An Eye-Catching Alternative to an SUV!
August 24, 2018
I drove the 430i D iesel GranCoupe for four days this summer as a Hertz rental in Switzerland. Having owned four BMW automobiles, my expectations were high, and each was exceeded by this vehicle. First of all, it sports a handsome profile, particularly for a four-door sedan. What sets it apart most strikingly is the sloped roofline that flows into the 5th door-a hatchback. I had no idea beforehand that BMW created a hatchback cargo carrying option to a sedan that was not akin to the X4, X6 or GT models which, to me, appear to each suffer an identity crisis. They seem to be unable to determine if they are an SUV, crossover or sedan.
The GranCoupe leaves no doubt as to its origins. It is a sports sedan on steroids. My rental had the sport package with sport seats, paddle shifter and, I believe a tighter suspension. If the later was not an option, then even more credit goes to BMW engineering for creating a four-door sedan that handles the hairpin curves of mountain roads like an "M Series", albeit without the neck-snapping power. But that was fine because even as a diesel-powered grown up it had plenty of gumption to take the steep grades and highway on-ramps with ease.
The cabin was almost dead silent when cruising, and the engine barely audible when accelerating. The sport seats were encapsulating, perfect for aggressive driving and pleasant for highway cruising. Although I have always preferred the German style firm seat construction to the U.S. lounge chair variety, I do recognize that some uninitiated mortals prefer to lounge when mobile rather than truly drive a remarkably engineered road machine.
My rental was equipped with all the latest gadgets for safety, including lane departure warning (not correction), blind spot warning and heads up display. I was quite skeptical about the first two intrusions upon my freedom of driving expression, although after a day or so, began to realize the benefit of having the "second, and perhaps more observant, set of eyes" at a driver's disposal. This tends to level the playing field when dealing with relatively carefree European road warriors for whom close range license plate inspection of any vehicle they may be closing on is a national pastime, as is the game of "guess which way I am going to pass you". The most surprising benefit, however, came from the heads up display that gave not only the vehicle speed but the posted speed limit as well. France and Switzerland are among the nations that have adopted "speed camera" enforcement in lieu of posting Smokey with a laser gun on under a bridge. It simply has to be a money maker, because they will tag you for as little as 5 mph over the posted limit, the fines are stiff and you never know it happened until that unwelcomed letter with a citation arrives in the mail. The speed limits follow the sine curve theory of physics and vary with such unpredictability that the unwary are raw meat for the hungry cameras. Unless you have a heads up display that sticks the changes right in front of you, the unpleasant letters in your mail after driving in Europe should come as no surprise. My next car is sure to have this feature. Regardless of what it costs, it will pay for itself by avoiding traffic infraction fines.
All things considered, this BMW model is as good as it gets, at least for someone like me. I prefer more room than my 3 series has offered and still want the feel of a true road machine that can also haul ski equipment and lawn furniture in the back end without being a wagon or SUV. In fact, my search for a 4 series Gran Coupe has begun. Well done Hans.