While some will see this as a restricted, less-useful version of the best-selling 3-series, BMW wants you to think of it as a fresh dimension on their 4-series coupe – one that adds the functionality of four doors. Did we need yet another branch on the BMW family tree that has grown to epic proportions already? Heck no. But it’s an interesting branch, this Gran Coupe thing.
It has the same dimensions (length, width, wheelbase and track) as the 4-series coupe. But the longer roofline and (slightly) higher silhouette allows for more space inside.
In my opinion, it is a very nice looking car, and it had plenty of 3-series owners’ attention. Not just because it’s a looker, but because they couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
True, there are enough cues (LED corona rings up front, corporate LED tail lights) that it’s instantly recognizable as a close relative of all current BMW sedans, but it’s sleek enough to set itself apart. It’s taut, it’s smooth, it sports hood bulges and flared wheel wells. You’d be forgiven for seeing a coupe first, before noticing four frameless doors.
Obviously the 435i’s styling has an impact on its interior dimensions. You’ll even notice the lower roof as you try to get in, and head room up front is reduced but acceptable. It’s spacious enough.
The cabin is typical current BMW fare. Nice, soft-touch materials, two-tone colour scheme, good fit and finish. There’s a weird carbon-fibre-themed plastic trim that stands out in an otherwise classy cockpit.
As I expected, the heated seats are a nearly perfect combination between comfort (we took the 435 on an 800 km road trip) and sport, offering up plenty of bolstering for aggressive driving.
The heated M Sport steering wheel feels great in hand, and has controls for media, cruise and your phone. Behind it are BMW’s typical no-nonsense, gauges with tightly-spaced numerals and a well thought out driver information screen.
What’s not well thought out is the iDrive system that runs the beautiful wide screen sticking up out of the dash. The way BMW has organized things is simply awful and the general user interface (including the merciless use of incomprehensible icons) remains unfriendly and inflexible. I should not have to pull out the user manual in order to program a couple of radio station presets. It might be one of my most-disliked ICE systems. That said, the rotary joystick knob (with handwriting recognition pad on top) and the hard buttons around it work well, and navigating parts of the system slowly starts making sense. The Harman/Kardon sound system, once you figure out how to work it, sounds great!
Driver assistance tech comes in the form of a fantastic full-colour heads-up display (which includes speed limit information), a rear-view camera and parking distance sensors.