From the rise of the jet set era in the 60's of Porfirio Rubirosa and Doris Duke, the coupé was already one of the most glamorous cars of them all. While yes, convertibles have always had a lot of style, it was the coupé that always carried the substance. It reeked of old world playboy charm and a greater element of mystery. It was always for the more sophisticated gentleman who never had to shout to be heard. However, the year is 2016 and we are in a generation of bad taste.
The Kardashians have taken over TV, Justin Bieber is the pseudo King of Pop, Donald Trump might be the next US President, and BMW have just added two rear doors to the gorgeous 4 Series Coupé. Is this another tragedy or a stroke of genius? Regardless of what it may be, this car is particularly special to me. The F36 Gran Coupé was one of the last cars I was able to work on during my time as BMW's Product Specialist for the Philippines (see About Us section). Seeing it in the flesh and being able to drive it is truly special to me.
Now you might be asking what the 4 Series Gran Coupé is, so please do allow me to explain. A couple of years back BMW decided that the designation for standard cars and sports activity vehicles (SUVs to the rest of the world) would carry odd numbers and the coupés would be even. When BMW decided to remove two rear doors to make a coupé of the 3 Series, naturally they called it the 4 Series. Now they've added two rear doors to the 4 Series and have christened it as the 4 Series Gran Coupe. You might be a little confused and you might think, "Well, if they added two more doors to the 4 Series, then it inherently is a 3 Series again". Wrong. Let me introduce you to the whole new world of Gran Coupé motoring.
"Everywhere that I went, heads were turning. And mind you, only the correct heads."
Let me begin by saying that the 4 Series Gran Coupé was a car that didn't appeal to me. I've always been a fan of purposefully built cars without any form of duality. I've always believed that if you wanted a coupé, it meant that you were looking for a 4 Series Coupé. If you wanted something with four doors, then you would naturally be looking for a 3 Series or a 5 Series - but never a 4 Series Gran Coupé. I mean, doesn't adding two more doors remove the glamour and integrity of a coupé? I was wrong.
First, take a look at that paint job. BMW calls it Jatoba, and in my eyes it looks like dark velvet chocolate tossed in freshly popped champagne. It is essentially metallic dark grey with a hint of brown and it reeks of old world glamour. It suits the profile of the 4 Series Gran Coupé, which is dressed for every occasion. From certain angles you'll struggle to spot that it sports four doors. And because it's a 4 Series, the car is wider and sits lower to the ground - giving it substantially more presence than a 3 Series or any other luxury sedan for that matter. It has a long bonnet and a beautifully tapered rear profile. From all angles, it looks ready to pounce.
"Where on Earth do you get a car that rewards you with fuel the faster that you drive it?"
BMW offers three different lines that dictate the overall look of your car: Sport, Luxury, and Modern. The one that we have right here is the Luxury line, and believe me when I tell you that it suits the character for the Gran Coupé perfectly. The Luxury line is the closest design language to the traditional BMWs that we're used to. It is sporty yet elegant. Those 19-inch wheels are huge, yet their multi-spoke pattern doesn't draw the same attention as a big 5-spoke wheel would. Instead of drawing attention to the wheels, it brings out the beautiful and textural shape of the Gran Coupé. Think of it as a subtle silk tie to compliment your bespoke tailored suit versus wearing a bright yellow tie with emoticons that only makes you look like a complete idiot. Everywhere that I went, heads were turning. And mind you, only the correct heads, which I can appreciate. It's snooty, and I absolutely love it.
The interior is a beaut. While many of you may think that it looks like your generic 3 Series, you'd be right. However, that would be a complement. I think the 3 Series has one of the best interiors ever. Of course, because it's a 4 Series Gran Coupé, it has more luxurious touches such as ambient lighting that bathed the interior like a svelte Monte Carlo lounge and buttery Venetian Beige Dakota leather that wrapped the entire cabin. And because this is the Luxury line, the interior is devoid from slightly faddish aluminium and red highlight trim. Instead, it is blessed with slabs of beautifully polished burl walnut wood trim reminiscent of the most luxurious BMWs from the past. The beautiful leather-wrapped steering wheel is the same typically thick rim that we've all gotten used to. BMW are still the masters of haptics. All the buttons feel wonderful to press, the sounds of the bells are soothing and not all annoying. It is no wonder that Rolls-Royce have adopted the same tone for their warning bells. The buttons are ergonomic and everything is positioned where you'd want them to be. The iDrive is in its latest generation and the display is simply beautiful. It is still the easiest on-board computer system to operate. Jumping from the iDrive to another system is like switching from your iPhone to a Blackberry - everything else just feels jurassic.
For instance, the steering wheel has rollers for changing music tracks instead of actual 'back' or 'forward' buttons. This means that you can skim through your entire playlist without having to keep on playing the next song until you find the one that you really want to play. The cabin is so well-insulated too. You can drive at really high speeds and manage to still have a good conversation without having to shout at your passengers. Also, have I mentioned that the HiFi audio system of this car is off the dial? It is so damn good that when you step out of it, unless your car sports a Harman Kardon or a Burmester audio system, you'd rather not listen to music at all. It's eargasmic. It's really the little details that make BMW's system such a joy to operate, and I'm not saying this because I worked for the company before. As a matter of fact, I chose to work for BMW because I knew they were the best at what they do.
