By: Minesh Bhagaloo
Bilbao, Spain - While to you and I it may look like BMW is trying desperately to fill round holes with square pegs with its onslaught of new-model ranges, the manufacturer sees it as a quest to grow new niches for customers demanding specific types of car.
With this in mind, the German carmaker last week fortified its 4 Series range with the world launch of two all-new vehicles – the 4 Series Gran Coupé and the X4. Both cars play in the midsize premium segment.
4 SERIES GRAN COUPE
In broader terms, the 4 GC (let’s call it that instead of 4 Series Gran Coupé) is an El-Grande 4 Series coupé, with back doors and a longish hatched boot. The X4, like the X6, is classified as a Sports Activity Coupe and, like the X6, gets that curvier coupé look.
The 4 GC, in terms of the hatched boot lid, does step a little on the toes of BMW’s 3 GT – but the 3 GT is, strictly-speaking, the bigger car with more interior space (it’s classified as a five-seater, where the 4 GC is more 4+1).
The 3 Series platform is the all-encompassing parent, though, and all the fancy Three and Four passenger-car badges mentioned so far are basically reskinned versions of the same skeleton.
In terms of 4 GC skin, it inherits its sleek lines from its sister 4 coupé. Unlike the 3 GT, which polarised opinion, the 4 GC – with identical all-round dimensions to the 4 coupé – is a Miss SA finalist. Little 4 GC nuances – versus the 4 Series Coupe – include a marginally longer and higher roof, stretched to cover the rear quarter and the wide electric operated boot lid.
The edgier design makes for additional rear headroom, and 35 litres more boot space than the coupé.
The frameless rear doors also means easier access for rear passengers, with back seats dropping for greater loading quarters (1300 litres) – but the 4 GC is more four than five adult-seating friendly.
The 428i Gran Coupé I piloted last week felt no heavier than its two-doored sibling, exhibiting the same sharp handling attributes and meaty steering feedback as the coupé. The additional doors have made this Four very rear-passenger friendly, with sufficient leg and headroom – while the wide-access boot is generous in terms of space.
The other all-new Four badge, the X4, is based on the X6 in terms of the coupé suit it wears, but is an X3 below the sheet metal. It gets all the right finishes – large air-intakes, muscular haunches, swooping roofline, exclusive tail lights and rear diffuser all make it a looker.
The five-seater X4 is marginally longer than the X3, but sits slightly lower, with passengers also getting a lower seating position. Behind the X4’s electric tailgate is 500 litres of lugging room, expandable to 1400 with rear seats dropped.
The X4, which we drove in range-topping 35i guise, was a tasty little package in its own right. I like that it gets the sporty looks of the X6, but not the bulk, and enjoys being thrown around the odd mountain pass. Having said that, even with xDrive pushing power to all wheels this is strictly a softroader – which we found out the hard way when we got it stuck in beach sand.
Expect the 4 GC in SA next month, followed by the X4 in September.