Driven: 2015 BMW 4 Series Gran CoupeCoupe-like curves and four-door practicality.

Just when we thought we had the 4 Series figured out, BMW interjects another bold variant into its ever-growing lineup. Though the 4 Series was introduced as the successor to the (two-door) 3 Series coupe, the logic of the new nomenclature goes out the window with the all-new 2015 4 Series Gran Coupe, a four-door hatchback that offers easy rear-seat access and increased cargo space, with the coupe’s more tailored silhouette.

Built on the same architecture as the 4 Series coupe and convertible, the 4 Series Gran Coupe looks slightly more sedan-like, but retains a sleeker silhouette compared to the 3 Series sedan. Gran Coupes are about a half-inch higher than coupe and convertible body styles, which equates to slightly more rear headroom. The fastback-style rear offers easy access to cargo and flows seamlessly from the roof. In fact, most people wouldn’t know the Gran Coupe is a hatchback unless they look carefully.

Like the 4 Series coupe and convertible, the Gran Coupe comes in two variants: The 428i uses BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. The more powerful BMW 435i Gran Coupe uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six good for 300 hp and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. Models can also be fitted with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Like other BMW models, the 4 Series Gran Coupe comes in a choice of lines: Luxury, Sport and M Sport, each with its own unique trim and features.

We like BMW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine more with every test drive, and find it superbly capable in most driving environments. The efficient motor is just as content on a daily commute as a long road trip, with its limits becoming apparent only in the most demanding situations, such as passing while traveling up a steep grade at high speeds. Only then will it become apparent that the powertrain is working hard, with an accompanying whine to prove it. But with admirable fuel economy ratings of 23/34 mpg City/Highway, this car makes the most sense for the majority of drivers.

Still, the turbocharged inline-6 used in the 435i Gran Coupe is by far the most fun. Power delivery is smooth and linear, even at higher elevations, where older turbocharged engines can sometimes gasp for breath in the thin air. On the Palms to Pines highway, a beautifully winding mountain through the San Jacinto mountains outside of Palm Springs, CA, we put our 435i Gran Coupe through the ringer, dashing around tight turns, climbing to elevations of 4,000 feet. On the way down, we kept up just fine with the Aston Martin V8 Vantage in front of us, despite its 120 horsepower advantage. BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission keeps up perfectly, especially in sport mode. Fuel economy for the rear-wheel-drive 435i Coupe with the automatic transmission is 22/32 mpg City/Highway.

For the most part, interior materials match the quality expected from BMW, but certain trim finishes and color combinations in BMWs continue to baffle us. For example, in our 428i Gran Coupe, doors were finished in a rich, warm black and tan motif. But, door handles were trimmed in a clashing silver textured plastic. This mixing of sporty pieces in cool shades with luxurious pieces in warm tones makes us wonder if the car is suffering from an identity crisis. Still, the BMW interior is decidedly more interesting and textured than others, especially compared with the starker designs favored by Audi.

Rear legroom in the Gran Coupe is adequate but not particularly abundant, with the same 33.7 inches found in the standard 4 Series Coupe. Still, its extra headroom and the convenience of four doors make the Gran Coupe the best choice for those who will use the back seat regularly. Gran Coupe models also offer the most cargo space of the 4 Series lineup, with 17 cubic feet with all seats in place, and up to 45.9 cubic feet with the seats folded (although, like with most BMW cars, they don’t lie completely flat). The hatchback has a thoughtful design, with a built-in privacy cover on window that keeps contents hidden from site. A removable shelf allows seats to fold flat with just a few steps. A center pass-through allows for more flexibility.

With its unique design, the 4 Series Gran Coupe fills a unique niche that splits the difference between a traditional sedan and a two-door coupe. And, for now, there’s nothing else quite like it on the road.

Read more at New Car Test Drive

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