesture control is available as an option, allowing you to twirl a fingertip to adjust the volume or hook a thumb left or right to change a radio station. The response is inconsistent at best. The steering wheel controls are a better alternative for adjusting the volume or changing stations. For old-schoolers, BMW still provides a traditional stereo volume knob and programmable buttons on the dashboard.

The 4 Series also offers natural voice recognition, and you awaken the digital assistant by saying, “Hey BMW.” It works pretty well with the top raised. With the top dropped, it wasn’t as effective. You can accidentally rouse the digital assistant if, for instance, you happen to be talking about BMWs with a passenger.

Aside from direct sunlight washing the screen out, the sketchy gesture control performance, and the center console control knob getting in the way, the iDrive 7.0 system in the BMW 4 Series is terrific. The test car also had the optional Harman Kardon surround-sound system, and while it sounded good, the 4 Series deserves a higher-end audio option.

What It’s Like to Drive the 2021 BMW 4 Series

2021 BMW M440i Convertible San Remo Green Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Choose the BMW 430i, and you’ll get a rewarding turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. It’s improved for 2021, now producing 255 horsepower between 5,000 rpm and 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque from 1,550 rpm to 4,400 rpm. These figures rise by seven horses and 36 pound-feet over the previous-generation 4 Series.

The M440i models boast a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. It supplies a robust 382 hp between 5,800 rpm and 6,500 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 rpm to 5,000 rpm. These amount to improvements of 62 hp and 39 pound-feet of torque. This powertrain also employs new mild-hybrid technology with a 48-volt starter/generator and 48-volt battery. It powers the car’s electronics, boosts performance when appropriate, and improves overall efficiency.

Both engines pair with an 8-speed sport automatic transmission to drive the rear wheels or, with xDrive, all four of them. According to BMW, xDrive does more than just improve traction during inclement weather. Versions of the 4 Series with this upgrade also offer quicker acceleration and better handling.

The BMW M4 is something else entirely. A twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 provides 473 hp at 6,250 rpm and 406 pound-feet of torque between 2,650 rpm and 6,130 rpm. A 6-speed manual gearbox sends power to the rear wheels. Competition versions make even more power (503 hp and 479 pound-feet) and come only with an 8-speed M-tuned sport automatic. For 2022, the M4 Competition models are available with xDrive, and a new M4 Competition Convertible debuts.

I’ve driven the M4 Coupe with the manual gearbox and came away from that experience thinking it was one of the best and most accessible performance cars I’d ever had the pleasure of driving.

Comparatively, the M440i Convertible is a heavier and tamer automobile but remains a pure pleasure to drive. Quick, responsive, and trustworthy, few driving experiences can match the thrill of an early morning, top-down, roller coaster of a ride across the Santa Monica Mountains in an M440i Convertible. With the wind whipping your hair, the exhaust emitting subtle snaps, crackles, and pops, the brakes faithfully hauling the car down from speed, and the blue Pacific Ocean fading into the horizon off of the car’s flanks, everything seems right in the world.

Better yet, you can bring your family along for the ride. I packed my wife, a teenager, and a 10-year-old into the 4 Series Convertible for a sunset run up to Santa Barbara. Remarkably, nobody complained, even when I put the top down and cruised along the back roads into the city.

I have a couple of complaints, however, and a comment. First, the optional head-up display is useless if you drive the car while wearing polarized sunglasses. Second, the brakes are sticky and grabby when driving around town, making it hard to bring the M440i to a smooth, clean stop. Third—and this is the comment—make sure you go into iDrive and program the speed warning system. It is far too easy to exceed prudent velocities without realizing it.

Lastly, while I believe most people will be quite happy scooting to 60 mph in as few as 5.3 seconds in the 430i, the M440i cuts as much as a full second off that time. (Both claims are BMW’s.) If outright speed is your need, the M440i obliges. But, if you’re a hardcore enthusiast driver, the 4 Series you really want is the M4. Trust me.

BMW Active Driving Assistant Review

2021 BMW M440i Convertible Driving Assistance System Menu

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Every new 2021 4 Series comes with Active Driving Assistant, the core set of advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) components that BMW includes as standard equipment. They include:

Active Guard

Active Driving Assistant

Active Driving Assistant supplies the 4 Series with the critical collision-avoidance technologies that prove most effective at preventing accidents. The blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems are helpful, especially when driving with the 4 Series convertible’s top raised.

A Driving Assistance Professional option package is an option on the 4 Series. It provides the following ADAS features:

The test vehicle did not have Driving Assistance Professional, a somewhat jarring omission given its lofty price tag. As such, I could not evaluate its contents.

It did, however, include the Parking Assistance package. A relatively inexpensive upgrade at $700, this option equips the 4 Series with automatic braking at parking speeds and a surround-view camera system that is a tremendous help when maneuvering the 4 Series Convertible.

2021 BMW 4 Series FAQ - Find the best BMW deals!

2021 BMW M4 Coupe White Trunk Room

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2021 BMW 4 Series have?

The redesigned 4 Series Coupe holds 12.0 cubic feet of cargo (M4 Coupe shown above), while the 4 Series Convertible supplies 9.0 cubic feet of volume. The convertible model’s roof stows in the trunk, so if you plan to travel with the top down, you’d better plan to carry your luggage in the back seat.

Does the 2021 BMW 4 Series get good gas mileage?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the BMW 4 Series is rated to return between 19 mpg and 29 mpg in combined driving. The M440i Convertible’s official EPA rating is 26 mpg, and the test car returned 24 mpg on the testing loop. With its 15.6-gallon fuel tank, this result translates into a maximum driving range of nearly 375 miles.

Is the 2021 BMW 4 Series safe?

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash tests on the redesigned 4 Series. However, the car is equipped with numerous standard driving aids, and the optional Driving Assistance Professional package fits it with more sophisticated ADAS.

How much is the 2021 BMW 4 Series?

The BMW 4 Series lineup ranges in price from $46,595 to $75,695. The destination charge to ship the car from Dingolfing, Germany, to your local dealership is $995.

What are the 2021 BMW 4 Series competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Genesis G70 ranks highest in the Compact Premium Car segment. The Lexus IS and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class are the next highest-ranked models (in a tie).

In the 2020 APEAL Study, the Genesis G70 ranks highest in the Compact Premium Car segment. The BMW 3 Series is the next highest-ranked model, followed by the Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class (in a tie).

Other competitors to the BMW 4 Series include the Audi A5/S5/RS 5, Infiniti Q60, and Lexus RC/RC F.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best BMW deals!

2021 BMW M440i Convertible San Remo Green Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Though the new BMW i4 electric car is based on the 4 Series, for the most part, this redesign is about refining rather than redefining the automaker’s popular coupe, convertible, and sportback models. They’re larger and more expressive, more powerful and efficient, and more technologically advanced than ever.

And you don’t even need to love the new grille to love the car.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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