2019 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe Test Drive Review: Family-Friendly Performance

Test Drive

Sometimes, you truly can have it all.

So, you really want a 4 Series, but the only four your partner cares about in a car is its number of doors. What to do? Fortunately, BMW has this problem solved with the 4 Series Gran Coupe. Or was that with the 3 Series Gran Turismo? That’s a bizarre number of very similar cars to have available for a relatively niche market, isn’t it? Anyway, if the 4 Series Gran Coupe is the right choice for you, it won’t take you long to figure it out.

The platforms and engine options are identical on both this and the 3 Series GT, as is the liftgate style rear door, but the 4 Series GC is just that little bit meaner looking, that little bit sportier in disposition. It has 1.18-inch lower center of gravity, a 0.55-inch wider front track, and a 0.86-inch wider rear track. You can also get the 4 Series GC with rear-wheel drive, while the 3 Series GT is all-wheel-drive only. Starting from an MSRP of $44,600, it’s also only a couple of grand off being the same price as the 3 Series GT, which is a nice bonus.

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If you’re considering cross-shopping, the obvious suspect is the Audi A5 Sportback, but don’t overlook the Kia Stinger if you don’t mind going up a size class. Both are available in comparably priced iterations, with the Stinger offering far more space and bang for the buck with an admittedly less revered badge on the nose while the A5 Sportback is closer in size and a similar value proposition and only typical Audi and BMW brand differences at play.

As for those engine options, there are two. The 430i is fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. In the 440i, you’ll find a 3.0-liter V6 with an output of 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. It was the former that I spent a week testing, and while I find it silky-smooth in throttle response and overall drivability and think it would be plenty powerful for most people, I would find it perfect with just a bit more guts and would spring for the 440i if I had the extra budget. The standard eight-speed sport automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters is also an excellent performer with sport, sport-plus, and eco pro drive modes adjusting gearing and throttle response.

The optional fully digital instrument cluster is a great complement to this: in comfort mode, the current speed is very clearly highlighted, while the eco pro display highlights brake energy regeneration performance and sport modes shift the focus to performance-related information such as the tachometer. (A six-speed manual transmission is available as a no-cost option on 440i Coupe models but not on the Gran Coupe. Bummer.)And if you find yourself in an xDrive model but longing for rear-wheel drive, rest assured that the default drive mode on dry pavement has a noticeably rear-driven feel. For a driver who lives in a location where low-traction environments are a common occurrence, xDrive comes across as the best of both worlds.

After living with it for a week, I thoroughly enjoy this body style. Following a refresh for the 2018 model year, it now has a restyled nose with updated LED headlights and taillights, the latter with integrated indicators, plus an enlarged and tapered air intake, a stiffer suspension, and an upgraded steering setup. The liftgate gives easy access to 17 cubic feet of cargo space that expands to 45.9 cubic feet with the second-row seatbacks dropped – although the space doesn’t become perfectly flat, and while it looks like it’s a 40-20-40 split at first glance, two of the panels are locked together to force it into a 60-40 layout.

The interior lives up to the premium price tag and comes in a variety of different colors and finishes. While the seats are comfortable in the back and highly adjustable, those with larger-than-average hips may find that the bolsters on the seat base dig in slightly. The second row is plenty spacious despite the 4 Series GC’s compact dimensions and is large and tall enough to accommodate two average-sized adults comfortably. Although it was refreshed for the 2018 model year, the 4 Series still has a slightly older center stack configuration that gives too much space to features that don’t get a lot of use these days such as built-in radio preset buttons.

With a new 3 Series expected to be revealed later this year, it’s reasonable to expect that and the 4 Series to get a more up-to-date layout such as that featured in the new 5 Series within a year or two. That said, there’s a lot about the setup in the 4 Series that is still very user-friendly today. Though the infotainment system isn’t compatible with Android Auto at all, Apple CarPlay functionality is available as an option. And the basic system is easy to navigate and customize. Apart from the fact that the ability to cruise through currently playing song titles on SiriusXM stations has a tendency to suck me in, I find it otherwise relatively simple to move through this system without taking much attention away from the road.

It’s also well-considered to put a wireless phone charger in the front center armrest and away from the tempted eyes of the driver while the passenger can make use of a high-output USB charger that’s set to the bottom right of the center stack and therefore within arm’s reach. (Of course, this leaves no center armrest space for storage and not a lot more forward cabin tuck-away space to make up for it, which is worth considering when deciding on this option.) There are a handful of features that were equipped on my test unit that cost extra but are worth investing in if you have the budget. The active cruise control system costs $1,200 extra and can bring the car to a full stop in traffic and automatically restart once it begins moving again.

The $1,100 head-up display is highly detailed and displays information such as vehicle speed, navigation directions, and cruise control functions on the windshield, which I find easier to shift my focus back and forth on than the sort that projects onto a breakable plastic flap. You might also want to option the $1,700 track handling package, which adds on variable sport steering, M Sport brakes with larger brake discs, high-performance brake pads, and M logo branded fixed aluminum calipers, and adaptive M suspension with custom tuned dynamic damper control and air cushioning on the rear axle.

Between the powertrain setups, the sleek and bold body style, and the liftgate access to the cargo space, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is, arguably, one of the most ideal family compact luxury cars on the market today. If only more people could be convinced that they don’t really need an SUV after all, perhaps we could count on these types of cars being around for many more years to come.

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