BMW seem to have been on a roll recently, with new models seemingly being announced every few days. This week it is the turn of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, which went on sale on 21st June and joins the Coupe and Convertible to complete the 4 Series range – for now, at least.
You could be forgiven for failing to get to grips with BMW’s mushrooming model range and designations, given that not so long ago we had simply 1, 3, 5 and 7 Series ranges to contend with. However, whereas 3 Series for example historically included coupe and convertible models as well as the more mainstream saloons and estates, BMW’s marketing strategy now is to separate out the more specialised coupe and convertible models into 2 and 4 Series designations derived from 1 and 3 Series respectively.
A 4 Series Coupe in traditional 2-door form has been available for a short while; this most recent release, the 4 Series Gran Coupe, is a 4- or rather 5-door version of that car. In fact, to describe the Gran Coupe as being derived from the 2-door Coupe is to do both cars a disservice: the Gran Coupe is all-new from the A pillars backwards. The roof is slightly higher and the front doors are slightly shorter than the 2-door, both to provide room for the extra pair of doors and provide reasonable headroom when entering & exiting the back seat. This has obviously stretched the profile of the Gran Coupe slightly when compared to the 2-door Coupe, indeed at first glance it could be mistaken in side view for a 3-Series saloon. Both Coupe and Gran Coupe are however exactly the same length, at 4638mm.
In developing the Gran Coupe, BMW have recognised the emerging trend for 4 and 5-door Coupes, amongst them cars such as the Audi A5 Sportback and Mercedes C Class Coupe, and sought to better them. The Gran Coupe therefore includes a number of standard features such as an automatic power tailgate. which mark it out as unique against its competitors. Interestingly, BMW believe that one of the key reasons for the emergence of this market sector is in the company car “user-chooser” segment, where company rules banning 2-door cars have prevented many users from driving the sporty coupes they would prefer. Indeed, the company believes that as many as 60% of sales could be to fleets, compared to the 25% currently enjoyed by the 2-door Coupe.
Autonews however suspects that the car will also find favour with a significant number of private buyers who want the style of a coupe but need the additional space, for the Gran Coupe is a full 5-seater, with a reasonable seats-up luggage capacity of 480 litres and, of course, the practicality of easy loading through the tailgate. The luggage bay features a novel two-piece parcels shelf, the larger part being attached to the tailgate thus rising out of the way with the tailgate to give easy access to the loadspace.
Rear seat passengers benefit from much more legroom than with the 2-door Coupe, indeed the rear seat now holds three passengers rather than the two tricky-to-access perches provided in the 2-door Coupe. Unlike some competitor 4-door coupes, rear doors retain a reasonable headroom when climbing in and out of the back seat, despite the fastback sloping roofline. This is an impressive piece of packaging from BMW’s engineers.
As we have come to expect from BMW, interior trim materials and quality of finish are superb, with the use of soft trim plastics even extending to the door pockets. Even the luggage area is beautifully finished, and also features a useful underfloor hidden storage compartment. Additionally, leather trim features in all of the four trim levels on offer. Unusually, a manual handbrake is provided.
No spare wheel or spacesaver is, however provided, as the car runs on BMW’s usual runflat tyres, although technical development means that the ride quality on these tyres, even on the 19” rims fitted to the test cars, is far better than the standards of only a couple of years ago.
Two diesel engine options are available at launch, the 418d with 143ps and 320Nm torque, and the 420d with 184ps and 380Nm. Other diesel options including the 335d are expected to be available shortly. Petrol engines range from the 420i at 184ps & 270Nm through the 428i 245hp with 350Nm torque to the six-cylinder 436i with 306hp & 400Nm torque.
We drove Gran Coupes with both the 420d and 428i engines through the highways and byways of Gloucestershire during the launch event, and found the 420d to be, surprisingly, not quite as impressive as during previous drives, rattling slightly at light throttle openings, and proving occasionally a little tricky to pull away from a standing start as the power seemed to come in in a rush just after moving off, as if the low-speed turbo had come on stream suddenly. The 428i in contrast was very smooth, with an even power delivery ideally matched to its’ 8 speed auto box. As a side benefit, under hard acceleration it sounded absolutely superb, deep & throaty without being excessively noisy. Cream of the engines however could well be the 335d when it arrives. We took the opportunity to sample this unit in a 2-door Coupe, and were, once again, highly impressed by the sheer competence of this 6-pot engine. Other than at idle, these is no vestige of diesel sound whatsoever, under way sounding and behaving just like the best petrol engines, rivalling the 428i for aural drama, and pulling cleanly and strongly from any speed, with the autobox changes being barely perceptible.
Dynamically, the Gran Coupe behaves well on the road, with the ride being well controlled, even over some of the harsher Gloucestershire lanes, whilst handling was delightfully neutral and confidence-inspiring, as we have come to expect from the BMW rear-drive family. BMW’s four-wheel-drive system, xDrive is available at launch on the 420d and will be rolled out to other models at a later date. In truth, the fitment of xDrive on the 420d we tested was barely detectable on our dry test roads and at comparatively low speeds, however under less ideal conditions it will bring a further level of confidence to the handling. The extra weight of the 6-cylinder engine could be felt when hustling the 335d through corners, however only with the benefit of hindsight after stepping straight from a lighter 4-cylinder car. In practice, the difference would probably be undetectable, with the 6-pot providing equally reassuringly neutral handling. The steeply sloping rear window does result in rearward visibility through the centre mirror being limited, although the side mirrors are of a good size, so in practice rearward visibility was not an issue. Pleasingly, the passenger-side mirror dips automatically to assist when reversing.
Somewhat surprisingly, although even the base “Sport” trim level car is well-equipped, with leather seats, xenon headlamps, keyless engine start, front & rear parking sensors, automatic lights & wipers, Bluetooth & DAB radio, the options list is still extensive and includes a number of the high-tech safety features increasingly appearing as standard on more humble brands, such as forward collision warning and active cruise control. An £825 option which it would have been good to see as standard was the incredibly useful Head-Up-display, which projects road speed, navigation information, prevailing speed limit and other useful information onto the windscreen right in front of the driver.
On-the-road prices for the 4 Series Gran Coupe range from £29,420 for a 420i in Sport trim to £41,655 for a 435i M Sport. Orders can be placed now.
Pick of the range: 4 Series Gran Coupe 428i Luxury automatic at £36,635 on the road. 0-62mph 6.0 seconds. 44.8mpg combined, 147gm/km CO2.
More information here: http://www.bmw.co.uk/en_GB/new-vehicles/4/grancoupe/2014/Introduction.html