Now the fifth (!) body style in the growing 3/4 Series family, the 2015 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe hatchback may be the best four-door of the bunch.
It's easy to understand the appeal of BMW's 3 Series and 4 Series four-door and two-door models. It isn't easy to understand how the company names all the many varieties of both.
For 2014, BMW reintroduced the 3 Series coupe under a new name, 4 Series, and rolled out the peculiar 3 Series Gran Turismo four-door hatchback. The 2015 4 Series Gran Coupe is simply a sportier 3 Series sedan, with a hatch instead of a standard trunk. The driving experience is more engaging, and the utility of the cargo area is welcome, too. So why would anyone need a sedan — especially considering the Gran Coupe's graceful looks (unlike the 3 Series GT)?
Like the GT, the Gran Coupe can be had as a 428i or a more powerful 435i, with either rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel drive. We tested a 428i xDrive with a starting price of $43,250, including a destination fee.
Exterior & Styling
One of the stunning things about the 4 Series Gran Coupe is that even though it's a hatchback, it's hard to discern that fact from a quick perusal of the outside. In fact, more than one person was surprised when I walked up to what they thought was a sedan and popped open the hatch.
Otherwise, it looks like a slightly more aggressive 3 Series sedan. It's a stately and sophisticated look that BMW has perfected over the years; it's hard to find it offensive in any way.
Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, and a wide array of wheel options are available in 18- and 19-inch varieties. Our test car had 18-inch M Sport wheels as part of a $3,500 option package that also had an Aerodynamic Kit for a slightly more aggressive look.
How It Drives
We've been impressed with BMW's turbocharged four-cylinder ever since a 328i won our Sport Sedan Challenge a few years ago. It's not only fast, but also fuel-efficient (though slightly less so with all-wheel drive).
Power comes on smoothly, but I expected a little more instantaneous lift-off. Instead, the 428i feels a little heavy. I drove it back-to-back with our long-term Mercedes-Benz C300, which also has all-wheel drive but is 146 pounds lighter, and the competitor did indeed feel lighter on its feet and a little quicker off the line.
I do, however, need to stress the word "little" here. These cars are very close in terms of how good they are, and it would be hard to declare a clear winner in around-town driving. Where the 428i truly differs is with its significantly heavier steering and tighter handling. The C-Class is no slouch in corners, but BMW has prided itself on performance handling, and that comes through in the 4 Series.
Other editors agreed, but said the Gran Coupe didn't carve corners quite as well as the 428i coupe — a true two-door — that we had in our test fleet at the same time. Even so, the Gran Coupe is surprisingly similar to the two-door in size; it's within fractions of an inch in length, width and height. The extra doors and large glass liftgate add only 105 pounds of weight, as well.
So, for practical fun, the Gran Coupe is impressive.
Ride comfort was quite good, but it was indeed rougher than the C-Class. That wasn't a turnoff for me, but if a shopper is looking for comfort above all else, this BMW isn't the way to go.
Fuel economy is rated 23/34/27 mpg city/highway/combined for rear-wheel-drive powertrains; all-wheel drive brings the numbers down to 22/32/26 mpg.
The 4 Series looks a lot like the 3 Series inside, and ours was equipped with a fetching Ivory White Dakota leather interior that made the sporty cabin bright and airy. That's good, because the cabin is pretty cramped, even from the driver's seat, and the black headliner doesn't help matters.
There's enough room for an average-sized person like myself, ringing in at just over 5 feet 10 inches tall, with five to 10 pounds I could stand to lose. My head grazed the roof in the driver's seat, and I almost hit my head getting into the rear, which had enough legroom that my knees just cleared the seatback.
If you find yourself far outside average dimensions, this might be a deal-breaker. And even if you technically fit, it might still feel claustrophobic in the driver's seat.
Luckily, all the seats are quite comfortable, with a lot of thigh support up front — a BMW trademark I hope never changes.
Ergonomics & Electronics
BMW's multimedia system, called iDrive, continues to evolve and gain small improvements with each iteration — especially in graphics clarity, which more than one editor ranked quite highly.
Navigating through the multiple menu screens, however, is more laborious than in some other systems, and not exactly intuitive. This is something you'd get used to over time, but it makes us question why it needs to be so involved.
A nine-speaker stereo is standard, with bass-centric speakers under the front seats (though I never played anything powerful enough to literally shake my rump during my test). The overall sound quality was quite good. There's an optional Harman Kardon system for $875 that still features the underseat speakers and adds seven others, for a total of 16 speakers.
Cargo & Storage
After driving the 428i around suburbia for a weekend, running errands and filling the cargo area repeatedly with all manner of goods, I had to wonder why anyone would ever select a sedan over a hatchback, especially with no styling detriment and no additional noise from the open cargo area that I could discern.
I loaded the 17-cubic-foot space after a trip to the garden center with a giant bag of topsoil, which I loaded lengthwise, not across, in the cargo area. It fit snugly, but it fit, leaving room for a matching bag right next to it, if needed, and then some. On another trip I loaded a package of 15 rolls of paper towels and two large (20- to 30-pound) bags of dog food, and again there was ample room to spare. Besides the paper towels, I never really pushed the limits of the height of the area, either.
The Gran Coupe's power liftgate is also standard, which is a nice touch.
The 3 Series GT packs more cargo room, at 18.4 cubic feet, while the 3 Series Sports Wagon surprisingly measures only 17.5 cubic feet. However, if you're a dog owner the wagon would likely be your preference, as the cargo floor isn't flush with the bumper in the Gran Coupe. It's an inconsequential impediment for lifting groceries or luggage, but a dog wouldn't be able to hop in on its own, unlike in the wagon.
Maximum cargo volume in the Gran Coupe is rated 45.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat, which is significantly less than the wagon, at 53 cubic feet, and the GT, at 56.5 cubic feet.
It's good that there's a lot of room in back of the Gran Coupe, because storage throughout the rest of the cabin is slim. The cubby in the center console between the driver and passenger is very small, with just enough room for a smartphone and a wallet.
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe has not been crash-tested.
BMW has an array of optional safety features, some of which are useful every day, not just when your safety depends on them.
Chief among those are the optional side- and top-view cameras that give a 360-degree view of the car, as if from overhead, when in Reverse, as well as the standard rearview perspective. It's similar to a system Infiniti uses and has saved me anxiety many times while navigating the narrow driveway alongside my house.
The cameras can also be bundled into a Driver Assistance Plus Package that adds lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and mitigation, and a pedestrian warning system.
The Gran Coupe did not perform exceptionally well in our Car Seat Check, with our seat-testers noting problems with both the infant and booster seats. You can read the full check here.
Value in Its Class
There are few better combinations of luxury, performance and practicality than the 428i Gran Coupe. It is, however, hard to swallow our as-tested price of $57,450, as well as the $2,800 premium over the 328i sedan's base price. Yet the all-wheel-drive version is only $450 more than the 328i GT and $350 more than the 328i Sport Wagon. You can compare the four variations here.
To me, that's the right price to pay if you want the added utility but don't want anyone to know you're really that practical.
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