Yeah, we think the name is dumb, too. Just a moment ago, BMW was explaining that all two-door 3 Series would heretofore be called 4 Series, and now it's introducing a new four-door 4 Series—the 2015 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. This new body style, the sixth in the 3-/4- Series lineup, has a lower roofline than the 3 Series sedan and frameless windows, yet it also has a hatchback like the 3 Series GT and 3 Series wagon. That’s a whole lot of names and numbers to absorb.
We’d be more upset about all this, but we’re having too much fun driving a 2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe through northern Spain. Our bags are sliding around the 45.9 cubic-foot rear hold as we dial into a hairpin and throttle out toward the next turn.
BMW characterizes the Gran Coupe as sportier than a 3 Series. It’s actually more of a mixed bag. The Gran Coupe shares its ride height—0.4-inches lower than the sedan—with the two-door 4 Series. It also has a tighter backseat than the sedan, although those seats fold down to open up far more luggage space. At the same time, it is some 140 pounds heavier due to all the extra glass. Moreover, a six-speed manual won’t be offered. We’d make a bigger stink about this if the eight-speed automatic weren’t so good. It’s super quick and keeps the turbo four-cylinder in its happy zone, something we found difficult to do with a stick shift during our year with a 2012 BMW 328i.
Like all F30-generation cars, you’ll have to choose carefully among the many options packages if you want to keep the price down and get the best handling—our test car has the M-sport suspension, which sits an additional 0.4 inch lower. And like its brethren, the Gran Coupe can feel a bit soft and removed when you’re just plodding along in comfort mode.
But find some tight roads, like the ones that wind like a ribbon around Bilbao, Spain, and this car is your best friend. The steering dials in with razor precision. The chassis is balanced such that you can hang the tail out like a hero through corners and roundabouts—that extra weight is mostly in back, so the Gran Coupe is more rear-biased than either the 3 Series or the two-door 4 Series. The 240-hp four-cylinder loves to rev up to 5000 rpm or so, its smooth growl harmonizing with the howl of the Bridgestone Potenza performance tires.
We stop for an espresso along the Iberian coast and admire the Gran Coupe's frameless windows and gently sloping C-pillar. It’s not a drastically new look, but sharp eyes will know it’s not like the thousands of other 3 Series that crowd every U.S. city. Whether that and the extra storage space will be enough to justify the $3000 surcharge over an equivalent 3 Series will be up to buyers. BMW thinks the compact luxury sedan market is large enough that it will find just such buyers, and that it can do so without cannibalizing sales of the other body styles. “Let us worry about that,” says one product planner. Fair enough. BMW’s manic search for new niches harms no one so long as the execution of the cars doesn’t suffer. The 2015 4 Series Gran Coupe, confusing name aside, gives us little reason complain. Call it whatever you want, it’s still a 3 Series.
2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe
|Base price/as tested||$41,225/$58,913|
|Engine||2.0L turbo I-4, 240 hp at 5000-6000 rpm, 255 lb ft at 1250-4800 rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic automatic|
|Trunk capacity||17/45.9 cu ft|
|Fuel economy||23/33 mpg city/highway|