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BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe: Puttin on the swoop
By Cameron Officer • 13/08/2016
An interesting and quick proposition
New Zealand spec 420i Gran Coupes may possibly be some of the best budgeted performance metal BMW distributes here.
Our versions all feature BMW’s Sport Line package as standard. This includes all sorts of exterior and interior trim detailing, such as 19-inch “star spoke” alloy wheels, high-gloss black trim accents around the grille, rear bumper assembly and b-pillar, aluminium door sills, Dakota leather upholstery, brushed aluminium interior surfaces and an ambience lighting system. Oh, and your key fob will feature a red stripe.
These Sport Line updates, taken together with the car’s surprisingly fruity 2-litre twin-turbo engine, makes the 420i Gran Coupe an interesting proposition. A quick one too, if asked.
But, what exactly is a Gran Coupe? Well for a start, it’s … er, not a coupe.
It’s actually a rather swoopy four-door sedan with a rakishly low roofline and frameless glass in its doors. Also – whisper it – it isn’t something BMW invented. The Bavarian company may love it as a niche model but it was arch-rival Mercedes-Benz that introduced the world to the concept of a four-door coupe/sedan hybrid thingy, with the CLS-Class back in 2004.
BMW’s initial answer was the 6-Series Gran Coupe in 2012, which was a lot more dimensionally line-ball with the CLS. Now the manufacturer has added a slightly more compact 4-Series Gran Coupe line-up to the mix. In New Zealand the offering is distilled into 420i and 440i M Sport versions.
At only 5cm longer than the 3-Series, the 420i Gran Coupe reveals its true self; the 4 is essentially a 3. And that, in BMW parlance, equates to a very good thing.
So, while the 3-Series remains, the 4-Series takes the shape of the Gran Coupe as seen here, as well as conventional two-door coupe and convertible models (along with their respective M performance alter egos; the M4 is BMW’s “new” M3, while the only M3 you can now buy is an M3 sedan … confused?)
The car presents a pleasingly low-slung silhouette. The b-pillar spoils the coupe aesthetic a tad, but the frameless front and rear door glass shores it up again.
Inside, front seat occupants sit low in the cockpit in sporty, supportive seats and — again — the car is almost identical to a 3-Series, although rear-seat passengers will note a bit less headroom.
The big difference is that the Gran Coupe features an auto-opening lift-back tailgate and a decently-sized boot. Being a BMW, the Gran Coupe remains a fantastic point-and-shoot machine, with the driver able to wring plenty of performance out of the car thanks to a multi-mode driving experience control system.
In addition to the default comfort setting you can also select from Sport mode (which firms up the suspension system and sharpens acceleration), or Sport+, which activates dynamic traction control. This allows for more wheel slip without completely cancelling out the car’s stability control system. End result? Lairy track-based behaviour aplenty. There are Eco Pro settings, too, but these will, for the most part, remain unsullied by fingerprints.
So all very good stuff. Although is it better than a 3-Series? Well, it’s different. But a BMW 330i with an M Sport kit on it is still an all-things-to-all-people machine. Unless you need a liftback-style boot and then it clearly won’t do. Otherwise — the design-led charms of the 420i Gran Coupe aside — I think a well-spec’d 3-Series will prove the better car.
Oh, and what’s this? Mercedes-Benz is playing catch-up in the sector too with the CLA sedan — a swoopy faux coupe of compact stature. It’s not quite an originator-becomes-follower situation, but it certainly goes to show that when one German manufacturer sneezes, the others catch a cold.
BMW 420I GRAN COUPE ENGINE: 2-litre four-cylinder twin power turbo (135kW/270Nm) PRICE: $77,000 Pros: Svelte looks, standard kit