Nobody knows how to work niches quite like BMW.
First, there was the four-door 3 Series, which then begat a two-door 4 Series spin-off, which, in turn, begat a five-door 4 Series Gran Coupe. They’re all essentially the same car with a different number of doors and their own design riffs.
The 3 Series sedan, being the high-volume mainstay of the range, has retained its conservative please-the-masses styling and regular-sized kidney grille. The 4 Series models take a more risqué and polarising approach with their curvy rooflines and giant grille — the latter leaving observers either shocked or delighted.
If the supersized nostrils leave you in the delighted camp, the Gran Coupe could well hit the sweet spot in the range as it delivers 3 Series-like practicality with the edgier looks of the 4 Series.
It’s a more family-friendly 4 Series that retains the fastback shape of its two-door cousin, but the sloping roofline is extended to make room for rear doors and a larger boot.
Apart from being easier to get into, the Gran Coupe’s rear seat offers more head space and there’s room aplenty in the cabin for four adults. Back seat passengers get their own air vents and climate controls, along with a pair of USB charging ports.
The Gran Coupe’s other advantage is the cargo space under its big tailgate, which opens and closes electrically. Not only is the 470l boot 30l larger than the two-door’s, but its wide loading maw comfortably swallows bicycles and other large lifestyle accoutrements, while the rear seats flip down to expand the cargo area to a huge 1,290l.
The cabin lays on the Bavarian brand’s typical business-class ambience, and everything feels solid and smartly executed. BMW hasn’t dived into the digiverse as enthusiastically as some of its peers, and the car retains many physical buttons, which I found to offer a less distracting experience than using a touchscreen.
The venerable iDrive knob remains as part of the interior fixtures, allowing control of the infotainment system without getting grubby fingerprints onto the 10.25-inch colour display.
At R1,312,696 the car is fairly well stocked out of the box with features like wireless phone charging, electric front seats, a sunroof, a powerful Harman/Kardon audio system and a parking camera, to mention a few. It has voice control too but, alas, getting it to understand spoken commands is a hit-and-miss affair.