Meet your new best driving friend: a dinky sports car with virtual reality
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£68,755 when new
Ah, the Gran Coupe. That’ll be a two-door for your Nan? Purleeze. In BMW language, a GC is a four-door coupe-ish thing. In this case a version of the ritzy 8 Series coupe, with added doors. It’s not just some lazy stretch job. Every exterior panel is different aft of the windscreen. The front doors are longer, the rear doors simply exist, the wheelbase is longer, the roof is higher. The rear track is a fraction wider, mostly for design reasons. Even the boot lid and rear wings are new, enclosing extra litres in a longer rear overhang. Looks good? Hmmm. The proportions are pretty sensational. Long, low and broad-hipped. The trouble is in the surfaces and lines. The side has a pair aimless creases above and below the door handles, and that angular rear door-window outline just doesn’t quite work. Maybe go for a dark colour.
And you didn’t much like the 8 Series Coupe. I’m having trouble summoning the energy to read on… Ah well, actually, I find myself warming to the Gran Coupe. It seems to be the correct expression of the 8 Series idea. How so? Well the Coupe never really feels like a sports car. It’s too heavy and remote. But it doesn’t have the drop-dead visual loveliness to justify its place among the sportyish-coupe rivals. The Gran Coupe has enough space to be useful, and if it doesn’t feel like a sports car at least it feels notably more nimble that a conventional big German saloon. OK, since the back seat is the new bit, what’s it like? They call this car a four plus one. There are three sets of rear belts but you wouldn’t want to be strapped into the middle. Headroom is tiny, and your legs have to splay outside the standard full-length rear centre console. That console is home to full climate control, vents, USBs, storage and so on. So it’s a well-equipped den for the two in the outer rear seats. Because the wheelbase is 20cm longer than in the coupe, they get comfy chairs with enough room for legs and heads. It’s not a lolling-about space like the back of a limo though. You’re held snugly as the driver in front chucks the car around. Why would they do that? Because compared with most saloons, it doesn’t mind a bit of chuckage. It feels low, the springing is firmer than a 5 Series, and the whole package is grippy and well-balanced and damped, if rather numb. You know, like the 8 Series Coupe. There’s nothing lost in the stretch. I drove the 840i, which is the only one of the range (840i, 840d and M850i) that you can have with rear-drive. That saves 90kg, and sharpens up the turning responses, as does having the lightest engine. Besides, 340bhp is hardly feeble, and delivery is smooth and enthusiastic. A really classy engine, and it goes hand-in-glove with the eight-speed auto. Normal BMW advantages then. Ah, and normal BMW cabin design. Yep, that’s an issue. The dash and instruments and centre screen system are beautifully made and ergonomically excellent. Especially as a head-up display is standard here to mitigate BMW’s unreadable new polygonal dials. But all of this is just what you get in any BMW from the new 3 Series upward. House style is all very well, but at this price level we find ourselves wanting something more special. Mind you it’s not such a problem with the 840i sDrive, at £69,340, than it is with the M850i xDrive which goes against a Panamera or AMG GT4. Still, BMW expects the Gran Coupe will outsell the Coupe and Convertible combined, and to be honest we can see why. It’s a more natural and less contradictory car than the Coupe. 7/10
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