Many moons ago, I reviewed a BMW 320d and remarked that it’s all the car you ever need. Well, glossing over the current SUV hysteria, this new 420d Gran Coupé gave me similar vibes…
As someone who has no need to ever leave tarred roads, I’m a huge fan of sedans, estates, coupés and… uhh, sedans masquerading as four-door coupés. This Gran Coupé follows a trend set by the Mercedes CLS and Passat CC by offering you the sleeker looks and pillar-less doors of a coupé but with the practicality of a sedan.
It actually goes a bit further with this new 4-Series because, technically, this is the four-door version of a two-door version (4-Series) of a four-door car (3-Series). Like, hashtag LOL. As amusing as that little titbit may be, there are substantial differences between, and substantial advantages to, all of these BMW models.
A personal highlight of any Gran Coupé will always be its rear fastback arrangement: instead of a normal boot lid, the elegantly sloping back end of this car offers a tailgate opening which includes the rear window. That means easier loading of bulky items and, at a push, slightly more cargo space than the others.
Just be mindful of the rear glass when closing the lid.
The next striking difference would be the shape of the doors, because this car has the 4-Series’ low roof line but a quartet of doors like any 3-Series would. That means you get bizarrely short entrances and frameless hardware; like in some Subarus. Read: it’s not the most practical setup, which can lead to rather undignified motions for some passengers.
But if you’re a coupé connoisseur who finds themselves in the family way, cars like this BMW 420d G.C. are an absolute gift from Heaven.
But if you’re a coupé connoisseur who finds themselves in the family way, cars like this BMW 420d G.C. are an absolute gift from Heaven. I could probably end my rather emotional review here but feel obliged to include some techs, specs, and tell you something about the actual driving bits.
Powering this parent-friendly coupe is a 1,995cc in-line 4-cylinder turbo-diesel with 140kW or 400Nm, driving the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. If that all sounds like gobbledygook, it merely means that this car has a fairly potent diesel engine, good driving dynamics and a very fancy gearbox.
Despite its insistence on changing gears as early as possible – presumably ‘cause it wants to get to all eight of them – this car’s power plant shines with a fairly smooth power deliver from around 1,750rpm onwards. Again, translated into plain English, it means that BMW have engineered this car to have good power at almost any speed. Especially around town.
0-100km/h is supposed to take 7.5 seconds, yet our best effort resulted in an impressive 7.03 seconds. The ¼ mile mark was passed in just over 15 seconds, so 420d owners can semi-successfully chase after GTi’s and a few older V8 sedans or SUV’s. Better still, stopping from 100km/h took just 2.78 seconds and 37.65 metres.
BMW claims a top speed of 233km/h.
On the flipside of performance, you’ll find the staggering claim that this vehicle can average 4.9L/100km from its 59L tank, giving you a theoretical range of 1200km between fill-ups. And while our real-world figure was slightly higher, everyone at NamWheels is in agreement that this car should make Windhoek to Klawer on a single tank; if driven gingerly!
Typing of gingerly, one small personal gripe was that this model is only available with a sporty M package and 19-inch wheels with ultra-low profile tyres. BMW has the sensible option of smaller alloys with bigger tyres, plus there’s always the less practical alternative of buying the “normal” 420d with just two doors.
Having typed all that, I must tip my journalist’s cap to BMW who – like many others – managed to fine-tune their new age suspension components into a highly acceptable level of ride comfort. Yes, it crashes over bumps around town and high-speed undulations can be unsettling, but the ride is really not bad by modern standards.
The same goes for seating comfort, leg- and head-room. The rear quarters are obviously a bit cramped when compared to sedans or SUV’s, plus the lower roof line will have some occupants wishing for lower seat positions because they’ve decided to grow their hair out. This is all completely hypothetical, of course.
Furthermore, the driver-focussed cockpit offers plenty of toys for modern girls and boys to play with. Everything you could wish for in a modern luxury vehicle can be found in or around a crisp horizontal infotainment screen with – Hallelujah! – a physical volume knob, row of programmable keys, and skip buttons.
Some testers lamented the loss of BMW’s traditional orange instrument cluster, yet the new design offers plenty of customisable read-outs. It’s also great to find a comparatively small group of ventilation buttons, although someone bemoaned their blindingly reflective silver texture; which started with the previous 7-Series.
But all of that is utterly forgivable to me, because overall the 420d Gran Coupé is an amazingly competent machine. It’s stylish, interesting, fairly versatile and comfy, highly efficient and great to drive. I’d happily choose this over an X3 but would possibly consider a normal 320d as well. Pity they don’t bring in the Touring (estate) versions anymore…