Launch review: BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé, by Colin Windell
Durban – It does turn heads and probably fully deserves the ‘Gran’ in its title but, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé shifts a position in BMW that will also be appreciated by car buyers.
For this generation the company has stepped away from the myriad – and sometimes confusing – array of options and moved closer to a what-you-see-is-what-you-get specification approach across the launch range of three derivatives, the 420i, 420d and 440i xDrive.
Although it is closely linked in family terms to the 3 Series, the Gran Coupé is very much its own car and is bigger than the sedans, measuring 4 783mm in exterior length, 1 852mm in width and 1 442mm in height, it has distinctive proportions combined with stretched coupé lines.
It is 143mm longer, 27mm wider and 53mm taller than its predecessor, while the track widths have also grown – to 1 595mm at the front (+50mm) and 1 623mm at the rear (+29mm). The wheelbase of 2 856mm is 46mm longer than the predecessor’s and 5mm more than the 3 Series sedan.
All of that adds up to a car that has a solid feel out on the road on the long haul yet still nimble enough to produce adrenaline overload when pushed hard.
The model-specific body concept also results in a versatile interior offering generous amounts of space in the rear. The new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé offers 470 litres of boot space, having grown by 39 litres. Load capacity can be expanded to a maximum of 1 290 litres by folding down the sections of the rear backrest, with its standard 40:20:40 split.
At the front, the full-LED headlights come with U-shaped fibre-optic light guides for the daytime driving lights.
There is also the option of Adaptive LED Headlights with BMW Laserlight including BMW Selective Beam non-dazzling high-beam assistant.
Horizontal lines are the dominant influence at the rear end, accentuated by a rear apron with vertical aero lips at its outer edges and a black finish for its lower edge. The darkened full-LED rear lights extend well into the flanks.
Inside, the Start/Stop button for the engine is positioned in a control panel in the centre console, which also houses the BMW Controller and the buttons for the Driving Experience Control unit and electromechanical parking brake alongside the model-specific gearstick. The rear seat bench with folding head restraints allows three child seats to be fitted.
Sport seats and a Sport leather steering wheel come standard.
At the top of the range is the BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupé that is powered by a 285kW six-cylinder in-line petrol engine. The four-cylinder petrol engine in the BMW 420i Gran Coupé produces maximum output of 135kW and a 140kW four-cylinder diesel engine can be found under the bonnet of the BMW 420d Gran Coupé.
All the engines team up with an eight-speed Sports Steptronic transmission with gear-shift paddles as standard.
Model-specific geometry, mounting and tuning for the chassis technology in the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé derives from a two-joint spring strut front axle and five-link rear axle with standard-fit lift-related dampers to enhance sports performance and ride comfort.
Depending on the spring travel, these provide extra damping to control body movement when driving over large bumps, as well as preventing excessive dive. The system reacts to minor imperfections in the road surface with low damping forces that ensure a comfortable ride.
It comes standard with 18-inch light-alloy wheels. Standard specification for the new BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupé includes 19-inch M light-alloy wheels and an M Sport differential with electronically controlled, fully variable locking function in the rear differential.
The driver and passengers in the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé benefit from the extended possibilities provided by BMW Operating System 7 as standard. Customers can take their pick of control interface for the situation at hand: control display touchscreen, familiar BMW Controller, multifunction buttons on the steering wheel, voice control or optional BMW gesture control.
There is also access to a range of advanced digital services, including the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant and remote software upgrades.
The standard BMW Live Cockpit Professional features a fully digital screen grouping including a high-resolution instrument cluster with a screen diagonal of 12.3 inches (about 31cm) behind the steering wheel and a 10.25-inch (26cm) control display.
The cloud-based BMW Maps navigation system offers extremely fast and precise route calculation and arrival times, real-time traffic data updates at short intervals and the ability to enter any word when searching for a destination.
With smartphone integration fitted as standard, customers can use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the car’s operating system. And the remote software upgrades function allows improved vehicle functions and additional digital services to be imported into the car over the air.
The launch event provided an opportunity to sample all three of the newcomers on a mix of KwaZulu-Natal’s roads, from motorway to less than perfect, but much more interesting roads winding through the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
The overall impression is a car that has adapted nicely into the BMW fold as a practical and stylish addition, now large enough not to be cramped in the rear, yet still small enough to be whizzed through gaps in the traffic and into tight little parking spaces.
The 420d is probably the most practical of the three, especially for longer-haul cruising with the easy-on low down torque making eating up the kilometres an effortless procedure and, naturally, the 440i produces some enthralling motoring, especially in Sport mode when the suspension perks up, the steering tightens and the throttle response become instant.
The enhanced list of standard specifications means the pricing is slightly higher and seemingly out of kilter with the cost structures in the rest of the BMW range. However, as someone who has always disliked the idea of endless add-on options to get the car you actually want, this is a small price to pay (pardon the pun).
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé pricing:
420i Gran Coupé R930 000
420d Gran Coupé R980 000
440i Coupé xDrive R1.3m
Visit Colin-on-Cars for more driving impressions by Colin Windell