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BMW 4-Series: What's In A Name?

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On: Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 10:56AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

BMW 4-Series:  What's In A Name?

A rose, we've heard, by any other name would smell as sweet. There is no rational argument against such logic. So why then are we somewhat perturbed by the name change BMW execs have deemed necessary to their venerable 3-Series coupe? Well, perhaps it has something to do with the almost 40 years of habit we have been used to—call a rose "rose" for 40 years, and then suddenly call it anything else, and it is bound to be met with a tad of resistance.

Our argument with the Beemer name change is more than stuck-in-the-mud habits; there is a decided difference between doing something the way it was always done and honoring the history of a thing. But perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves; our philosophical debate will continue in a bit. First things first: There is a new BMW and we're thrilled! The... ahem... 4-Series makes it debut this year, and not surprisingly it looks a lot like the outgoing 3-Series coupe (because essentially that's what it is). But the folks at BMW have long been trying to separate the sportier coupe from its family sedan sibling, and finally some marketing department hit the nail on the head: a new name! The 4-Series (code names F32) is quite a bit more alluring than its four-door stablemate—a lower and more raked roof, more pronounced wheel arches, functional air vents aft of the front wheels, and an overall ride height that has been reduced nearly half and inch to give the F32 a center of gravity akin to some Porsches. The sport motif continues with added suspension pieces—subframe connectors, firmer springs as well as bushings all help add the overall feel of separation from the old boring sedan and into the exciting new world of the two-door coupe.

Not surprisingly, the F32 is powered by the exact same N55 twin-scroll turbo inline six cylinder engine to make the exact same 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Also similar (read: same) is the eight-speed automatic transmission or the no-cost optional six-speed manual. The F32 is actually slightly bigger than the 3-Series sedan, but it doesn't feel that way from inside. Thanks to the lower roof line, and the inherent lack of an additional two doors, the car does feel smaller and tighter around you. At the low-end, the F32 tips the scales at 3450 pounds (obviously options like xDrive will add considerable mass), but with more than adequate engine/trans combo, the F32 can hustle to 60 mph in a scant 4.5 seconds and through the quarter mile in a very impressive 13.3 seconds while topping out with an every-European-car-top-speed of 155 mph, all while averaging a fuel economy mix of 20/28 city/highway mpg.

But to be fair, we knew the F32 was a fine automobile back when it was called the 3-Series coupe... which brings us back to our original debate. The car itself is a wonderful piece of machinery, but what truly sets the car-formally-know-as-the-3-Series apart from so many others is its lush history. Decades of followers have come to know and love the 3-Series. Let us not forget to mention its high-po variant , the venerable-yet-now-defunct-M3. The M3 was iconic, to some the absolute epitome of a performance vehicle, and although this new car promises to be every bit as visceral as its predecessor, it won't be the "New M3"; instead it will be the M4. It just doesn't sound right. An M4 is a gun or a tank, not a German automotive wundercar. The M3 has been in the business of embarrassing domestic sports cars since 1988, while the 3-Series has been around since 1975, and now that chapter is closed... unless you want the four door car that still wears the badge. But if you want a BMW coupe that is bigger than a 1-Series and smaller than a 5-Series, you have to get yourself a new 428i, 435i, or M4. It just feels weird to say or read. Though, we must admit a 300 horsepower, two-door BMW by any other name would still ride as sweet. But, we still don't like the way it sounds.

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