AIN'T LIFE GRAN?
2015 BMW 428i X Gran Coupe
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Feb 4, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
John Grafman and Mike Dovorany
On first blush anything or anyone can make a good impression. Hell, even on a first date the lowest Cretan can come off as something other than sub-human. Autos often seem sweet as sugar, but after an extended outing they leave a sour taste in one’s mouth.
The BMW 428i X Gran Coupe squeezes itself between the 3 and 5 Series, and takes its fastback looks from the 6 Series Gran Coupe. It might seem like the 4 is almost redundant. Is there more to this than meets the eye? One-way to find out is a take-no-prisoners road trip to Las Vegas!
The nearly 300 miles of tarmac that flows from LA to the city of lost wages is both picturesque, and enough time to get a feel for what makes the Bimmer tick.
Step one, plug in the requisite Escort radar detector, fuel up, grab a couple friends, swallow enough No-Doze to gag a moose, and swing a dead chicken over our head for luck. Okay, No-Doze isn’t actually required and no chickens are harmed, as the 428i X is plucky enough to keep us wide-awake.
Ah, the things you learn once you start an adventure like this.
Trunk, what trunk?
As it turns out trunks aren’t always as they seem. While the trunk of the 428i GC appears to be non-existent, it’s actually a decent size. Adding to the confusion, this isn’t just a sedan, or coupe as BMW claims, this a bona-fide hatchback! Yes, pop the release and the small rear panel and the entire, massive glass area reaches for the heavens.
This produces a shallow interior area of some length, but it can neatly swallow packages that would be cumbersome in a standard truck. Also, it turns out to be much easier to excavate any single piece of luggage buried deep, closer to the rear seats. That being said, hatchbacks in the past have been known to have more issues with squeaks and noises entering the cabin, but this was as solid as a rock. So, for those that stigmatize hatches we say, “what hatch”? – John Grafman
Don’t move to the back of the bus
The Gran Coupe excels in several areas, but rear seat comfort simply isn’t one of them. Unlike its coupe stable mate that trades rear seat functionality for sleeker proportions, the GC is supposed to offer that coupe-like styling in a more functional package. Aside from getting their own doors, rear seat passengers mostly get the feeling they should have taken the bus.
While headroom for front passengers could even be called generous, anyone taller than 5’5” in the rear seat is treated to static shocks as their hair rubs fervently against the headliner. Legroom is marginally better, unless one of those pampered front passengers gets greedy with seat position. Drivers of this BMW are advised to limit rear seat use to short trips or risk mutiny from those behind. – Mike Dovorany
You turn me on and off
Is the engine auto on/off just there to drive us crazy? This is far from the first car to offer this nifty fuel saving feature. It does have a kill button as part of the ignition button to cease this from slowly turning us insane, like a faucet that constantly drips, or a smoke alarm that chirps as the battery dies out in the middle of the night. When active, this stops the motor when at a standstill for more than a few seconds. Once the accelerator is touched, the car restarts. It only takes a second to kick the engine over again, but when you want to go, say after a signal or stop sign, you want to go now, not in a second or two. Americans are so demanding!
We aren’t even totally sure if the fuel savings over the long haul will offset the added wear on the starter, which most assuredly will cost more than a few dollars. - JG
Spinning Blue Cinemascope
The 428i sports a widescreen display centered atop the dash. It looks like a smallish tablet, which sets off a Pavlovian response to control it via touch, but alas, it’s not a touchscreen. It is controlled via the iDrive knob.
Getting past that initial frustration, the screen grows on you. In a world where people cram 50” TVs everywhere, the screen at first seems on the small size. But, helped by its high resolution it begins to feel just right. BMW makes good use of its widescreen layout, dividing content into neat vertical columns. Best of all, the screen’s placement high on the dash has it nearly in the driver’s line of sight. – MD
I Drive 2015
Surprisingly, iDrive is pretty self-explanatory. For the most part any rookie can get the hang of this quickly enough. The buttons that surround the knob control the major functions, such as navigation or radio. From there a simple turn of the iDrive knob takes the driver to sub menus that can be activated by depressing the center knob. The driver selects whatever he or she wishes, such as the location on the nav, or station on the radio. This does require a bit of multitasking while driving, from either remembering which button is which, or glancing over at the options. Of course, the toggle button on the steering wheel can also handle many of the functions associated with the iDrive. - JG
A slate of optional safety features is available in the 428i. But think of these as a safety net for momentary lapses in attention (like spilling a creamy latte on your selvedge denim) not near-autonomous control afforded by other luxury vehicles on the market. The so-called Active Driving Assistant features will warn you if the vehicle is wandering out of its lane, but will not intervene. But if you insist on driving into another vehicle or a pedestrian it will apply the brakes after warning you.
