Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: November 15, 2021
PALM SPRINGS, California - What is a Gran Coupe? In BMW speak, it's a four-door version of a two-door coupe that is based on a four-door sedan. Confused yet? Fear not, because everyone else is too. But all you need to know is that this new, second-generation 4 Series Gran Coupe is a sleek, spacious, and sporty sedan with frameless doors and a hatchback trunk, and it’s here to steal away the thunder from the Audi A5 Sportback, Kia Stinger, and Acura TLX Type S.
The 4 Series GC has been thoroughly revised and upgraded for 2022, and with it comes the controversial beaver-tooth front grill. Say what you will but the rest of the car remains nicely contoured and eye-catching, and those who can’t look past it will be glad to know that the regular 3 Series retains the standard kidney grill design. The GC’s rear-quarter is its most flattering angle, boasting attractive curves, 650i GT vibes, and a more homogenous look that makes it difficult to tell apart from the electric i4. The GC also utilizes flush-fitting door handles that further compliment its streamlined profile.
Visually it sits much higher than the two-door Coupe, almost SUV-like, but that’s expected considering its dimensions have bloated by 143 mm in length, 27 mm in width, and 53 mm in height compared to its predecessor. The wheelbase has been stretched by 46 mm as well. The two additional doors and hatchback trunk add a great deal of practicality and functionality. No longer constrained by only two portals of entry and exit, the GC offers an appealing alternative to the X3 and X4 for those who enjoy a lower-riding and more engaging sedan that hugs the ground. Load capacity now registers at 470 litres and up to 1,290 litres with the 40:20:40 folding rear seats lowered. Rear seat room isn’t even an issue for my six-foot stature, as BMW has ensured optimum headroom even with the sloping roofline.
The rest of the interior follows the Coupe in both form and function, and it will be familiar to anyone that has spent time in a modern BMW. The design is conservative but is dedicated to being ergonomically sound, with proven features like the eight programmable shortcut buttons, a large 12.3-inch touchscreen that can also be controlled via a rotary dial, actual buttons for the safety systems and driving modes, and a thick leather steering wheel.
Engine options mirror that of the two-door Coupe, but BMW hasn't confirmed if the 430i will actually be coming to the Canadian market. Regardless, the M440i xDrive Gran Coupe will come first with a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six mated with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. In total it produces 382 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque, running it through an 8-speed ZF automatic via a rear-biased all wheel drive system. It will sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, two-tenths slower than the Coupe but one-tenth of a second faster than the Audi S5 Sportback.
The 48-volt start-generator takes care of auxiliary power, recoupes energy via braking, and polishes out the gear transitions and initial throttle application. This starter and generator unit is paired with a 48-volt battery that powers the car’s electronics, allows for a smoother start/stop function with possible engine shut off when the speed drops below 15 km/h, and recuperates energy from braking and deceleration, using it to supplement the engine with 11 additional horsepower during hard acceleration and subbing in when the turbo has yet to wake from its slumber.
We were granted about an hour’s worth of driving time with the 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe on the outskirts of Palm Springs, but we were able to fling it around both city streets and serpentine canyon roads. Does it drive any differently than the two-door Coupe? Not really. The added weight only shows its face when leaning through long sweeping corners or under last-minute braking where there was a bit more pitch on the front nose. Granted, cruising on the freeway exposed some better high-speed stability, possibly due to that longer wheelbase. In terms of road comfort, the M440i GC is excellent at negotiating bumps and expansion joints, and straddles that fine line between the loftier C 43 AMG and the more grounded S5 Sportback. It rides with an underlying firmness but that subsequently allows the M440i to feel taut and agile when driving spiritedly.
But it’s the powertrain that takes the spotlight. The 3.0-litre inline-six is a darling of an engine, revving happily and freely up to the limiter while gurgling away via its distinctively creamy exhaust. With a gobsmacking amount of torque from just 1,800 rpm and a mild hybrid system tagging in for assistance, the M440i is undemanding and quite easy to drive with such an accessible powerband. Caught at 100 km/h and the gearbox sleeping in eighth? Just mat the throttle and the powerplant jolts to life without delay, sprouting torque left, right, and center, and delivering it without the slightest shudder in the chassis. The smooth yet quick reaction times of the 8-speed ZF further proves why its the gold standard in performance vehicles in both responsiveness and usability.
Offering hatchback practicality, four proper doors, and rear seat accommodations that mirror that of traditional sedans, the penalties that used to be inherent to these niche, fastback sedans seem to have quickly diminished. Add to that the benefits of a stylish, slippier shape, a sweetheart of an engine, and handling that an SUV could only dream of, and it’s no wonder why BMW decided to keep the 4 Series Gran Coupe chugging along into its second generation. It may not sell as well as the 3 Series, but it’s no less competent of a sedan. I mean coupe. Four-door coupe. Oxymorons be damned.
Model: 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six with 48-volt mild hybrid system
Horsepower: 374 hp (+11 hp) @ 5,500 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,900 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD