Assessing the new BMW 428 xDrive Gran Coupe
BMW has, in recent years, opted to make a series of lineup additions that might strike casual enthusiasts as quantum leaps in design and even overall automotive categories, heading off into untraveled lands and appealing to an entirely different group of car buyers.
Enter the 4 Series, a two-year-old experiment into Goldilocks engineering – that delicate balance between a vehicle that’s not too small for mid-grade sedan enthusiasts, nor does it move into the more ponderous territory that would scare off folks who like the historical size and feel of the ever-popular 3 Series.
The 4 Series is indeed not all that much physically larger than the 3 family, with a two-inch-longer wheelbase and breadth and length that has grown in measurements even less than that (the whole thing measures up at 182.6 inches overall, with a 110.6-inch wheelbase).
But it is a strong attempt at revitalizing the company’s overall presence with some sort of notion of sportiness and exclusiveness that exceeds regular 3 Series standards. Numerologist geeks might even see that BMW’s even-numbered models imbue a personality that is different than odd-numbered models: That may be a rabbit hole you don’t want to dive into, ‘cuz Bimmer folks can be like that.
Rather, let us focus on the major differentiating factors and issues which might prompt one to select a vehicle such as the 428 xDrive Gran Coupe I got to roll around in earlier this summer — appearing as it does in the midst of an explosively expanding range of BMW choices.
I found my 428 to be a good-looking, just marginally more capacious and certainly stylistically wonderful variant on the existing 3 Series style palette. The Gran Coupe model (a standard coupe and a convertible model also exist) adds in an extended roofline and four doors in the odd subcategory favored by European automakers who really want to crash all their genres together — but is unrelated to the truly unusual, nearly hatchback-styled Gran Turismo variant you’ll find in other models. The 4.4-inch-longer roofline does mean better rear seat headroom, as well.
Like the relatively new X4, the 4 Series has also set off howls of acrimony among the extremely faithful, who gripe that the car has a tall and prominently contoured hood that only a mother could love, and bemoan the existence of those rear doors.
I suggest that you might like them, though the rear doors are indeed very sharply angled in the back to accommodate their actual existence, producing passenger entries and exits that are a little tricky.
The car’s overall design may indeed prove to be its most polarizing attribute. Inside, it’s a curious mix of shiny, carbon fiber-inspired silver trim that I found a little punishing on my knee in its application on the door. There’s shiny black on stippled flat black plastic.
Of the two engine choices, the smaller 2.0-liter four-cylinder does mean less-than-explosive acceleration at first but a nice flow of power once underway, and the added bonus of as much as 32 MPG on the highway. I noted that the little 2.0-liter was very noisy at startup, subsiding quickly, and that like so many other new vehicles and their infinitely geared transmissions, the gear changes seemed just a little unpredictable in the eight-speed automatic sport transmission which is your only choice with this vehicle.
Full acceleration, at speed, is certainly more well-connected, but if your inner speed demon wants to have the full, traditional BMW experience, opt instead for engine choice two, a TwinPower turbo 3.0-liter inline six that makes 300 HP ought to rock your world a little more. Those choices, up to you; my 2.0-liter, all-wheel-drive equipped model started at a bit over $42,000, but in true BMW style, gained almost $13,000 in value with options ranging from the M Sport design package (fancy wheels and highlights) to a corresponding list of actual M Sport functional bits, including sport brakes, adaptive suspension and variable sport steering.
The net results of those modifications was a vehicle that did indeed embody all of BMW’s legendary handling attributes, with great agility and road-handling finesse — just not blinding M Sport power. A fine compromise, I guess.
Mine also had a full navigation system with a fixed widescreen, offering broader map details and one of the most assertive synthesized navigational voices I’ve ever heard. A chicken-scratch reader on the input controller allows you to spell out addresses and more easily access some basic commands.
Virtually fold-flat 60/40-split seats in the rear also do make it a little more adaptable as a 45.9-cubic-foot hauler of large, flat goods, with a cargo net and a new “sweep your foot under the rear bumper to activate the trunk latch” system, good when you are indeed laden with goods.
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