With several cars now able to drive themselves fully in certain situations, this Bimmer felt several years behind. Not that any of it makes us comfortable, as even the best systems still require occasional intervention. - MD
Dick Tracy would be impressed
This does have several features that would make it on most geeks wish lists (and ours too). Color heads-up display! Sure, sign us up! Adaptive LED headlights, and Surround View are both appreciated, and make driving in an urban jungle just that much more likely to survive. But, what about the big guns?
Fear not, as BMW was very keen to display at CES just the month before, and the company is already showing examples of autonomous driving, sure to hit several models in the upcoming years. The examples shown included an i3 that would come on command with a signal from a wearable device, such as a smartwatch. Dick Tracy would be impressed.
Also, at CES there was an eye opening display of the new laser light technology for BMW headlights that will be out on the market soon enough. The 4 Series being used for the display provided us with enough of a sample to say that the future looks very bright indeed! - JG
It is challenging to find a Bimmer that has a displeasing interior design. The 4 is no different. The materials have a pleasant feel on the dash and doors. The leather seats are comfortable and are nicely stitched with graceful lines. All the gaps look tighter than a dental veneer job for a Beverly Hills celebrity.
While the “tablet” in the middle of the instrument panel does break up the surface, it’s far less an eyesore than one would think. The curvaceous modeling of the dash is rather, well, sexy.
The iDrive also cleans up the clutter of numerous other buttons and switches that would otherwise make this a visual headache and confusing.
A couple of unique touches do jazz this up without being cheesy. In particular, the silver looking, faux carbon fiber panels used on the interior door grips add a bit of sparkle, and it’s a touch of luxury without resorting to the tried and true, typical wood inlay (available on other models). - JG
On all fours
You’re yanking my chain; this can’t be a 4-cylinder engine! BMW jumped onto the small displacement, turbocharged engine bandwagon years ago. These days, the i3 is the only BMW you can buy in the U.S. with a normally aspirated engine. The benefit is that BMW has worked very hard to make overachievers out of its smaller engines.
BMW employs clever throttle tuning to mask turbo lag by telling the engine to deliver more power at first, then dialing it back as the turbo spools up. As a result, the 2.0L I4 exhibits virtually no discernible lag under normal driving. Power delivery feels linear and strong, moving the Gran Coupe about with ease. Only under WOT is the parlor trick exposed and turbo lag becomes apparent. Not a bad tradeoff for an engine that easily returned 30+ mpg on our highway blast across the desert. – MD
Are you sure this isn’t a six? I keep asking myself that question. This is easily one of the most impressive four cylinder motors we’ve ever had the pleasure to throttle. 240 horsepower out of a 2-liter breaks down to 120 per liter. That, my friends, is exotic territory all but a few years ago. However, you wouldn’t know this is an inline four unless someone told you, as it feels so refined, and energetic when asked to play. Plus, with 255 lb-ft. of torque, this doesn’t get weak in the knees when the going gets tough, or saddled with a few extra bags. All told, this can go 0-60 in 5.7 seconds. Not too shabby. - JG
The rolling resistance so low you’d swear this is moving along via maglev technology. In fact, I nearly freaked out on the first few outings with the 4. Most cars have a fairly perceptible cruise down when you take a foot off the gas pedal. Not so with the 428i X. This seems to just carry on, as if cruise control is on. Clearly, in addition to the wonderfully small engine, there is a very noticeable reason why this four-door can achieve better-than-average fuel economy without leaning on hybrid technology and expense. Blame the efficiency on the ultra, buttery–smooth, 8-speed automatic transmission.
