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Republished: 10/10/2014 (Original Date: 05/27/2014) - by Ben Stewart, Contributor
The 2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe is a sportier alternative to the company's sensible 3 Series wagon and larger 3 Series GT haulers and does so using the more voluptuous bodywork and wider stance of the 4 Series Coupe. This four-door looks svelte and drives with real athleticism. Yet the Gran Coupe is a hatchback, so it has enough room with those seats folded down to easily swallow large objects like a small bike or baby stroller.
What Is It?
The 2015 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is a four-door luxury-sport hatchback. Think of it as a slightly more functional and sleeker version of the BMW 3 Series sedan. The Gran Coupe shares the majority of its mechanical makeup with the 3 Series along with some elements of the 4 Series two-door coupe.
Because BMW calls this a coupe, the stylists made sure the roofline looked sporty, while still providing enough space inside for each passenger. In fact, the roofline is a half-inch taller than that of the 4 Series two-door which gives rear-seat passengers a bit more headroom. The execution of the hatch itself is so well integrated, from most angles; the Gran Coupe looks like it has a conventional trunk.
So why choose a hatchback over a sedan? Hatchbacks offer the ability to fit awkwardly shaped items in the cargo hold that would never fit inside a sedan's trunk. This is because the trunk opening (hatch) is much larger and pivots higher up on the roofline.
Which Engines Does It Get?
BMW is known for offering a wide range of powertrains in each of its model lines. But the company has simplified the mix for the new Gran Coupe by omitting both the fuel-efficient diesel and the high-performance M variant offered on the 3 Series sedan.
Under the hood of the 428i is BMW's turbocharged 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 255 pound-feet of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic. BMW also offers the more expensive 435i with a 3.0-liter inline-six rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It's also paired solely to an eight-speed automatic.
But no matter which engine rides in the nose of the Gran Coupe, both are fitted with BMW's Auto Start Stop technology, which can shut down the engine briefly in traffic situations to cut emissions and save fuel. And both models can be optioned with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system. However, unlike many other BMWs, the Gran Coupe is not available with a manual transmission. It's an odd omission considering BMW suggests this car is one of its most sporting.
Every Gran Coupe comes standard with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control (DDC) that has four settings: Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Each one adjusts the feel and operating parameters of a wide variety of vehicle functions including weighting of the steering, transmission responsiveness, throttle sensitivity, stability control intervention and, on models equipped with the Dynamic Handling Package, the suppleness of the suspension. So by toggling through each one of these distinct settings, the car's personality can change instantly from fuel sipper to track star. And in the case of Eco Pro and Sport, the driver can further customize some of those parameters.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come in?
The Gran Coupe is only available as a four-door hatchback with two engine choices: the 428i, which starts at $41,225 or the more powerful 435i model that comes in at $46,725 in base trim.
Those who live in snowy climes will likely see higher stickers as the Cold Weather package (heated front and rear seats, steering wheel and headlight washers) adds $950 and all-wheel drive adds another $2,000. Just like most European luxury cars, this BMW offers a long list of packages as well as many stand-alone options, too. So it's not hard to find fully loaded 428i models with sticker prices north of $50,000. Our 428i test car carried a sticker price of $52,300.
The Gran Coupe can be optioned with a choice of three trims — Sport Line, Luxury Line or M Sport. The Luxury Line retains most of the chrome around the outside of the car, while the Sport Line blacks out much of that brightwork and adds red stitching to the steering wheel and red accents to the gauges. But the M Sport trim ($3,500 on 428i) is perhaps most fitting to BMW's athletic personality and includes more aggressive bodywork, sport seats, M steering wheel as well as M Sport suspension and brakes (optional).
How Does It Drive?
Those who have spent any time in a recent BMW 3 Series or the 4 Series two-door coupe will immediately feel welcome behind the wheel of the new Gran Coupe. Since all of these vehicles share largely the same structure, suspension and powertrains, the Gran Coupe has nearly the same sporty moves as its kin.
So will power-hungry buyers miss the extra 60 hp and 45 lb-ft of torque from the 435i's six-cylinder engine? Probably not. The 428i moves away from a stoplight briskly and never feels lacking for power around town. As one of our test drivers noted, "This should in no way be considered a consolation engine to the six."
It offers exhilarating thrust. In our testing it ran to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds (5.4 seconds with a 1 foot rollout as on a drag strip) and through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 96.2 mph. Solid times for a car in this price and size class, but a few tenths slower than the two-door 428i coupe we last tested. The 428i also costs $5,500 less than the 435i and brings a slight fuel economy advantage, too.
However, the 435i's engine does have its advantages. It's smooth and silent even when the gas pedal is floored, something that makes the 428i's mild drone at full throttle seem more noticeable. So if complete serenity at any speed is the goal, it's worth the time to test-drive the 435i.
Is It as Sporty as a Real Coupe?
