In the beginning, there were the BMW 3 Series sedan and coupe models; and, for a very long time, they were good. Then, just last year, BMW split the coupe into its own 4 Series designation -- an odd choice, I thought, but one I accepted. But I couldn't accept it earlier this year when the Bavarians announced a new 4 Series sedan. I thought, "Wait, isn't the 3 Series already the 4 sedan?"
Things were getting confusing in BMW's lineup and I didn't like it. And then the 2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe arrived in the Car Tech garage and BMW made a believer out of me.
At first glance, the 2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe looks a lot like the 2015 BMW 328i sedan. Both are based on the same 3 Series platform, have nearly identical designs, and, most obviously, have 4 doors. The Gran Coupe's rear doors are slightly shorter than the sedan's, which makes ingress and egress a bit trickier, but not much. There's also ever so slightly less headroom on the rear row thanks to coupe's lower, shallower roofline.
Hit the trunk release button on the key fob and the point of this model becomes instantly apparent. Where the sedan features a conventional trunk, the Gran Coupe features a powered liftback design that's not dissimilar to that of the Audi A7 . Hinged at the top of the rear window, this hidden hatchback opens wide granting better access to the rear storage than a trunk does.
More than just a wider opening, the enlarged storage area also accepts bulkier items than the sedan would. Remove a small dividing panel and fold flat the rear seats and there's room behind the driver for an adult's bicycle, a small christmas tree, or a few pieces of flat-packed Swedish furniture.
No, the Gran Coupe is still not as spacious as the 3 Series Sports Wagon (my personal favorite 3'er variant) or the 3 Series Gran Turismo (my least favorite), but it also doesn't look like a station wagon, which many drivers may appreciate. The Gran Coupe has the bonus of retaining the privacy and appearance of a conventional trunk when the hatch is closed and the seats are upright.
"The new 4 Series Gran Coupe starts to seem like a big ol' bag of compromises when compared with the good ol' 3 Sedan." That's what I said earlier this year when the 2015 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe debuted at the Geneva auto show, because, at first glance, the Gran Coupe looks a lot like a redundancy in BMW's lineup. However, the benefits and additional utility of the liftback design far outweighs the small compromises pointed out. This new mashup turns out to be an excellent and interesting blend of form-factors that may not appeal to all, but which I prefer over the standard sedan.
From the doors forward, the 428i Gran Coupe is identical to the 428i coupe that we've tested previously.
It's powered by the same 2-liter TwinPower turbocharged engine producing 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Our example puts that power to the rear wheels via an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters -- as far as I can tell, the only gearbox available at this trim level.
What impressed me most about this engine is how remarkably little turbo lag it exhibits. I barely noticed the turbochargers spooling up during the first second on a 0 to 60 mph run. Once the vehicle is on its way, lag is effectively eliminated. Acceleration is good, feeling a bit more powerful and supple than its 240 horsepower would indicate. Likewise, shifts from the ZF transmission are smooth and the gear selection seems to make sense.
Next to the shifter is a rocker switch that toggles between the normal, sport, sport+, and Eco Pro driving modes. We'll come back to the sport modes, but Eco Pro adjusts the performance of the engine, the transmission programming, the climate control system, and activates a Stop-Start anti-idling system to improve fuel economy. This mode also activates tools and tips in the infotainment system that help improve driver efficiency. At its best, the Bimmer reaches an EPA-estimated 27 mpg combined, 23 mpg city, and 34 mpg on the highway. Over my mixed driving cycle, which included a bit of sporty driving, I averaged just 25 mpg.
We're no strangers to the 3 Series' pedigree, so it's no surprise that the 428i Gran Coupe is such a competent sport sedan. It's got good bones. Our example was further augmented with the addition of a $3,500 M Sport Package that adds a sport suspension to keep the chassis planted when cornering and sport seats to keep the driver planned within the chassis. This package also adds a host of styling and aerodynamic upgrades, inside and out.
Also equipped is a $1,000 Dynamic Handling package that adds Variable Sport Steering that adjusts amount of responsiveness and feedback you'll feel through the M Sport Steering wheel in conjunction with the drive modes. The final upgrade is $650 for M Sport brakes, which should probably be included in the M Sport package.
With good power delivery from the 2-liter engine, excellent handling from its chassis upgrades, and great grip, the 428i Gran Coupe is just as grin inducing a drive as its two-doored sister.
Though nearly maxed out on performance upgrades, our example was fairly spartan when it came to cabin tech.
The only noteworthy options equipped were a $950 rear camera and sensors pack and a $750 side and top view camera package. The optional rear camera is very useful, but paying nearly $1,000 for just a rear camera seems a bit ridiculous, especially when you consider that for many cars at this price point this would be a standard feature.
This makes the extra $750 that BMW asks for the optional side and top view cameras seem even more outrageous. The side cameras are positioned just ahead of the wheel well, aiming to either side of the vehicle and should allow the driver to view crossing traffic when exiting a garage or blind alley. However, they're positioned so far back on the bumper that they're not very useful for peeking around corners. By the time you can see anything coming the front bumper is already part way into traffic. The top view camera is a bit more useful for squeezing into tight spots, but it's hardly worth the $750 asking price for the package.
Our example wasn't equipped with blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, or lane departure warning. We didn't even have navigation. However, these features are available at a cost.
Perhaps my biggest issue with BMW is the nickel-and-dime packaging overload. Everything costs extra. Keyless entry and push-button start, standard features on a Hyundai Veloster Turbo, are part of a $2,200 Premium package. Heated seats are part of a $950 cold weather package. Want USB and Bluetooth audio streaming? That'll be $500 more dollars. It's a bit ridiculous.
I'm a simple man. I like my sedans with 4 doors, my coupes with 2, and my wagons to look like wagons, so I'm a bit skeptical of all of this class-bending that BMW seems to be doing these days. But BMW has made a believer out of me with the 2015 4 Series Gran Coupe. This mashup expertly blends BMW's best bits into a something both new and familiar.
The 2015 BMW 428i starts at $40,300, but it almost certainly won't stop there. Our example featured over $10k in options and packages, as well as a $950 destination charge, bringing us to our as-tested price of $52,300. Add navigation and the full suite of driver-aid tech and you can easily push that price above $60K, so don't get too crazy checking those options boxes.
Engine choices are slightly different outside of the US. In the UK, for example, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe features a much wider variety of engine and transmission options and the 428i SE starting at £34,475. In Australia, the 428i Gran Coupe rolls off of the lot starting at AU$81,000.