Previously on EngageSportMode we’ve talked about the confusing nature of BMW’s ever-expanding model lineup. Much like Mercedes-Benz ten years ago, BMW seems hell-bent on filling every single niche possible in the passenger car market. The biggest change in the Munich firm’s strategy has been to introduce its new numbering system, with even numbers representing sporty coupé models, with the odd numbers left for the more straight-laced saloons and estates (sorry, Tourings). So just what on earth is a 4 Series Gran Coupé with
five four doors meant to be?
Realistically, it was only a matter of time. We’ve already been down this road 18 months ago with the 6 Series Gran Coupé, and the M variant of that too. We’ll also most likely have to travel it again with the 2 Series as well. Don’t get ESM wrong, we understand that brands have to diversify and explore new ideas; BMW couldn’t stay producing similar looking saloons forever. Just ask Jaguar … But with the 4 Series Gran Coupé ESM really finds itself struggling to understand why BMW needs this, the 3 Series Saloon and the Gran Turismo version in the same lineup. But before we attempt, or fail, to get to the bottom of this conundrum, just what is the 4 Series Gran Coupé when it’s at home then?
BMW would like you to know that the new 4 Series Gran Coupé is officially a sporty ‘four door’ which combines the looks of a coupé with the practicality of a saloon. It’s based on the regular 4 Series Coupé two door, which in itself is an offshoot of the four door 3 Series saloon. So here we have a four door derivative of a two door, which was originally based on a four door. Confused? Well done if you’re not, which probably also means you’re from BMW’s marketing department – hello there! ESM also takes a little bit of an exception to the Gran Coupé being referred to as a ‘four door’ when one of the press images shows this:
Yes, in the vernacular of the rest of the car world that would be a hatchback, thus making it a five door. But according to BMW, it is not a hatchback, it’s a boot. Like a sedan, or a coupé has, and certainly nothing like the big rear aperture of the 3 Series Gran Turismo. Nothing like that at all. It is, however, powered and can be opened automatically. Size wise, the Gran Coupé sits on the regular 4 Series platform, which means it measures just over 4.6 metres long; and just 14mm longer than the 3 Series saloon. The wheelbase of all the 3 Series and 4 Series models is the same at 2.8 metres, which would lead us to believe leg room is probably quite similar. Oh, and the boot capacity of 480 litres is identical to the Saloon, and 35 litres bigger than the normal Coupé. Although that’s down on the 520 litres of the slightly larger 3 Series GT. This isn’t getting any clearer really is it?
In another twist of marketing pizzazz, it’s worth considering that the Gran Coupé (we’re calling it the GC from now on) is classed as a 4+1 seater by BMW. This is meant to evoke images of 2+2 ‘real’ coupés with their occasional rear seats, but is based on BMW calling the back seating 2+1 in the GC. What this means, in reality, is two normal rear seats and an awkward ‘upholstered console surface’ between them which can be used as a chair if really needed. In short, it’s likely anyone sitting in the +1 seat will wish they had walked, unless it’s just for a simple 5 minute journey to the pub. Those seats can be folded flat to give a voluminous 1,300 litres of luggage space, which is apparently a class best for ‘premium four-door coupés’ according to BMW. See, it’s not a saloon. Or a hatchback, remember!
Underneath the body, the technology is similar to that used across the 3/4 Series range, and by similar we mean virtually identical. Petrol engine choices currently consist of turbo four-cylinders in 184 bhp 420i or 245 bhp 428i flavour, with the six-cylinder turbo 435i sat top of the pile with 306 bhp. Diesel choices are limited at launch to the 143 bhp 418d or 184 bhp 420d for the time being, both of which achieve an official 60 mpg+ combined. A 435d xDrive delivering 313 bhp and a 430d with 258 bhp will join the range later in the year.
Six-speed manual gearboxes come as standard on all, with the option of that wonderful 8-speed ZF sport automatic ‘box available. The 420d can also be had with BMW’s xDrive 4WD system should the mood so take you. Dynamically the GC is said to retain the torsional stiffness of the two door model, with weight increasing only slightly with the extra set of, frameless, doors. Suspension settings are tuned to be sportier than the 3 Series Saloon, but supple enough for everyday usage. Performance ranges from the rather quick 5.5 seconds 0-62 mph of the 435i, to the more relaxed 9.2 seconds for the same sprint in the 418d.
Trim levels are the same as the 4 Series Coupé, with SE, Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport specifications avaliable. Whatever option is picked, the kit count is high, with front and rear parking sensors, automatic Xenon lights and auto wipers fitted as standard on the outside. On the inside, all versions get Dakota leather upholstery with heated front seats, two-zone air conditioning, a Sport multi-function steering wheel, DAB radio and iDrive controller with a 6.5″ colour screen. Not bad.
Perhaps more impressively is, that despite the extra doors and large hatchback (sorry, boot), pricing for the GC remains identical to the two door Coupé. The 420i SE kicks things off at £29,420 OTR, with the GC range currently topping out with the £41,155 435i Luxury. For comparison a 320i SE Saloon costs substantially less at £27,900 OTR, with the equivalent 3 Series GT model on offer at £29,200. Based on previous BMW form, ESM wouldn’t bet against an M4 Gran Coupé working it’s way into the mix down the line.
So, having worked through the above, are we any closer to understanding just what the 4 Series Gran Coupé is and what it wants from us? Well, yes potentially, but at the expense of wondering if there is really the need for the 3 Series Saloon and 4 Series GC in the same range. Given that both models are the same size, offer similar practicality, have the same engine/trim options and are only differentiated on price, you’d really need to love the styling of the GC to feel the need to spend an extra £1,520 on it.
Realistically, were it not for the fact the 3 Series Saloon is a stalwart staple of the BMW lineup, surely Munich would be best served by dispensing with the Saloon and offering only the Gran Coupé? It’s undoubtedly better looking, just as useful and potentially more profitable for BMW. But doing so would undermine the firm’s new badging strategy and leave the 3 Series range consisting of just the GT and Touring models. So we’re genuinely struggling with this one; the 3/4 Series range now makes less sense due to the fact the 4 GC answers a question nobody was really asking. Plus, if styling is so important, then surely making the Saloon more rakish in the first place would kill two birds with one Bavarian stone? We’re not going to even pretend to know the answer, or even sure if there is one, to this question.
All we do know is that the 4 Series Gran Coupé will be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on the 4th March, with sales starting in the UK from the 21st June 2014. Form an orderly queue, just make sure you don’t buy a 3 Series Saloon by accident. More information is available on the BMW UK website, where the 4 GC is currently described as being a Power Dresser, which begs all sorts of questions for how they would describe an off-road crossover version, but we digress. BMW, we at EngageSportMode want to love your products, just stop making it so damn confusing! It’s not us, it’s you.