By on December 6, 2012

Now turn your hymnals, as the great man once said, to Number Four, and we’ll sing two choruses of Withering Contempt.

There’s a point in many human endeavors where the original point of said endeavor is completely lost to history and what remains is either deconstruction or parody.

Forty years ago, BMW decided to create a coherent model-naming system, no doubt because they were starting to bump into Mercedes-Benz in certain markets and Mercedes had consistent numbers on the back of their cars. (Yes, I know about the 300SEL 4.5, hush up.) Enter the “5 Series”, followed by a Six, a Three, and a Seven. The picture you see above is of a 3 Series.

Note how the 3 Series has two doors, not four. In fact, they all had two doors for quite some time. It wasn’t until the E30 successor that a four-door 3 Series even became available. Despite this, somehow an idea took root in the minds of (primarily American) Bimmer enthusiasts that “even numbers are coupes”. The arrival of the 850i confirmed this misguided notion.

Well, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. BMW’s efforts to fill every niche in the market from urban scooter to seven-seater minivan-on-stilts led to the (il)logical conclusion that a two-door 3 Series needed to be a 4 Series.

So. The original 3 Series body style is now a 4 Series. The 3 Series is now a four-door. However, there will be a four-door 3-Series that will be called the 4-Series Gran Coupe. Every niche will be filled, by force if necessary, and without regard for the company’s heritage. Those of us who snickered at the Chrysler Fifth Avenue that was really a Chrysler LeBaron that was really a Plymouth Volare from behind the ironclad Autobahn majesty of Dad’s 733i and it’s twin-kidney grille have a full Christmas dinner’s worth of crow to eat.

I suppose this means the M3 will be the M4. This makes sense because the M4 rifle is kind of an M16 for girls (cue e-mail from a 6’5″ Marine with 91 confirmed kills using one) and the M4 will probably be a tamer, more eco-conscious successor to the outbound V-8 M3. No word as to whether four-door M4s will be M3s or M4GCs.

At least it’s reasonably attractive, right? And it isn’t like it will have much genuine competition in the marketplace. Just be aware that this isn’t really the successor to the BMW 2002 lionized by Mr. David E. Davis, Jr. in his famous Car and Driver piece; it’s the successor to the lumbering, expensive Thunderbirds around which the original wonder-Bimmer drove circles.

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84 Comments on “And Then There Was Four...”

  • avatar

    And my annoyance with BMW is complete.

  • avatar

    How are they making money off of any of this stuff? The incessant need to fill every irrelevant niche with its own customized product, I mean. I understand that they share a lot of mechanical components, but the tooling for body stampings alone must be killing them.

    • 0 avatar

      they wouldnt be doing it if it wasnt massively profitable. I mean, i havent looked at recent numbers, but BMW is banking it. Theyre getting mad profits and making thousands per vehicle. I think that this 4 series looks gorgeous, and i like the interior. Purists are going to whine but thats the was it is. Purists should basically look at this as the new six series, because its probaby bigger than the original six series. Likewise current 3 series = old 5 series, current 1 series = old 3 series, current 5 series = old 7 series, current 7 series = old cadillac, etc. etc. etc.

      The problem is that unlike in yesteryear, nobody is going to challenge the germans to the throne like the germans challenged caddy because nobody else has the heritage, which could take at least 15 years to build up (see: audi). the japanese luxury vehicles are popular stateside, but even then the germans are better regarded. People rap about Mercedes and Beemers — who bling raps about an infiniti????

      • 0 avatar

        Not to mention that the new IS is going to be bigger than the old one. It’s a shame.

      • 0 avatar

        +1 tatra. Look at what happened to the Cadillac CTS-V. The “purists” and the “enthusiasts” don’t buy new cars. Correction – blog commenter and forum poster enthusiasts don’t buy new cars, unless they’re the ones who happen to be on a forum relating to the new car that they actually own (I.E. Lamborghinitalk or F30post). The boy cried wolf (or dieselmanualbrownwagon), and the village isn’t gonna listen if the village don’t profit.

      • 0 avatar

        “Look at what happened to the Cadillac CTS-V. The “purists” and the “enthusiasts” don’t buy new cars.”

