UK Drive: Can an entry-level diesel be the sweet spot in the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe range?

We’ve already tried the top M440i version, but can a 420d prove a better real-world choice? Ted Welford finds out.

BMW 420d
BMW 420d

What is it?

BMW 420d
The 420d Gran Coupe is a more practical version of the 4 Series

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You mean you don’t recognise it from that grille? If you’ve been paying any attention to BMWs in recent months you’ll know its cars’ faces have been attracting quite some stick, first with the 4 Series Coupe and more recently with the bold iX, with a grille so large it could absorb small planets.

But oddly we’re already adjusting to these bold grilles, and next up to get this treatment is the 4 Series Gran Coupe. First conceived as a niche idea to bridge the gap between a regular coupe and BMW’s more sensible 3 Series, it’s now the best-selling 4 Series derivative, with its greater roominess appealing to buyers. We’ve already tried it in the flagship M440i grade, and were impressed, but can a more lowly diesel have the same effect?

What’s new?

BMW 420d
The Gran Coupe is the most popular 4 Series derivative

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Okay, the styling is the obvious new bit, but there’s a lot more that’s important here. First up is its interior, which is far more modern than its predecessor thanks to a large touchscreen centred in the dash, along with fancy digital dials.

It’s also roomier than its Gran Coupe predecessor, thanks to stretched dimensions, while it gains all of BMW’s latest technology – not least safety kit, with 40 automated systems available. These include a ‘Reversing Assistant’ that can get you out of trouble by doing the reverse of your last inputs to back you out of tight streets or spaces, for example.

What’s under the bonnet?

BMW 420d
The turbocharged diesel offers a great blend of performance and economy

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At launch, the Gran Coupe is offered predominantly with petrol engines – the 420i, 430i and M440i – but here we’re trying what is currently the only diesel, the 420d.

Using a turbocharged diesel engine, it puts out 187bhp and 400Nm of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the case of our car, though you can choose it with all-wheel-drive if you’re worried about getting stuck in winter. From a stop to 60mph takes 7.1 seconds, while it would reach 146mph if maxed out.

There’s also a light electrification element, with a 48-volt starter-generator able to assist the engine with a light power boost, while also taking some of the strain from it too. The efficiency figures speak for themselves, with BMW claiming 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 132g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

BMW 420d
Slim LED lights feature at the rear of the car

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BMW’s tagline is the ‘ultimate driving machine’, and that logic very much applies here – even to a sensible entry-level diesel. Though the thick-rimmed steering wheel takes a bit of time to get used to, once you’ve wrapped your hands around it, this is a very pleasant option behind the wheel. It handles especially well, along with minimal body roll, and is a far more enjoyable option than rivals like the Audi A5 Sportback or Volkswagen Arteon.

We’d also strongly advise choosing the £2,500 ‘M Sport Pro Pack’, predominantly for the adaptive suspension setup, that lets you have sportier damping when needed – though for the most part, it’s best leaving it in ‘Comfort’, whereby the ride is impressively supple. With stand-out refinement, particularly at higher speeds, this 420d is a superb option for those with a longer commute.

How does it look?

BMW 420d
Large alloy wheels come as standard on all models

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Yes, the way the 4 Series looks is always going to be a sore subject because of that grille, but actually, we reckon it doesn’t look too bad. Especially on a car painted in a darker colour, it blends in quite well anyway. All versions in the UK are ‘M Sport’ cars too, meaning it gets a sportier design on the exterior, along with a range of gloss black elements. The only thing we don’t like is the contrasting trim that runs along the bottom of the sills – it would just look far better if it was painted.

But there’s a lot to like about the Gran Coupe’s profile, which lives up to its name with its raking roofline and subtle rear ducktail-like spoiler. To our eyes at least, it’s far more interesting to look at than a 3 Series.

What’s it like inside?

BMW 420d
The interior is finished to a high standard

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Inside, the Gran Coupe’s cabin takes a big step up compared to its predecessor, with the 4 Series getting a smart 10.25-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital dial system as standard, both of which offer crystal-clear graphics. It’s worth noting that BMW’s iDrive media system remains one of the best in the business, while there’s still a useful rotary controller to use the touchscreen. Where ergonomics and quality are concerned, it’s quite hard to fault.

As for practicality, it’s a mix of good and bad. Granted, those two extra doors make it far more useful than the standard 4 Series Coupe. The 470-litre boot is a great size, while the hatchback-like opening actually makes it more versatile than the 3 Series’ saloon shape. But, because of that sloped roofline, rear space remains quite compromised.

What’s the spec like?

BMW 420d
Apple CarPlay is integrated into the display

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As we’ve mentioned, the 4 Series Gran Coupe now only comes in some kind of ‘M’ grade, with the M Sport kicking off the range, yet still coming with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, three-zone climate control and a parking assistant as standard.

If you want something a bit racier there’s the M Sport Pro Edition, which brings upgraded brakes with red callipers, an enhanced sound system and extended gloss black styling.

In terms of pricing, the 4 Series Gran Coupe range starts from £41,650 for a 420i – which works out around £1,200 more than the standard Coupe, if a huge £4,000 more than a like-for-like 3 Series.

The 420d is also that bit more expensive, with a £44,000 starting price, but is worth the extra expense as it’s generally far more pleasant than the 420i, which can feel a bit underpowered, and will be more expensive to run.

Verdict

Any car in the ‘four-door coupe’ category is quite easy to criticise, as all you’re really doing is paying a little more for something slightly less practical than a conventional saloon. Of course, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is no different, and its price increase over a 3 Series is rather steep.

That said, with its mix of style, quality and driving dynamics, it’s a hugely impressive choice, and while it might be more tempting to splash the cash on a model further up the 4 Series line-up, this 420d is a superb option and would be near-perfect to live with on a daily basis.

  • Model: BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe
  • Base price: £40,465
  • Model as tested: BMW 420d M Sport Gran Coupe
  • Price: £48,940
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel
  • Power: 187bhp
  • Torque: 400Nm
  • Max speed: 146mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.1 seconds
  • MPG: 56.5mpg
  • Emissions: 132g/km

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