Just when you thought BMW couldn’t find another space in its range for a new variant, along comes the 2014 4 Series Gran Coupe. The question is, can the greatly increased boot space and requisite practicality justify the move from a 3 Series sedan?
On a global level, BMW is well aware that this mid-size end of the market is the biggest segment for premium brands.
“It’s important that we continue to bring new product into this part of the market,” says BMW Group Australia marketing manager Toni Andreevski. “This premium mid-size segment is crucial to the sales success of BMW globally.”
There’s going to be a temptation to describe this 4 Series Gran Coupe as a ‘niche’ model but BMW won’t have a word of that. The German company sees this car as a mainstream player.
Given the relative success of the 6 Series Gran Coupe in Australia, where it makes up 50 percent of sales within the 6 Series range, there’s no reason to think that BMW buyers here won’t flock to the 4 Series Gran Coupe with similar fervour as well. With it’s chunky rear styling, hunkered down stance, and practical hatch back rear boot opening, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is directly aimed at buyers who lust after both style and practicality in equal measure.
Personally, I think the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a little more elegant than the Coupe but it’s every bit as sporty. Styling is a personal thing of course, but the gently contoured rear roofline and frameless doors front and rear combine to make the Gran Coupe a beautiful looking car.
Four doors and a four-plus-one seat interior make the Gran Coupe a genuinely practical daily driver too. Adults won’t like the middle seat in the second row, but it’s an option for children up their mid teens.
The one-piece electric tailgate is clever and it can be opened by passing your foot under a sensor under the rear bumper, which is handy when you have hands full of grocery bags for example. The 480-litre boot expands out to a whopping 1300-litres with the rear seats folded down, which is 35-litres larger than the Coupe. Buyers would have to step into the slightly quirky 3 Series GT to get a more capacious boot.
Under the bonnet, there’s a sensible range of engines across price points for the 4 Series Gran Coupe. The 420d ($72,300) is the most frugal, returning an impressive ADR figure of 4.5L/100km. The 420i ($70,000) is the price leader, while the 428i ($81,000) and 435i ($109,000) round out the local range.
I spent most of the launch drive behind the wheel of the range topping 435i, with its 225kW and 400Nm six-cylinder turbocharged engine featuring direct injection - more than enough power and torque to get the big 4 Series moving rapidly, with the 0-100km/h sprint coming up in 5.2-seconds.
The ADR fuel consumption for the most powerful 4 Series Gran Coupe is a not-too-thirsty 7.6L/100km.
Interestingly, if you were to compare a 320i with similar optional equipment to get to the standard level of the 420i, the pricing ends up nearly the same. The 320i starts at $60,500, but you’ll eat up nearly $10,000 specifying it up to match the entry-level 420i. That’s not to say the 4 Series Gran Coupe is ‘cheap’ because it isn’t, but the price buyers will pay for premium car ownership isn’t off the chart either.
BMW reckons the most popular model in the local lineup will be the $81,000 428i. The 4 Series Gran Coupe in Australia will be available in three trim grades – Sport, Modern or Luxury. At the recent European launch, colleague Jez opined that the 180kW/ 350Nm 428i is the sweet spot in the range, and I agree. The 435i might be more powerful, but the 428i hits the spot right in the middle of power and value.
The 428i’s two-litre turbocharged engine is beautifully matched to the standard eight-speed gearbox and, on our short drive, impressed. None of the 4 Series’ engines deliver an exhaust note that gives you chills though and more’s the pity. I think that’s especially so given the sporting pretensions of the model and the external styling, which both lead you to expect something approaching a melodic exhaust note.
The 435i is certainly a flexible performer befitting its range-topping status though. The electrically assisted power steering is a joy to use at any speed across both models tested. Despite the obvious sporting style and ability of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, I think ride comfort is a very real and prominent factor in this class – especially passenger comfort.
Both models I drove at launch were equally composed over choppy country roads even taking into account large 19-inch rims. Standard 18-inch rims on the diesel model should deliver a slightly softer ride too. That said, the 19-inch rims didn’t detract from the comfort (as passenger or driver) whatsoever. Even larger bumps and imperfections did little to assault the sense of calm in the cabin.
Around town, the ride that manages to deliver sporty handling in the twisty stuff also manages to soak up road joints and potholes without any nasty banging or crashing.
On the open road over touring distances, the 435i is a superbly balanced and composed car. There’s some tyre noise that enters the cabin at speed, but I didn’t notice that same noise at 80km/h or less.
The cabin is comfortable and visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat. I especially liked the extensive adjustment on offer from the driver’s seat, which will accommodate drivers of all shapes and sizes. The cabin perhaps doesn’t feel as ‘special’ as I was expecting. It’s impressively executed though and the sense of insulation, along with the fit and finish is typical of BMW. That is, right at the high end of the motoring sphere.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe is a beautifully sorted and stylish car. The inherent road noise from the tyres at speed was our only bugbear over our relatively short local launch drive.
There’s no doubt though that the extra practicality and space offered by the hatch is going to be an attractive proposition for potential 3 Series buyers needing more boot space. The attractive and aggressive styling doesn’t hurt either.