Well, at least the engine is. But first, the basics. BMW is no stranger to making cars that blur the line. The 3-Series Gran Turismo and the X1 line are those which does polarize opinions of prospective young executives looking for a new ride. Recently, we were talking to a 3-Series coupe owner, who was looking for a sedan replacement. We showed him a picture of the Gran Coupe and he changed his mind in an instant.
So, what exactly is new?
It’s the engine that is brand-spanking-new. The outgoing 435i is being replaced by the 440i variant (with 326hp). Engine-code nerds take note: The new six is the B58, and it replaces the N55.
But it looks similar to the old..
Don’t bother looking for cosmetic changes. Even with the Mercedes-Benz C-class coupe right next door, the 440i still looks pretty good, despite it having aged quite a fair bit. Good news abound though, the unique boot design and the pillar-less doors still remain.
So.. why is this a Gran Coupe?
The 4 Series is akin to the 3 Series with two less doors. So, the 4 Series Gran Coupe has four doors. Not two. Which would make it a 3 Series? But it has focus on coupe styling rather than the more traditional “3-box” look of a sedan. So, 4 Series Gran Coupe it shall be known as. Easy.
Time to get in.
You sit real low, in what looks exactly like a 3 Series cabin. Then you start noticing that the dials are somehow aimed at the ceiling instead of your face, and the parallax OCD kicks in. Good thing that BMW thought about that, throwing in a handy heads up display and distracts you further with the iDrive which can display buildings in glorious three deeee.
Yes, the really low seats will give you the illusion of space, but being the people accustomed to aftermarket bucket seats, the 440i GC’s seat position is what we dare call to be perfect. Yes, the aggressive coupe lines can lead to rear passengers bonking their head on the C-pillars when getting in, but at least they won’t be needing to squeeze past the front seat.
There is still adequate rear seat room and a boot space that is much more useful than the 3 Series sedan. Being a hatchback fan, I am a big fan of sedans that have hatch-like boot lids. The 440i GC’s boot lid designed like a hatchback, hinged at the top of the rear windscreen, and slowly lifts itself up to reveal a long and deep boot that will easily fit two of your BFFs in. We won’t suggest driving around with two of your BFFs in the boot tho.
How does it drive?
The engine’s unbelievably smooth, yet it doesn’t think twice before it bellows. Gearbox option is BMW’s familiar ZF eight-speed automatic, which is focused on elegant, almost-seamless gear changes, but delivers a punchy switch when you start shifting them yourself.
Gliding around town is a piece of cake, with the 440i GC’s exhibiting a very soft personality, effortlessly moving around town without much fuss.
Once the roads open up with the opportunity to mash the pedal, it responds with a glorious howl and bucketloads of power. It does get a tad bit noisy as the rev counter needle soars, but the mechanical howl isn’t obnoxiously loud, but enough to please us deeply.
The 440i GC is a great cruiser on the expressway, with the engine purring along quietly. Specced with huge wheels, the ride can get a bit jolting on road imperfections, but far from being harsh and uncomfortable. Even on bends, the 440i GC can speedily zip through them without much drama and good poise too.
But this is a rear wheel drive, the tail must be persuaded to move beyond the front tyres with some strong prodding of the pedal. Coupled with a long wheelbase, it is quite a lazy turner, but still good fun. But, we felt that the steering is the let down of the entire package – despite the nice weight and quick gearing, the overall feel of disconnection from the front wheels is totally unlike an ultimate driving machine… ultimate cruising machine, this is.
Will you have one?
Well, if you want coupe styling with four door practicality, there are only a few cars that offer such a combination, and even fewer have the drive and power to match. It looks good, it drives well, seats five in relative comfort. The only sticking bit is the price premium over 340i, but yeah, 4 door coupes are hip, and you know how hip things are priced…right? Right?
BMW 440i Gran Coupe M-Sport
Engine: 2,998cc Inline-6, turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed Steptronic
0-100km/h: 5.1 seconds
Top Speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.6L/100km
Availability: Now (www.pml-bmw.com.sg)