If there is one vehicle that the general public is probably familiar with in the “sports sedan” category, it has got to be the BMW 3 Series.
Ever since the first generation 3-series was launched in 1975, the 3 Series has been BMW’s best-selling model globally, accounting for around 30% of the brand’s annual total sales. It’s no wonder then, that there are so many of them around.
However in the last couple of years, much to the chagrin of some BMW purists, BMW changed the nomenclature of their sedans and coupes, moving all sedan products to odd-numbered names, and coupes to even-numbered names. And hence began the separation of the 3 Series sedan and coupe to the 3 Series sedan and 4 Series coupe respectively.
Little did we know at the time, of course, that BMW had much greater plans for its 4-series line-up. Making its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in 2014, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a premium mid-size four door coupe that demonstrates BMW’s commitment to expanding its model range (and profit).
It also gives BMW fans and new customers, the opportunity to get into the brand with a new and more unique offering, unlike the hoards of 3 Series sedans out on the road today.
What is it?
BMW is no stranger to the world of four door coupes having also the larger 6 Series Gran Coupe in its line-up. The 4 Series Gran Coupe is built in the same mould of its bigger brother, melding the visual charm of a coupe. This is largely thanks to BMW’s designers keeping the principal silhouette largely unchanged compared to the 4 Series two door coupe.
The addition of the 4 Series Grand Coupe means that my 435i xDrive tester is now the third member of BMW’s 4 Series family. Like its two door coupe sister, it is longer, wider, and lower than the 3 Series sedan.
It’s really a pretty little thing, merging the attractive stylistic qualities of the two door coupe shape with the functionality of four doors. It definitely looks decidedly more dynamic than the mid-size 3 Series platform that it spawned from.
Along with the elongated roofline, the 4 Series Gran Coupe also adds a new party trick, a wide-opening power tailgate and with it an abundance of space and flexibility afforded by the hatchback design.
There’s anywhere from 480 to a whopping 1,300 litres of space available depending on whether you fold the rear seatbacks down.
Not only the minted can afford to drive the 4 Series Gran Coupe. Compared to the price tag of the 6 Series Gran Coupe, my 435i xDrive Gran Coupe test car was a relative bargain.
If you’re looking a more unique European sports sedan with the ride/handling and compact dimensions that come with a mid-sized sports sedan, the 4 Series Gran Coupe will be your cup of tea.
What’s under the hood?
In 435i trim, you get a sweet turbocharged 3.0-litre six cylinder engine producing 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft (406 Nm) of torque. In keeping with true BMW engineering tradition, it is of the inline-six design for natural balance. BMW says that this engine is good for a 0-100 km/hr time of 5.2 seconds.
As with most modern BMW engines, this engine is equipped with BMW’s “TwinPower Turbo” design which basically employs a special turbo with two scrolls at the core of the design. Twin scroll turbocharging is designed to both drastically reduce turbo lag and NOx emissions through more efficient use of the exhaust gases.
My test car was equipped with a quick shifting eight-speed ZF sourced automatic transmission with steering mounted flappy paddle shifters. A six-speed manual transmission is also available for those who want to row the gears themselves.
Ride and Drive
My car was fitted with the optional M Performance package which included more aggressive M Sport brakes, adaptive M suspension, and BMW’s variable sport steering.
The result is a very entertaining car, which has no doubt grown-up with its owners. It’s quiet, opulent, and mature when you need it to be, even more so than its two-door sibling, but sporty when you want it to be.
The ride, especially in comfort mode, doesn’t beat you up. Noise levels are also restrained, except till you toggle the switch to the “Sport” mode where you can really hear the inline-six sing, letting off sibilant whispers of turbo noises in the background.
Sure, the electric power steering feel’s doesn’t match that of the E36, or E46, or E90, but if these are gibberish to you, you probably won’t care. And quite frankly even if you do, there’s so much seat-of-the pants feel communicated by the almost perfectly balanced 50/50 weight-distributed chassis anyway.
And so, despite having an extra two doors, my 435i Gran Coupe was still deliciously fun to drive on twisty roads, with BMW’s xDrive active all-wheel-drive system sending power to the wheels that need the most grip.
The system normally distributes 60 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels for more of a traditional BMW rear wheel drive feel, but can redistribute that torque forward or laterally if traction conditions deteriorate.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the raked roofline compromises on rear headroom, and the rear seat backs are noticeably more upright (and therefore less comfortable) than in the 3 Series sedan or wagon.
This is the price that one has to pay for the more attractive coupe-like styling and it’s one that your rear passengers may squawk about on long trips.
That being said, you sit low, the steering wheel is just where you want it to be, the widescreen iDrive screen renders landmarks and buildings beautifully, and there is an optional colour heads-up to keep you focused on the road ahead. It is indeed a nice place to be for a driving enthusiast.
One could argue that there is no real need for the 4 Series Gran Coupe as far as “utility” is concerned. That’s where both the longer and taller 3 Series Gran Turismo and the 3 Series Touring wagon both fitting if space is an issue. So why is the 4 Series Gran Coupe worth premium in price that it commands?
From a pure stylistic standpoint, there is no arguing here. The 4 Series Gran Coupe sports a far better looking and more aerodynamic profile than its 3 Series cousins, while still offering the space and convenience of a hatchback design.
Add the better handling characteristics and the relative uniqueness of the Gran Coupe compared to its 3 Series cousins and 4 Series two door coupe sibling, and I think that you’ll easily find yourself falling in love with this latest Ultimate Driving Machine.