BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe Motoring Research UK review 003Four-door coupe for 4 Series buyers who need practicality. Priced from £29,420, it bridges gap between two-door 4 Series and four-door 3 Series.

Richard Aucock | July 2014

Business drivers whose companies won’t let them drive a coupe because it only has two doors have, for years, been flocking to Audi’s four-door coupe A5 Sportback. BMW, makers of the original premium junior exec coupe, could only sit back and watch.

But finally, now the 3 Series Coupe has been renamed 4 Series, it’s able to respond. The new 4 Series Gran Coupe is at last here, following a very similar model to the A5: enough four-door practicality to keep the accountants happy, enough passes-for-a-coupe style to ensure it deserves the coupe moniker.

Prices start at £29,420. That’s exactly the same price as the 4 Series Coupe. A bargain, considering the two free rear doors? Well, sort of: the Audi A5 Sportback is a bit cheaper. BMW justifies it by including an electronic tailgate as standard (in testing, the height at which it lifts means many will appreciate this…).

Perhaps tellingly, BMW is also offering a budget P11D-friendly 4 Gran Coupe version unavailable in two-door Coupe guise: the 418d SE. Priced from £30,995, this is as close to a ‘fleet special’ that you’ll get from a premium brand like BMW. 61.4mpg, 121g/km CO2 and a list price £800 below a 420d SE (with a 1% BIK saving too): at around £300 more than a 318d M Sport, BMW’s logic is clear…

There’s a corporate twist here because that’s where BMW expects most 4 Series Gran Coupe buyers to come from. Nearly two in three sales will be to business users, compared to less than half for the 4 Series Coupe. For this reason, we kept our UK first drive real world, and tested the 428i and 420d. Just like most of its buyers, we ensured we had more doors than cylinders…

What’s the 2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe like to drive?

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe Motoring Research UK review 001

The BMW 3 Series and 4 Series share an interior. In volume-spec cars, the similarities are a little too obvious: combine a seating position in the 4 Series Gran Coupe that’s higher than the two-door Coupe, and you almost could be sitting in a 3 Series. A bit more of the bespoke coupe feel would be nice here, BMW; after all, buyers are paying over £3k more.

But there are no feelings of being slightly short-changed once on the move. Like the 3 Series, like the 4 Series Coupe, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a superb car to drive. It handles beautifully, with sophisticated agility, feel-good steering and excellent body control, but also with a surprisingly decent ride.

The big rear boot opening and slightly higher centre of gravity may ultimately mean it’s a little less tenacious and pure compared to the genuine Coupe, but you’ll be hard pushed to notice except in extremes. Onlookers don’t notice it’s a four-door coupe rather than the real thing and it’ll take more than a second glance behind the wheel to do so too.

BMW’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol 328i engine doesn’t short-change you either. Compared to the diesel norm, its near-silent tickover and vibration-free low-speed manners are a standout, and it’s pretty much as torquey and flexible as a diesel on the go too. It only starts to bark and moan a little too intrusively at higher revs, but no more than a revved through diesel – and it’s still smoother.

Saying that, BMW’s new 190-hp 2.0-litre diesel runs it close. This is a big step on from the outgoing motor, despite seeming so similar on paper. It has much less low-speed clatter, is less rumbly and more hushed, and even revs through to a peaky 5k-plus redline with enthusiasm. As nearly every 4 GC will have this engine, the majority of buyers are in for a treat. It’s a real step on for BMW four-cylinder diesels.

Do you still need that 4 Series Coupe, then?

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe Motoring Research UK review 002

Right now, you’ll be hard pushed to split a 4 Series Coupe and Gran Coupe from a front three-quarter view. Familiarity may make the differing dimensions obvious, but they’re not at the moment; to all intents, this is a coupe. It even has frameless doors – yes, as it’s a four-door, even the rears are frameless. Lovely touch.

It’s also a coupe with the added appeal of good rear-seat practicality. OK, access is a little tight, but once there, occupants enjoy very impressive space for such a good-looking car. There’s even – just – enough headroom for this six-footer’s bonce to clear the roof (although if I had any hair, it wouldn’t). A modern 3 Series betters it, but this hasn’t always been the case: it’s probably comparable with an old-shape E90 3 Series back there.

The boot floor is a touch high but it’s very wide and long, with an enormous hatch opening bolstering practicality. Yes, this is the 3 Series hatchback you’ve always longed for, with a 3er-matching 480-litre space to (ahem) boot. Folding the seats stretches luggage space to a commodious 1300 litres, to fully exploit that hatchback practicality.

Lots of practicality ticks then; this is where it scores over the 4 Series Coupe, and where it still remains viable even to 3 Series drivers. The Coupe will always be the sleeker car, probably one sold in more expensive guises (and with that M4 kudos rubbing off too). There’s still a place for it; the Gran Coupe simply extends the model range to fill the gap between it and 3 Series.

MR VERDICT: 2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe Motoring Research UK review 004

By doing just what Audi did with the A5 Sportback, BMW hasn’t stumbled. It’s a copycat car but as the market loves the Audi, that’s no bad thing; it’s simply giving buyers more choice in this sector.

As good to drive as a 3 Series (and almost as good to drive as a 4 Series Coupe), it also looks good and, even in four-cylinder guise, has some excellent engines. The interior up front could be more special but the rear compensates and goodness, the firm’s even offering it in price-leading model lines. Expect to see a fair few of them. Once you’ve learnt to tell them apart from the coupe, that is.

Rivals

  • Audi A5 Sportback
  • BMW 3 Series
  • Jaguar XF
  • Mercedes-Benz CLA
  • VW CC

The ageing Audi’s now beaten pretty much across the board by the new BMW, but is pretty enough to remain desirable. Or you could get a higher-spec 3 Series instead (you’ll be hard pressed to tell once within). Age has brought prices of the increasingly impractical Jaguar XF exec into this sector; Mercedes-Benz doesn’t offer a direct rival either but the CLA is closest in spirit there. Or you could just save a fortune and go for a VW Passat CC.

Specification

Engine 2.0-litre petrol (184hp, 245hp), 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol (306hp), 2.0-litre turbodiesel (143hp, 184hp)
Gearbox Six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic
Price from £29,420
Power 143 – 306hp
Torque TBC
0-62mph 5.5 – 8.1 seconds
Top speed TBC
MPG 34.0 – 61.4
CO2 121 – 193

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