Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
2014 BMW 428i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Review and Photos by Jeff Wilson

Making sense of German car nomenclature these days is about as simple as grasping the finer points of advanced quantum physics. Sure someone out there knows what it all means, but for most of us, we’re happy to go about our business just accepting without trying to figure out why.

What we can fairly easily observe with most Teutonic automotive naming conventions is that a bigger number generally means greater prestige and bragging rights. BMW’s 750i sedan is far more than a 128i because seven is a much bigger number than one. There are a couple of other minor differences between the two machines as well (like cabin space and accouterments, not to mention engine size and power, yadda yadda), but sadly, many people don’t care about such trivialities and are only looking at the digits on the trunk lid.

With that in mind, is it any wonder the style-conscious are rejoicing BMW’s decision to name the new 3 Series coupe as the 4 Series? No longer will the image-hungry need to endure the shame of being seen driving the numerically same car as countless common-folk puttering about in their lowly 3 Series sedans and (shudder) wagons. Never mind that the 4 Series mirrors its lesser-numbered siblings in trim, drivetrain and most styling elements.

And where historically BMW’s sedans have endured a few styling missteps here and there, the coupes have always been celebrated for their beauty – particularly in the most recent generations of 3 Series two-doors.

The 4 Series – handsome in photos – is sensationally beautiful from every angle when actually experienced in the metal. Longer, lower and wider than the 3 Series coupe it replaces, the new car looks honestly and truly like a 5/8ths scale 650i (an even HIGHER number, which means it’s even more impressive).

Why dedicate so much verbiage here to naming, image and styling for a car from the “Ultimate Driving Experience” company? Because image matters when buying these compact personal luxury coupes. If it didn’t, why would buyers spend more money to sacrifice the sensible practicality of extra doors or a spacious cargo hold of a sedan or wagon, for no appreciable performance benefit whatsoever?

Except now that last point isn’t entirely true. In past coupe iterations the differences aside from the obvious door-ectomy were usually trivial. Maybe the coupes would have snazzier wheels and other superficial things, but mostly they just meant more money for fewer opening parts.

Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
2014 BMW 428i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

To help justify its bigger number BMW has seen fit to nip, tuck and tweak the 4 Series enough to make it a more sporting choice – if subtly so – over its many-doored compatriots.

The 4 Series is not only lower than its predecessor, but also lower than the current sedan – enough so in fact, that the centre of gravity is lowest of any current BMW model. The engineers have also reportedly stiffened both bushings and springs slightly versus similarly trimmed sedans, and even added stiffness bracing that will later serve for cabriolet versions too.

While all of these changes are incremental, they do add up to a better handling car than the sedan; one that’s both more planted and agile when tackling backroad kinks and curves.

What it doesn’t do is improve the slightly muted steering feel of the electric setup many auto scribes have moaned about in the 3 Series. In complete fairness though, while duller than previous generation 3 Series steering, BMW’s electric setup is still excellent and will not stand in the way of a motoring enthusiast enjoying his or her car in a spirited countryside drive.

Our 428i tester came equipped with the Sport package (including good, sticky summer tires) and the all-wheel-drive xDrive option. This combination means that even with foolish disregard for personal well being, the car happily grips and goes at eyebrow-raising speed. The 428i is a very easy car to get in and immediately feel confident driving aggressively – it’s just that well sorted.

The other bitter pill enthusiasts and BMW traditionalists have had to swallow in the name of responsible progress is the replacement of the smooth, ripping inline-six with a four-banger in the 328. This also applies to the 4 Series and our 428i test car was so equipped.

Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
2014 BMW 428i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

The 2.0L turbo most assuredly does not sound like a BMW I6, but it honestly does not sound like most buzzy four cylinders either. Its voice is deeper than most and being a luxury car, it’s muted and distant enough to not be troublesome anyway. There is an obvious refinement to this engine in the way it goes about its business that some of BMW’s competitors have missed (Mercedes-Benz’s more coarse four-pot comes to mind). What’s more with 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, it’s capable of moving the 428i along at an exciting pace, even if it is a little soft off the line compared to the 335i/435i siblings with their boosted six-cylinder engines.

Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
2014 BMW 428i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Since the turbo sixes are indisputably better, the only reason to choose the smaller engine in the 4 Series is an economical one. A 428i starts at $44,900; a 435i at exactly ten grand more, though it does come with more features, but you’re still paying almost $179 for each additional pony.

Where the four-cylinder surprisingly does not deliver much economical benefit is in its fuel efficiency. BMW cites a combined city-highway average of 7.2 L/100 km for the 428i xDrive and 8.6 for a 435i xDrive. A week of mixed urban streets, rural back roads and highway cruising netted an observed average of just over 10 L/100 km. Curiously, the 335i xDrive equipped with snow tires earlier this spring produced an average of 9.8 L/100 km driven in a similar fashion in the same region. Obviously it’s not a scientific comparison, but does illustrate that real world consumption rates of the four-banger may not be as optimistic as one would hope. The 428i tester was fairly green though with about 1,600 km on the odometer, which could mean it still needs to loosen up a bit for optimal performance.

The same eight-speed automatic that has been popping up in all sorts of cars lately has never been better tuned or better suited for duty than the way it is in recent BMWs. In Eco mode, the transmission will race its way up to taller gears in the interest of fuel savings, but transforms completely in Sport mode, holding gears aggressively but shifting with deliberate, yet butter-smooth action. If you’re insistent on a neutered BMW (aka one without a stick-shift, which is the only way you can order a 428i with xDrive), you could do a lot worse than this excellent gearbox.

Having said that, a lack of paddle shifters on a car with such sporting pretensions seems ridiculous and the confounded push-for-downshift; pull-for-upshift system in BMWs is frustrating to work with, so it’s a darn good thing the system is so good when left to its own devices.

The rest of the cockpit experience is a very pleasant one. Rear seat passengers will sacrifice some headroom in the 428i versus the sedan counterpart, but legroom is decent for a compact coupe. Up front, the sport seats fitted to all Sport-trimmed cars are as magnificent as they have always been. With the ability to extend under-thigh support and squeeze side bolsters to an individual driver’s specific body type, these perches are not only great at keeping bodies in place, they’re remarkably comfortable too.

Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw
2014 BMW 428i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Sound isolation in the cabin is quite good, not only from engine noise, as mentioned earlier but also road and wind noise – completely appropriate for a car at this price point. One of the biggest improvements of the 428 over the previous generation 3 Series coupe is the ride. Without giving up its handling prowess, the ride, while still firm, takes the sharpness off the hardest of bumps – ones that would’ve caused cringe-worthy crashes in the older cars. Well done here, BMW.

Overall
4
Comfort
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  
4.5/5
Performance
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  
4/5
Fuel Economy
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  
3.5/5
Interior
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  
4.5/5
Exterior Styling
Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive car test drives luxury cars bmw  
4.5/5

Driving a personal luxury vehicle such as BMW’s 428i makes an owner feel good about him or herself in the same way a sleek, finely tailored suit does. What’s even better though is that simply looking good doesn’t hamper an enthusiast’s driving enjoyment with such a capable and fun machine. Having a larger number on the back of a 4 Series won’t make a bit of difference to the purists who have always enjoyed BMW’s compact coupes, but if the digits matter to you, you can at least feel confident that spending more for fewer doors does get you a more engaging driver’s car.

Related Articles:
Test Drive: 2012 Mercedes –Benz C350 Coupe
First Drive: 2013 Audi A5/S5
Test Drive: 2013 BMW 328i xDrive
Used Car Review: Infiniti G Series

Manufacturer’s Website:
BMW Canada

Photo Gallery:
2014 BMW 428i xDrive

Pricing: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive
Base Price (428i): $44,900
Base Price (428i xDrive): $49,000
Options: Premium Package (Alarm, Comfort Access, Heated Steering Wheel, Park Distance Control, Navigation, XM Satellite Radio, Rear View Camera) $4,600; Executive Package (Lumbar Support, Head-Up Display, Harmon/Kardon Sound System) $2,000; Driver Assistance Package (Active Blind Spot Detection; Lane Departure and Collision Warning, Surround View) $1,250; Connected Drive Package (BMW Online, Traffic Information; Concierge Services; BMW Apps; Smartphone Connectivity) $850
Destination: $2,095
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $60,595

Competitors:
Audi A5
Lexus IS
Infiniti Q60 Coupe
Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Crash Test Results:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)




About Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson is a Hamilton-based automotive journalist and accredited member of AJAC. When not pursuing his automotive passions, he divides his time between being a dad, husband and television producer.