2015 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe first drive
Where looks and loads can live in harmony
Bilbao, Spain—The BMW marketing guy looked incredulous at the question.
Of course the Gran Coupe is a coupe! Look at that elegant sloping roofline. Look at that gorgeous tapered rear. The fact it has four doors is irrelevant. It’s not the number of doors that defines a coupe, but the fastback silhouette. Foolish question.
Besides, Mercedes prepared the ground in recent years with its CLS-Class “coupe”, which has four doors. Then Volkswagen introduced the CC and Audi the A7. Such cars have all the practicality for the rear seats of a sedan without giving up on their owner’s aspirations to drive something sporty and sexy. Just don’t call them hatchbacks.
So if people want to refine the word so the Gran Coupe is a coupe, so be it if it makes them happy. And it probably will make them very happy, because it’s a lovely car.
More rear space than a coupe
It’s a niche car, though. If you want to know how it handles, just Google reviews of the 4 Series coupe – it’s pretty much the same vehicle with a slightly more practical body. The trunk is larger by 35 litres, the headroom for everyone is a little more roomy, and there’s seating now for three people in the back, not just the two of the coupe.
The third rear passenger is a bit of an afterthought and will sit on the hump of the rear-wheel drive shaft, but the seatbelt’s there, just in case it’s needed.
None of them will be happy in the back on a long drive if they’re tall, since the roofline tapers down to the trunk. I’m almost six feet and I had to hunch forward in the back seat with my head skimming the roof liner. It’s 12 mm more generous for headroom than the coupe and I could get in and out through my own door, but passengers back there will still prefer to be in a 3 Series sedan.
That rear seat folds down if needed, split into a 40:20:40 configuration. This means the slim centre seat can remove its back to create a pass-through for skis. There’s an armrest in it that holds cupholders, too. If you fold down the entire seat, the cargo space increases from 480 litres to 1,300, which is almost as much as the X4 crossover coupe (but still 500 litres short of the less-elegant X3).
Like those 4 Series variants, the Gran Coupe comes with the same two available engines. The base model is the 28i, which makes 241 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque through its 2.0L four cylinder. It retails for $44,900 before you start adding options, which is exactly the same as the coupe.
You can add all-wheel drive to the 28i for an extra $4,100, or you can boost the engine to the 3.0L inline-six of the 35i, which makes 300 hp and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. That will cost you $54,900 before options, also the same as the coupe. There’s an all-wheel drive 35i coming, but not till later in the summer and its price is not yet announced. Expect it to add at least $4,000 to the cost.
Sporty and responsive drive
The only version available to drive here in Spain was the 28i. It would have been fun to blast up and down the mountains in the 35i but to be honest, the weather was so appalling I didn’t have much opportunity to use the extra power.
The base 28i comes with a six-speed transmission, but my car was fitted with the eight-speed automatic paddle-shifted ZF transmission, which is a $1,600 option. It comes standard with the 35i. It also had the M Sport package, which doesn’t really make it go any faster but does add a sporty flair to the car – its 19-inch wheels are an inch larger than base, while a larger air intake and various trims and accents enhance the coupe approach.
I set off toward the coast on a soaking wet road, drenched with rain from the North Atlantic. I was happy for the many electronic nanny systems that keep all 3 and 4 Series cars in control. BMW’s Active Driving Assistant is an option that uses a camera to detect and identify pedestrians on the road ahead. If somebody dashes out onto the highway, an alarm sounds and lights flash to make sure the driver knows about it.
A warning also shows on the standard head-up display, which is crisp and clear on the lower windshield in front of the driver and includes speed and navigation information. It’s almost invisible, however, when wearing polarized sunglasses.
The 28i handled the twisting mountain roads quite comfortably. Its engine has a flat and responsive torque curve that starts peaking at just 1,250 rpm, and although it shares the same front and rear active suspension as the coupe, it’s tuned a little differently for its slight increase in overall weight and change in feel.
I could have set the Performance Control to Sport+, but this is intended more as a track setting – it turns down the level of driving assistance and helps with launch control. Instead, I drove for a while on Sport, which tightens the power steering (variable electric steering is an option), quickens the gearshifts and makes the throttle and engine more responsive. If you buy the optional Dynamic Damper Control, it also firms the suspension.
Like this, BMW claims the 28i is good for accelerating from zero to 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds. The 35i is good for the same launch in 5.2 seconds.
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