BMW merges the practicality of a 3 Series sedan with the visual appeal of a 4 Series coupe ... with a successful outcome.
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe continues the near-relentless family expansion of the company’s signature model.
This latest 3 Series spin-off creates the sixth option for buyers looking for a mid-sized BMW passenger car, and the fourth with four doors.
And from a design perspective, the Gran Coupe shares the bodywork detailing – and longer, wider dimensions – of its 4 Series siblings and is identical from the double-kidney grille to the windscreen pillars.
The back half features a roofline arc that is 12 millimetres higher than the Coupe’s and extends more than 110mm further towards the rear of the car.
The result is a design that retains the sporty, eye-pleasing look of the 4 Series despite the extra (also frameless) doors, essentially becoming a more athletically handsome version of the 3 Series sedan. It looks particularly sporty from the rear with its low, wide stance.
At the back the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe differentiates itself from its bigger sibling, the 6 Series Gran Coupe, by offering a liftback-style hatch rather than a conventional bootlid.
It makes the '4GC' immediately more practical than a 3 Series sedan even if it shares the same 480-litre boot space (as does the rival Audi A5 Sportback, which also takes the liftback route). The seatbacks also split fold 40-20-40 to expand cargo space to 1300 litres.
For comparison, the 4 Series Coupe’s boot is 35 litres down, though a 3 Series Touring (wagon, 495L) 3 Series Gran Turismo (520L) both offer extra luggage capacity.
Attractive cars typically attract a premium, of course, and the 4 Series Gran Coupe – priced from $70,000 – costs $500 more than the 4 Series Coupe to be between $10,000 and $15,600 more than the equivalent 3 Series sedan. (Some extra equipment aims to compensate.)
Read our detailed pricing and specifications guide to the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe here.
The $500 over the 4 Series Coupe seems a good investment at least – for two extra doors and a bit more rear headroom once you’ve enjoyed simpler access to the back seat. Even BMW admits the rear is more of a “2+1” affair than a true three-seat bench, though, and six-footers will worry about messing up their hair.
Up front is a dash arrangement shared with the two-door 4 Series – which means again some disappointment that there’s no major design to differentiate the even-numbered BMW from its odd-numbered donor car.
It’s still a fine-looking cabin not short on some touchy-feel materials, though the perception of quality has been put into perspective by the new-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The throttle pedal connects to one of four engine choices for Australian buyers, with two four-cylinder turbo petrol engines (in 135kW/270Nm '20i' and 180kW/350Nm '28i' form), one four-cylinder turbo diesel (the 135kW/380Nm '20d'), and a six-cylinder turbo petrol (the 225kW/400Nm '35i').
Just the BMW 428i Gran Coupe (from $81,000) was available to test at the model’s international launch in Bilbao, northern Spain – though that’s fine by us as the 428i is our sweetspot in the 4 Series line-up.
Let’s get the broken record bit (for regular readers) out of the way first and say we still miss the aural theatrics of BMW’s old normally aspirated inline six-cylinders.
The new 2.0-litre turbo four that replaced it can sound almost diesel-like just off idle and sounds a bit dull when cruising, but attack the throttle pedal, especially with the vehicle settings switched to Sport or Sport Plus, and there’s a pleasing growl to match the increase in speed.
Watching the speedo needle move from 0 to 100km/h takes six seconds, and average fuel consumption also starts with a six at 6.4 litres per 100km.
There’s plenty of engine flexibility, with the 428i GC providing good pulling ability from down low and continuing its muscularity through the mid-range.
The standard eight-speed auto brings smooth, decisive changes to proceedings, though hit a stretch of winding roads and it’s best to flick the gearlever across to manual shifting mode and flick the paddles behind the steering wheel to control shifts yourself.
Extending the four-cylinder in second or third gear is an enjoyable exercise even if it’s never rewarded with an engine note crescendo. You can also maintain a decent pace through soaking bends by short-shifting and relying on the tubby torque while being aided by decent grip from the low-profile, 19-inch rubber fitted to our test car.
The steering of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is at its best in these corner-carving conditions thanks to its quick and accurate nature, though in Comfort it feels too light and in Sport there's just extra weighting but without any introduction of feel.
Still, we’d take the Gran Coupe’s steering over that of the A5 Sportback.
As we would its ride quality. Despite sitting on those aforementioned 19-inch wheels, and an adaptive M suspension being standard, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is able to ensure the car’s Comfort mode adequately lives up to its name.
On the refinement front, though, tyre noise is almost a permanent companion - making itself heard even at lower speeds and on seemingly smooth roads.
Eagle-eyed buyers will also notice it costs more to go from a 3 Series sedan to 4 Series Gran Coupe than it does to jump out of an A4 into an A5 Sportback (which isn't a bad looker itself).
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe makes a more convincing niche offshoot than the 3 Series Gran Turismo, though, and buyers are sure to be tempted by a body style that is both more attractive and in some ways more practical than its more famous four-door cousin.