James Fisher beats the lockdown blues as he reviews the new BMW 4-series in Suffolk.
It was foolish to book a holiday, looking back. It was just that it had been so long, so very long, since I had dared leave the city, let alone the country. So, with some trepidation, me and the boys found an extremely reasonably priced ski holiday at the end of March and booked. In hindsight, I think it was just to feel something, anything, rather than with any expectation of actually going.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has been paying attention for the past 18 months, it got cancelled. Cue mild despair, longing, anger and just a tiny sprinkle of regret. I doubt I’m the only one, but the constant routine of wake up, shower, go downstairs, coffee, begin work, lunch, more work, dinner, Netflix and then bed started to wear a little thin. I needed to get out.
The winter was long and dark and difficult. Whereas the first lockdown had, for want of a better word, a certain novelty to it, as well as alarmingly good weather for spring which meant that the capital’s green spaces were lovely places to be (I even took up running, god forbid), lockdown two (or three, depending on your definition) was bleak. Everyone was tired, and wet, and cold. And then, as a special treat for us Londoners, Christmas got cancelled. My mother, because she is the kindest woman this cruel world has ever manifested, managed to mail my presents to me for the big day. The package included some socks (excellent), a soap on a rope (also excellent) and some roast beef for lunch (very excellent indeed). I was as happy as I could be, given the circumstances, and was expecting nothing in the way of joy until The Great Unlockening, or my birthday, whichever comes first.
However, it turns out that socks, soap and beef were not the only presents I was to receive that winter, as in early March, the German Giants at BMW also decided to get me a gift, which was, as you might guess, a BMW.
The gift in question was one of the new 4-series and it certainly makes a first impression. It’s a relatively compact two-door coupé, but with a front grill that wouldn’t look out of place on a baleen whale. It is, for want of a better word, toothy, with a grin like a teenager braced up to the nines smiling for a school photograph. I actually quite like the look — it stands out in traffic (always a bonus) and it signals a certain attacking intent, which the car backs up on the quiet country roads around Suffolk with aplomb.
For that was what my holiday to the Alps had become, a nice drive to visit the parents in not-so-alpine East Anglia. That being said, in a coupé like the 4-series, even the smallest hill feels positively mountainous, such is the low driving position of the car. But what fun it was, hissing around those B-roads, whether it was going to the shops to top up the whisky supplies or just to get some fuel (everything was still fairly locked down, and I look forward to the day where I can tell my children that for 18 months the highlight of my week was going to the Co-op).
The version of the 4-series I had was a diesel, but despite that, was incredibly punchy and responsive. The time to 60mph is about 7 seconds, but the power comes almost immediately and the initial rush up to 40 or 50mph is a real treat. The steering is responsive, if a little soft for my tastes, but the real hero is the suspension, which feels immensely tight but not in any way back-breaking. It is a car with phenomenal balance, which is all the amateur punter like myself could ever really desire.
Interiors-wise, you can definitely feel that you are somewhere German and relatively serious. There is a lot of grey and silver, all neatly laid out, and the once-notorious BMW iDrive infotainment system has come a long way from its troubled beginnings. One test that is always vital to me is how easy a car is to connect to your phone via bluetooth, and I can safely say that this took no more than a minute — a blessed relief.
It does feel a bit like an executive lounge at the airport, but there are worse places to spend a few hours driving, and for those of a more business-minded nature, I am sure it will illicit some positive memories of business trips from the past. Even more excitingly, the small row of seats in the back also look like they can fit two normal sized humans, and there is plenty of room for golf clubs (and whisky) in the boot.
The past year has all been about enjoying the little things, and the BMW is certainly little. But we have learned to accept joy where we can find it, whether it’s in a new plant, or just a little drive to the shops on a Sunday afternoon. I can assure you that for the latter, the 4-series is a more than able companion.
BMW 4-series 420d: On the road
- PRICE: From £33,690
- MPG: 61.4mpg max
- CO2: 121g/km
- 0-60mph: 7.1 sec
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