BMW 420i Coupé First Drive Review

In BMW, Car Reviews by Kieran Bicknell

The long-awaited new BMW 4 series Coupé has been the subject of much discussion, especially over the dramatically-revised front end design.

Disregarding the controversial design changes, however, is the 4 series still a star performer?

The 4 series has long been a staple of the BMW line up. Blending dynamic handling and dashing looks with practicality and class, it is back once again for 2020.

Let’s address the elephant in the room first – that grille. I’ll admit when the first press photos came out, I thought it was an absolute disaster. We, humans, are naturally adverse to change though, and I certainly wasn’t alone in my despair.

Fast forward a few months, and having seen a number in the flesh, I have to say the design has grown on me somewhat. Set against bright colours the grille still looks unusually bulky, but on darker shades of blue, black and grey, it cuts a menacing figure and actually suits the car very well indeed.

The rest of the styling is not too far removed from the outgoing 4 series. Twin rear exit exhausts, sharp lines and a purposeful stance are all BMW trademarks, and the all-new 4 series cuts a mean figure without being overly aggressive in its design.

Inside the high-quality BMW materials and finish are all present and correct. Upfront are two surprisingly supportive seats with electronic adjustment. The controls are all laid out logically, and everything feels very natural in its placement – there’s no hunting for switches or deep-diving into menus for basic settings, though I do wish there was a simple toggle switch for lane-keeping assistance.

In the rear, the two recessed bucket seats allow for far more passenger room than you’d expect from the outside, with room for a fully grown adult to travel comfortably in the back behind average-sized front passengers. Sit behind a basketball player, however, and there may be some issues.

Out on the road, the 420i is absolutely sublime. Lovely and smooth throughout the rev range, power delivery is near-linear, only becoming more sudden once switching into ‘sport’ mode which also opens up the valved exhaust.

Steering is easygoing without being vague, and also stiffens up in sport mode to match the changing ride and power dynamics. A mix of narrow lanes and open roads on a 40-minute test route showed strong promise in how easy the 4 series is to live with, but longer-term testing is required to give a full verdict.

One particular highlight is the HUD, which not only gives clear information without taking your eyes away from the road, but also gives advance speed warnings, letting drivers know the next speed limit coming up.

The 8-speed gearbox is excellent too – in normal mode and left to do its own thing, it happily works up-and-down the gears as required. Paddle shifters are also provided, and in sport/manual mode the gear shifts are instant and precise.

Forward visibility is impressive, though thick rear C pillars – typical of the coupe styling – do make rear 3/4 visibility tricky. Thankfully a parking camera, sensors and augmented reality 3D parking view alleviate these issues when manoeuvring.

The virtual cockpit is wonderfully crisp and clear, but I feel it can be too crowded – by default it reflects the navigation map in the centre. If you include the instructions on the HUD, that gives a total of 3 nav screens, which is frankly too many even for the direction-loving driver.

Overall, I can’t say I have any major complaints. Of course, there are the divisive styling choices, and it wouldn’t be the ideal car for large families or tall rear-seat passengers, but otherwise a very, very strong first impression; I’m looking forward to spending more time with the new 420i in a real-world situation.

Car reviewed: BMW 420i M Sport

on the road starting price £39,870

  • 0-62mph 7.5secs
  • Top speed 149mph
  • Engine 1998cc 4 cylinder unleaded
  • Fuel Economy WLTP Combined 48.7-53.3mpg
  • Max Power Engine 184hp@5000-6000rpm
  • Torque Engine 300Nm@1350-4000rpm
  • CO2 emissions 132-122g/km
  • Transmission 8-speed steptronic

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.