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First drive: BMW 420d xDrive Gran Coupé M Sport. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 420d xDrive Gran Coupé M Sport
The niche-busting goes on, as BMW offers yet another executive car that straddles boundaries - the 4x4 Gran Coupé.

 



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| First Drive | Southrop, England | BMW 420d xDrive Gran Coupé M Sport |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

BMW's 420d xDrive Gran Coupé promises a blend of many attributes - the rakish styling of a genuine coupé, the practicality of a proper saloon and the sort of mechanical grip that should mean all-weather driving is a doddle. But it's not quite as exciting to drive as you might wish.

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW 420d xDrive Gran Coupé M Sport Note that the images are of an SE model...)
Pricing: £36,160 basic; £43,525 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door coupé
Rivals: Audi A5 Sportback, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Volkswagen CC
CO2 emissions: 131g/km
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 142mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Power: 184hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 380Nm from 1,750- to 2,750rpm

In the Metal: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The Gran Coupé looks great to these eyes, a much better execution of distorting the BMW 4 Series genealogy into something quirky than the Gran Turismo's bloated take on a 3 Series. It comes as a shock when BMW insists this car has the same wheelbase, width and length as a 4 Series Coupé; you find yourself staring at it so hard to prove them wrong, you end up with a headache. It looks longer, yet without being ungainly.

The trick is in that roofline, which is 12mm higher - coupled with front doors that are shorter than those on the Coupé; the GC manages to make the back bench more accommodating for proper six-foot adults. You can actually seat three in the rear, in what BMW dubs a '2+1' configuration, but it's going to be nicer as an executive four-seater. There's also a huge boot, as big as a 3 Series Saloon's with the seats in place at 480 litres, and all 4 GCs will be fitted with automatic tailgate opening and closing as standard. The rest of the interior is typical BMW - i.e. brilliant, but if you want it in top spec, options are a little pricey.

Driving it: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

We drove our 420d xDrive in top-ranking M Sport trim, but the lingering suspicion is a lesser Luxury or SE model might be a better bet for the Gran Coupé. This is because, sadly, it's not that involving a car to drive fast. Sure, there's wonderful heft to a lot of the major controls, such as the steering and brakes, while the optional eight-speed Sport auto transmission with paddle shifts (£1,690) is faultless. The GC also utilises the extra traction offered by the xDrive system to offset its circa 70kg weight gain over a rear-driver to post a respectable and very believable 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds; if anything, it feels even more urgent than that.

However, the 2.0-litre diesel engine is a trifle noisy and the ride never quite settles down into relaxing compliance. The ever-present, slightly nervous sensation of quick damping rebound means the Gran Coupé can't filter out a corrugated road surface. Bizarrely, a back-to-back subjective test with a 428i GC in exactly the same M Sport trim, with the same wheels and the same auto gearbox, didn't present this issue; it had a smoother ride and longer frequency body movements after encountering surface imperfections. We can only presume the 420's xDrive weight penalty was the cause, because BMW insists the suspension, damper and anti-roll bar settings are identical on GCs, whether they're rear- or all-wheel drive.

Powering out of tight curves or junctions, barrelling into a bend, adjusting your line on the throttle mid-corner - the xDrive shuffles torque around seamlessly to ensure dry-weather grip is phenomenal. But it's all just a bit anodyne. You make rapid progress and in the wet it would leave a rear-wheel drive BMW for dead, but we think we'd prefer a two-wheel drive version. True, the Gran Coupé is supposed to be more cruising-orientated and popular with the corporate customer (read: company car driver) but there is still a blue and white propeller on the bonnet. Filling endless niches is all well and good, but when it starts diluting a brand's core DNA, we tend to feel a tad uneasy about it.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

The decision to price the Gran Coupé at exactly the same level as the Coupé models is an odd but brave move by BMW, so we're not complaining. The problem is, while the M Sport we tested was indeed loaded with equipment and a very pleasant thing in which to cover miles, it cost nigh on £44,000. For a 2.0-litre diesel that's not that exciting to drive. BMW is only pricing them to match the competition, so it shouldn't be singled out for criticism, but it's still a lot of money for something that's not that entertaining. The xDrive tech, by the way, adds £1,500 to the price of any model/engine combination.

There's another problem, too, and that's the sheer wealth of choice on offer from BMW alone. Excluding the X-range of out-and-out SAVs, there are now 22 xDrive-equipped cars in the UK line-up - and the vast majority of those are 3- and 4 Series models. As a private buyer, the mental 'yes/no' flowchart you'd have to run through to end up at an all-wheel drive coupé-cum-saloon with a diesel engine and auto transmission would have to be pretty convoluted. Sales of this car are reliant on buyers not being interested in an X3 or X4. Or an all-wheel drive 3 Series, in any of its three body styles. Or a proper 4 Series Coupé.

Worth Noting

Between them, the BMW 420d and 420d xDrive are expected to cream 35 per cent of Gran Coupé sales. And of these 420ds, 80 per cent will be rear-drive and the rest four-wheel drive. A 418d model is offered, which is expected to skew in favour of company cars, where it offers appeal to fleet users who are not allowed two-door models, but who want something sporty. In total, BMW UK is hoping to shift 5,500 4 Series Gran Coupés in the first year of sales.

Summary

There's nothing massively wrong with the new BMW 420d xDrive Gran Coupé - it's handsome and a really clever amalgamation of design and packaging, it has a lovely interior, strong drivetrain and the ability to transport four people and plenty of clobber over long distances in relative ease. The complications are that it isn't cheap, the chassis lacks the sublime polish of BMW's finer productions and there's a lot of all-wheel drive choice not just in the wider market, but within BMW's own showrooms. The company predicts just a quarter of all 4 Series sold in the UK will have four doors - but we reckon it might be even less than that.


Matt Robinson - 9 Jul 2014









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2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by Max Earey.



2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 

2014 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Image by BMW.
 






 

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