Take at look at Audi’s growth success, 17 to 50 models in 13 years has resulted in continuous record global sales.
Not to be outdone BMW has followed the same route with their 2 Series, 4 Series and 5 Series infilling between the longstanding 1, 3 and 5-Series. Now BMW has introduced the 4 Series Gran Coupe, a four door version of the two door 4 Series Coupe launched in October 2013 followed by the two door 4 Series Convertible in March 2014.
The four door Gran Coupe with a tailgate for optimum luggage carrying is the third and final model to be added to the 4 Series range although a new X4 will be added to BMW’s X line-up of SUVs. BMW UK said at the media launch that the new 4 Series Gran Coupe is primarily targeted at the fleet/business market and will compete against the Audi A5 Sportback, the Mercedes-Benz CLA and perhaps the VW Passat CC.
BMW’s UK medium cars product manager Natasha Newman said the 4 Series Gran Coupe will contribute around 28,000 sales in its seven year lifetime with 2015 being the peak year of UK sales with around 5,500 registrations. The UK will be the fourth largest global market for the 4 Series Gran Coupe after China, America and Germany.
She added that the Gran Coupe will make up a quarter of all 4 Series sales compared with 45% for the two door Coupe and 30% for the Convertible. Although 60% of UK sales will go to the corporate sector BMW is also expecting the Gran Coupe to appeal to families who want similar practicality to that offered by the 3 Series Saloon with a higher level of standard equipment in a more stylish package.
Initially the Gran Coupe is launched with the choice of three petrol and three diesel engines with four more to be added. When the engine line-up is complete 70% of UK customers will choose a diesel engine. The range will also include xDrive versions which will account for 20% of UK sales. This £1,500 option is a permanent intelligent all wheel drive system which in normal use provides 60% of its driving torque to the rear wheels and 40% to the front but the drive is shuffled automatically to the wheels with the most grip. All models are available with a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic, the latter option being the choice of 40% of UK customers. There is the choice of SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport levels of specification with the M Sport being the most popular choice accounting for 50% of sales.
Prices currently start at £29,425 for the 420i SE and rise to £44,545 for the 435d xDrive
M Sport but as always there is a wide range of extra cost items which will add considerably to those prices. A low CO2 418d turbodiesel engine giving 61.4mpg in the Combined Cycle with 121g/km and a Benefit-in-Kind taxation rate of 19% will appeal to company car drivers pushing up the fleet/business sales level to 60%. The two door 4 Series Coupe has sales of around 40% to business users because of the buying restrictions placed on two door cars by companies. Prices for the 418d, 141hp model with SE specification start from £30,995.
The Gran Coupe is near identical to the 4 Series Coupe from the nose to the A-pillars.
But from there onwards the bodyshell is different with four doors, the B pillar is moved forwards to accommodate the rear side doors, the doors have frameless windows, the roofline is extended and raised at the rear to make it 23mm taller improving rear passenger headroom by 27mm, the boot is 35-litres larger, now 480-litres extending to 1,300-litres, there is an electrically operated tailgate and whereas the Coupe has four seats the Gran Coupe has five. It’s not all good news though although the legroom is sufficient for adult passengers the headroom although improved is limited for six-footers and squeezing for passengers doors into the same overall length of coupe as the two door versions means the doors are quite narrow and I being no ‘skinny rake’ felt it was quite restrictive getting in and out of the Gran Coupe. The B-pillar has been pushed forwards as well to accommodate the rear doors and this has cut into the side vision for the driver at road junctions.
In terms of specification the Gran Coupe is near identical to the 4 Series Coupe, familiar clear and easy to use BMW family instrumentation and controls, lots of high quality soft touch materials, the easy to use intuitive iDrive system, leather upholstery, heated front seats, Bluetooth, computer, air con, cruise control, Eco-Pro driving modes, auto stop-start, brake energy regeneration, electrically operated windows and door mirrors and much more in keeping with its executive coupe status.
The most popular engine overall in the range taking 35% of sales will be the 420d as it is with all 3 and 4 Series derivatives. I tested this engine with the xDrive system with the best selling M Sport level of equipment and this model weighed in at £36,425 with a manual transmission but wandering into the options lists could see a customer spending close to £44,000 for this car. Not taking up the xDrive system would save £1,500 but given the state of our roads, worsening winter weather and the added handling performance it gives all the year around in dry as well as wet conditions it’s worth it. As is the additional £1,690 sport automatic transmission fitted to my test car which gives seamless and well space changes to optimise refined performance and it’s a little faster for the zero to 62mph acceleration time than the six-speed manual version.
The 182bhp produced by this 2.0-litre twin turbo technology direct injection diesel unit is well known and its performance versus fuel economy appreciated. With torque of 280lb ft developed from 1,750rpm the engine is responsive and gives reasonably rapid performance even on twisty roads with the intelligent quick-shifting transmission combined with the xDrive traction impressive. The beauty of this combination of engine and transmission the Gran Coup can be a long-legged family transport cruiser but when needed the driver can indulge in a bit more spirited driving without penalising the fuel economy or being hampered by a stylish but sluggish handling car. Fortunately the suspension settings for the Gran Coupe have been tuned using UK road conditions.
Top speed is 142mph and zero to 62mph takes 7.5 seconds. The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is with the optional larger 19-inch alloy wheels is 56.5mpg with 45.5mpg recorded for my Cotswold country road driving programme. The CO2 emissions are 131g/km so BIK company car tax is rated at 22%.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe is in reality an important strategic addition to the BMW range. It’s not just infilling, it has real potential and is far more practical than the two door version whether the driver has a family or not. Having four doors, even narrow ones, does allow easy access to the rear three seats without the driver and front seat passenger having to get out of the car to let rear seat travellers scramble into the rear. A far more dignified and practical approach to modern executive Coupe ownership.
MILESTONES. BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe 420d, sports auto, xDrive, M Sport. Price: £38,115. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, common-rail, direct injection turbodiesel, 182bhp, 280lb ft (380Nm) of torque from 1,750rpm, 8-speed sports quick-shift auto, xDrive variable torque split permanent all wheel drive. Performance: 142mph, 0-62mph 7.5 seconds, 56.5mpg Combined Cycle 945.5mpg on test), CO2 131g/km, VED road tax £130, BIK tax 22%. Insurance group: 30. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: 4-doors, 5-seats, L 4,638mm, W 1,825mm, H 1,389, boot/load space 480 to 1,300-litres. For: A valuable, classy and versatile addition to the growing BMW range, looks good, drives well, roomy boot, extra doors make it more user friendly than the old
3 Series Coupe and its newer 4 Series replacement. Against: Adding the extra rear side doors has narrowed the door frames marginally restricting access, B-pillars moved forward restricts side line-of-sight for the driver, options will significantly push up the prices. Miles better news agency