        CTS-V is ridiculously expensive many purists aren’t multimillionaires to drop $63K and change on a domestic branded toy, and many multimillionaires simply aren’t automotive purists.

        If every Catera model were similarly equipped to the V, as suggested in a certain Baruthian diatribe, not only do I think sales would be up for the brand, but it could offer Cadillac a genuine edge in the segment.

        For the heck of it I spec’d the 2013 Mercedes C250 online, the MSRP is in the neighborhood of 42K for the *four-banger*. Step up to the E class 350 coupe, and it was something like $50K to start for the V6. Imagine if Cadillac offered their V8 for around the same money, or even less, in the 40s range.

        When your spending 50 grand plus on a car, do you really care about 20mpg city in a V6 vs 16-17 city in a V8, wouldn’t you rather have oodles more power than those 3 mpg? I would.

        http://www DOT motortrend DOT com/cars/2013/cadillac/cts_v/pricing/

      • 0 avatar

        +1 I like it. It’s just a number, get over it. When you have a car company, you can give the cars names/numbers of your choosing. Developing amazing cars like the M3 takes money. To make money, you have to make cars people want, not just uber light weight stripped out enthusiast cars (Lotus). If someone buys a model of car you don’t like, that has no impact on your life. Don’t like it? Well, don’t buy it then.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh? Oddly enough, I bought a brand-new manual transmission station wagon last year. Sorry, it isn’t brown, but green has to count for something these days. From BMW in fact. Bought, not leased. I’ll probably buy another new one in a couple years, if they will sell me another one with a stick – I LIKE that the F31 is a bit bigger. Preferably diesel too. There is also a guy on here with a CTS-V wagon. So some of us blog hangers-on do count.

    • 0 avatar

      @krhodes: Oh, I absolutely realize that there are those out there who buy what they preach. But that’s the minority though, and car companies have to do what is smart. I like crazy power wagons myself (not so much diesel unless they figure out how to shoehorn a Duramax into a Jaguar XF Sportbrake), but no matter how much I like ’em, I’m really probably never going to buy one. If I ever have the money for an RS6 wagon (big if) it’s going to likely be spent on something Bimmer or Porsche, and if I don’t then more than likely I would buy used. I was in the market for a Cruze earlier this year, though, so if they had brought the 5-door Cruze to the US, I legitimately might have bought one.

      @28 It was expensive but the CTS wagon didn’t fare so well either, and I can’t think of any lux-wagon or super-wagon that sold more than a proverbial handful other than the (on the super-wagon side) Dodge Magnum RT/SRT and those were in a WAY different price range. For some reason if that Panamera wagon concept comes to production though, I give it a LOT more of a chance in America than past entrants.

      As for JB I agree with him to an extent. A NA V8 slotted in between the CTS-V and the V6 (or even an ATS equivalent of such) might not necessarily sell hugely, but it will attract a LOT of test drives.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you priced a BMW lately?

      Every single thing you actually WANT in an entry-level lux/sport sedan/coupe (why have these segments melded into 1 anyway?) is an extra $2-3k “package”.

      You can’t find a “base” $35k 3er to buy anywhere; and if you can, you won’t actually want to buy it after comparing its features to any other car.

      The “real” entry point for 3ers is $42k-$45k, as far as I can tell; and probably closer to $50k if you don’t want to factory order a stripper model.

      • 0 avatar

        as someone who just bought an F30 3 series, there are TONS of base 3 series everywhere because they lease the best.

        Its actually hardest to get something that is say base + a package that is not the premium pack. like a base + sport pack, very hard to find.

        its either fully loaded with premium / sport/lux line + tech pack, or premium + base. or just base , or premium + base + nav.

        probably the 3 most common ones

    • 0 avatar


      Nope. BMW’s brand value is so high, and their platform/manufacturing efficiency is so good (and flexible), that at present they could likely make $$ selling refrigerators to Eskimos.

      But thank God, this thing still can be ordered with a manual transmission. BMW has been excluding that option from increasing numbers of models in its line up, including the new Z4.


