Is the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe just a 3 Series with a sloping roofline and hatchback tailgate? We spent some time with the turbopetrol-powered 420i to find out...
We like: Better looking than a 3 Series, handling, fuel efficiency
We don’t like: Rear headroom, middling engine performance
For something similar: The Audi A5 Sportback is an all new car rather than a facelift, like the 4 Series. The A5 has the best interior in class and its chassis is superbly comfortable.
For something with more style: If you’re looking for style then you probably can’t afford to ignore the Alfa Romeo Giulia. The new car is excellent to drive and will no doubt stand out more than its more common German foes.
For something with a different personality: The Jaguar XE appeals to individualists with a well-sorted chassis and comfortable ride. There is a greater sense of occasion to the driving experience, but the interior isn't as well designed or built as the Germans.
Facts & Figures
Price: R670 698 (August 2017)
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 135 kW
Torque: 270 Nm
Fuel consumption: 5.5 L/100 km (claimed)
0-100 kph: 7.7 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 236 kph (claimed)
A styling 3
A better looking 3 Series, right? Our test team is surprised that we don't see more of these 4-door coupes on the road...
Compared with the popular 3 Series sedan, the BMW 4 Series offers something with a little more style to harness BMW’s famed dynamics. The sloping rear roofline gives it a coupe look, but in the case of this Gran Coupe, BMW still squeezes in 2 rear doors. So yes, it is a 3 Series but in a sexier shape. The facelifted version has tried to separate the two siblings with the 4 featuring stiffer suspension settings and more direct steering.
The idea behind it being to give the 4 Series a more dynamic character to go with its sporty coupe looks. What we have here, on test, is the 420i auto, the entry-level offering into the 4 Series range.
The interior has received a few material upgrades (as is the custom with facelift models). The infotainment screen has improved resolution and graphics, more high gloss material is used to border the centre stack of dials, the sports steering wheel has been upgraded and there’s an optional digital instrument display available – like the one offered in the new 5 Series.
Stepping into a 4 Series evokes a greater sense of excitement than a 3 Series. There’s something about it that says "you did things a little differently" and "didn’t follow the crowd", but you still want to be associated with premium BMW-ness. In this exclusive 4 Series Snapper Rocks blue colour, the 420i Gran Coupe certainly looks the part...
The rear of the 4 Series Gran Coupe acts like a hatchback, offering more loading space than the 3 Series.
The increased suspension stiffness availed by the specification of the M Sport package (on this test unit) has aided the 4 Series’ handling abilities as it corners flatter and faster than its more popular 4-door sibling. The increased agility hasn’t affected the ride comfort at all and, on the average commute, comfort mode is sufficiently pliant. Bumps are neatly soaked up and even with the run-flat tyres, the ride is reasonably forgiving.
The steering has also been improved to deliver more feel to the driver. While an electrically assisted steering setup, in general, is not great at providing feel and feedback to the driver, the 420i felt quite well connected to the road with a meaty weighting to the turn.
Turbopetrol engines have a come a long way since they first hit the mass market around a decade ago (BMW's N54 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight 6 was an early protagonist). In those days, we saw real world consumption figures that were near double that of manufacturers' claims. This 2.0-litre turbo ls claimed to consume 5.5 L/100 km. While we couldn’t quite match it we were impressed with the indicated 6.7 L/100 km after 2 weeks of hard testing.
2.0-litre turbopetrol engine is particularly fuel efficient.
It’s not often we say that a BMW feels down on power, but after the initial surge of torque is done, the engine gives up on acceleration and sounds like it’s being overworked. With 135 kW and 270 Nm of torque, the 420i should feel reasonably sporty, but it struggles to deliver performance thrills that can test its dynamic capabilities. It’s 7.7-second claimed 0-100 kph sounds brisk, but the 420i feels stressed and unhappy to be pushed to the redline. That said, the fast-shifting 8-speed Sports Auto ‘box does an excellent job of delivering near imperceptible shifts up and down the gears.
Interior design not quite as exciting as the exterior but feels special enough with the optional digital cluster.
Rear passenger room
You can’t expect to have the same levels of passenger room as a 3 Series with such a provocatively sloping coupe roofline. The 4 Series cuts off some of the headroom of rear passengers and anyone over 1.75 metres tall is likely to notice how close their heads are to the roof lining. Legroom remains fair, however and the luggage bay in a 4 Series is identical to that of a 3 Series at 480 litres. A benefit of the Gran Coupe’s design is that it’s effectively a hatchback and provides you with a much larger loading area once the rear seats are folded down.
Pricing and warranty
BMW offers the same warranty and maintenance plan across all its models. There’s a 2yr/unlimited km warranty and a 5yr/100 000 km maintenance plan. The 420i Gran Coupe range starts from R604 796 and this 420i Gran Coupe M Sport sports auto costs R670 698 before options.
Simply put: the 4 Series is a 3 Series for the discerning buyer. BMW makes excellent cars, but given that the 3 Series represents better value for money, it's the better-selling product. The 4 adds a touch of spice into the design and its added sporty handling characteristics are a welcome separation between the 2 models. However, in something that looks as good as a 4 Series it seems the standard 20i (2.0-litre) turbocharged engine doesn’t deliver on the design and chassis’ promise. The 4 Series Gran Coupe commands an R80 000 premium over the 3 Series so it makes sense to choose it with a higher powered version, where the added cost is a smaller percentage of the price and you won’t feel short-changed by the power.