Hooray For The Gran Coupé

Gran Coupé: I just love the way, when I say it, that the words flow off the tongue. Sophisticated and effortless, perhaps with a dash of power and panache. And I am in love with the concept.

How do I know? Recently, my behemoth seven-seater SUV daily driver was replaced with a German-built sedan sporting a hatchback. A BMW? I wish—but it’s actually a GM product, based on the Opel Insignia: the newly designed Buick Regal Sportback.

Wait, a what?!

Before you judge me, please note that this is a company car, and there are no BMW options, at least at my lowly level. Would I prefer a 4 Series four-door? Sure. A 6 Series? You bet! But you know what? After two thousand miles, I am growing quite fond of the Buick, simply because the platform and overall design is spot-on for my daily needs. Indeed, if I have learned one thing about my vehicle preferences, it’s that I prefer the simplicity—and lower center of gravity—of a more traditional sedan. Of course, with a hatchback where the trunk would normally be, there’s not a whole lot “traditional” about that rear end.

It’s all about that trunk. Er, hatch.

And then there’s its looks. Go ahead, access the Interwebs and search up all the Sportback and Gran Coupé models you can muster—don’t they all look good?! Maybe I am getting older—well, I am getting older—but to my eyes, the manufacturers have just nailed the design of these sedan-wagon offspring. And BMW has led in the looks department: the 4 Series and 6 Series Gran Coupé models are arguably two of the best-looking four-doors that our favorite marque has ever produced, especially in M Sport guise—or, you know, the full-on BMW Motorsport versions.

Oh, wait: There’s still no M4 Gran Coupé, is there?

There was a time that I would have gladly taken an M version of the X4—the X4 M40i does not count, even if it is a noble effort—but no longer. My heart seeks something closer to the ground. I guess I could settle for an M6, if I had to. But hey, a 430xi Gran Coupé would do nicely. It has everything I need in a car.

When a car looks this good, you can easily forget about the extra ground clearance.

But that brings me back to the Buick. It doesn’t offend the eyes, but it does highlight a few areas where the current BMW crop could improve. First, every BMW that I have driven with Auto Start-Stop, I have immediately turned it off and hoped that it stayed that way; in the Regal, it took me two full days to realize that it even had such a feature. Not once have I worried about cleanly cutting into traffic, despite the engine not running. Second, the steering wheel is a normal size. Sure, BMW does on-limit road-feel better, but I suspect that more useful feedback would come through with a slightly smaller-diameter steering wheel.

Third, for a base vehicle—correction, any vehicle—the all-wheel-drive is genuinely excellent. Buick opts for GKN’s system that includes a center differential and rear limited-slip unit packaged in a combined casing. Some research reveals that it’s the same unit in the Focus RS (and the Range Rover Evoque, but that seems far less fun). Multiple incursions into the Cleveland snow have made me a believer. In the dry, a light throttle application will activate the rear differential and smartly trim the line; it’s a neat trick, and one that open diffs, even with traction control, struggle to duplicate. I eagerly await the chance to experience the new M5’s M xDrive to compare—due diligence and all that.

If this sounds overly harsh towards BMW, perhaps I should make it clear: Given a choice, I would definitely have a BMW as my daily driver. The engines are great—although the GM two-liter turbo is every bit the equal of BMW’s four, with both units being the benchmarks in the industry. Who knew? But BMW owns interior design, layout, and overall ergonomics, all of which top the competition, at least from my perspective.

Many members lament the lack of BMW wagons in the States, but let’s celebrate the sloped-style sport-back that managed to gain traction in the market. Make my hatchback a 4 Series, please. Hooray for the Gran Coupé!—Chris Doersen

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