BMW 420i Gran Coupe

M Sport

BMW 420d xDrive M Sport Gran Coupe
BMW 420d xDrive M Sport Gran Coupe, side
BMW 420d xDrive M Sport Gran Coupe, rear
BMW 420d xDrive M Sport Gran Coupe, cabin

FOR some strange reason car designers have until recently largely steered away from big cars with hatchbacks.

While estate cars have boomed, SUVs surged and smaller saloons with opening tailgates have proved ultra popular, the formula has seldom been adopted for executive models.

Sure, there are exceptions - the ill-fated Renault Avantime, the exotic Reliant Scimitar albeit both three-doors, and more recently the elegant Audi A7 are models that come to mind.

One of the best current examples of blending five-door practicality with flowing lines and sports car performance is BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe - a prestige middle-weight that's just as capable crossing continents in comfort as ferrying a departing offspring and possessions to uni.

Now in its second generation, the latest version is, typically a tad wider and longer with more generous accommodation, yet nothing has been lost in terms of driveability.

As with most Beemers, there's a wide spread of engines starting with the 2.0-litre petrol 420i, which we drive here, and going up to the mighty M440i with 374bhp. There's also a diesel 2.0-litre.

Now sporting the mega-grille - a love-it or loathe it element, I'll give you - it's a handsome beast with less boxy contours than the 3 Series on which it's based.

The extra centimetres that give it a sizeable 4.8m length which is barely noticeable from the driving seat but will be appreciated by passengers, particularly those in the rear who now have noticeable greater legroom.

The sloping roof inevitably robs rear seat passengers of a little headroom. The rear seats themselves are designed for three passengers rather than two, which is a sensible and practical move.

Boot space has been boosted to 470 litres (10 litres greater than the saloon) with rear seats in place, which is more generous than most rivals. This grows to 1,290 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

Cabin build and quality is up to the usual high BMW standards with a large touch-screen centre stage and high grade, positive controls.

Cornering, via rear-wheel-drive, is stable and predictable with levels of adhesion that few drivers are likely to reach. A four-wheel-drive system is available as an optional extra.

Steering is precise and pleasantly light without losing road-feel. There's little body roll and the ride is composed yet still manages to soak up most bumps and all but the worst pot-holes.

184bhp sounds quite useful, but by BMW standards it's a starting point in the performance stakes, hence acceleration is adequate rather than thrilling. But it's at long distance cruising and swallowing up the miles effortlessly that the Grand Coupe comes into its own.

It's no gas guzzler, easily being capable of clocking 40-plus mpg. Our best was 46mpg over gentle A-road country run. Around town the mid-thirties were the norm.

Noise levels within the cabin are muted, the engine being a distant murmur. Most sound intrusion comes from the low profile tyres on certain road surfaces.

FAST FACTS

BMW 420i Gran Coupe M Sport

Price:£44,140

Mechanical: 2.0-litre, 4 cyl, 184bhp petrol engine driving 4 wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 37.7

Combined MPG: 30

Insurance Group: 150g/km

C02 emissions: 37%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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