The new BMW 4 Series family gets a new member this year. Wanted or not, it’s another story, but the 4 Series Gran Coupe fits BMW’s strategy to fill every possible, and profitable niche in the premium segment. Built atop the F32 platform, the 4 Series Gran Coupe was promoted by the BMW product managers as an “elegant four-door coupe with the handling characteristics of a two-door 4 Series Coupe.”
To verify this claim, we went to Bilbao, Spain for the international media launch of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, or in this case, the 428i Gran Coupe which was unveiled right across from the Guggenheim Museum, a cultural landmark in Bilbao, and not only.
WHY IS IT SPECIAL?
Just like its older and larger brother, BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, the 4 Series Gran Coupe comes with four frameless doors who give the car a sleek and elegant look. To match the practicality of the successful Audi A5 Sportback, the BMW designers and engineers fitted a tailgate which can be opened conventionally or by waving your foot under the rear bumper. It reveals a boot space of 480 liters – 35 liters more than in the Coupe, 40 liters down on the 3 Series Touring. The the 40:20:40 split folding rear seats offer 1,300 liters capacity – 320 liters more than in the A5 Sportback.
Even though it shares most of its components and design cues with the coupe and convertible models, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe aims to attract new buyers as well. BMW mentions that the typical 4 Series Gran Coupe customer will search for the elegance and sportiness of a coupe, but with easier access and increased convenience.
Where the 4 Series Gran Coupe stands out is the side view which unlike the 3 Series Gran Turismo sports a lower coupe-like roof and balanced proportions.
The tapered roof does make seating in the back a bit more uncomfortable for someone tall. At 6″2 the headroom felt a bit too tight for my likening. But the 4 Series Gran Coupe makes up with more legroom.
The rear bench is more accommodating for passengers than in the Coupe with space for three. So while the Coupe is a four-seater, BMW calls the Gran Coupe a 4+1.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Ahead of the driving event, BMW experts emphasized the coupe-like driving capabilities of the 4 Series Gran Coupe. BMW says its engineers aimed to offer similar driving dynamics for the niche model so the customers doesn’t feel they have to comprise on the experience behind the wheel while gaining more interior space.
To give the car a run for its money, we took the 428i Gran Coupe M Sport model on superb Spanish country back roads. Under the hood of the 428i Gran Coupe, BMW placed a 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 245 horsepower between 5,000-6,500rpm and 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque at 1,250-4,800rpm.
While the official figures for performance and efficiency are impressive, the engine’s character is what we have been accustomed to in the 428i Coupe or even 328i Coupe: smooth, yet linear and barely exciting. But that’s only true in the Comfort mode of BMW’s Drive Performance Control. With BMW’s Drive Performance Control system as standard, the driver gets to choose between four different driving modes: Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.
So we immediately toggled the mode to Sport and a bit later to Sport+. Instantly the 428i Gran Coupe comes to life, steering assistance is reduced (not bad for a modern electro-mechanical system), gear changing is faster and smoother, sharper throttle response, and the suspension firms up. Furthermore, the electronic stability control now allows allow a small degree of oversteer when requested by the driver.
Oh, and even the engine sounds crisper and with a louder roar.
Even with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels low-profile Bridgestone Potenza tires, the car remains comfortable to drive without sacrificing its sportiness. The body roll we encountered first in Comfort mode is now reduced and cornering becomes faster and more exciting.
The back roads of Bilbao were perfect for spirited driving and with back-to-back corners, the 428i Gran Coupe was really put to test. We worried less about MPG and focused more on driving experience, while acknowledging that the 428i Gran Coupe model aims to be a balance between sportiness and efficiency, with the high-end spectrum of performance being left for the 435i or 435d models.
Compared to the 6 Series Gran Coupe we sampled in the past, the 4 Series Gran Coupe focuses more on the feeling behind the wheel versus the long-distance comfort of a Gran Tourer. Yet, the 428i Gran Coupe can do that as well. Just switch back to Comfort, turn up the music, take a relaxed stance in the perfectly countered sport seats and enjoy the ride and scenery.
Furthermore, take the car out of the back roads setting and place in a mega city like Chicago and you get the perfect daily driver in a commute that many label it monstrous and ridiculous.
Weighing around 3,610 pounds, the 428i Gran Coupe is not a lightweight champ, but with the 245 ponies and the ample torque, it never felt sluggish, underrated.
BMW quotes a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds, more than decent.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
Audi A5 Sportback set the bar high in the segment and has been a leader in this niche market, but without a doubt the 4 Series Gran Coupe will give it a run for its money. Now if you love the looks, proportions and sportiness of the 4 Series Coupe, then the Gran Coupe variant becomes a viable candidate. It gives you two extra doors for easy access, more internal space and larger storage space. It also gives you that beautiful side silhouette that makes it look even more premium. And if you throw in the M Sport Package as well, then you’re getting close, visually, to a M4 Gran Coupe which is still a big unknown.
In the U.S, the 2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe starts at $41,225, with xDrive all-wheel drive costing $2,000. The high-end 435i Gran Coupe costs $46,725.
BMW 4-series Gran Coupe price and specifications
On Sale: June 21
Base Price: $41,225
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four; rwd, 8-speed automatic
Output: 240 hp at 5000-6500 rpm, 255 lb ft at 1250-4800 rpm
0-60: 5.7 seconds
Curb Weight: 3610 pounds
US EPA Mileage: TBA