2014 BMW 428 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New 4 Series replaces 3 Series coupes.
It's the dawn of a new era. Previously part of the venerable 3 Series lineup, BMW's compact sports coupe has been spun off as the 4 Series, an all-new two door with lower, wider proportions, ample power and the bevvy of technology that BMW is known for. The new BMW 4 Series models seat four.
Built on the same architecture as the 3 Series sedan, the BMW 4 Series rides on the same 110.6-inch wheelbase, but is slightly wider and nearly two inches lower.
The 2014 BMW 4 Series coupe is powered by the same engines found in the 3 Series sedan and comes in two variants: the BMW 428i and the BMW 435i, both available with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The BMW 428i uses the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, just a skosh more than its 3 Series counterpart. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive BMW 428i xDrive models come with the automatic only. According to BMW, the 428i can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds with either transmission on RWD models, or just 5.6 seconds with all-wheel drive.
As with many new vehicles, the automatic transmission used on the 4 Series surpasses the manual gearbox when it comes to efficiency. Fuel economy estimates for the BMW 428i are an EPA-estimated 22/34 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual, 23/35 mpg City/Highway with the automatic on RWD models. Fuel economy for BMW 428i xDrive dips slightly to 22/33 mpg City/Highway with its AWD and automatic.
Most powerful is the BMW 435i, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, two horses more powerful but five pound-feet less than the 335i. Transmission choices are the same 6-speed manual or 8-speed auto. Not only is BMW's 8-speed automatic more efficient; it's also quicker. A BMW 435i equipped with the auto achieves a quick 0-60 mph time of 5 seconds flat. With the manual, the 435i can go from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds.
Fuel economy estimates for the BMW 435i are 20/30 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and 22/32 mpg City/Highway with the automatic on RWD cars; xDrive versions earn an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg with the manual and 20/30 mpg with the automatic.
A concept version of a BMW M4 was unveiled at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, giving us a hint of what might be in the near future. There was talk of a 450-hp twin-turbocharged inline-6 and body panels made of lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber.
For 2014, BMW is including its emergency crash notification system, BMW Assist eCall, on all its models, along with 10 years of service.
Interior materials in the 2014 BMW 4 Series are similar to those found on the 3 Series, though the 4 Series cabin design is clearly more driver-oriented. The center stack is slightly canted to the left, and the narrow, tapered center console sits high, cordoning off the driver in her own little cocoon. The iDrive controller and a color screen are standard. For the most part, interior materials match the quality expected from BMW, but in some cases come up short, like the metallic blue and textured silver trim on Sport Line models, which in our opinion look cheap and stuck-on.
BMW designers claim the company's even-numbered vehicles are more significant and unique than their odd-numbered counterparts (consider the 6 Series or the defunct 8 Series). But we're not convinced the 4 Series is exceptional enough to fit into this category, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's more evolutionary than revolutionary, and is clearly recognizable as a 3 Series coupe successor. Prospective buyers should also realize the 4 Series starts at nearly $4,000 more than the equivalent 3 Series sedan.
Still, the 2014 BMW 4 Series is poised to become a leader among luxury compact sport coupes in a relatively small class that includes the Audi A5, Infiniti Q60 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe.
The 2014 BMW 4 Series comes in two variants: BMW 428i and BMW 435i. Each is available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Most variants are available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission.
BMW 428i models come with a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 241 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque and are available with rear-wheel drive ($40,500) or xDrive all-wheel drive ($42,500). Standard features include automatic climate control, SensaTec vinyl upholstery, eight-way power front seats with driver memory, pushbutton start, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with controls, cruise control, onboard computer, Bluetooth, BMW's iDrive interface with 6.5-inch display screen, audio system with CD player, HD radio and USB port, universal garage door opener, split folding rear seat, power moonroof, foglamps, rain-sensing automatic wipers, xenon adaptive headlights with auto-leveling, power folding exterior mirrors with automatic dimming, and 17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat, all-season tires. An automatic stop/start feature is also included.
BMW 435i models are powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 302 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, and come with rear-wheel drive ($46,000) or xDrive all-wheel drive ($48,000). Standard features include those listed above plus an anti-theft alarm system; wheels are 18-inch alloys with run-flat, all-season tires.
Three trim packages are available for 4 Series: Luxury, Sport and M Sport. Each has unique wheels, exterior trim, interior styling, wheels and suspension tuning. Other options include the Cold Weather Package ($950), which adds a heated front and rear seats, a steering wheel and retractable headlight washers; Dynamic Handling Package ($1,000), which adds adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering; a Premium Package ($2,200), which includes leather upholstery, keyless access, lumbar support and satellite radio with one year subscription. The Technology Package ($3,150) adds navigation with real-time traffic information and touchpad control, head-up display, the BMW Apps interface and enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone integration. Standalone options include leather upholstery ($1,450), heated front seats ($500), navigation ($2,150), Harman Kardon surround audio system ($875) and a variety of wheel options.
