BMW 420i Gran Coupé M Sport: a grand affair
The 2023 BMW 420i Gran Coupe manages to combine two controversial automotive styling elements and makes it work.Photos: Rory Daley

The new face of the BMW 3 Series is finally here and love it or hate it, it makes a statement. In the world of staid sedans, the 3 Series has always stayed relatively visually conservative for maximum sales. Whatever happened in 2022 to the designers will be unknown for generations to come, but one thing cannot be said about the new car, it's not bold. The new bodywork makes a statement and defines the car as a BMW, not just another generic German sports sedan. When BMW spit the 3 Series line to create Gran Coupé versions, labelled the 4 Series, similar criticism was levelled at the four-door lowered rear roofline shaped. Fast forward to now and both controversial styling methods have combined on the 2023 420i Gran Coupé to make an attractive car.

It cannot be ignored, the new grille. The current reimagining of BMW's iconic kidney grille has moved it back to the split vertical styling found on their coupés of the 1950s, like the 503. In the flesh, it blends well with the lowered rear roofline. There are a few other tweaks to update the body styling here and there, enhanced by the M Sport body kit and minor elements such as the M Division 50th Anniversary badging all around.

The exterior may have been changed, but the driving dynamics that make the BMW 4 Series a benchmark luxury sports sedan remain mostly untouched.

There's no radical departure in the luxury features, the interior quality and materials. From approach, keyless entry sees the side mirrors unfold, all four door handles lit and a new puddle lamp design all to make night access easy. The perforated leather powered seats with memory function are simple to get in and set up for any driving position in the refined cabin. As expected, all major functions are automated and then some. What isn't powered or automatic can be accessed via the multitude of infotainment input options. From the iDrive rotary controller that accepts hand writing, to the touchscreen and steering wheel controls, to the voice commands delegated to the friendly female BMW Assistant most functions of the BMW can be taken care with minor effort.

The cabin presents plenty of space and storage to its occupants and as a Gran Coupé, practicality is increased by the powered rear hatch, instead of a trunk like normal sedan. All the primary BMW technology has been refined and evolved into the current car.

The interior of the 2023 BMW 420i is a pleasant place from which to operate the vehicle.

While the 420i can park and reverse itself, it's not a benchmark luxury sports sedan for no reason. In 420i trim, the car is equipped with a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. As with the previous power plant, it quickly disappears into the background in low speed urban environment use, working with auto hold and stop/start easily to deliver fuel economy figures over 30mpg while reducing driver fatigue in traffic. Step deep into the accelerator or switch to SPORT mode and the performance is enough to excite. The engine has no problem deploying its 184bhp and 221lb/ft of torque in any conditions using the eight-speed automatic transmission to good effect.

The chassis that cossets during everyday use is able to keep its composure at speed. As controlled as the car is, it doesn't fully isolate the driver from the experience. Low speed ride is comfortable. At pace the suspension skips softly over imperfections like a ballerina, while still being able to provide cornering grip like a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. Some of this is down to the M Sport suspension. Add in confidence inspiring brakes and the 420i is more than enough performance for the average person.

And that sums up the car. It has enough of everything to satisfy the buyer in the market for a premium German sports sedan. Appearance may be subjective, but the luxury, technology and driving experience keeps the 4 Series ahead of the pack.

BY RORY DALEY Observer writer

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