2015 BMW 435i Gran Coupe Review

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It’s the four-door version of the two-door version of the four-door car. Not quite Don Draper level advertising majesty, but strangely the best way to describe the 2015 BMW 435i Gran Coupe. The Gran Coupe joined the 3 Series based, 4 Series coupe and convertible line-up in 2014 and added more confusion to BMW’s apparently less-confusing model designation. It sounded simple on paper — sedans and wagons are odd numbers and coupes and convertibles are even. But then, someone decided that coupes could also be sedans (kinda) and, well, here we are. That’s not to say it was a bad plan, as in the overall scheme of BMW’s ‘we’ll give anything a shot’ design methodology (looking at you, 5 Series GT) the coupe-sedan-hatchback mashup is one of its best designs in years. The long, swoopy nose of the 4 Series coupe extends into a low, fastback-like turret with a mild lip on the end of a stumpy boot. The pumped arches and bulging bonnet give the ‘GC’ a very authoritative stance, helped in no small way by our test car’s Estoril Blue paint (an $1840 option) and standard M-Sport body package. From the back, you are never quite sure if the Gran Coupe is the 4er or 3er, caught at a new angle, so coherent is the design. In all honesty, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is simply a beautiful car — as illustrated by some sensational photos by CA shooter, Tom Fraser. The automatic lift-back tailgate makes the ‘hatchcoupe’s’ body (let’s make that a thing!) even more sensible, as access to the 480-litre boot (the same size as the 3-Series sedan) is easier than its booted cousin. There’s a 40:20:40 split rear seat too, allowing for plenty of flexibility — our own Tony Crawford is known to have squeezed a 12-foot Malibu in the back once upon a time. The hard parcel shelf just clips out and in typical BMW fashion, has nowhere specific to go, so will end up on the floor behind the front seats. It fits, but it’s not elegant. The rear seat is surprisingly roomy. You sit low, and only taller passengers will feel the sloping roofline tickling their hair. Getting in and out isn’t the easiest, thanks to smaller-than-normal door apertures (the rear wheel arches impede quite a bit), but this is only a concern if you are feeling particularly old and tired (like me). You do get vents, pockets, cup holders and a 12-volt outlet though. It’s not bad at all for short trips, but think about calling shotgun early if you are over six-foot and looking at a long drive in the back in your near future. Up front, the cabin is again a typical BMW exercise. Everything in its place and a place for everything. It could be argued that a brand-new BMW looks and feels like an older BMW, so ‘evolutionary’ is the design of the interior. It’s all within reach and it all works, but this $109,000 (plus options and on-road costs) sports ‘sedancoupehatch’ doesn’t feel that much different to some of its five-figure brethren. What is frustrating too, is that different BMW models are in different stages of their lifecycle and so buttons and functions that are in one car aren’t always in another. Take the SYNC function on the climate control. We see it in newer Bimmers, even the updated 2016 3 Series, but not here in the 4 Series. That’s probably being a bit picky, but one of the issues where modern technology and market demands are faster moving than the engineering that can support them. Speaking of engineering, that’s what BMW tends to do best… The 435i is the top of the range of the four-variant Gran Coupe array. Featuring BMW’s highly praised 225kW/400Nm twin-turbo 3.0-litre six and an eight-speed transmission, the 435i has everything in its arsenal to be considered a ‘classic’ BMW. BMW’s boosted six sounds sewing-machine smooth even at idle, and when shown some open roads, feels effortless and sweet. The paddle shifters on the steering column have a lovely weight to them and reinforce the BMW’s premium positioning with a suitably pleasant tactile sensation. Even the ride, on the 19-inch ‘Star Spoke’ M-Sport wheels (and run-flat tyres) is firm but not jarring. The steering is direct and promotes a feeling of synergy between driver and car. When driven properly, the 435i is, dare I say, fun. Exciting, entertaining and bursting full of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ DNA. It would be perfect if life was a road in a new car advertisement. A long, winding strip of flawless tarmac. Uninterrupted by traffic, phone calls, school pickups and frequent changes of surface… Alas, life isn’t like that. And alas, when dealt a dose of ‘real life’ the 435i starts to loosen its grip on perfection. Transpose the Gran Coupe from an endless country tour to the suburban cross-town hustle and the ’35 starts to feel out of place. In Comfort mode, the car doesn’t have the urgent and immediate pickup you crave. At 8am in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, it’s the quick or the dead when faced with microsecond gaps at roundabouts. It’s not that the 4 Series is slow to respond, it’s just less responsive when low in the rev range than you ideally want it to be. It’s thirstier than it should be too. BMW claims 7.6 litres per 100km for a combined cycle and we saw 10.4L/100km. Switch up to Sport mode and even force gear shifts with the paddles, and the car becomes more rapid, but less smooth. Stab at the throttle and those 255mm rear tyres will protest momentarily before the traction control shuts down any peak-hour heroics. Lots of right-angle turns down connecting side streets to shorten your commute? The Gran Coupe doesn’t quite get into a rhythm in any of its driver modes. The ride can be a bit skippy over imperfect surfaces and you are really left wanting for an ‘individual’ drive setting to get the most out of the GC. We have said before that the 428i is the pick of the 4 Series litter, and each day with the 435i makes this move more and more from opinion to fact. It’s not just the sweet spot when it comes to driveline, it makes more sense in the value stakes too. It’s ironically $28,000 cheaper too. I said earlier too that the BMW 435i Gran Coupe has all the makings of a ‘classic’ BMW — great lines, big six… but also a long list of optional equipment that should be included on a car like this. Tyre pressure monitor: $550. Heated seats: $850. Adaptive high-beam: $320. Adaptive cruise control: $1600. Surround-view camera: $1300. The list goes on, and on, and on. All options that really should be standard on a top-grade sports ‘coupehatchsaloon’ like this. BMW is gradually moving towards better value trim levels, as the recent 3 Series LCI update has shown us. But as of right now, the 4 Series, in all its body styles, is yet to receive firm timing for this. So until the four-door two-door 435i becomes a 440i, the lift-back sedan 428i (before it too changes to a 430i) is still the best value and best-looking way to confuse your BMW nomenclature in style. Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 BMW 435i Gran Coupe images by Tom Fraser.