  • avatar

    It sounds as if they’re copying Audi’s approach with the A5, e.g. make the styling distinction between the sedan and coupe great enough in order to justify a higher price point, and using a new nameplate in order to support the higher price.

    Except that Audi doesn’t have the heritage of a coupe builder with the A4 nameplate that BMW has with the 3-series. I have to agree that this sounds like a mistake.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s all money.

      I bet the (inevitable) 2-door 2 series will be a little bit cheaper than the 4-door 3 series, BUT the 2-door 4 series will be significantly more than the 4-door 3.

      Mistake? As long as there is a white/blue circular badge on the nose, it’ll probably sell.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe next 4 series coupe is even bigger, nearly the the size of an 5-series and they will introduce 3-series coupe again….additionally to 2-series coupe which would be available by then….
        A bit what they’ve done with MINI.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s rather sad when a premium manufacturer (BMW) is copying a premium-wannabe manufacturer (Audi), it should have been the other way around.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes it is sad that the Germans had to get into this orgy between Audi, BMW, Mercedes and I guess Porsche got lonely just watching, and I guess Audi is the whoring temptress who wouldn’t let BMW be BMW and Mercedes be Mercedes both having perfectly happy markets that didn’t really compete or disdain each other.

        Edit: I forgot that Japanese love that F’ed up cartoon porn, so Toyota jumped into it for alittle while and mucked things up more (as mentioned somewhere, selling a million fat chicks by bringing out VS model)

      • 0 avatar

        Good to read that finally somebody decided to characterize Audi accurately: a premium-wannabe manufacturer. A very nice Volkswagen. A very expensive Volkswagen. But a Volkswagen.

      • 0 avatar

        Audi and BMW were competitively priced back in the 1930s and BMW had to make the Isetta in the 1950s to survive. Things ebb and flow.

      • 0 avatar


        That’s a good reminder that these companies ebb and flow, but I suspect because of the globalization of the market.. if you ebb, chances are much greater that you will be finished as a car company.

        Time will tell, too bad transportation doesn’t get the disrupting influence that electronics do. ie.. Mainframe – pc – laptop – smartphone/tablet

        Where the market is completely redefined for the end user. We’re still mostly driving oil burning vehicles of some type with a control system that isn’t much changed for about 90 years or so.

        It’s been refined but not radically redefined.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that BMW are taking Audi’s lead on this. I would also like to point out that Audi did make a coupe back in the day and in my mind one of the prettiest ever designed. The Audi Coupe 100 s. It was not popular due to being FWD and had horrific rust issues but it was very quick and very pretty.
      I think the new Audi coupe’s channel that car because they are beautiful to look at.
      So, a coupe legacy, if you like, with out the rust in a time where FWD is more acceptable than it was in the early 70’s.

      • 0 avatar

        “We’re still mostly driving oil burning vehicles of some type with a control system that isn’t much changed for about 90 years or so.”

        Unfortunately the identi-blob that we have know and loved, unchanged for the last ninety years is on its last legs. Thanks to Google, Obama and the CA assembly the next generation will have all the fun of riding in driverless electric cars.

  • avatar

    I wonder what’s going on in the exec suite? They’re pissing on their history but why? Is it a frantic need to grow larger? A keeping up with the Jones that will lead to bk if they go too far? Ego boost?

    It certainly does not bode well for BMW.

    • 0 avatar

      History is just that – history.

      They care about money, as they are a for profit company.

      The whole spirit/soul/passion marketing bullshit line is just that. They are a mass producer of a good with a lot of demand and people will to lease them at a premium.

      I used to love BMW’s. Now? Eh.

  • avatar

    Are the Germans really out to kill their luxury brands one by one (sans Audi)???

    The effort is impressive. I can’t wait for the budget front-wheel drive BMWs to get here. Seeing how well attempts like the Volvo C-30 sold.*

    * I know we have a couple of Volvo C30 owners here who get VERY upset whenever the C30 is brought up. Chill out

    • 0 avatar

      They sold well to sparkly vampires, IIRC.

    • 0 avatar

      C30 owner here, not upset in any way. Its an overpriced car in my opinion, that is why I got the wife a used one. Mostly I think its an overlooked car… its a slightly upscale, sporty hatch, what is not to like about that? Bonus points because its not common. At this rate everyone will know someone with a Bimmer, however I doubt you know anyone that owns a C30.

