Let’s tackle that controversial grille first – you either hate it or you… reckon it’s not so bad. I’m in the latter camp, especially after spending a few days with the car, and noting that the UK number plate bisecting it, makes it far less overt and in-yer-face. Some may still complain that it’s elongated upright stance is unpalatable and at odds with traditional BMW styling cues, but there is a precedent for such grilles in BMW’s historical back catalogue. Anyway of all of BMW’s questionable styling choices, this is nowhere near as bad as the now legendary ‘Bangle Butt’ introduced on the 2000s BMW 7 Series – that some now hail as a pivotal moment in the marque’s design evolution – and I still really don’t like that!
Moving on, and with the acknowledgement that the rest of the coupes looks are not only conventionally handsome, but actually rather tasty from the rear three-quarters angle in particular, you find this a useable two-door. In the back there’s a reasonably practical boot, and in the rear of the passenger cabin the folding seats are beautifully upholstered, comfortable to sit in for two, and there are even thoughtful touches like air vents and USB plugs. For 6ft 2in tall lanky lads like me, leg and knee room aren’t too bad, although head space suffers from some roof encroachment. All said I could do happily travel short distances in the back of this coupe even sitting behind myself, though getting in and out is obviously a little trickier.
Up front, and as a former BMW owner, you immediately feel ‘at home’. There’s a level of comfort and quality that is reassuring, an intuitive laying out of controls that is familiar, and a thoughtfulness of features such as heads-up display, wireless Apple Carplay etc, active cruise control that depicts a graphic rolling image of vehicles around you on the instrument panel, plus the seatbelt being proffered to you once seated, that inevitably boosts your feelgood.
What do you pay for all this sense of well-being? The base price for this 420i M Sport Coupe is just over £39k but that’s a figure no one will ever pay, because no BMW is worth having until you’ve loaded it up with spec. By the time the Technology Plus Pack, Comfort Plus Pack, M Sport Pro Package (which includes the Adaptive M Sport suspension) and other stuff is added, you’re looking at a bill of nearly £49k.
And that’s for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine putting out 184bhp and 300NM of torque. Acceleration from rest to 60mph is in 7.3 seconds and top speed is 147mph. BMW claims 42.8mpg combined fuel consumption, though I did see over 45mpg on a longer journey, and CO2 emissions are 152g/km.
On paper this sounds a bit wimpy but in reality, after the slightest moment of hesitancy, the performance comes on strong, accompanied by a suitably appropriate sporty soundtrack. The gearbox does a great job left to its own devices, particularly if you switch up into Sport mode, which of course is configurable. While the steering could do with more feel, it’s nonetheless accurate and responsive. The brakes draw no cause for complaint with solid and confidence-inspiring action. The ride, even on the 19-inch allows fitted to the test car – the usual M Sport spec comes with 18s – is very smooth around town, and while things start getting a little uncomfortable on the worst of our bumpy roads, it’s overall very composed and well damped.
Around town this coupe actually excels. Not only does it have more than adequate performance for commuting duties, but the size is reasonably manageable and the cameras and sensors keep it compatible with shopping mall car parks and congested traffic. It’s just a great place to be, serene in maddening surrounds, eager when you want it to be. Talking of which, show it some twisties and the typical hard-charging personality traits of the Beemer arise. It’ll attack corners with relish leaving drivers with a satisfied smile. And yet on motorways its sophisticated driver assist systems will make distance-crushing a fatigue-less affair.
Get past the grille and this is yet another great offering from BMW.