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Dynamically, the current-gen BMW 4 Series is an entry-level luxury sports car slam dunk. Visually, though, it’s more of a mixed bag in many eyes. Although the regular 4 Series models’ grilles aren’t as, uh, prominent as the M4’s versions, not everyone’s a fan. But the nay-sayers might not be sneering after they hear the latest J.D. Power Award news.

The 2021 BMW 4 Series is now a J.D. Power Engineering Award winner

The front view of a blue 2021 BMW 4 Series at a Shanghai, China shopping mall display
2021 BMW 4 Series front | Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

Although its namesake founder is sadly no longer with us, J.D. Power & Associates is still going strong, conducting studies, and giving out awards. You’re likely familiar with its Quality, Dependability, and Reliability Awards, which winning companies often (rightfully) boast about in advertisements. However, J.D. Power also gives out Engineering Awards, or, to give the full title, Excellence in Engineering Awards.

These J.D. Power Awards still reward quality and reliability but in a slightly different way. Know that old chestnut about not buying the first model year of a brand-new or redesigned car? Well, that’s not necessarily bad advice. Launching an all-new or heavily-redesigned car often comes hand-in-hand with glitches, bugs, and other quality-control issues. But sometimes, nothing goes wrong; there are no random manufacturing errors, hiccups, etc. And J.D. Power rewards that with, well, Engineering Awards.

Yet initial quality isn’t the only thing J.D. Power considers with its Engineering Awards. It also uses its Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study to essentially measure how much owners like their new cars. And this considers everything from the powertrain to the infotainment to, yes, the overall styling.

J.D. Power gives out two Engineering Awards: Highest-Rated New Vehicle and Highest-Rated Vehicle Redesign. The Genesis GV80 won the first one. And the 2021 BMW 4 Series just won the latter for its improvements over its predecessor.

Do consumers and critics disagree about the BMW 4 Series design?

A green 2022 BMW 4 Series M440i xDrive Gran Coupe in a leafy forest
2022 BMW 4 Series M440i xDrive Gran Coupe | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Now, the automotive media hasn’t shied away from criticizing the redesigned BMW 4 Series, particularly its grille. We’re guilty of it, too. But if that shiny new J.D. Power Award is any indication, consumers seemingly don’t mind. Rather, they seemingly enjoy the new car more than the last-gen model. So, what gives?

While styling appeal is always subjective, it’s worth noting that BMW was arguably overly-cautious with its styling changes. As such, this new kidney grille campaign isn’t a case of designer rebellion so much as hyper-accelerated styling evolution. Many long-time BMW fans were shocked by the redesigned 4 Series, yes. But was it because it looks bad or simply because it’s so different?

I’d argue that it’s the latter. For one thing, the grilles are functional, especially on the M4. Its performance-tuned turbocharged engine needs plenty of air for cooling and power purposes, so it needs big grilles. In addition, Autoblog notes that the 4 Series Gran Coupe has M4-sized grilles, but the sedan’s taller proportions let them blend in better. After driving the M440i Gran Coupe, I’m inclined to agree. But then, I also had time to get used to the grille. And in the end, it’s just one part of the car.

Furthermore, people don’t buy the BMW 4 Series just for its looks. They buy it because of the BMW badge and what it stands for. If the 4 Series lives up to peoples’ perception of the brand, they’ll likely overlook the nose.

Does this mean the 2022 4 Series is a good, reliable luxury sports car?

Remember, the J.D. Power Engineering Award for Highest-Rated Vehicle Redesign isn’t just about where a specific car is good. It measures how much better the redesigned version is than its predecessor.

On the quality front, the BMW 4 Series is fairly solid. It’s a rather reliable performance coupe (and Gran Coupe/sedan) even after its redesign. Also, its interior looks and feels more luxurious than the one in the outgoing 4 Series, Autoblog says. So, that’s a big check in this category.

Dynamically, the 4 Series could be better. Its steering is still a bit numb and its engine could be louder and more responsive. However, again, it’s noticeably “sharper and more involving” than the outgoing model, Autoblog reports. And if you really want to carve up corners, the M4 is up to the job even in non-Competition form.

In short, it’s not hard to see why J.D. Power gave the redesigned 4 Series an Engineering Award. Plus, you can’t hear the haters behind the wheel.

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