Safety features standard on all 4 Series include front-impact airbags that deploy at different rates depending on the severity of impact, front passenger side-impact airbags, full-cabin, curtain-type head protection airbags, ABS, stability control, traction control and BMW Assist eCall crash notification system. Safety options include a Driver Assistance Package ($950) with a rearview camera and park distance control. The Driver Assistance Plus Package ($1,900) adds side and top view cameras plus several active safety features like blind spot detection, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian warning and collision mitigation. All-wheel drive can improve handling stability on slippery surfaces.
The styling of the BMW 4 Series is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and is clearly recognizable as a 3 Series coupe successor.
Like other BMW models, the 4 Series comes in a choice of lines: standard, Luxury, Sport and M Sport. Each gets unique exterior trim, interior trim and wheels.
BMW 4 Series coupes are wider and sit lower than the 3 Series sedans, giving them a bolder, more aggressive stance. The front fascia closely resembles the latest 3 Series, but it is not identical. Viewed from straight on, the coupe has a more flowing, aerodynamic appearance. The signature BMW twin kidney grille is ever-so-slightly lower and wider, flowing into headlamp housings that stretch back and wrap around into the front fender. Double-bezel headlamps are ringed and more pronounced, giving it that BMW angel eyes look. Foglamp housings are swoopier and a bit more accentuated.
From the side, the silhouette is lower and sleeker, with a curvier, sharper sloping roofline. Short front overhangs leave very little weight hanging over the front axle. A distinctive body crease runs from behind the front wheel, through the door handle, and tapers off over the rear wheel. Side windows are shorter and more stretched back, and a sharper version of BMW's distinctive curve, known as the Hofmeister kink, forms the tail end of the side rear windows.
Also setting the 4 Series apart is the side air breather, a vertical vent located on each side behind the front wheel arch that channels air from the engine compartment down the sides of the car for reduced drag.
Standard wheels on the 428i are 17-inch alloys, while 435i models get 18-inch wheels. Designs vary depending on trim line.
In the rear, the shorter back window is evident. Tail lamps look like slightly flattened versions of those found on the 3 Series. The rear bumper is more horizontal and uses straight, rather than upwardly curved lines out to the rear fenders. Double exhaust tips remain together on the left side; we would have loved to see one pipe on each side, perhaps integrated into the rear bumper.
The interior design of the 2014 BMW 4 Series is clearly more driver-oriented than that of the 3 Series. The center stack is slightly canted to the left, and a high, tapered dividing line just to the right of the gearshift cordons off the driver in her own little cocoon. Behind the shifter (and just below the center stack) is a shallow storage tray, which lifts out to reveal two standard-sized cupholders. We think this is an awkward design, since there is no designated place for the tray to go when the cupholders are being used. We threw ours in an already crowded glove compartment.
The center stack sits up high and is sleek and clean. Up top is the iDrive screen, with two air vents below. Beneath are the standard BMW radio and climate controls, which are easy to use.
The iDrive screen, which comes standard on all models, is large, bright and easy to read. But unless your car is equipped with navigation, it will be of little use. In one of our test cars, the screen simply displayed audio, phone and vehicle information. The loaded (but pricey) Technology package adds a whole suite of features, including navigation with real-time traffic information and BMW Connected, an app that allows users to sync their smartphones with their cars to use Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, a vehicle finder function and more. The BMW Apps suite also integrates selected subscription-based applications into the car such as Pandora, Stitcher and MOG. The tech pack also adds a head-up display.
The steering wheel is thick and easy to grip; M Sport models use an even thicker, more padded wheel, which we found practically too big to handle. We preferred the slightly skinnier version on our 428i test model with the Sport line trim.
The instrument cluster uses the standard BMW analog gauges. Four circular dials (fuel gauge, speedometer, tachometer and oil temperature gauge) come with a black panel display. Drivers can toggle through trip, fuel economy and other vehicle information via a button on the tip of the turn signal stalk.
Standard upholstery is a man-made material BMW calls SensaTec. Leather is optional. We found the Sport and M Sport seats had a good range of adjustability and were nicely bolstered to keep us snugly in place. We have not tried the standard or Luxury line seats.
For the most part, interior materials match the quality expected from BMW, but in some cases come up short: The metallic blue and textured silver trim on Sport Line models looks cheap and stuck-on. Some color combinations are classy and beautiful, such as the black gloss finish and burl wood trim. Others, however, were grossly mismatched. One example of a 4 Series we drove had tan interior primarily throughout, including the glovebox and center console. Yet the dash was black, with metallic silver and blue trims thrown in between. Some lines automatically include certain colors or finishes, so consider this carefully if you're going to custom-order.
Although windows aren't as large as in the 3 Series sedan, visibility is fine in the 4 Series coupe. The most significant difference is in rearward visibility, where the sharply sloping roofline makes for a shorter back window.
An optional Driver Assistance package adds a rearview camera and parking sensors. The Driver Assistance Plus package includes side- and top-view cameras, which create a bird's-eye perspective of the vehicle and the area around it. If that's not enough, the optional Parking Assistant helps the driver parallel park by finding a space, turning the steering wheel, practically parking the car itself. Most useful is the rearview camera and it can help the driver spot a child behind the car when backing up.