  • avatar

    I have a feeling that BMW could just stick a turd on 4 wheels and people would still buy them.

  • avatar

    Since the 4-door M6 is an M6 Gran Coupe then it stands to reason a 4-door M4 will also be a Gran Coupe. A regular M3 will also be a 4-door but different (based on the current new 3 Series) and cheaper. We should see that model in a few months, before the release of the 4 Series.

  • avatar

    It would be nice if, as part of this, they split the 1-Series up into a 1- and 2-Series and sell a smaller four-door.

    ETA: It would also be nice if the 1-Series didn’t start off more expensive than a base 3-Series did…

  • avatar

    Christ, does that interior come with a smoking jacket?

  • avatar

    It’s almost as if BMW (and Acura) stylists are trying to see what they can get away with.

    This could be the next Hyundai Veloster, with Bette Midler’s nose tacked on front- just because it’s possible.

  • avatar

    They pulled a similar move on the bike side a few years ago. Used to be R=boxer, K=inline, F=single. Then they brought out a parallel twin. Call it G? One letter past F but honoring its basic design and Rotax heritage?

    Nope, F suddenly meant parallel twin after 15 years of being a venerable single, but the long-running F650GS was still in production, so it was renamed G650GS. Then they roll out the “new” F650GS, (which is really an 800cc twin, though less kitted out than the F800GS). Makes for fun at the parts counter.


  • avatar

    Well, I like it. And I don’t even like BMWs.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, please note that this is still a concept at this point, and that it no doubt will be “toned down” a bit for production. (Yes, I realize that “concept” for BMW mean something very close to production.)


  • avatar

    And Jacks writing has been great lately.

  • avatar

    There has always been a battle raging within BMW between those who wanted to build BMWs and those who wanted to build a model line that mirrored that of Mercedes-Benz. At some point the people that wanted to build BMWs lost. This may be the first 4-series, but this is an idea that has been around since the introduction of the E36. It was leaked to and reported in the monthlies that the coupe would be called a 4-series as early as 1990. It didn’t happen then, but the stories were back in the build up to the E46’s release, and then during the E90s’. It was bound to happen one day, and that day is here.

  • avatar

    I don’t really care about the numbering. That’s just the marketing department, in the end.

    But I do care about this: “…this isn’t really the successor to the BMW 2002 lionized by Mr. David E. Davis, Jr. in his famous Car and Driver piece; it’s the successor to the lumbering, expensive Thunderbirds around which the original wonder-Bimmer drove circles.”

    That’s exactly right.

  • avatar

    I looked at the front and side views of this thing and thought, “that looks pretty good.” Then I looked at the rear and thought, “Yikes! Did that thing back into an eight-track player?” That huge, gaping hole in the rear bumper that presumably is supposed to be a combined diffuser and exhaust outlet is just plain ugly.

    Anyhow, if you want the traditional 3 Series experience today, the 1 Series awaits on dealer lots. Or is that the 2 Series? Oh man, I’m confused….

  • avatar

    Yesterday’s innovation is today’s heritage. Today’s innovation will be tomorrow’s heritage. People have been bitching about BMW’s latest decisions since the E36 came out. Meh to that. This is a very nice-looking ride, MUCH better than that ugly Crosstoured 3GT. And being a fan of four door coupes (and low ride heights in general), the 4GC might just end up being right up my alley.

    Anyways, according to Scott26 (everyone’s favorite BMW insider), there are potential plans for a RWD 2GC, which would eschew the 4-door coupe aesthetic and be sized similarly to either the E36 or E46 (forgot which one he said), so you purists can have your day.

    Oh, and after seeing a 650i Gran Coupe in El Paso on the freeway, I’m now convinced that BMW does the 4-door lowrider design the best. It looks the worst in pictures but in person, it looks like an elegant six-figure car.

  • avatar

    What BMW needs to complete their lineup

  • avatar

    Perhaps BMW simply realized that the existing 3-series was a throwback – in the sense of offering four body styles: a 2-door, a 4-door, a traditional wagon, and a convertible (just like, to take one of many examples, the 1959-70 Pontiac Bonneville line) – and that in the present era there was no justification for doing so; that is, they decided there’d be no harm in imitating the present naming conventions of their German competitors.

