What do you call the next coupe version of BMW's venerable 3 Series lineup? Hint: not a 3 Series.
On Wednesday, the company released the first concept images of what will be the BMW 4 Series coupe when it comes to market in 2013.
Though the car is entirely based on the latest generation 3 Series that we tested in early 2012, BMW will now put the sportier coupe and convertible versions under the 4 Series banner.
Thus you should expect a a base 428i to have the sedan's 2-liter, turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine making something in the neighborhood of 240 horsepower. It will be paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.
The faster 435i will likely have BMW's 3-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine making around 300 horsepower and mated to your choice of the aforementioned transmissions.
While the 4 Series may share its underpinnings with the 3 Series sedans, aesthetically there's plenty of differences to keep coupe buyers feeling special. Some elements of this concept version of the 4 Series Coupe won't make it to production; the wide-mouth openings at the bottom of the front and rear bumpers will likely be toned down.
But the overall shape of this concept will remain on the production model, a very good thing given that this is a much more seductive interpretation of BMW style that the 3 Series sedan. The coupe stretches the sedan's wheelbase by almost two inches and the car's front and rear track are each wider.
The proportions of the coupe give it more elegance; the hood appears longer and car's rear window and roofline curve down gently to a short trunk lid.
Meanwhile, the headlights and taillights are unique to the 4 Series and are sleeker and more expressive than the 3 Series.
If the design of this new 4 Series Coupe appeals to you, there will be several subsequent variants to choose from. In addition to a convertible, expect an X4 crossover, a four-door 4 Series coupe, and a fire-breathing M4.
Such a delineation in BMW's lineup isn't new. The company's 6 Series coupe, four-door coupe, and convertible share a platform and drivetrains with the more conservative 5 Series sedan. And the quirky X6 crossover is a sleeker version of the more mainstream X5 SUV. The move also isn't unique to BMW; Audi has had a trunkful of success selling the A5 coupe and convertible alongside the closely-related A4 sedan and wagon.
BMW hasn't announced pricing for the 4 Series Coupe, but given the $23,000 difference between a 550i sedan and its 650i coupe counterpart, expect a gap of at least several thousand dollars between the corresponding 3 Series and 4 Series vehicles.
A production version of the 4 Series Coupe, and possibly a concept of the X4 crossover will likely show up at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show in January. We'll be reporting from the show floor, so stay tuned to Highway 1 for complete coverage.