2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe First Drive
Lipstick on a Hatch: Dressing up America's Loathed Liftgate
We Yanks have demonstrated very little love for hatchback cars, despite their willingness to swallow large loads in an aero-slick body. We've drubbed most examples of the breed out of our national neighborhood as if they were sex offenders. Ah, but sometimes we make exceptions for particularly pretty ones -- Aston Martin Rapide? Audi A7? Yes please! Might this latest riff on the BMW 3/4 Series architecture enjoy the same warm reception, or is ritual shunning more likely?
There's lots of lipstick on this liftgate, based as it is on the lower, wider, infinitely more sensual 4 Series coupe. Indeed, it shares all its key dimensions with the "real" two-door coupe except height (up 0.5 inch), which means it measures 0.4 inch longer, 1.8 inches lower, and 0.6 inch wider than the solid-citizen 3 Series sedan. There's sexy frameless glass on the four doors, and the wider, lower, slightly squintier front and rear graphics. Get someone looking at those voluptuous rear hips, and they'll be amply distracted from the scant visual evidence that this fastback opens from the top.
Functionally, reinforcing the rear of this new F36 bodywork to compensate for the lack of a bulkhead and to support the hatch hinge structure and adding two doors increases weight by about 140 pounds. The body structure remains less rigid than the coupe's, which the suspension tuning takes into account. No manual transmission option is offered, but the rest of the engine and driveline choices are available (428i, 435i, and 428i xDrive). Space-wise, the Gran Coupe's interior measures slightly larger because the rear doors carve out 2.6 additional inches of shoulder room, but the hatch hinge header structure erases 1.1 inch of rear headroom, so it feels tighter in back. And of course the cargo area is way more versatile. Fold the seats down and there's 45.9 cubic feet of room—enough to accommodate two bicycles without removing the front wheels. And the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatback easily accommodates rear passengers and four sets of skis.
So how does it drive? Just as well as the other 4 Series variants. Any loss in total body rigidity did not make itself apparent while jinking through the many curves tracing the Rio Ebro in northeast Spain. Naturally BMW took the precaution of equipping every press vehicle at the launch as a 428i with the $3500 M Sport package (aero-tuned front and rear fascias, 19-inch wheels shod in Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires, sport suspension, sport seats, and other trim), dynamic handling package (Adaptive M Suspension, sport steering, $1000), and four-piston front/two-piston rear fixed-caliper M Sport brakes ($650).
So equipped, the latest Gran Coupe inspires the exact same level of confidence that has made this chassis such a formidable competitor in our comparison tests. And don't feel compelled to spring for the six; the four makes terrific noises and acquits itself admirably in the dash from corner to corner. Just make sure you secure whatever you're carrying in all that newfound luggage space. We're inclined to recommend the 4 Gran Coupe over its myriad platform siblings if for no other reason than the success of this (for now) peerless offering may lure Audi's similarly fetching A5 Sportback hatch to our shores.
So to summarize your BMW entry-level luxury decision tree, decide first on your preferred cargo access method: hinged above or below the rear window? If below, then 3 Series sedan, 4 series coupe/convertible. Top hinged options include the X3 sports activity vehicle, the X4 sports activity "coupe," the 3 Series Gran Tourismo (based on China's longer wheelbase, this one is slightly longer and lower but similar in shape to the X4), the 3 Series Touring wagon, and now the 4 Series Gran Coupe.
Color us skeptical of BMW product specialists' assurances that these vehicles all behave so differently that buyers won't be conflicted or confused. We suggest you save time in the dealership by first employing a dart board at home.
|2015 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINES||2.0L/240-hp/255-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||3600-3750 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||182.6 x 71.9 x 54.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.9-5.7 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||22-23 / 32-33 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||147-153 / 102-105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.73-0.76 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||June 2014 (xDrive September 2014)|
|*$38,455-$43,570 with tourist delivery in Munich|