The two-year-old BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe has always been one of those segment-defying vehicles, a half-way point between a racy two-door and practical family hatch.
As part of a range-wide BMW 4 Series mid-life upgrade launched this week, this segment-straddler has been given a suite of significant upgrades designed to make it more appealing than ever, with the emphasis on greatly improving value-for-money.
Furthermore, the two most powerful engines within the four-variant line-up are now more powerful than before, while they simultaneously use less fuel on the combined cycle — according, at least, to BMW’s internal testing.
There are numerous ways to think about the 4 Series Gran Coupe, but the recipe is pretty simple. It offers cargo space that puts it between the 3 Series sedan and wagon derivatives, coupled with more arresting design and moderately compromised rear seats.
Dimensionally, it’s a little longer and wider than either 3 Series derivative, and a little lower and heavier. Oh, and it also has nifty frameless doors, which make it almost worth the price of admission alone.
First, some background. Launched in 2014, the 4 Series Gran Coupe has been instrumental in boosting sales of the wider 4 Series range, with numbers just shy of the coupe but well ahead of the folding hardtop convertible.
Reflecting the general trend within the 4 Series range, the Gran Coupe’s buyers are overwhelmingly male (74 per cent), with 80 per cent of all buyers aged 41 or above. A small majority of these are ‘conquest’ buyers, rather than existing BMW customers.
An area where the 4 Series GC has never really held sway is value for money. As an emotive purchase, it’s clearly been a high-yielding car for the brand. But, this week’s 4 Series update has tipped that notion on the head, across all three body-styles.
As before, all four variants of the BMW 4 Series GC are priced exactly the same as the slinkier two-door coupe. What’s changed is the amount you get for the dosh.
Pricing before on-road costs of the 420i petrol (previously accounting for 25 per cent of GC sales) and the 420d diesel (10 per cent) has been cut by $2200, to $68,900 and $71,200 respectively. This brings the starting point to within $700 of the front-drive Audi A5 1.8T.
At the same time, BMW has made the following extra equipment standard over the old variants: adaptive M suspension (adjustable dampers), a head-up display, anti-dazzle mirror, lane change warning, autonomous brakes and a surround-view camera. The total added value factoring in the price cut is $8300.
Meanwhile, the new 430i (which replaces the top-selling 428i, as we’ll detail later) is $2500 cheaper than its predecessor at $79,900, and gets new features such as a M Sport Package, keyless-go and a BMW Individual instrument panel in addition to much of what is new on the 420i. Total added value differential over the 428i: $10,500.
But the star of the show is the six-cylinder 440i, which is $10,000 cheaper than the 435i it replaces at $99,900, and gets a claimed $12,745 worth of extra equipment to boot, including (above the aforementioned) adaptive LED headlights, heated seats, automatic high-beam, self-parking and adaptive cruise control.
This makes the 4 Series Gran Coupe in 440i specification a frankly staggering $22,475 better-value than the 435i iteration.
That said, even with the sharpening, the GC is still a heart-over-head option. The 420i GC costs $7000 more than a 320i sedan and $3600 more than a 320i wagon — both of which have had similar specification upgrades. The 430i GC and 440i GCs, meanwhile, cost $10,000 more than their 3 Series sedan/wagon equivalents.
Then again, and just to make things more confusing, they’re only marginally pricier than their crossover-coupe-style 3 Series Gran Turismo equivalents, just to add another Frankenstein’s Monster model to the mix. BMW doesn’t make it easy…
As mentioned earlier, the 4 Series Gran Coupe’s cabin sits between the 3 Series derivatives in terms of cargo space. With all five seats in use, you have a sedan-matching 480L, but the hatch-style roof-hinged tailgate helps yield a massive 1300L with them folded — only 200L shy of the wagon.
The trade-off is an inferior rear seat, in terms of headroom — a factor amplified when you fit the $2250 sunroof as three-quarters of buyers do. Then again, how often do you see a BMW passenger car with more than two passengers in it?
Up front, the added equipment doesn’t just improve the value equation, but it also spruces up the fairly austere cabin design that lacks a little sparkle against conventional sedan- and wagon-bodied rivals such as the new-generation Audi A4, and imminent next-gen A5.
The driver-oriented cockpit still has outstanding ergonomics, but one person’s idea of a timeless cabin look is another’s idea of a dated one. The HUD sure helps alter this, as does the delightful M Sport steering wheel.
Beyond the sharpened value and extra equipment, there are some drivetrain changes as well. The 135kW/270Nm 420i (0-100km/h in 7.5sec) and 140kW/400Nm 420d (fuel use of 4.3L/100km) have only had minor tweaks, but up the range are some big changes.
The 430i replaces the top-selling 428i in the range. The rejigged B48 2.0-litre turbo-four makes 185kW (up from 180kW) and 350Nm, cutting the 0-100km/h time to 5.9sec (down 0.1) and increasing economy to 5.8L/100km (was 6.4).
The 435i makes way for the new 440i, with its reworked B58 3.0-litre turbo inline-six punching out 240kW (up 15kW) and 450Nm (up 50Nm), cutting the 0-100kmh time by one-tenth to 5.1sec.
All engines are matched to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, sending torque to the rear wheels. This self-shifter remains one of the best in the business, giving the drivetrain instantaneous and fuss-free response off the line, unlike your average dual-clutch, and shifting through the cogs almost as decisively and quickly as said dual-clutch at pace.
We say this with the proviso that the engine/gearbox modes are set to their Sport setting. Naturally, throttle response and the gearbox’s decision making are changed in Comfort and Eco modes to prioritise non-performance driving — each of which is more agreeable during the daily grind.
The only variant we trialled on this week’s brief local launch was the 430i GC, which we maintain is the sweet spot in the range across all 3/4-Series models
The revised unit sports the familiar TwinPower turbocharging, Valvetronic variable valve lifting, and Double VANOS (variable camshaft timing) systems as before. It’s a flexible and strong engine across a wide rev band, with peak torque from 1450rpm and maximum power from 5200rpm out towards redline.
The 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.8s is quick in anyone’s language, though it’s 0.1s slower than a 330i sedan, while the gruff and sonorous engine note belies the small displacement thanks to the symposer unit.
As a driving experience, the updated 4 Series GC now matches the 3 Series line-up with the range-wide standardisation of adaptive dampers that can be softened around town and stiffened when tackling challenging roads. It de-compromises the ride/handling.
That said, is it any sharper dynamically than a 330i sedan? Not really. The reason to buy the Gran Coupe remains a stylistic one. You pay the premium because you dig the design, and because the three-box sedan and Euro-chic wagon look bores you by comparison.
From an ownership perspective, the 4 Series comes with BMW Service Inclusive, which gives you five-years/80,000km of servicing, plus replacement engine oil, filters, spark plugs, and brake fluid over the tenure, for a flat payment of $1340 when you buy the car. So, it's not really that pricey to run.
What’s the bottom line here, after our brief launch review? The 4 Series Gran Coupe remans an interesting compromise that brings near-wagon practicality and coupe-like design, with a notably less unreasonable value impost than before.
All the more reason to buy one. Would we, though? That’s the wrong question to ask. It’s heart versus head, but we’d say that you have more justification to look at the GC now than ever before. As far as mid-life updates go, this is a good one.
This is a range-wide launch review, so the final rating is a general finding, but keep an eye out for our subsequent individual-variant reviews when we get them through our garage soon.