BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé: First drive in a more practical 4 Series

The Gran Coupé is the third model in the 4 Series family. We've previously driven, and loved, the regular BMW 4-Series Coupé and the BMW 4-Series Convertible models, so we had high expectations for the Gran Coupé. And it delivered.

Slipping into the driver's seat in the M Sport edition of the Gran Coupé reveals a familiar landscape if you've been in either of the other models. This is, up to the A pillar, the same car. But the shorter front doors give space for all the changes going on behind you.

Yes, the Gran Coupé brings back doors to the 4 Series, which BMW admits is a direct competitor for the Audi A5. We think the Audi A5 is one of the nicest looking cars on the road, even if it's getting a little old. Here, the Gran Coupé takes on the A5 Sportback.

In terms of design, the Gran Coupé has the same stance as the regular 4 Series Coupé; it's the same length and width, has the same low, muscular, sporty looks, but offers a different rear roofline. It has a hatchback tailgate, slightly longer windows for more rear light, and more headroom for your rear passengers. 

That hatchback scores a point against the A5 because it's powered, even if the release button in the driver's cockpit is somewhere around knee level. However, push the button and the back will open up; hit the button on the tailgate and it will close itself down again, which is a nice tick in the premium feature box. 

Because the tailgate is hatch style rather than saloon style, you get a bigger opening, making it easier to heft in those suitcases.

In the rear the Gran Coupé also gives you three seatbelts, rather than the two-seat arrangement of the Coupé. It's not a "real" sculpted seat like the others, but if you want to strap an extra bottom to that bump in the middle you can.

There's enough room to be comfortable in the rear of the 4 Series and what the Gran Coupé really offers over the other models is practicality. This is the model you'll want if you're regularly carrying passengers or have a family. 

It even comes with the benefit of offering 25-litres of extra luggage capacity than the Coupé, a small win for those needing to load up the car, be that with nappies or flipcharts.

This nod to practicality is all done without losing the good looks and sporty stance of the 4 Series, so it’s a car that sticks to its principles. That's true of the experience on the road too: there's very little difference in performance between the Coupé and Gran Coupé and they start at the same price too, around £29k.

That means - excluding the Convertible - that you can simply pick the Gran Coupé if you need the back doors, without thinking you might be missing out, or paying over the odds against the regular Coupé.

Those looking for a more economical drive might be swayed towards the diesel. We tested the 420d xDrive model with manual gearbox. It low speeds - in normal driving you might say - this could be any modern diesel engine. In that sense, it's what you'd expect from a 2-litre diesel. 

But put your foot down and it spins up nicely offering plenty of power and a little more excitement. You might find that the slightly pricier autobox, promising greater efficiency, is a smart upgrade over the manual.

We mentioned xDrive, which is BMW's all wheel drive system. You might traditionally think of BMW for its rear-wheel drive predisposition, but xDrive will automatically balance the front and rear driving wheels to give you the best conditions for the road.

Again, xDrive squares-up to Audi's Quattro system, and BMW reports that in the UK it's been rather popular over the 18-months it has been available as an option outside of the X models.

In the time we had in the xDrive equipped car - on sunny roads around the Cotswolds - we can't say we taxed it, but having seen stranded Beemers inelegantly spinning their back wheels trying to get over snowy suburban speed bumps, we can see the appeal. You won't be doing doughnuts in the Sainsbury's car park, but you'll have the advantage in adverse conditions.

Slipping into the familiar and striking Estoril blue of the M Sport, we put the 428i through its paces. It might not have the straight six appeal of the 435i, but it will still make you grin like an idiot. Perhaps a slightly smaller grin than if you'd opted for the pricer, more powerful engine, but we love the purr and the performance from the 428i when you put your foot down.

Those things we loved about the Coupé and the Convertible are still found in the Gran Coupé. It's a lovely car to drive. It's comfortable and refined, it handles excellently on the road and is dripping in quality.

You get lots of features as standard - such as leather seats, Xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors - and there's a range of options to help you spend your cash. The £825 heads-up display leaves an instant impact and is less common on cars in this class, helping you keep your eyes on the road.

As a challenger to the A5, the BMW 4 Series delivers in all its guises. This final addition, the Gran Coupé, is the most practical everyday car of the 4 Series family, but it manages to do so without losing its identity.