I’m not sure why car manufacturers insist on dropping letters from words in naming cars, but it has become something of a trend… one that doesn’t always make sense. Take the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé. For some reason, they’ve slipped the abbreviation of “grandmother” in there…
References to elderly relatives aside, the latest extension to the 4 Series line-up is as striking as it is practical and pleasurable to drive. The aesthetic changes made to this second-generation model are focused on that massive kidney (or a pair of lungs, to my eyes) grille that stretches from the bonnet to just above the tar and is framed by slim LED headlamps. The coupé profile is accented by a shadow line, while the darkened, slender taillamps mirror those in the front. Alloy rims are 18-inch on the four-cylinder models and 19-inch on the M440i pictured.
There are three models in the range, starting with two powered by a familiar pair of four-cylinder, 2,0-litre turbocharged engines. The 420i is petrol powered and produces 135 kW of power and 300 N.m of torque; the 420d has a 140 kW turbodiesel with 400 N.m of torque. Then there’s the gran-daddy (pun intended) – the M440i – complete with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system and a 285 kW/500 N.m six-cylinder turbopetrol. All engines are paired with an eight-speed Sports Steptronic transmission with paddle shifters.
Despite being the Gran Coupé, it has the same wheelbase and overall length as the non-Gran (i.e. the coupé) and offers a very similar drive, which is most definitely a good thing. A wide stance, almost 50:50 weight distribution and sophisticated chassis technology make it taut and responsive while the suspension is firm even in Comfort mode, so the balance leans more towards handling than comfort. The M440i also gets an M Sport differential with an electronically controlled, fully variable locking function at the rear axle.
The range-topper is the model to go for if you’d like your family car to splash a smile across your face, and it’s all that torque that makes it entertaining. Yes, it is fast off the mark – zero to 100 km/h in 4,7 seconds is quick in anyone’s book – but the real joy can be found in accelerating on the open road, the rolling torque getting things started and that top-end power taking over as the revs climb. The 420d offers incredible claimed fuel economy of just 4,90 L/100 km, despite being quick and entertaining to drive in its own right. The 420i may be the gateway to the range but claimed acceleration (7,5 seconds), fuel consumption (6,50 L/100 km) and drivability are more than adequate.
The driving experience of a car starts when you grip the steering wheel and flex your knuckles, and BMW always manages to make this a sensorily satisfying experience. The leather-bound M steering wheel of the 4 Series is just chunky enough; the bulges at 10 o’clock and two o’clock add the right amount of heft to make your hands want to stay there. Obviously, it’s fitted with all the expected steering wheel controls, too. Peer through the wheel and you’ll see a fully digital 12,3-inch screen showing all the instruments and information. A second 10,25-inch screen is centrally located for infotainment and the like.
All models come with the M specification package, which is the main reason for the vehicle being more expensive than the 3 Series equivalents. Even so, the 4 Series GC has a lengthy options list, but you don’t have to tick many additional boxes to have a well-equipped vehicle.
The 4 Series Gran Coupé is priced at R930 00 for the 420i, R980 000 for the 420d and R1 312 696 for the 440i. The people who opt for the GC over the coupé do so for the amount of usable interior space. The back seats have sufficient headroom for adults, and it’s easier getting in and out, while the hatchback-style boot is capacious with a wide-opening aperture. It’s a very different person who chooses the two-door coupé or the convertible, and the great thing is that each 4 Series has its unique character and there are very few compromises to be made.
Price: R1 312 696
Engine: 3,0-litre turbopetrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 285 kW @ 5 800 r/min
Torque: 500 N.m 1 900-5 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 4,7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 8,20 L/100 km
Top speed: 250 km/h
CO2: 187 g/km
Rivals: Audi S5 TFSI Sportback, Mercedes-AMG C43 coupé
By: Stephen Smith