Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted August 02, 2016 07:57
There are often two very different characters that we think about when we hear, see or read the name “BMW”. One side of that story is more like your dad and his 7 or 5 Series; successful in business or the corporate world, enjoys comfort, pursues luxury, and appreciates quality. The other side is one of performance driving excitement, evoking thoughts of quick sports sedans and coupes. And that goes double if the BMW bears one significant letter: M.
But what if BMW decided to build something smack dab in the middle of the two? Just what exactly would we get? BMW's answer is this: the 4 Series Gran Coupe.
Just recently, BMW divorced the two- and four-door versions of the 3 Series. The move made sense, one that turned the 3 Series into a purely four-door model while the 4 Series was spawned to serve as the two-door version. Think about it like this; the M3 Coupe that we knew is now known as the M4.
So why did BMW just turn that all back around and make a four-door version of the 4 Series? Didn't that just negate everything that they did?
Looking at Gran Coupe, the idea just might work. This 420d has a neat and clean look about it, and all with the signature BMW design elements like the double kidney grille, the quad headlights, and, of course, the Hofmeister kink. When viewed from the front, the car is like any other 3 or 4 Series, but when seen from the side, what's clear is the parabolic roofline that slopes rearward, forming somewhat of a fastback profile similar to the Mercedes CLS and the Audi A7.
Only when you start popping open the doors do you realize that this is no mere 3 Series. The main difference is in the rear door; in the 3, it opens up all the way to the Hofmeister kink, in the 4 Gran Coupe, the kink is further back. Instead of a trunklid, the boot is technically a liftback, one that opens up the whole rear including the glass area.
Being a variant from the Luxury line, this 420d has a more stately feel about it with the chrome bits and the wheel design. The cabin also has a liberal application of light beige tones contrasted with warmer wood panels with silver accents. The layout of the dashboard is logical and intuitive as expected of BMW; it's identical to the ones found in either the 3 or 4 Series.
The surprise was the rear seat; it's actually far roomier than I gave it credit for at first glance. The secret to that room is the low height of the seat; it generates good headroom for tall passengers in the back with decent legroom to spare. They say the Gran Coupe is a five seater, but I would recommend keeping the occupants down to 4 max.
On a daily drive to and from the office, the 4 Series Gran Coupe performs exceptionally well. BMW's 2.0-liter diesels are excellent in terms of refinement. Quiet, has little in the way of vibrations and, when paired with the 8-speed automatic gearbox on comfort setting, this turbodiesel is enjoyable around town. The 420d is very efficient too; at 13.1 km/l in the city and 18.0 km/l on the highway with Eco Pro mode on, you won't be making frequent trips to the fuel station.
Like any BMW, the 420d is a fantastic drive when the road opens up and starts to get challenging. Sure, it's no M or M Sport model, but this car certainly has good throttle response and acceleration. BMW says it can do 0-100 km/h in 7.7 seconds; not bad for a diesel. But really, it's the handling and the way the car feels around a twisty bend.
Find an excuse to turn the 420d Gran Coupe loose on a mountain road and it will prove to you why it deserves the BMW roundel on the hood. The body control, the surefootedness of the tires, and the precision of the steering are all hallmarks of the brand beyond the cosmetic. These are qualities to be truly enjoyed and appreciated by those who really enjoy and appreciate driving.
Without a doubt, the 2016 BMW 420d Gran Coupe is a niche car, and that's fine. The Gran Coupe nicely bridged the gap between the 3 Series sedan and the 4 Series Coupe, showing many of the strengths of both but little -if not none- of the drawbacks.