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The New BMW 4-Series Concept:
A Design Analysis

December 19, 2012 by Matt

BMW F32 4-series 428i 435i concept silver design styling

As we did with the design of the 4-door version of this car, the recently-released F30 3-series, let’s put the styling of the upcoming F32 4-series under the microscope. Granted, this car is officially billed as a concept, but considering BMW pulled the same thing a year or two ago with a “6-series concept” that ended up looking exactly like the production car, it’s fairly safe to say this is BMW’s new bread-and-butter 2-door.

So as sorely as I’m tempted, I’ll refrain from ranting about BMW’s absorption of the numeral “4” into their incredibly convoluted nomenclature system, and simply focus on the aesthetics:

BMW F32 4-series 428i 435i concept silver design styling profile side proportions

The proportions. There’s a lot to like here. BMWs have long excelled in this area, and if I had one bone to pick with the otherwise lovely outgoing E92 3-series coupe, it was a manifestation of BMW’s capitulation to the “swept back” fascia profile, where the bumper is smoothly integrated into the grille area and the signature kidneys sweep back into the hood. This was at odds with the Bavarian automaker’s traditionally upright, forward-swept nose profile, and the 4-series concept restores that classic look, to excellent effect. Additional noteworthy elements include the front wheels pushed well forward to emphasize the car’s handling prowess and the nicely-sculpted rocker panel that reduces the profile’s visual height.

It’s been said the 4-series seems to crib a lot from Audi’s A5 coupe in profile, but regardless if that statement’s truth value, if you’re going to raid design themes from another automaker, stealing from the A5 shows excellent taste on the part of the thief.

BMW F32 4-series 428i 435i concept silver design styling rear back tail

The details. The 4-series concept’s details are somewhat less successful. The front and rear valences are essentially mirror images of each other, and while they’re nicely-tailored and aggressive, their similarity seems to suggest a lack of creativity on the part of the designers about how to resolve those two areas in context. Also, the fascia adopts one of Mercedes’ worst habits recently: Too much chintzy aluminum bling filling and underscoring, again and again, each design element. It’s a look that will date itself much more rapidly than a simpler, more restrained approach. I can’t recall a BMW styling precedent for the fender vents aft of the front wheels, so it could be the automaker’s trying to start some “design heritage” with that detail. If it pops up on the fenders of future BMW coupes, we’ll know that was the case.

BMW F32 4-series 428i 435i concept silver design styling interior inside cockpit console dash dashboard

The interior. I could just be dazzled by the presence of an increasingly rare manual shift knob sprouting from the center console, but so help me, as much as I criticize some areas of the exterior for “over-design,” the 4-series’ interior looks like a very pleasant place to be. I particularly like the stitching pattern on the seats, the “baseball glove brown” of the leather, the lovely analog instrumentation ensconced within the traditional 4-gauge BMW binnacle, and the fact that the multimedia/navigation screen seems to be retractable into the dash, de-cluttering that area for a more “classic” view over the hood.

No, all in all I like the new 4-series concept very much—far more than the F12/F13 6-series. The proportions are spot-on, the interior charming and aside from some niggles with the details, it’s a great effort.

Filed under: Aesthetics, BMW, News

4 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    The profile looks nice but I hope they do something different with both the front and rear bumpers. Audi A5/S5 still looks better. :) I will say, I love a “cowhide” leather interior.

    • Matt says:

      Agreed on all counts. :) The success of a “cowhide”-colored interior depends a lot on the exterior color, and the medium silver of the concept sets it off perfectly.

  2. John D says:

    Side view is gorgeous. I haven’t been a fan BMW’s recent models these past few years, but this one looks great. One of my favorite points is the rear valence. Aggressive yet stylish, reminds me a bit of a 911 for some reason…? Rear deck height seems lower than usual…also a good thing. Better defines and terminates the rear of the vehicle. Never been crazy about the head lights, but I do like the way they flow into the front fender on the side view and the new kidney grilles are much improved. Sculpted yet aggressive. Fender vents are a bit superfluous, but well done. Great proportions overall and one of their best efforts for quite a while.

    • Matt says:

      “reminds me a bit of the 911…”

      Could be the bottom of the bumper seems to jut out relative to the top, as it does on the 911’s (though the latter’s styling is driven in large part by the presence of the engine in the back)?

      You’re right about the headlights; they seem to flow better than the F30’s (new 3-series sedan), which look more artificially “connected” to the grille.

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