2015 BMW 435i Gran Coupe
How much? From $109,000
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder. 225kW/400Nm
Fuel use: 7.6L/100km
Emissions: 178g CO2/km
What do you get?The 4-Series Gran Coupe range mirrors the regular Coupe range. Prices start at the same $70,000 plus on-road costs for the base 420i petrol, graduating to the $72,300 420d diesel and $81,000 428i petrol, all available with the same choice of ‘Sport Line’, ‘Modern Line’ or ‘Luxury Line’ trims. Only the topline 435i tested here differs from its two-door sibling, kicking off at $109,000 rather than $108,530.
All models are well equipped, getting a sat nav/infotainment system, leather trim, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, power tailgate, 18-inch alloys and eight-speed auto. Safety features include six airbags, stability control, an anticipatory pre-collision protective system, parking sensors and a reversing camera. The 4 Series hasn’t been assessed by the ANCAP crash-test regime but 3 Series models are rated five stars and there’s little reason to expect it to be fundamentally different.
428i models step things up over their 420i brethren with a more powerful turbo petrol four, sports suspension (with 10mm lower ride height and adjustable damping) and 19-inch alloys. The 435i gets a turbo petrol six and adds a hands-free feature for the power tailgate, keyless entry (all models get push-button start), an even more powerful harman/kardon stereo, variable-ratio sport steering and ‘M Sport’ trim package (an extra-cost package for other models).
What's inside?The Gran Coupe shares most of its exterior dimensions with its Coupe sibling, but its roofline sits 12mm higher and stretches 112mm further back. That, and the improved access from the rear doors, make it more friendly for occupants in the back than a two-door but it’s not quite a mainstream sedan. Leg and foot space are adequate but head space is on the tight side for taller folk and it doesn’t have the width for serious three-adult hauling (BMW calls it a ‘2+1’ rear bench).
It takes the high ground, though, when it comes to sheer practicality. While the boot’s 480-litre capacity isn’t staggeringly large, the wide-opening hatch means every bit of space is easily accessed and right there in front of you. The back seat, too, splits three-ways (40/20/40) and folds almost flat, opening up a vast 1300-litre space that's capable of swallowing bigger objects with ease.
The Gran Coupe’s practical pretensions don't spoil the sporting mood up front, where it looks and feels the same as the Coupe. So it rates highly for seating comfort, adjustability and storage, and for the user-friendliness of the instruments, monitors and switchgear. If the ambience lacks the razzle dazzle of some prestige contenders, it doesn’t skimp in terms of a quality feel. Under the bonnet The topline Gran Coupe runs BMW’s familiar 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder petrol/eight-speed auto combo. It’s not inordinately powerful or torquey but it dusts most obvious six-cylinder alternatives for pace (0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds) and thrift (7.6L/100km). A lean 1545kg kerb weight helps its cause
It’s not without appeal in the real world either. The turbo six’s wide-arching flexibility and responsiveness, combined with the eight-speed auto’s seamless blend of smarts and smoothness, mean there are no holes in its performance artillery. It relishes a good workout like a thoroughbred yet has the lazy shove to make everyday dribbling about a totally effortless experience. The noise it makes is pretty nice, too, if maybe not as pervasive as you might expect of something slathered in ‘M’ badges.
The downside of an engine this gutsy and engaging is it isn’t easy to match the official economy numbers. We logged a slightly disappointing 10.3L/100km average in combined urban/highway driving, in spite of a very fluent auto stop/start feature. On the roadThe Gran Coupe has all the ingredients necessary for being satisfying to drive. It has powerful brakes and the steering is responsive and accurate. It dives into and powers out of corners with authority, and its innate balance, grip and poise don't wither in the face of deteriorating surfaces or ham-fisted inputs.
Its sporting qualities don’t come at the cost of comfort. While the ride gives a faithful reading of the road surface, even bigger impacts are nicely rounded off. BMW’s ‘Driving Experience Control’ system, which in the 435i alters the suspension as well as the engine/transmission settings, allows you to firm things up for more sporting endeavours, but even in these modes it’s far from harsh. The Gran Coupe not especially quiet, though, with its 19-inch rubber piping up considerably whenever the road surface turns coarse.
VerdictIt’s not impossible to imagine scenarios where the 4 Series Gran Coupe is inferior to its closely related siblings. Perhaps you regularly carry strapping types in the back, in which case the 3 Series sedan might make more sense. Or maybe you’re a traditionalist who looks dimly on the current brand of Clayton’s coupes, in which case the two-door 4 Series would be more appropriate. The Gran Coupe, though, is quite possibly more attractive than either of those BMWs and – minor back-seat compromises aside – more practical and easier to live with too. It has the same robust driving, underbonnet and other credentials that cast it in a very positive light in more general competition terms.
All of which means the Gran Coupe might actually be the sweet spot of the 3/4 Series range and the logical choice for a whole lot of buyers, even if they might struggle to explain to their friends exactly what it is they’ve bought.
What's it got:
Six airbags; Stability control; Parking sensors; Reversing camera; Dual-zone climate control; Power front seats; Satellite navigation; CD/DVD/MP3 stereo with hard-drive storage; Bluetooth; 19-inch alloys