    To me the real “BMW Thunderbird” was the 6-series coupe of the late 1970s. This new coupe will be too common.

  • avatar

    First, BMW is reporting only that the next 3 Series coupe and convertible will be the 4 Series, too early for conjecture about a 4 Series four door ‘coupe’like the 6 series.

    Now I learn that GM is pricing the Cadillac ATS model for model and option for option like a 3 Series. If they’re serious about that, good luck with that, four cylinder Cadillac. That’s a novel way to compare your car with a 3 Series. Hello, Cadillac cabeza, knock knock, anyone one in there?

  • avatar

    FWIW the E30 was available in a 4-door but not in M form

  • avatar

    Are those exposed cupholders?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, they seem to be switching back to them away from the pop-outs in the last-generation cars, those really were some flimsy afterthoughts…

    • 0 avatar

      in the sedan, you get this tray that can cover the cupholders.

      these cup holders are a lot better than the pop out ones, but since they are right up by the curved center console they can’t hold drinks larger than about 30oz. which is plenty, but mercedes / audi place them farther back.

      you can tell BMW cars more about driving than those 2 because with the cupholders behind the shifter, it is hard to drive a manual if there isa cup there. if its ahead of the shifter its easier (mercedes doesnt even offer a manual C class in america anyway so moot point)

  • avatar

    There seems to be a ton of confusion from commenters here, and on other sites, about this car. The “new” 4-series is simply the 3-series coupe and convertible with a new name. The coupe/verts have always trailed the sedan by a year, then the M models are a year after that. The E92/E93 coupes and verts didn’t share any body panels with the E90 sedan either, and they’ve always been more expensive. Will BMW expand that price gap; maybe. But it looks like there may be some content to that price increase now.

    The 1 series has been available in Europe for awhile as a hatch (they need to bring it here). You can expect the US to get the new 1-series replacement coupe & vert called the 2-series. If they bring another 1-series it will be a hatch.

    So odd numbers are sedans, hatches, wagons & GTs. Even numbers are coupes, verts, & GC (4 door coupes). Not really that hard.

    Now don’t get me started on the second and third numbers not adhering to the engine size. They’re so off the mark on that it would be hard to ever correct it.

  • avatar

    The German manufacturers do seem to circle-jerk each other on this a bit. For consistency, it’s not all that tragic to go from 3 to 4 on the 3-series coupe, especially since the 6-series coupe has been around in 2 incarnations, and the 8-series existed.

    What I don’t get is why they chose to do this now, other than the fact that Audi did it for the A5 (the coupé was new, but the cabrio was always known as A4). Mercedes did this a while ago on the S-class (it was the SEC, then S coupé, now the CL). But they reversed course on the E-class (first CE, then E, then CLK, then E again, also confusing because it has been built on a C-class platform with E-class bits) and the C-class (first C, then CLC, now back to C).

    So I don’t buy all the purist non-sense, but I don’t quite understand why the Gran Coupes aren’t being called 3s and 5s instead of 4s and 6s. I suppose it’s because Audi has the A7 and the A5 Sportback (also non-sensical), and Mercedes has the CLS (based on E-class).

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “It wasn’t until the E30 successor…”

    Do you mean the successor to the E30 (the E36) or are you actually referring to the E30 as the subject? The wording is ambiguous. Certainly the E30 was available as a four door.

  • avatar

    When you look at the 3 as the new 5, the 4 as a new 6 (and the 6 as the new 8) makes a ton of sense

    It would be nice to get a small true E30 successor, but look how big the sales of the 1 coupe are.

