There’s the BMW 3 Series Saloon, Touring and GT, and there’s the 4 Series Coupe, Convertible, and now there’s the Gran Coupe – with all-wheel drive in this case. Overwhelmed and confused? Read on to find out why the 4 Series Gran Coupe actually makes sense…
It used to be simple. There was the BMW 3 Series Saloon, Touring and Convertible. Then the 4 Series appeared in Coupe and Convertible form. There’s also the 3 Series GT, and now we have the 4 Series Gran Coupe. These last two cars – both five-door cars essentially based on the 3 Series platform and powertrains – sound almost identical – so is there any benefit in buying a 4 Series Gran Coupe?
We’ve already established that the 3 Series is an excellent car. The 4 Series Coupe is a more sporty version of the 3 Series, and the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a more sporty version with five doors. This sounds almost identical to the five-door 3 Series GT, and it does look very similar, however the very slight actual variation in the design between the two cars results in a huge visual difference. The 3 Series GT looks like it has a large and clumsy rear end, like the 5 Series GT, but the 4 Series Gran Coupe looks sporty, sleek and upmarket – like a 6 Series Gran Coupe. Phew. That really is BMW model overload.
Things get easier on the inside because all BMWs are very similar in this department. BMW dashboards – i3 and i8 aside – may be seen as conventional and traditional, but the interiors are ergonomically excellent, and the 4 Series Gran Coupe is no different. It’s easy to get an ideal driving position. The iDrive interface controlling the infomedia systems is one of the best in the business, and the satnav works really well. If you specify the head-up display, which projects speed and navigation instructions onto the windscreen, that is also superb. You can even turn the cabin temperature up or down really quickly by turning a dial – very welcome compared to the increasing numbers of cars where you have to delve into touchscreen menus to do this.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe has an official rear seating capacity of ‘2+1’, and a boot that’s long, but with the coupe-like rear roofline, the boot is not quite as dog-friendly as the Touring. The boot increases to 1,300 litres when the rear seats are folded flat.
Our test car was an xDrive model, so the normal rear-wheel drive platform had become all-wheel drive.
No surprises here again – the 3 Series is an excellent car to drive, so the 4 Series Gran Coupe is similar, but slightly better. However, the driving experience depends on the engine. Our test car was a 420d xDrive SE Gran Coupe. If you spend most of your time driving up and down the motorway, then a regular rear-wheel drive 420d will probably suffice. xDrive gives you all-wheel drive, but also a slight weight and efficiency penalty. It provides extra grip on slippery roads, but won’t transform the car in the snow unless it also has winter tyres.
You’ll notice the benefit of xDrive much more if you’re using the extra performance of the 6-cylinder, 3-litre 430d powertrain. If you try pushing on in the 420d, the engine starts to feel and sound somewhat strained before you get to the stage of needing two extra driven wheels. The manual gearbox can also be slightly clunky compared to the silky-smooth eight-speed automatic.
Engines and driven wheels aside, the 420d Gran Coupe is comfortable, with a pliant ride – despite relatively large alloys and low profile tyres. It’s very much at home on the motorway. Despite being all-wheel drive, handling remains rear-biased, which is a good thing.
There’s the normal drive settings of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ (with the drive selector control just where you want it), with the result that the 420d is a multi-dimensional car; it can be economical, comfortable on the motorway, or you can have fun down a wet B road.
The official combined economy figure of the 420d xDrive Gran Coupe is 57.6mpg (56.5mpg with larger wheels), with CO2 emissions of 129g/km CO2. The best we managed was 54.1mpg with gentle driving; overall we averaged 44.5mpg. Automatic transmission improves the official economy to 58.9mpg.
xDrive typically adds around 70-90kg of weight over the standard model which increases CO2 emissions by around 7g/km and reduces fuel economy by around 4mpg.
We’ve already given a feel for the extent of the ever-expanding BMW range; there’s the BMW 3 Series Saloon, Touring and GT, and the 4 Series Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe (and of course there’s the X4). You can choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. There are petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions, and five trim levels: SE, Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport. So surely there must be the right model for you? The interesting aspect is the prices. For the ‘20d’ engine, the 320d Saloon SE costs £28,775, the 320d Touring SE costs £30,075, the 320d GT SE costs £31,675, the 420d Coupe SE costs £31,795, the 420d Convertible SE costs £36,680, and the 420d Gran Coupe SE costs £34,795 (out of interest the X4 xDrive 20d SE costs £36,595). So there’s a reasonable premium for the 420d Gran Coupe over most of the other model variants.
xDrive costs £1,500 more than the standard model. In the first year of sales in the UK xDrive accounted for 27% of 3 Series Touring sales.
We’ve already rated the BMW 330d xDrive Touring as one of the best all-round cars that you can buy. The 4 Series Gran Coupe shares many of the features of the Touring, but with slightly less practical space, but a sleeker shape. The 420d engine is probably sufficient for most company car users, but if you want more response, whilst still retaining decent economy, the 430d (which comes with BMW’s excellent automatic transmission) is the one to go for. If you also want more surefooted grip all-year round, then xDrive certainly makes sense.
But perhaps the most amazing thing about the 4 Series Gran Coupe is how it looks so much more attractive than the 3 Series GT, even though both cars are so similar in concept.
The 420d xDrive SE Gran Coupe gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10. However the 430d xDrive SE Gran Coupe would get a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10, for attaining our holy grail: performance and efficiency.