BMW 3 Series Vs 4 Series: Is The 4 Series Just A 2-door 4 Series?

Here’s a bit of automotive history: The iconic BMW 3 Series was originally available as either a 2-door sedan, 4-door sedan, coupé and later on even had a convertible (cabriolet) model. 

In 2013, however, BMW deemed the best-selling BMW 3 series to be too getting too confusing for buyers. And to be fair, it was all over the place. So they took all the 2-door 3 series and re-branded them as the BMW 4 series.

So are the 4-series cars just the two-door versions of the 3 series sedan? The answer is kind of, but not exactly, since over time BMW have tried to distance the 4 series from its 3 series roots.

Despite their best efforts, the 3 series and 4 series still share a lot in common. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly separates these two bimmers.

Body Type Availability

The main difference between the 3 series and 4 series is in their body style availability.

3 Series4 Series
Saloon (4-door)Coupe (2-door coupe)
Touring (5-door sports wagon)Convertible (2-door cabriolet)
Gran Turismo (4-door sportback)Gran Coupe (4-door coupe)

As you can see, the 3 series focuses on 4-door/5-door body types whereas the 4 series primary focus is on sporty 2-door bodies (with the exception of the 4-door Gran Coupe). 

Many people find the existence of the 4-door, 4 Series Gran Coupe particularly confusing as it messes up the idea of the 4 series being the two-door counterpart of the 3 Series. But it looks cool so let’s just leave it at that.

Under The Hood

The base 330i and 430i trims both share the same 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four petrol engine. This is matched with a 8-speed Automatic transmission that has automatic Sport and Manual shift modes. (Note that the 430i is also available with a manual 6-speed manual transmission).

Let’s compare the 330i with the 430i: 

3 series 330i4 series 430i
Horsepower255 hp248 hp
Torque295 lb-ft258 lb-ft
Acceleration (0-60 mph)5.6s5.5s
Top Speed 130 [155] mph130 [155] mph

As you can see, the performance figures coming from these two models is almost identical.

However, the 4 series also has the 440i which sports a 3.0-liter Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. To get the same V6 engine with in the 3 series, your only option is to go for the M Sport M340i, which costs considerably more since it is an M Performance model. 

Exterior And Interior

The two cars are almost identical under the hood, but they look different from the outside.

The reason for this is that the 3 series entered its 7th generation (known as G20) in 2018. The 4 series, which is still in its first generation (F32), is based off the older 3 series F30. Expect the second generation 4 series to look almost identical to the current G20 3 series.

Body type aside, it is possible to distinguish the two cars by looking at the styling of the front and back alone.

2019 3 series (left) vs 2019 4 series (right)

The difference at the front is subtle, but the differences are much more obvious at the back, with the 3 series newer design looking much sharper.

2019 3 series (left) vs 2019 4 series (right)

Moving on to the interior, we find there are some subtle differences between the two. Again, the 4 series is identical to the previous generation 3 series, so it looks slightly more outdated in design compared to the new 3 series, but is not any less luxurious.

2019 3 series interior (left) vs 2019 4 series interior (right)

Practicality 

It shouldn’t be surprising that a 4-door sedan is more practical than a 2-door coupe. 

Not only is rear-row seat access much easier, but the 3 series sedan can fit 5 (40/20/40 rear row seating arrangement) whereas the 4 series coupe can only fit 4 people. Passengers in the back of 4 series coupe also have significantly less headroom and legroom.

The 3-series offers more generous cargo space, with 16.9 cubic feet of space in the sedan’s trunk vs 15.7 cubic feet in the 4-series coupe. Of course, the 3-series sports wagon and Gran Turismo hatchback boast even more room for cargo. 

Price

Given that the 3 and 4 series are built from the same foundation, you might expect the 3 series sedan and 4 series coupe to cost the same when you pick ones with the same engine. 

But alas, a new 330i starts at $40,750 whereas a new 430i starts at $44,950. 

Why?

For starters, BMW make you pay a premium for buying a coupe as opposed to a sedan. This isn’t uncommon in the automotive industry. 

Secondly, some of the standard features on the base 4 series are optional features on the 3 series. For example, LED headlights and a sports bumper are standard on the 4 series, but optioned extras for the 3 series.

Ride And Handling

BMW are associated with providing an excellent drive experience, and both cars do not disappoint. The weight is perfectly distributed on both cars, but the lower center of gravity and slightly more compact body makes the 4 series slightly better at handling corners.

Conclusion

Hopefully this has cleared up the fundamental differences between the BMW 3 series and 4 series. 

Because the BMW 4 series hasn’t had a generational update yet, the currently available model is based off the older generation 3 series. If you want the latest BMW design, the 3 series is your only choice, otherwise you can wait for 4 series to catch up.

And yes, while BMW have done what they can to make the 4 series its own thing through subtle design changes, there’s no denying these two cars are very much of the same blood.