Around the city or freeway cruising, switch the DDC over to Comfort or Eco Pro and the 428i will offer just the right amount of body lean control while still allowing the wheels to soak up the big bumps. The transmission's shift quality and the way the throttle reacts in both of these less aggressive modes is a little more lethargic compared to either Sport or Sport Plus. That is, of course by design so that quick stabs of the throttle won't use as much fuel.
We found that Eco Pro will hang onto the transmission's highest overdrive gear without downshifting, even with considerable gas pedal pressure. And that's an ideal calibration for a long cruise on the freeway.
Some of the functions within DDC are adjustable, so the Sport calibration can be applied to either the drivetrain, the suspension or both. It's helpful on long sweeping country roads where we selected a firmer suspension but chose to leave the drivetrain in the more relaxed setting.
Hustle a 428i Gran Coupe along a mountain road and the true spirit of the car rises to the surface. It feels very nimble when traversing a twisty road quickly. The 428i Gran Coupe can not only carry great speed on a challenging road but it will do so with confidence. And after driving hard on these great roads, the brakes continued to offer excellent stopping power without overheating — which can happen to even the best sport sedans. There's both a solidity and fluidity to the driving experience that makes you realize why BMW has been the benchmark in this class for so many decades.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
The Gran Coupe is, like most BMWs, fitted with upscale furnishings and modern designs. The large screen to display the navigation maps and vehicle functions offers excellent readability; however, BMW buries so many functions deep within menus that these selections should be made when the car is parked.
Slide into BMW's supportive heated sport seats (part of the M Sport package) and you'll be comfortable for some time as they are exceedingly supportive and comfortable. However, we'd expect a car nudging $53,000 to include a ventilated seat function, too, given that some Kia models offer this feature at a much lower price point.
The Gran Coupe can seat four adults comfortably. But because it has been designed with a sleeker silhouette than the 3 Series sedan, headroom for rear-seat occupants is somewhat compromised. Six-foot-tall passengers could feel the rearmost portion of the headliner graze their heads.
The hatchback trunk offers a total of 17 cubic feet of space and can swallow more oddly shaped stuff than a 3 Series sedan with its 13-cubic-foot trunk. And with the rear seats folded down, the Gran Coupe can handle 45.5 cubic feet of cargo, which puts its hauling capability just 7.5 cubic feet shy of a 3 Series wagon with its seats folded down. Translation? If you want to haul people and gear at the same time, this sleek Gran Coupe can nearly match the BMW 3 Series wagon.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
No matter which model of Gran Coupe finds a spot in your driveway, the fuel economy will be very respectable. But the differences between the four- and six-cylinder models aren't as dramatic as you might think.
The 428i will return 27 mpg in combined driving (23 mpg city and 34 on the highway) according to the EPA, while a 428i xDrive will hit 26 combined (22 city and 32 highway). Stepping up to the more powerful 435i only drops the combined number to 25 mpg (21 city and 32 highway).
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The new Gran Coupe doesn't have any direct competitors. No other luxury car manufacturer offers a four-door coupe with a hatchback trunk. It's in a class of one — for now. But here are some that come close to matching either the style or the practicality of this BMW.
2015 Audi A4: Audi's A4 line includes the popular sedan as well as the Allroad wagon. And while the BMW Gran Coupe is a new model, the A4 has been around for a while. It will be replaced with an all-new version very soon. The A4's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder offers less power (220) and slightly more torque (258) than the 428i and comes with an optional manual transmission. However Audi's automatic choice is a CVT instead of the sportier eight-speed automatic that BMW offers. And you'd need to move up to the more expensive (just under $50,000) S4 to gain V6 power. The good news is, an A4 starts at just over $35,000. So if you can live without the BMW's hatchback design, you'll save around $5000.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C300: The Mercedes C-Class is all-new this year, but interestingly the company doesn't yet offer a coupe, wagon or a hatchback like the Gran Coupe. Still, the new Mercedes is an excellent sports and luxury sedan and offers a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with more power (241) and torque (273) than either BMW or Audi. A robust V6 in the C400 makes 329 hp, which is also more potent that the six-cylinder version of the BMW. At 12.8 cubic feet, the Mercedes C-Class has far less room for cargo in its trunk than a Gran Coupe. The C300 starts at $41,325 (and only comes in all-wheel drive right now) so it's slightly less expensive than a 428i xDrive.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Wagons, crossovers and SUVs declare to the world that you need to haul people and gear — often. The 428i Gran Coupe offers the opposite image. Here is a car that looks so svelte and sporty that few will ever guess it has a practical side. For now, there are no other vehicles that offer this particular formula. So it's the perfect car for practical people who want to go incognito.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Consider the Gran Coupe a vehicle more akin to a sedan than an SUV. In other words, be sure to examine the hauling capability of the Gran Coupe carefully and see if it matches your expectations. Yes, the hatchback is roomy but make sure whatever you plan to carry back there actually fits. This is not the car for those who spend every weekend filling carts at Home Depot. For those cores, BMW makes plenty of real SUVS.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.