Test Drive: 2015 BMW 428i xDrive Gran Coupe

By now, most car enthusiasts are familiar with the new regime of nomenclature over at BMW. A 3 or 5 Series is a four-door sedan, 4 or 6 Series is a two-door, um, coupe. Even if you didn’t know that, you probably know that a coupe is a two-door. So if I’m driving a 428i xDrive Gran Coupe, I see that it’s a 4 Series and also labeled a Coupe – so this will be a two-door, right? Wrong.

These Gran Coupes are not two doors. Maybe BMW thought that having two designators of a two-door means they should multiply them and came up with four? That doesn’t work, this one has five doors – it’s technically a hatch. Confused yet?

Despite all the confusion and jargon though, BMW has stumbled on a winner here.

The 428i xDrive Gran Coupe is an all-wheel-drive hatchback sedan coupe. Does that help? No? It didn’t help me, either. BMW’s quest for diversity and a broad base has it delving deep into automotive niches. They’ve realized that while everyone wants lion statues on the gates of their cottage driveway, no two cottages should have the same lions. And so, BMW is making many, many lions.

Despite all the confusion and jargon though, BMW has stumbled on a winner here. The swooping roofline is a gorgeous profile, the four doors are useful for small families, and the sloped hatch is a surprisingly practical cargo receptacle.

It really is a stunning car with sporty, sleek lines that invoke speed and luxury and had more than one passerby stopping for a third look and a chat. Jonathan even spotted a high-schooler gawking pointing it out to all his friends. The sharp lighting accents at dusk only improve the visual impact projected by the Gran Coupe, and I’ll admit to gazing upon it lovingly whenever I walked towards it.

BMW’s much-touted driving dynamics are present and accounted for, too. It’s a genuinely lovely car to drive despite the flaws inherent in a hatch versus “proper” sedan, like the way suspension noise is amplified. The lack of bracing in between the C-Pillars and the larger surface areas facing into the passenger compartment play a part in transmitting suspension crashes into the cockpit. I noticed the extra noise and crashiness immediately, remarking to my colleague that “this is not reminiscent of the BMW I know and love.” After a couple of days I got used to it; I think the juxtaposition of the luxury-brand BMW roundel and the suspension noises in the cabin was what really threw me. The steering wheel is still as direct as a BMW should be and the car handles with precision and composure (despite the noises from underneath). The xDrive powertrain does generate understeer, but you can drive around it with a little slower entry speed and more mid-corner throttle.

That throttle, by the way, is attached to a turbocharged inline-four with 241 hp at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft between 1,450 and 4,800. Its engine note is crisp and clean, but subdued.

The output is adequate for punting the 1,637 kg BMW into gaps in highway traffic, but a heavy right foot is required to get the most from it. If you don’t mind standing on the throttle all day this is a very entertaining engine. My wife wanted more grunt, as did my daughter. They’re power hungry and that’s why I love them. This isn’t a sports car though, it’s a tourer, and the engine is satisfying in this application.

The gearbox is gorgeous. Silken, like a Rocky Mountain lake on a clear day; ripple free like none of my shirts, ever – ironing is hard. Paddle left – down, paddle right – up. Nice. Like all Beemers, this one had preset drive modes:

  • Eco, which gives you access to a gorgeous driving coach and score card (I got all fives).
  • Comfort, which is code for “oops I forgot to press the button.”
  • Sport, which is code for “I think I’m a racecar driver!”
  • Sport +, which I believe is code for “Jacob, stop that! You’re not a bloody racecar driver!”

All of them have distinct differences in gearbox behaviour and throttle response, Sport+ essentially transforms the eight-speed autobox into a six-speed, with seventh and eighth gears shunned in favour of a meatier rev range. Drop the program from Sport+ to Eco while cruising at 120, and you’ll see the needle drop from around 3,000 to a tad over 2,000 rpm. One is relaxing and comfortable, the other makes you tailgate people and generally behave badly.

In my road trip with the 2014 BMW 328i Touring I found the Eco mode gave me six percent better economy. In this I found the same result. According to the BMW Eco Pro display in the trip computer, I saved 12 km of fuel in 200 km of driving, again six percent. The EPA says I should get 9.0 L/100 km of combined driving, with 10.7 in the city and 7.4 on the highway. I recorded 10.4 L/100 km for the week. The engine stop/start seems better than it was in the Touring, and I’m wondering if that was a quirk of the temperatures back then.

Grip is not an issue, thanks to the 225/45 18-inch tires, AWD and well-balanced chassis. I think BMW has not yet got the AWD balance right in terms of cornering behaviour. After all, BMW sets most of its cars up from the box for RWD powertrains, when you get to Canada where everyone buys AWD (Oh no! Snow!), the chassis no longer behaves the same way and the result is push, lots and lots of understeer. Like I said, if you enter corners more slowly and then slowly build throttle through the corner you can drive around it but BMW comes with responsive steering, they are designed for rapid turn-in. Sad that AWD dulls that pleasure.

The seats are comfortable and firm, they will hold you in place long after the tires have given way, and on our three-hour road trip none of our family felt the slightest discomfort. The materials are all top-notch, and the design is the same as every other BMW we’ve tested – lovely.  The more I use iDrive, the more I like it too, the main joy of which is the ability to perform every single function with just a few millimetres of finger/hand movement – and absolutely zero need to look at the controller – only the high-mounted screen. This tester was fitted with the $2,000 Executive Package with lumbar support, a universal remote control (for the cottage gates), Harman/Kardon sound and the piece de resistance: a head-up display. The head-up display is manna from heaven for me, when I scroll the wheel on the steering wheel, I can thumb through and select radio stations or presets, and see all my options clearly set out before me next to speed, navigation and other warnings, smack-bang in the centre of my field of vision as I scan the road ahead. I’m a large supporter of head-up displays that are well integrated with steering wheel controls.

Other packages included the Driver Assistance Package with active blind spot detection, lane departure and collision warning and surround view. This top-down parking aid camera is fantastic, but the 428i seems to lack a front-mounted camera, all I got was a black square in front of the car on the surround view monitor. No matter, I back into most parking bays anyway. When I park in my condo I have to inch close to the walls though, and the green, yellow or red squares that pop up obfuscated my view of the pushbike I was trying to avoid hitting. Thankfully I could switch to the regular rearview camera (also fitted as part of the Premium Package) to complete my parking maneuvers.

Cabin storage in the 428i was about par for the course, with a smallish armrest bin in the console largely overrun by the BMW telephone clip in. Most of our odds and ends ended up in the cupholders and the door sills.

Interior comfort for the driver is increased by a heated steering wheel (part of the Premium Package) which came in handy in this unseasonably cold September. Speaking of things that kept my hands warm – you can also access internet through the BMW screen thanks to the $850 ConnectedDrive Services Pro with Advanced Real Time Traffic Information package. The data comes from your own data service, so be careful of your cap, but you get full access to the internet on the eight-inch screen.

Despite all these feature-rich packages, active cruise control with stop and go was reserved as a $1,000 standalone option. I used it heavily in country highway cruising and even on suburban Toronto roads. All of the systems movements were smooth and progressive, the car took off quickly once the car ahead moved and I never felt the need to hit the brake pedal (though of course I had it covered just in case). Even on the highway when a car jumps into the small gap left by the radar cruise, the BMW system only gently reduces speed, gradually rebuilding the gap until it’s back to where it should be. That’s a leap forward from other systems which practically perform an emergency stop in similar circumstances.

I mentioned that we went on a road trip, and the destination was a racetrack to camp for the weekend. We picked up a rental RV on the way, so had to pack our weekend’s camping supplies all in the trunk. Because we have a three-year-old, and because my wife was working at the track, we needed more luggage than most people but it all fit in the hatch. The long load opening and access to the entire cargo area under the hatch make it easy to Tetris your way to cargo success. We were surprised by what we could fit into the 396 L boot. Adding to the luggage hauling capabilities, the 428i has 40/20/40 split seats for easily expanding the cargo area without disrupting our daughter’s booster seat.

The BMW 428i Gran Coupe is pretty and sporty, and more than capable of its mission. The hatch is happily as practical as it is beautiful, even though overall luggage space is nothing like it would be in a proper wagon. The mission here isn’t practicality, though, it’s style and class.

If you’re looking for a classic BMW experience, but want to be different from the crowd, if you like the way BMW diversifies its model lineup as though it was a dress rack at The Bay, then you might just be drawn to this little number.

The best part? It drives as good as it looks.

2015 BMW 428i xDrive Gran Coupe
2015 BMW 428i xDrive Gran Coupe
Base Price $49,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $63,990
Optional Equipment Executive Package (universal remote control, lumbar support, head-up display, Harman/Kardon sound system) - $2,000, Premium Package (heated steering wheel, rear-view camera, alarm system, comfort access, through-loading system, auto-dimming mirrors, park distance control, on-board navigation, SiriusXM) - $4,600, Driver Assistance Package (adaptive headlights, high beam assistant, active blind-spot detection, lane departure and collision warning, surround view) - $1,500, ConnectedDrive Services Prof with ARTTI (BMW Online, traffic information, concierge services, remote services, internet, extended smartphone connectivity) - $850, Walknappa Leather dashboard - $1,200, active cruise control with stop and go - $1,000, metallic paint - $895, park assistant - $400, speed limit information - $350.
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.8
9 Exterior Styling
7 Performance
8 Interior
8 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy