- Max Speed
Right, pay attention, you lot. The BMW 4 Gran Coupe is a four-door hatchback twin to the BMW 4 coupe, itself a slightly wider, lower 3-Series. Don’t mistake it for the higher, longer-wheelbase hatchbacked 3 Gran Turismo. Or the estate-ier 3 Touring. Or the SUV-ier X4. Confusing, yes, but BMW admits the Audi A5 Sportback caught it with its Bavarian Lederhosen down, so the Gran Coupe is a defensive move.
So first, let’s open the new doors and peer inside. Behind the hatch is a long boot, and it gets longer because the seats fold. Two back doors admit us to a bench that’s shaped for two, but will take three at a pinch. The trouble is headroom. The doors taper inwards towards the centre of the car as they meet the roof, and so grown-ups will bang their heads on the side rails.
Still, that tapered cabin looks good from the outside, as it means the rear wings are sexily flared over the wheels. But, even so, it isn’t as lovely a car as the 6-Series Gran Coupe.
The 4 Gran Coupe drives like a 4-Series Coupe. That is, agile, fluent, fun and well-connected. But, like the coupe, the steering sniffs at cambers, and a coarse road will throw up a fair bit of high-frequency vibration and tyre noise, even though the primary big-bump ride is decently supple. You sit lower in the car than in a 3-Series, and the car is lower to the road, which all helps the feeling of agility. But it feels every inch of its width in tight city streets.
The engine range is taken from the upper end of the palette – nothing below 20i or 20d. We drove the 428i with the eight-speed auto, and it makes a decisively swift job of it, even if the engine can’t always disguise that it has two cylinders fewer than six.
The price is £3,000 more than a same-engined 3 saloon, but then you get most of that back in equipment – Xenons, 18s, leather, full climate and basic nav are all rolled in.
I’m still baffled. Is the 4GC a testament to BMW’s shepherding of its sporty brand, or a case of the emperor’s new clothes? In mass-brand-land, a hatchback Mondeo or Insignia costs the same as a saloon, and is the utility option. BMW, by lowering the roof slightly, turns the hatch into a ‘premium’ choice over the four-door.
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