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BMW has added yet another model to its range, this time a 4 Series Gran Coupe (without the 'd' on the end of grand to give a continental ring to the name).
It's the latest competitor in one of the fastest growing market segments globally, that of 'premium midrange class'. These are five-door hatchbacks with stylish rear ends that add a real touch of sportiness. The terms 'four-door coupe' and 'five-door coupe' has been created to describe them.
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe joins the three-door 4 Series Coupe (without the Gran) and is a small brother to the 6 Series Gran Coupe. (If you've been out of the automotive scene for a while you may not have heard the news that what used to be called the BMW 3 Series sports models have been renamed the 4 Series.)
BMW's new model competes head on with the Audi A5 Sportback, but surprisingly Mercedes-Benz has the CLA-Class and CLS-Class which are slightly smaller and a little larger respectively than the new Bimmer.
The shape of the new Gran Coupe is exceptionally good to our eyes. The front is as expected, with the current BMW full-width theme created by the headlights being joined to the headlights. In profile the five-door retains the same theme of the three-door Gran Coupe, but the extra length of the roof makes it really stand out. We like the 'gills' on the front guards and the deep swage lines in the doors. The tailgate is large and gives good access to the rear luggage area, which is slightly larger than the volume in the three-door.
No attempt has been made to hide the fact that the 4 Gran has back doors, as has been done in some similar vehicles.
The interior styling theme is similar to that of others in the 3 and 4 Series models, with a concentration on the driver's area having a cockpit feel. There's an airy feel and the materials are of a high quality and crafted very well.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
A good range is on offer: four-cylinder turbo-petrol 2.0-litre units with power outputs of 135 or 180 kW depending on the state of tune; a straight-six 3.0-litre with 225 kW; and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four with 135 kW. It's interesting that the petrol and diesel engines have the same power outputs, but the latter's 380 Nm of torque greatly exceeds the 270 Nm from the petrol.
All sit in front of eight-speed automatic transmissions with sports tuning. A six-speed manual gearbox is a no-charge option from the factory, though it doesn't seem likely we will see many (if any) in Australia.
All models have a full range of crash prevention equipment. Better still the car can ring for help if it experiences a collision and even give the medical services an estimate of the severity of injuries to occupants in advance of them reaching the car.
Naturally the 4 Series Gran Coupe easily qualified as a five-star car in tests carried out to European NCAP standards.
BMW continues to be one of the leaders in the fields of information and entertainment technology. Its second generation Connected Drive Service and Apps system has its own Sim card so the vehicle can communicate in some circumstances without the need to pair it to a smartphone.
The convenience of being able plan a route for the satellite navigation on your home or office computer then send it to the car's sat-nav is much appreciated.
As well as automatically calling for help in a crash involving the vehicle (see 'Safety' above) any occupant in the vehicle can be manually told to contact authorities, giving information of the location of an incident to a third party.
Interior space is good in the front and the seats have good support built in. The extended roof of the five-door Gran Coupe over the three-door 4 Series Coupe makes for better headroom in the rear, but it may still prove marginal for taller travellers. Rear legroom is fine.
A five-door family hatchback normally doesn't provide the sort of satisfaction the excellent handling dynamics the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe does. Road holding is assisted by a balanced body, feedback through the steering wheel and the driver's backside is excellent and safety is enhanced by the sheer ability of this car.
Noise and vibration are generally well insulated from the interior, though some of the coarse-chip surfaces we encountered did challenge the BMW's suspension at times.
Our initial road testing out of Melbourne was done in the two higher powered models, the 428i and 435i. Both have loads of torque from low revs, with the turbocharged four-door 428i coming close to matching the six-cylinder non turbo 435i. To be honest, unless we had plenty of money to spare the lower cost 428i would more than satisfy our driving needs.
The addition of yet another model to the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series range gives buyers a staggering number of choices. Obviously it comes down to personal choice, but we feel the 4 Gran Coupe has just the right balance between sportiness and practicality, so it would be the one we would opt for.