"Jumping from the iDrive to another system is like switching from your iPhone to a Blackberry. everything else feels jurassic."
I guess now would be a good time to tell you that this Gran Coupé is powered by a 2-liter diesel TwinPower Turbo engine. Before you come running with pitchforks to chant witchcraft at BMW, you might want to listen. This engine pumps out 184 horsepower with 380 Newton Meters of torque. It hits 100 from standstill in 7.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 236 km/h. While yes, there is no denying that it unmistakably sounds like an oil burner, you do not hear any of that noise from inside the cabin. I do agree that it does not fit the glamorous package of the Gran Coupé. I mean, who wouldn't want to hear the bassy exhaust note of BMW's wonderful inline-6 engines that scream to the heavens when gracing the redline. I'm with you there, but hear me out. Eighty percent of the time you will be stuck in Manila traffic, and it doesn't really matter what car you're in. You can be in a LaFerrari on the skyway for all I care, but trust me when I say that at the exit, you and I will still be next to each other in traffic.
"The grip levels are mega on this car and the handling is perfectly balanced."
When that happens, I will be rejoicing in the fact that my car sips on diesel so frugally that I'm having trouble finishing the tank. Think about it. The faster I drove this car, the on-board computer kept adding more to the fuel range. I started my trip from Alabang with 534 kilometers left on the fuel range monitor, and by the time I got to Breakfast at Antonio's I had 585 kilometers left. Where on Earth do you get a car that rewards you with fuel the faster that you drive it? I do believe that in real driving conditions, this is right up there as one of the quickest cars on the road. It has heaps of torque and stellar overtaking abilities. It may not out drag your V8 Mustang, but it will keep on going whereas you'll have stop to refuel. So instead of loathing BMW for dampening the fun in the Gran Coupé by putting in a diesel engine, look at it instead as BMW's way of making diesel powered cars an absolute joy to drive.
Behind the wheel you'll find two paddle shifters that signify that your car is equipped with the 8-speed sport automatic transmission. The car doesn't come with the luxury staple dual-clutch transmission, but it does its job exceptionally well by allowing buttery smooth shifts that keep the revs in the sweetest spots. If you want to change the characteristics of the transmission, chassis, steering, and drivetrain, you may hit the rocker switch by the gear lever. BMW likes calls it their Driving Experience Control. You have a selection of modes: ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. The standard setting is Comfort. ECO PRO is for turning your car into a whale. You don't want that, so seriously, free Willy and select the other modes. When you feel like driving spiritedly, you can go for Sport or Sport+.
"It's for those who need four doors, but want more than the commoner's 3 Series."
This adds weight to the steering, quickens the speed of the shifts, increases the throttle sensitivity, and stiffens up the suspension in preparation for carving your favorite twisty mountain roads. The grip levels are mega on this car and the handling is perfectly balanced. When you run out of sunlight in those mountain roads, you are going to be thankful that you've got BMW's xenon headlights. They are absolutely fantastic in the dark and they don't even have cornering lights. The light output is so widespread, you could probably use it to light up a football match. If you find yourself on a racetrack and you fancy going sideways, you can shut off all the driver aids by holding down the traction control button for about five seconds. In as much fun as going sideways can be, I don't think that it suits the character of this car. It can do it, no doubt. However, it feels like it would rather do other things... Like pick up some beautiful ladies to take to your beach house in Tali.
There is no denying that the 420d Gran Coupé is a bit of a grown up playboy's car. It is grown up in the sense that it doesn't let the ladies have a difficult time entering. It has been blessed with rear doors to not let them think twice about getting in. If there was anything that I felt was lacking in this car, it was the absence of sport seats at the front. It's a sporty car to drive and having the proper bolsters for support through tight corners would've been nice. I also think that at this price point of a nudge above 4 million pesos, a keyless entry system and a rearview camera are non-negotiables. I do understand that it'll jack up the price, but with cars that are half the price fitted with these features, I think that it's only fair that BMW should have them standard - especially in a Gran Coupé. Other than that, the car is pretty much perfect.
I was initially hesitant because I was a bit confused about the idea of a four-door coupé that resembled the 3 Series. Over the past couple of days I've learned that the 4 Series Gran Coupé is a unique proposition. It's for those who need four doors, but want more than the commoner's 3 Series. I mean it's a coupe, it has four doors, it's fast, it's frugal, it's technologically sound, and it's a genuine head-turner. In essence, it lets you have your cake and eat it too. So when the day comes that you need to ask your wife for permission to buy this coupé, don't forget to tell her that this one has four doors, space for the kids and the groceries, and that it's powered by one of the most fuel efficient diesel engines on the planet. When she sees it, she might fall in love with it a lot quicker than she fell in love with you. It truly is a masterpiece from Bavaria.