Best enjoyed from

the driver's seat?

BMW 4 Series Coupe, front action
BMW 4 Series Coupe, front action 2
BMW 4 Series Coupe, side static 2
BMW 4 Series Coupe, side action
BMW 4 Series Coupe, side static
BMW 4 Series Coupe, rear action
BMW 4 Series Coupe, front seats
BMW 4 Series Coupe, dashboard
BMW 4 Series Coupe, boot
BMW 4 Series Coupe, wheel
BMW 4 Series Coupe, dash detail
BMW 4 Series Coupe, front action 3

YOU can't accuse BMW of trying to play down the one single issue that's got car geeks talking about the new 4 Series Coupe - it's staring you in the face.

Yes, it's that 'distinctive' radiator grille. You will probably have one of two reactions to this stylistic boldness; either those large kidney shapes hark back boldly to famous BMWs of the past. Or they're so hideous they might put you off ever buying the car.

BMW obviously thinks more people will like the new front than loathe it, and anyway it's simply following a worldwide automotive design theme that's giving every new model amuch more pronounced proboscis. Some world car markets, led by the Chinese apparently, like it that way.

Thankfully, the love/hate conundrum is down to each individual viewer, so the writer of these words will simply say some BMW designs start off controversial and then later become admired - with the 2002 5 Series a fine example. Order your new 4 Series in a darker colour and you'll notice the front 'beaver teeth' much less anyway.

You won't see them at all, of course, from the driver's seat. Which is where BMW hopes you will spot the way its new coupe drives better over both the outgoing version and the new saloon 3 Series on which this latest car is closely based.

'More sportingly' will be an answer that satisfies both BMW and a potential buyer. And thanks to lowering the car, fitting parts to stiffen the body, tweaking suspension settings and pushing the wheels outwards for a wider track, this is a car that enjoys being pushed a little.

The new 4 Series Coupe starts at £39,870 and ends for the moment at £53,875 in a currently available range which stretches from an entry level 420i M Sport four-cylinder petrol engine with 184hp to the 374hp six-cylinder petrol M440i xDrive, with all-wheel drive.

BMW expects diesels to take a healthy slice of the 4 Series cake, despite the current demonising of that fuel, and the range currently takes in two 420d models, both with 190hp on tap and costing from £42,440. A couple of more powerful diesels are scheduled for March availability, with prices to be confirmed.

Performance ranges from lively (7.5 seconds to 62mph, 420i) to decidedly brisk (4.5 seconds, M440i xDrive) while officially quoted economy unsurprisingly favours the diesels, with the 420d star of the show with up to 72.4mpg on tap officially. Even the worst performer in the frugal fuel stakes manages a best of 41.5mpg, with the M440i xDrive.

Tailpipe emissions span a range of 103-163g/km (diesel to petrol, obvs) while top speeds start at 149mph (lower powered petrol and diesels) and top out at an electronically limited 155mph with the 430i and M440i.

As ever, there are loads of tempting options to persuade you to digger deeper when speccing your own 4 Series Coupe, but resist the urge to splash the cash and you'll still be left with a pretty well kitted out coupe.

As standard, the newcomer has leather trim, 18ins alloys, larger digital display, reversing camera, acoustic windscreen to cut exterior noise, three-zone air conditioning, heated front seats and an expansive and easily read digital instrument panel. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is fitted across the range, as are full LED headlights.

What it doesn't have is much room for passengers in the rear - but that's the deal with most coupes, which cost more than their saloon siblings and sacrifice style for practicality. Doesn't stop lots of people buying them on looks though. The boot is a family-sized 440 litres and the rear seat backrest folds 40:20:40 too, adding to the practicality.

The diesel engines and the most powerful petrol version have mild hybrid technology that combines a starter-generator with a 48V battery to harvest energy under braking and boost economy. It also adds an instant 11hp when full acceleration is demanded.

A brisk cross country drive in a 420d model showed that BMW's latest diesel can put up a fine fight for use by drivers with long distance drives plumbed into a busy business life, perhaps. The dash readout showed a healthy 48.2mpg; a fine figure for a car that can feel brisk when prodded with a sharp stick.

Never eye-stretchingly quick, though, but fast enough to make the miles disappear quickly. Add in a surprisingly well controlled ride - firm enough to feel sporty but composed enough to absorb the worst of a British A-road - and a level of fit and finish that you feel will bring long term contentment and BMW has produced a car that looks like a winner. Whatever you think of that radiator grille.

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