CJ Hubbard | June 2014
Welcome what is likely to be the most popular version of the new BMW 4 Series, the new 4 Series Gran Coupe. It is essentially a five-door version of the 4 Series Coupe, which means you end up with a pretty car that’s almost as practical as a 3 Series Saloon – or in fact more practical if you take the hatchback into account rather than the ultimate boot space.
Why most popular? Because this is BMW aiming to replicate the success it’s already had with the 6 Series Gran Coupe, a car that now takes 60% of all 6 Series sales. And, of course, the 4 Series is considerably cheaper (though don’t mistake that for actually cheap). At first thought it seems a little daft that a more practical version of what is supposed to be an indulgent automotive form – the coupe – would be so attractive, but it seems these days people really want pragmatic panache.
What is the 2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe like to drive?
Just to underline this point, BMW is offering the 4GC with a wide selection of engines – from 418d to 435d – and with a choice four- as well as rear-wheel drive on some variants. As we’ve had early access to the car, our experience was limited to the 428i, however, which is the second from top petrol offering.
Contrary to tradition, the 428i is no longer a six-cylinder engine but a turbocharged 2.0-litre four – although your passengers will be hard-pressed to tell. Partly because BMW is rapidly becoming extremely adept at making engines sound much more dramatic than they are (using a clever rear “silencer” and active sound through the speakers here), and partly because it goes like a rocket. Combined with the excellent, optional eight-speed Sport automatic, as tested, 0-62mph takes just 6.0 seconds.
But straight-line speed is only a part of the BMW puzzle, so it’s reassuring to discover that corners are very much the Gran Coupe’s metier. Although fitted with the also optional M Sport adaptive suspension, our test car displayed exactly the kind of poise and tenacity in the turns that has built this brand. It is just a beautiful car to steer down a winding road – grippy, quick to dig in and change direction, and very composed over bumps, even when the damping is turned up to Sport.
All the latest EfficientDynamics gizmos, which now include various aerodynamic aids including the “Air Breathers” behind the wheels, also promise to make it impressively efficient. If it is efficiency you want, you’re better off with a diesel, but the smooth, assured power of the 245hp 428i certainly has plenty of compensatory appeal. And BMW still claims as much as 44.8mpg for this engine.
Why buy the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe instead of a 3 Series Saloon?
Add this fine driving experience to those svelte exterior looks and the ability to easily access the rear seats, and you’re beginning to get the right picture here. In fact, even the 380-litre nominal boot volume exactly matches the 3 Series Saloon’s.
Elements of the interior are also rather more special than you get inside BMW’s junior exec chariot – the way the door trimmings flow front to rear adds an increased sense of cohesion to the interior, for example. But the dashboard is arguably a little too similar to the 3 Series by comparison and, wait a minute, what’s going on with those rear seats?
Since this does still have the word Coupe in the title, rather than fitting a regular bench in the back, BMW has gone with a 4+1 seating arrangement. This means there are two contoured outer seats at the back, intended to give their occupants some extra support during more spirited driving, which is fine. But if you need to carry a fifth they’re relegated to belting in on top of the flat centre console area.
And although the Gran Coupe’s roof is 12mm higher and 112mm longer than that of the two-door 4 Series Coupe, rear headroom is still a touch claustrophobic for taller passengers. So if you do regularly need to carry a full compliment of people the 3 Series remains the better option.
It’s also worth noting that the 4 Series is nearly £3,000 more expensive than the equivalent 3 Series Saloon (both Coupe and Gran Coupe are priced the same). You do get a reasonable amount of equipment for your money, however, including an automatic opening boot, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, iDrive infotainment system, heated seats and the BMW Drive Performance Control with Eco Pro fuel saving mode.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe comes in SE, Sport (+£1,500), Luxury (+£2,500) and M Sport (+£3,000) specifications from launch.
MR VERDICT: 2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe
This really is a case of “you pays your money and you takes your choice”. A 3 Series Saloon will do everything the 4 Series Gran Coupe will do, and for a chunk of change cheaper. But the 4 Series looks more dramatic, is that bit more engaging to drive and has a hatchback design that potentially offers increased versatility.
More pertinently, it costs no more than the conventional 4 Series Coupe, and that alone should see plenty of takers. It’s an excellent car. Audi and Mercedes, over to you…
- Audi A5 Sportback
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class
- BMW 3 Series
- Ford Mondeo
- Nissan Qashqai
Engines petrol: 2.0 (420i, 428i), 3.0 (435i) diesel: 2.0 (418d, 420d), 3.0 (430d, 435d)
Drivetrain rear- or four-wheel drive, six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic (depending on specification)
Price from £29,425
Torque 199-465lb ft
0-62mph 4.8-9.2 seconds
Top speed 132-155mph