Auto Tech

BMW 4 Series: It's not a 3 Series. Really.

The BMW 4 Series is utterly wonderful, but I just don't get why it has to be called the 4 Series. Was it something the 3 Series said...?

Now playing: Watch this: BMW 4 Series: The end of the 3 Series coupé and convertible

Scotland is cold, windy, and where rain is made. It's also breathtakingly beautiful, offering vistas, hills, and sights that only a lucky few will get to truly appreciate.

Scotland is also going to vote as to whether it gets to be its own country in 2014. Some of its residents want to live in an entity separate from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and are making quite a fuss about it. If you saw Andy Murray win Wimbledon this year, you may have seen a largish man, resembling a cartoon, waving a Scottish flag in the crowds while the nation celebrated as one big happy UK. That man was Alex Salmond and he wants to live in his own domain and keep his views and his rain to himself, rather than share it with the rest of the UK. And he's allowed to want that. But some wish he'd just let it lie and pitch in with the rest of us, rather than push to leave like a petulant 16-year-old wanting to leave the family home because "I'm old enough to make my own choices."

The desire for independence is in all of us -- we all want to be our own entity, our own "thing" and do whatever we damn well please. But sometimes your actions have odd side effects -- pissing people off, for example.

What better place to shoot the new BMW 4 Series, then, than Scotland. It is, without doubt, a brilliant car. It's fast, fun, efficient, and very good-looking indeed. However, much like Mr. Salmond, its makers decided to make a fuss over what it is.

In the days of yore the BMW 3 Series had four faces -- saloon, touring (estate to you and me), convertible, and coupe - and they all filled a niche and were perfectly happy to be what they were. The 3 Series has always been an attainable dream; it's always been a car that you could be proud of in any of its forms (though the E90 convertible did look awkward).

For the new generation BMW decided to tear the 3 Series lineup apart. There will no longer be a 3 Series coupe or convertible. No, instead a whole new car was introduced to be the "cool" one, the 4 Series. Why this decision was made is beyond me. It wasn't broken so why did it need fixing? It has the knock-on effect of ensuring the "best" M3, the coupe, will never happen again.

BMW will, when the "cool" versions of the 1 Series turn into the 2 Series, have a car for every number up to 8, though there isn't (to my knowledge) a "proper" 8 Series in the pipeline, but the hybrid eco sports car i8 doodad will do just fine for now.

The 4 Series is a very good car indeed. That's no surprise as it's based on the multiaward-winning evergreen 3 Series. However, it has been fiddled with. Its wheelbase is longer, it's got a wider track front and rear, it's a bit bigger. It's also incredibly pretty.

From just about every angle it looks good, though that's no surprise as the car it's based on is also rather fine.

Its drive is as good as you'd expect, too. Utterly sublime. The 435i I was driving was quiet where it needed to be, noisy when I wanted it to be, fun where you'd expect it to be, and sensible where the police want it to be.

Everything about it screams excellence. But I don't get why a 3 Series, a car with an illustrious heritage, had that job taken from it; it makes no actual sense. Am I alone in thinking that?

Engine 3.0-litre twin-turbo 6-cylinder
Power 302 bhp
Torque 295 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 5.4 seconds (manual)
Top speed    155 mph