    • 0 avatar

      The US market 1 series coupe is an E46 three series with all the interior room sucked out of it. The weight is the same or a bit more, depending on equipment. It just doesn’t have as much interior room or a spare tire well. The E30 was what passed for a 5-seater in mid-’80s Europe. Germany has changed immeasurably since the E30 was developed. They wouldn’t have any use for it today, and very few Americans would have any use for an expensive(they were more expensive to make than today’s high content disposable diapers) car that doesn’t have any emphasis placed on gadgets or spec-sheet bragging rights. I’d love another one, but I don’t see any scenario where a similar car will be built again. Incidentally, Can and Driver started their 10-Best issue tradition in 1983. The first 3-series to make the list was the E36. As fondly as they’re remembered, and as treasured as they are by long-time owners, they spent most of their production run under the shadow cast by the 2002tii. Most of the people that did buy them weren’t enthusiasts, although many ended up in the hands of enthusiasts. Their real superiority over the competition was only revealed to the general public when they remained on the road for a decade after their peers were scrapped.

  • avatar

    280SE 3.5, 280SE 4.5, 280 SEL 4.5, 300SEL 6.3, 300 SEL 3.5, 300 SEL 4.5, 450 SEL 6.9, 350 SL 4.5, 450 SLC 5.0, 250C (2.8L), 400SE (4.2L)…

  • avatar

    I thought you couldn’t use the number 4 (very unlucky) in China?

  • avatar

    IF nothing ever changed then we would have nothing to read… Viva le change I say.

  • avatar

    To pick a nit, both the e21 and e30 3-series ranges did not include a coupe, they were both 2dr sedans, as was the 2002. Flat roofline, full-size back seat with no pretense of a sweeping sloping roof and/or lowered. For comparison, look at the BMW 3.0L and Bavaria sedans vs. the CS Coupes. The next three generations progressively evolved from 2dr sedan to proper coupes. Note that whether a car is a coupe has nothing to do with the number of doors, it is all about the roofline and back seat. Many coachbuilders offered “4dr coupes” back in the 30s, and 2dr sedan were common through the 70s.

    To me this change in name only makes sense – the 6-series has always been a 5-series coupe, and the 8-series was a effectively a 7-series coupe, so why should the 3-series based coupe NOT be a 4-series? They should have done it back in the e36/e46 days.

    And as someone already pointed out, the e92 coupe shares not a single body panel with the e90 sedan, and has always been considerably more expensive, so nothing is changing there.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      When the first spy shots of the E36 coupe came out, there was lots of talk that this was going to be a “4-series”, because unlike the E36 it was a “real coupe” with different A-pillar shape and everything. They released it as the… 3-series coupe.
      I sort of hoped history would repeat itself, but no…

  • avatar

    I might point out that “four” is similar to the Chinese term for death…

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    Car Of The Three Consonants. Master of Deutsche micro-snobbery.In order to keep Audi at bay,BMW should start with a new numbering system tied to an owner’s income/credit score (i.e 200K-8 = $200k per year,800 FICO,etc). All the better to keep opulently breasticled blondines to continue responding as fast as them twin scroll turbos.

  • avatar

    a single tear rolls down my face, for history

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    “No word as to whether four-door M4s will be M3s or M4GCs.”

    I think we all know the answer…


  • avatar

    So, what does that make the 1 series coupes–no sedan or hatch variants are available in the US? Will those be renamed 2’s?

    Or for that matter what about the M1, of which they probably sold all of 800 units and vowed to NEVER SELL AGAIN IN THE HISTORIES OF TEH WORLD? That was more in-line size wise and performance wise of what an M3 should be, not an increasingly bloated muscle car the current generation has become.

    Also, is that why they renamed the Z3 the Z4?

    Stupid company comes up with stupid names of stupid cars for image conscious stupid customers.


  • avatar

    Personally, I think they should go with ‘MK4’…

  • avatar

    When I was in the market for an A5, I considered the CTS Coupe (sorta), but I did not even consider a BMW. The 6 Series was way out of my range, and the 3 Series Coupe just looked like a four door 3 Series without two of the doors. It was less practical than the four door, but no prettier.

    Now I don’t care if they call this a Three or a Four, but the car in the photos looks worthy of consideration aesthetically. If it works for Audi, why not BMW?

  • avatar

    And when model bloat catches up with the 1 series in a decade will they introduce a new model line under that called the 0.5 series?

  • avatar

    I have a hard time getting upset about a proposed change in naming conventions. The demise of BMW’s small inline sixes is a different story.

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