The car quickly gets into a top gear and remains there in the econo-mode. There is a toggle switch on the center console for a couple of sport-modes, which do greatly alter the shift point, as well as keep the car in a lower gear much longer than needed for anything other than true performance driving. Besides the full auto mode where the car does all the thinking and shifting, the driver can take the reins and use either the paddle shifters, or slide the center console shifter to the side to enter the manual shifter. For 99 percent of the time the car makes smarter decisions on which gear to use than most drivers.
The long road to Vegas did allow us to explore both sides of the BMW, Superman when you want it, Clark Kent when you don’t. - JG
Ain’t life Gran?
On paper the 428i X Gran Coupe appears to offer the best of both coupe and sedan worlds, but the result feels mixed. The hatch offers surprising functionality; just don’t brag about it to anyone banished to the rear seats. And with its soulful engine and aggressive M Sport suspension, it seems to be a BMW aimed at enthusiasts. But this feeling is undermined by lifeless steering and intrusive start-stop that sends a shudder through the vehicle at every stoplight (unless you make an effort to terminate it). BMW’s reputation was built on vehicles of singular purpose. The Gran Coupe, in contrast, is intent on trying to be everything for everyone. - MD
So, this BMW is a mixed bag of tricks. This 428i X model equipped as it is does usher in a new era for technology, but stops a bit short of delivering on all of the goods, including distance sensing cruise control. The Bavarian four-door also provides a very pleasing drive over long hauls, able to bob and weave better than most, but misses the mark on steering feel and ample room for oversized adults.
Does BMW really need anything other than a 3 or 5 Series? Probably not. The company might find most of the customers cross-shopping for a 3 Series, not a car from the competitors. Is this a good thing? It took GM years to figure out that it is during boom times, but not during a downturn in the market. Then, an OEM has too many products to support and not enough customers.
Leaving the lights and glitter of the strip behind us, we manage to once again make Highway 15 our own. Baker, Barstow, and finally Newport Beach. We see no reason to abandon our steed in favor of a high-speed rail alternative. However, if it gets a few more of the road obstacles out of our intended path, BMW owners out west will rejoice.
If a BMW driver, or any driver for that matter, can’t find pleasure in driving, there’s a pretty good chance that he or she never knew what it was all about in the first place.
The 428i X is at the threshold of a new day in driving, which will redefine our definition of what an experience behind the wheel should be. Until then this will do just fine!
For more information about BMW products, go to bmwusa.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2015 BMW 428i X Price: Base $42,300 as tested $57,450 Engine type: 2-liter, four-cylinder, four valves per, direct fuel-injection, twin-scroll turbocharger with variable valve control (Double-VANOS and Valvetronic) and high-precision direct injection EPA mileage estimates Combined / City/ Highway: 26 / 22/ 32 Horsepower: 240 @ 5,000-6,000 rpm Torque: 255 lb.-ft @ 1,450-4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / xDrive all-wheel-drive system Transmission type: 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission; includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters Suspension: Twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers Front: Double-pivot type front suspension with spring struts and anti-roll bar Rear: 5-link rear suspension with cast-aluminum upper transverse arms Wheels and tires: Front: Star Spoke light alloy wheels (Style 393) with 17 x 7.5 and 225/50 run-flat1 all-season tires. Optional 18" Light Alloy M Sport Wheel Rear: Star Spoke light alloy wheels (Style 393) with 17 x 7.5 and 225/50 run-flat1 all-season tires. Optional 18" Light Alloy M Sport Wheel Brakes: Front: High-performance, lightweight, 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC). Optional - Optional M Sport Brakes feature 4-piston aluminum fixed calipers in the front, 2-piston aluminum fixed calipers in the rear, lightweight discs and high-performance brake pads. Rear: High-performance, lightweight, 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC). Optional - Optional M Sport Brakes feature 4-piston aluminum fixed calipers in the front, 2-piston aluminum fixed calipers in the rear, lightweight discs and high-performance brake pads. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), including Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, and Brake Stand-by features; with Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) Dimensions Overall length: 182.5” Overall width: 79.4” with mirrors Overall height: 54.6” Curb weight (lbs.): 3,740 0-60 mph: 5.7 sec Top Speed = 130mph electronically limited in base model