Something for the weekend
While fastback sedans are nothing new, they’re not a format the traditionally conservative German marques have previously been keen on. Recently, however, we’ve seen a run of them from the German three. The Mercedes-Benz CLS arguably started it all in 2005, with Audi’s A5 Sportback and A7 following suit shortly after. BMW then launched the 6-Series Gran Coupé two years ago and, now, the 4-Series Gran Coupé is about to join the party.
The car shares the same platform that underpins no fewer than seven body styles, including the 3-Series sedan and sport wagon, long-wheelbase China-only sedan, and Gran Turismo, and the 4-Series Coupé and convertible. To our eyes at least, this appears to be the most appealing of the lot.
And it needs to be if BMW is to get buyers to stump up the additional premium it demands over and above the other four-door Bimmer, the 3-Series. With European company car sales dominated by the 3-Series, BMW says the 4-Series Gran Coupé is designed to give faithful buyers something a little more sporty and desirable, but just as practical to play with on weekends while the corporate mile-muncher takes a well-earned rest.
Adding two extra doors required significant engineering to the bodyshell.
It shares the same wheelbase and overhang dimensions as the two-door model, but every panel from the A-pillar to the rear bumper had to be redesigned. The roofline arch extends a further 112 mm back to give rear-seat passengers more head space, and the B-pillars have been moved forward to give engineers room to develop a meaningful pair of doors for the rear.
The swoopier roof has shortened the rear boot deck, but mounting the seats closer to the floor and a little further forward, with an accompanying adjustment to the angle of recline, has created around 30mm more head room for those in the back. In conjunction with a refined roof profile, this has also liberated a bit more space in the boot, and the 40:20:40 split seat backs can be folded flat to create an estate-sized cargo area. At 1,300 litres, that’s nothing to be sneezed at. Even without folding the seats down, BMW says the Gran Coupé will easily gobble up two bags of golf clubs or a family’s worth of luggage for the weekend without breaking a sweat. A couple of stainless steel runners set into the boot floor with adjustable tie-down points keeps it all securely stowed.
That’s advisable, because the car packs a decent wallop. BMW has limited customer choice to two engines: the well-established 240-hp, 2.0-litre four in the 428, and the 300-horse, 3.0-litre inline-six fitted to the 435. Both powerplants are direct-injected and turbocharged, and they provide ample thrust. With the four-banger, the big hatch should reach 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds. The same exercise is likely to take 5.2 seconds with the 3.0-litre six. In both versions, top speed is governed at 250 km/h, but that can be raised a fraction if optional high-performance summer tyres are specified when ordering. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on the 428i and will come later to the 435i. It’s available with a six-speed manual but it is expected that most buyers will opt for the ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic.
It’s a healthy combination that delivers tremendous mid-range punch. With 1,580 kg to propel, the engine develops peak torque of 350 Nm at 1,250 rpm and holds on to it until 4,800 rpm. There’s no need to rev the rings out of it because the twin-scroll turbocharger keeps boost pressure constant under load. The net effect is that the engine feel like it’s far bigger than it is, and while performance drivers may prefer the 3.0-litre inline six, the four-banger is a very useable hard charger. We’ve experienced this engine before, and it’s easily one of the most impressive two-litre lumps ever produced. It has won two consecutive International Engine of the Year awards, and is really worthy of its accolades.
Hold the snakey-esses button down for a few seconds, and you will disable the electronic safety nets and traction aides used to channel that 235 hp to the road. Our wet test route consists of a winding section of switchback hairpins which urge an adventurous right foot and a course of brave pills, and while the 428 Gran Coupé is no real match for a proper, rally bred B-road basher, it’s a thoroughly rewarding car to push about on any road in any conditions.
Minor adjustments to the suspension geometry were required for the xDrive equipped models, and the damping was fine tuned to account for the car’s added mass. Adding two doors and extra reinforcing bumped curb weight by 40 kg, so BMW’s chassis engineers had to tweak settings and revise the front strut arrangement to boost steering precision and response.
It’s still electric and still lacks the tactility of a traditional system, but it’s far better than previous arrangements. There’s a nibble at the wheel when the fronts start to push, but there’s still a lack of ultimate feel that you may expect from a focused driving machine.
At around Dhs150,000 for the 428i and Dhs172,000 for the 435i, the 4-Series Gran Coupé comes in at a few thousand dirhams more than the 3-Series sedan. Rear-drive versions of the 4-Series Gran Coupé and the 428i xDrive go on sale first with the 435i xDrive to follow later in the year.