Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe first drive

The BMW 428i Gran Coupe is a new addition to the BMW lineup for 2015 -- one of many in recent years. Some exposition is required, because BMW's models have become a little difficult to picture just by name alone: The 4-series lineup was carved out for coupes based on the BMW 3-series, though this one has four pillarless doors and a large hatch that opens along with the rear window. The easiest way to explain the 428i Gran Coupe is as a 3-series liftback, except there is also such a thing as a BMW 3-series Gran Turismo. That car happens to be a much more bulbous four-door 3-series that also boasts a liftback hatch, and basically looks like a smaller 5-series GT. But the one we have here is the slim four-door liftback badged as a 4-series, even if it too has four doors and it doesn't pull off the coupe look all that convincingly. The relationship, therefore, is closer to that of the 6-series coupe and its svelte 6-series Gran Coupe sibling. Got all that?
The BMW 428i Gran Coupe is a new addition to the BMW lineup for 2015 -- one of many in recent years...

The 428i Gran Coupe is powered by a TwinPower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder with direct injection and Double-VANOS variable valve control. This is the same 240-hp and 255 lb-ft engine found in the 428i Coupe, which really is a coupe with coupe-like things such as two doors and a slanted roof. The 4-series Gran Coupe is also offered in 435i flavor, receiving the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six producing 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The larger engine can send the Gran Coupe to 60 mph in a blistering 4.9 seconds, while the 428i can do it in 5.7 seconds.

Both versions of the 4-series Gran Coupe use an eight-speed automatic transmission that nicely mimics the sounds made by manual transmissions; the 428i returns fuel economy figures of 23 mpg city/34 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 27 mpg. Its more powerful twin returns 22 city and 32 highway, for a combined 25 mpg.

The 428i Coupe's most impressive party trick is a nicely hidden liftback that does not make its rear half seem bulbous, combined with 40/20/40 rear seats which fold nearly flat, all while maintaining the same wheelbase as a 3-series sedan. That turns the Gran Coupe into a very useful hatchback with plenty of room for cargo, along with a flat removable panel that pretends to be a rear shelf, like on a sedan. The price to pay, if any, is slightly tighter rear accomodations.

The interior is lifted straight out of the 3/4-series design book: That means there's an infotainment screen that looks like a design afterthought sticking out of the dash, and a mix of metallic accents and leather that give the interior an expensive look; it also caters to basic needs in a way that some previous 3-series cars have neglected, such as offering two real cupholders just ahead of the transmission joystick. Also here is iDrive in its latest form, but there are also plenty of buttons that have been kept around to keep the interior functional, including temperature knobs for the driver and passenger, and a volume knob for the stereo system.