BMW 4 Series models seat four. Due to its lower stance, the 4 Series loses about an inch of front and rear headroom. Rear legroom is also reduced by more than an inch and measures 36.1 inches, 1.6 inches less than the 3 Series sedan. Still, the back seat offers reasonable space for the occasional rear passenger, and is slightly more spacious than the Audi A5 and the Mercedes Benz C250 coupe. Rear bucket seats are comfortable, and the standard rear center console includes cupholders. But because of its two-door design, getting in and out isn't the easiest, so the 4 Series is still best left to front-seat occupants.
Cargo space in the 4 Series coupe is plentiful at 15.7 cubic feet, compared with 13 cubic feet in the 3 Series sedan, 12.2 cubic feet in the Audi A5, and a paltry 11.7 cubic feet in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe.
The 2014 BMW 4 Series coupes are fun to drive in practically any situation, and both of the available engines are more than capable.
Like other BMW models, the 4 Series allows drivers to choose from four modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport plus, and Eco Pro. Each tweaks throttle response, steering and handling for a distinctly different ride. Comfort is the best for normal driving around town. We prefer Sport mode for spirited driving and twisty roads. Sport plus is best left to the track or autocross course, as it reduces the invasiveness of stability control and therefore requires more active, skilled driving. Eco Pro is designed to improve fuel efficiency, though it comes at the expense of power. We found this mode best for steady freeway cruising.
The 4 Series has the lowest center of gravity of all BMW models, and this is evident in the form of a composed ride and virtually nonexistent body roll when putting the car through its paces. Handling is excellent on all variants, and each offers a good balance of ride quality and response. Our test car was fitted with the Dynamic Handling package, which adds an adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering. The electric steering is light at low speeds, with proper resistance and feedback at higher speeds. Near-50/50 weight distribution leaves the driver in full command. Braking is excellent in all models, especially those equipped with the M Sport's giant rotors. Our biggest complaint was road and tire noise, which was evident at all speeds, and especially pervasive on highly textured road surfaces.
We found the power of the 428i perfectly ample and prefer this variant for everyday driving. The 2.0-liter inline-4 isn't BMW's best-sounding engine, as the clatter of the direct-injection is noisy and audible in the cabin at lower speeds. But it delivers plenty of pep, with its 241 hp and 258 lb-ft. of torque available from as low as 1200 rpm. It easily climbs steep mountain terrain at freeway speeds, when the cars around us were struggling to keep up. It's also easy to pass, and getting from just about any speed to 80 mph is a breeze. Plus, the constant tick-tick-ticking of the engine's direct injection isn't so audible when charging down the highway.
The 435i's turbocharged six-cylinder engine produces a satisfying purr, but in most situations, we found the power advantage of the 435i over the 428i to be negligible. While its 302 hp and 395 lb.-ft. is certainly superior, its power delivery doesn't feel as exhilarating as one might expect. It's buttery smooth, but feels a bit flat. In our book, there's no need to spend nearly $6,00 more for the bigger engine unless you're going to the racetrack.
The 8-speed automatic transmission on our test car worked very well. Some drivers prefer to shift with the paddles, but most will simply put it in Drive and let it do its thing. A six-speed manual is also available on all variants except for the 428i xDrive, but that gearbox has no performance advantage over the automatic (except, of course, for a larger right bicep from rowing through the gears). We've now entered an era where automatics are not only more efficient, but also faster than their stick-shift counterparts. A 435i coupe equipped with the automatic achieves a quick 0-60 mph time of 5 seconds flat, compared to 5.3 seconds with the manual.
An automatic Stop/Start function comes standard on all sedans. And while it helps fuel economy, BMW's system, which is also found on other models, continues to annoy us. The latest version doesn't shutter quite so violently as the first iteration, but continues to be invasive and seems to kick in way too soon. The system can be turned off, but at the expensive of added fuel savings. Generally we think stop/start technology is a good idea, but we wish we could adjust BMW's stop/start sensitivity, instead of just choosing on or off.
The all-new 2014 BMW 4 Series is a clear physical and spiritual successor to the 3 Series coupe, and is poised to become an outstanding choice in its class.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein filed this report after her test drive of the BMW 4 Series near Seattle.
BMW 428i ($40,500); 428i xDrive ($42,500); 435i ($46,000); 435 xDrive ($48,000).
Options As Tested
Sparkling Brown metallic paint ($550); Sport line ($2,100): Sport seats, unique interior trim with contrast stitching, high-gloss black kidney grille bars and exhaust pipe tips, M sport suspension, unique 18-inch alloy double-spoke wheels; Cold Weather Package ($700): heated steering wheel, heated front seats, retractable headlight washers; Driver Assistance Package ($950): rearview camera, park distance control; Dynamic Handling Package ($1,000): Adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering; Premium Package ($2,200): leather upholstery, keyless access, lumbar support and satellite radio with one year subscription.
BMW 428i coupe ($40,500).
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