Is a car a tool, or a fashion statement? Is an engine merely a necessity, or a bragging right? Is a coupe a two door or a four door?
These are questions that would puzzle this F36 if it had a consciousnesses. But I guess the closest thing it has to such is it’s ECU. Said computer must control one of BMW’s most popular engines; the B47D20, and a fantastic ZF eight speed automatic transmission.
But what is a car except a filled canvas? Smothered with ideas that belong to people that have probably never been in presence of you or the car in question.
“Presence”, perhaps, was in the mind of the designers when the Grand Coupe was given an extra centimeter of width over it’s less fashionable brother, the F30, while it was drawn up. Maybe “modernity” played a roll when it was given a hatch rather than a regular trunk... or maybe they were thinking about the preposterously complex opening of the 5GT and how to avoid it.
Even with a simple trunk opening: the Grand Coupe is not lithe, weighing 90kg more than it’s less stylish brother, the 320d. Not really pocket change when you consider this car weighs close to 1,600 kilograms. A such, the more stylish, more expensive car is actually slower, and less fuel efficient.
The extra weight carried by the Grand Coupe is not “a big deal” compared to other places where it objectively drops the ball as a vehicle, like passenger comfort and affordability. Even the NVH is worse, how could frame-less windows ever compete with, erm, framed ones?
So, “what” is the grand coupe other than violent sexual instincts? How is this, the more expensive, better looking body worse at performing the trivial tasks of everyday life? Why is beauty in humans often represented by bodily characteristics that are difficult or unhealthy to attain?
Evidently, if we take a step back, the Grand Coupe becomes nothing but a car-like silhouette. Were it a Rorschach test we’d find ourselves confused... unable to determine whether it was an F32 or an F36... from far enough even an F30 would come to mind. So imprecise that deriving any judgement from the way it looks becomes pointless
So, rather than judging metaphorically as if it’s just a dick on wheels, perhaps we should drive it... Lo and behold... it’s fantastic.
I really like the Diesel engine in this car because it never runs out of torque. The torque curve is flatter than the Midwest, and it will never break a sweat, not even in hard canyon roads with intense elevation changes.
The real showstopper is the ZF automatic gearbox; which works pretty much like a DCT. Even if everyone uses these ZF eight speed, BMW seem to have the most user friendly, and permissive programming I’m yet to find. The car will hold on to gears for dear life, and it will let you downshift deep into the 4ks without complaining. This gearbox puts the Stinger GT eight speed to shame.
The drivetrain is certainly good fun, but what left me wanting the most were the brakes; even if the initial bite is really good, like with any BMW, the system seems overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the thing. Coupled with an ineffective engine-brake, some stops from higher speeds are daunting.
At the limit, the steering communicates effectively. otherwise, it feels vague, and uncertain, the on-center feel wonders way too much for me to feel comfortable. The electric assist is OK; helping mask the absurd mass lurking around this car, and in sport mode it’s not annoyingly artificially heavy.
Talking about weight; whatever BMW recovered in the handling department by making it lower and wider was probably lost on the extra weight of the thing. Even still, the 4GC handles impeccably for a car its size. Although at the very limit the car under-steers into safety, if you’re not actively looking to make it misbehave, it won’t. Even in Sport+.
This impeccable handling, coupled with a great driving position, makes me trust the 4GC like an old friend. Even with the shitty brakes and vague steering, I feel comfortable chucking it into wildly uncomfortable situations, expecting it to drive through them with ease. Perhaps what bothers me is that I could say the same of an F30.
In isolation, the Grand Coupe feels like a luxury; but a bizarre one. It feels like using an expensive bottle of wine to cook... luxurious, yes. But also wasteful in the strangest ways. Does the coupe-like shape make up for the drastic issues it brings? Does the daily boost in confidence quash the periodic anxiety brought by the lack of practicality?
I...I don’t know. Taking another step back one must also think that buying a BMW in the first place is a less aggressive version of this same discussion. Why buy such an expensive car that isn’t as practical as a front wheel drive car?
Perhaps the interior could help explain. This Grand Coupe has 14,000km and it still feels, and smells like a new car. Even if it has cloth seats, they come with a good amount of adjustment, and interior quality is up there with any other German competitor.
It feels very nice; even without the sunroof it desperately needs to lighten-up the interior... At least the headroom is not worsened by it. Visibility is good, even with the low seating position, you feel like you know where the front corners of the car are, rear visibility is really bad... But I honestly prefer it this way, less of the bright lights come in, and really, the parking sensors are more than OK.
I think this interior. No, this car... as a package is only let down by the fact that you could spec all of this on an F30... which is cheaper.. and faster, and more comfortable, and cheaper to run and insure.
But the 3 series is uglier, and perhaps that’s what matters most.