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GET COUPED -UP

So, if the 4 Series replaced the old 3 Series Coupe, is the Gran Coupe just a slightly sleeker version of the saloon, and if so - what's the point?

That's the very first question that runs through your mind when you clap eyes on the latest addition to the Bavarian family.

The press pack gave us the usual pap about it being "in essence a coupe with the added practicality of a saloon", but a close inspection of the car's dimensions soon told a different story.

You see, as BMW will tell you, it's all about the numbers.

At the launch of the 4 Series we were told simply that even numbers mean Coupe while odd numbers mean saloon.

EXCELLENCE

Take 3, 5 and 7 and you'll immediately relate to this theory as you will with examples of 2, 4 and indeed 6.

For those who seemed a little confused by the extra doors, the mighty 6 Series was rolled out as an example of excellence which made perfect sense, and the 640 GC remains to this day one of our dream rides.

It's all things to all men - luxury, sporty and practical enough for a couple of little 'uns.

The only fault we could find was the hefty price tag, but the canny Germans have taken that winning formula to make a Mini Me.

Despite being exactly the same length as the Coupe, the GC is 12mm higher and a massive 112mm longer which gives extra headroom in the rear and matches the 3 Series for boot space with 480 litres.

Folding rear seats 60/40 or 40/20/40 will see that luggage space explode to 1,300 litres, and wide boot and flat floor will make that trip to IKEA do-able, especially with automatic tailgate which comes as standard.

The cabin is pretty much identical to the Coupe with low-slung leather sports seats and thick M-Sports steering giving a racy feel, while the 6.5-inch colour screen housing the iDrive controller gives that premium touch. It's loaded with goodies too, with 18-inch alloys, Xenon headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, Bluetooth, cruise control, Drive Performance Control and dual zone air con.

Irish customers can choose a range of powertrains from a 418D generating 143bhp to the blistering 428i Sport which is packing 245bhp and a 0-100 sprint of just over six seconds.

We tested the more potent 420 diesel which was no slouch either with 184bhp and a seven-second dash, but the upside is the unbelievable economy of 60mpg.

The drive, though, is where the unique experience comes to light.

Handling is nothing short of superb thanks to its 50-50 weight distribution and it behaved impeccably even in greasy conditions, though the steering could have been a little more informed.

Those wanting a little more grip can avail of the 420 XDrive all-wheel-drive model with torque split 40/60 front to rear for a very reasonable €3,500 more.

Most, though, will stick with the oil burners which are exceptional.

There is, however, one fly in the ointment - the +1 seat in the rear.

Because it's flat in the middle (the other seats are sunken) with the transmission tunnel in the centre, it will be uncomfortable even for the smallest of rear passengers.

Prices for the BMW Gran Coupe start from €46,170, with the XDrive costing €49,620.

AUDI's new A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid not only delivers 204bhp and can travel 100km on only 1.5 litres of petrol (188mpg), it now comes with a 5-star NCAP rating for safety.


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