Full Comparison Table

3 Series 330i Sedan ($40,750)
4 Series 430i Coupe ($44,950)
Engine and Transmission
Engine
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Horsepower
255 hp @ 5000 rpm
248 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque
295 lb-ft @ 1550 rpm
258 lb-ft @ 1450 rpm
Transmission
8-Speed Automatic
8-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain
Rear-Wheel Drive
Rear-Wheel Drive
Steering
Steering Type
Rack-Pinion
Rack-Pinion
Turning Diameter
37.4 ft
37.1 ft
Wheels
Wheels Type
Aluminum Wheels
Aluminum Wheels
Front Wheel Size
18" x 7.5"
18" x 8"
Rear Wheel Size
18" x 7.5"
18" x 8"
Suspension
Front Suspension
Strut
Strut
Rear Suspension
Multi-Link
Multi-Link
Tires
Front Tire
P225/45HR18
P225/45VR18
Rear Tire
P225/45HR18
P225/45VR18
Fuel Economy
Combined
30 MPG
27 MPG
City
26 MPG
23 MPG
Highway
36 MPG
34 MPG
Emissions
CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year
5.8 Tons/yr
6.5 Tons/yr
Fuel Tank
Fuel Tank Capacity
15.6 gallons
15.8 gallons
Cruising Range City
405.6 miles
363.4 miles
Cruising Range Highway
561.6 miles
537.2 miles
Exterior Dimensions
Length
185.7 in
182.7 in
Height
56.8 in
54.2 in
Max Width
71.9 in
71.9 in
Front Width
62.3 in
60.8 in
Rear Width
62.9 in
62.8 in
Wheelbase
112.2 in
110.6 in
Interior Space
Seating Capacity
5 seater
4 seater
Front Seat Leg Room
42 in
42.2 in
Front Seat Headroom
38.7 in
39.8 in
Front Seat Shoulder Room
56 in
55.3 in
Rear Seat Leg Room
35.2 in
33.7 in
Rear Seat Headroom
37.6 in
36.1 in
Rear Seat Shoulder Room
54.6 in
51.7 in
Weight and Towing
Curb Weight
3,582 lbs
3,574 lbs
Cargo Space
Trunk Volume
17 ft³
15.7 ft³
Infotainment
HD Radio
Standard
Standard
Bluetooth Connection
Standard
Standard
Hard Disk Drive Media Storage
Optional
Not Available
Premium Sound System
Optional
Optional
Satellite Radio
Optional
Standard
Smart Device Integration
Standard
Standard
WiFi Hotspot
Optional
Standard
Auxiliary Audio Input
Standard
Standard
Entertainment System
Not Available
Not Available
MP3 Player
Standard
Standard
Interior Trim
Bucket Seats
Standard
Standard
Cloth Seats
Standard
Standard
Leather Seats
Standard
Standard
Leather Steering Wheel
Standard
Standard
Premium Synthetic Seats
Standard
Standard
Vinyl Seats
Standard
Standard
Woodgrain Interior Trim
Not Available
Not Available
Sun/Moonroof
Standard
Standard
Comfort
Head-Up Display
Optional
Optional
Navigation System
Standard
Standard
Steering Wheel Audio Controls
Standard
Standard
Power Liftgate
Not Available
Not Available
Power Mirror(s)
Standard
Standard
A/C
Standard
Standard
Adaptive Cruise Control
Optional
Optional
Automatic Parking
Optional
Optional
Climate Control
Standard
Standard
Cooled Front Seat(s)
Not Available
Not Available
Cooled Rear Seat(s)
Not Available
Not Available
Cruise Control
Standard
Standard
Hands-Free Liftgate
Optional
Not Available
Heated Front Seat(s)
Optional
Optional
Heated Rear Seat(s)
Optional
Not Available
Heated Steering Wheel
Optional
Optional
Keyless Entry
Standard
Standard
Multi-Zone A/C
Standard
Standard
Power Driver Seat
Standard
Standard
Power Passenger Seat
Standard
Standard
Remote Engine Start
Optional
Not Available
Remote Trunk Release
Optional
Not Available
Seat Memory
Standard
Standard
Universal Garage Door Opener
Standard
Standard
Seat-Massage
Not Available
Not Available
Rear A/C
Standard
Standard
Keyless Start
Standard
Standard
Navigation from Telematics
Not Available
Not Available
Telematics
Standard
Standard
Safety Features
Back-Up Camera
Standard
Standard
Cross-Traffic Alert
Not Available
Not Available
Rear Parking Aid
Optional
Standard
Blind Spot Monitor
Optional
Optional
Lane Departure Warning
Standard
Standard
Lane Keeping Assist
Optional
Not Available
ABS
Standard
Standard
Night Vision
Not Available
Not Available
Tire Pressure Monitor
Standard
Standard
Brake Assist
Standard
Standard
Stability Control
Standard
Standard
Traction Control
Standard
Standard
Airbags
Driver Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Front Head Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Front Side Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Knee Air Bag
Not Available
Standard
Passenger Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Rear Head Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Rear Side Air Bag
Not Available
Not Available
Seatbelt Air Bag
Not Available
Not Available
Warranty Summary
Basic
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Corrosion
12 Years / Unlimited Miles
12 Years / Unlimited Miles
Drivetrain
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Maintenance
3 Years / 36,000 Miles
3 Years / 36,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance
4 Years / Unlimited Miles
4 Years / Unlimited Miles