Delightfully polished powertrains and chassis, in a body that's versatile enough for most needs
Those nostrils, again
What is it?
It's like a regular BMW 4 Series Coupe, but as the name implies you can put your Gran in the back. Versus the two-door car it has another pair of doors, and a hatchback.
In a 4 Series two-door, the only grandmother who'd get in the rear would be the one you'd collect from seniors yoga class. She'd need to wriggle through the front door and past the front seat. But actually she'd then find OK legroom. Indeed the Gran Coupe has no more length overall nor in the wheelbase than the two-door Coupe. But apart from easier access, the Gran Coupe gives more headroom, and a third seatbelt. Plus a useful split-fold rear seat/boot.
Styling is a personal thing, and most of us don't think this generation of 4 Series is as good looking as the last one. But the Gran Coupe has a more elegant flow to it than today's two-door, so we'll take that as a win.
C'MON, IT'S JUST A 3 SERIES SALOON, BUT WITH A HATCH
Well, that would be OK: the 3 is a great car. But all 4 Series have a wider track. Which means more grip and a better-looking stance. It's 70kg heavier than a 3 Series Touring with an equivalent engine. And the swollen width comes at the expense of wieldiness on narrow roads. This is a big car: 4.8m long and 1.85m wide without the mirrors. Still, it's low slung and looks greedy for tarmac.
People seem to like the idea of the Gran Coupe. Out of every four 4 Series sold, one is a Coupe, one a Cabrio and two a GC.
All 4 Series have longitudinal front engines and eight-speed autos. The 420i is a four-cylinder petrol with rear-drive, and the 430i is similar but with a very handy 245bhp. The diesel used to be a company-car default, but no more. (Strange then that so far there's no PHEV 4 Series.) Anyway, the 420d can be had as rear-drive or, to tame its big torque, four-wheel-drive.
If you want a proper tuneful muscly BMW straight-six petrol, you need the M440i xDrive. It makes 374bhp and has the sort of horizon-magnetising performance that you very seldom exhaust.
AND HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Because it's the same size as the Coupe, the Gran Coupe drives in the same way. Which is absolutely no bad thing.
The engines are the smoothest of their kinds. The autobox shift points are calibrated to happen in almost supernatural harmony.
The steering is resolute and accurate, the grip stout as you could reasonably ask. The only engines that might easily upset the rear grip can't do so because they come with four-wheel-drive. So everything is contained and dignified. No skidding here.
The current generation of 4 Series is a tightly sprung car that likes smooth roads. It copes well with dips and crests, but it's firm and jiggly when the surface is rough.
What's the verdict?
BMW isn't as consistent as it was. Too many BMWs these days are intrinsically ugly and ill-conceived.
This stands in marked contrast to those pratfalls. It's a car that manages to do pretty well everything right. The concept is good: an elegant but useful sporty car. The execution is better than good: superb powertrains, enjoyable but relatively civilised chassis, well-made and useable cabin.
Get the right paint colour and it's even easy to ignore those much-loathed nostrils.
Nothing in the BMW range stretches a band across the three legs of drivability, style and practicality like the 4 Series Gran Coupe. And that means pretty well nothing from any other factory either.