How they've made room for families on a Gran scale
First Drive: BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe
I wouldn't blame you if you are a little confused about all these new Beemers. There is this new 4-series, you see. It embraces what traditionally we'd call the 3-series two-door Coupe and Convertible.
Now to add to that is the third in the new family – the 4-series Gran Coupe. All three models still draw heavily from the 3-series, but look a lot different.
The Gran Coupe is effectively a four-door version of the two-door Coupe but from the B-pillars back, has its own look.
It came as something of a surprise to me. I expected it to be another variation on a theme – and BMW have a good few of those right now.
Basically, it is a far more practical car for a family. There is no more internal space (though I swore there was when I sat in) but the frameless doors (they've shortened the front ones) have transformed it into a car that will take four adults in good comfort.
And get this. . . it costs exactly the same as the two-door: from €46,520.
I think it is inevitable that some people will drift from the latter because of this new arrival's practicality. Indeed the question was asked why anyone would bother buying a two-door Coupe? I just feel there will always be demand for one. People just like them and not everyone needs two rear doors – they don't have children or they have a larger car to take care of that eventuality.
There are technically three seats in the back; the middle one is for occasional use by someone quite small.
I'm not a big fan of the triangular windows at the rear side – also in the 3-series GT (that's another story) – but the car looks really well and retains the coupe crescent.
Headroom at the back is 27mm lower but I really didn't notice.
Boot space is the same as the 3-series, believe it or not, but because this is a hatchback (yes, a hatchback) it is much easier to load – like its main rival, the Audi A5. Stripped of covers, etc, it's a big area (480 litres to 1,300 with the rear seats folded).
It gets here on June 20 and 17ins wheels will be standard. Of course the 420d or 318d will be the big sellers, but I had a lovely time at the wheel of the 428i petrol (1,997cc, 245bhp, 0-100kmh in six seconds). Sweet as a nut and gutsy with a wonderful note, it reminded me of how enjoyable a decent petrol engine can make a car. It may be getting on a bit now and maybe was a tad throaty at higher revs, but it was such a lovely drive.
It brought this four-door Coupe to life over narrow roads, tight bends and motorways on a blessed sun-filled day where its fine chassis (in sport mode) was stretched a few times (once maybe too much).
So would you buy this or the classic 3-series saloon on which it is based? Or the two-door? Well, it is €5,000 more expensive than the 3-series, a tad less roomy (especially on width) but has a fair bit more spec (electric rear tailgate), is a sportier drive, looks quite a bit smarter (even though much of the front is core 3-series) and fresher.
I can see the extra money keeping people in the saloon, but I can also see people prepared to pay it for a coupe that doubles as a family car.
For a couple of grand more you can get all-wheel-drive. I started out not paying much heed to this. It got much better with acquaintance. Smart move.