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The 4 Series Gran Coupe aims to combine saloon luxury with coupe styling and performance. But does it pull it off?
Coupes aren't as one dimensional as they used to be. Whereas the c-word would usually spell out reduced efficiency, practicality and overall family-friendliness, there are tonnes of cars nowadays that aim to bridge the gap. Included in the breed of more liveable coupe creations is the Mercedes CLA, Audi A5 Sportback and indeed the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.
The 4 Series Gran Coupe - not to be confused with the three-door 4 Series Coupe - is essentially a halfway house between a saloon and traditional coupe, with sporty exterior styling and performance petrol options, as well as five doors and a hatchback boot.
There's no denying the Gran Coupes' mix of DNA in the cabin, as you sit low to the ground, with a tech-laden dashboard wrapped around you. All round cabin quality is excellent too, with soft touch everything and only a slight whiff of cheaper plastics lower down. The dash remains free from button clutter too - although BMW has insisted on keeping radio station shortcut controls for some unknown reason.
The main attraction is the 10.3in infotainment system, which can be seamlessly controlled via the centre console's rotary dial, although it can be used as a touchscreen too. When combined with the system's simple menu layouts and the fully-digitised instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, the Gran Coupe has one of the most intuitive and practical in-car tech set-ups around.
Although you'll have to duck your head a little and graze your backend on the wheel arch when climbing into the rear, leg and headroom is in abundance when you actually sit in. Overall comfort is slightly reduced for middle passengers, but two will travel in impressive comfort, with individual air con controls and conveniently placed USB chargers adding to its chauffeur character.
The boot is arguably where the 4 Series Gran Coupe flexes its duality most. You won't find any compromising, hinged boot design - instead you get a full hatchback-style opening that makes loading large objects much easier. The square load bed and 470 litres of storage space make the Gran Coupe extremely practical, as do its flat folding rear seats. And while you don't get quick release levers for the back seats and you have to contend with a small load lip, the practicality on offer is frankly baffling given the 4 Series' rakish exterior.
The 420i 2.0-litre petrol we drove is the entry-level variant in the range, with 184hp and a zero to 62mph sprint of 7.9 seconds. Even when driven hard, you're not left wanting for performance with this petrol. And when mated to the eight-speed automatic gearbox - no manual available - flicking up and down the gears is smooth and efficient. For those who do need more performance however, the 245hp 430i and 374hp M440i have got you covered. There's even a 190hp 420d diesel if you fancy it. So, does it drive like a Coupe or a saloon? Well, both. Thanks to variable steering and an adaptive suspension, you can set-up the 4 Series however you like, with Sport mode offering weightier steering and a stiffer, more planted ride - and Comfort mode ironing out imperfections in the road with ease. You can set your own custom modes too, tweaking things like steering, suspension, brakes and throttle tuning accordingly.
The overall feel through the wheel is impressive, inspiring a strong connection between the driver and the front wheels. The variable steering, which reduces the required input from the driver to complete things like manoeuvres and turns, makes the sheer bulk of the Gran Coupe more manageable. And while its size can take a bit of getting used to, the Gran Coupe is incredibly nimble and feels just at home on twisty roads as it does when cruising in a straight line.