2014 BMW 428i xDrive great for winter driving

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The 2014 4-Series BMW coupes look quite pantherish, especially decked out in the $3,500 M Sport package. In addition to the 428i, there is a more powerful and expensive 435i; both are available with AWD and as convertibles. Later this year BMW will begin shipping a high-performance M4 version to the States. BMW
The 2014 4-Series BMW coupes look quite pantherish, especially decked out in the $3,500 M Sport package. In addition to the 428i, there is a more powerful and expensive 435i; both are available with AWD and as convertibles. Later this year BMW will begin shipping a high-performance M4 version to the States. BMW

BMW has filled out the rest of the numbers in its model lineup. To the small, medium and large 3-, 5- and 7-Series cars, the company has added a 1- and now a 2-Series, and in 20003 it brought back the 6-Series coupes.

A revival of the 8-Series is on the way too, but for now let’s meet the new-for-2014 4-Series. This is the 428i xDrive, an all-wheel-drive coupe that is slightly longer, wider and bigger inside than the beloved 3-Series two-door that it replaces.

Like all cars with seats for four but just two doors, it heavily favors the occupants in the front. Squeezing into the back seats takes some gymnastics, and there isn’t much head or leg room.

If you’ve fallen in love with the coupe’s sleek silhouette, which is easy to do, you may regard this as a small price to pay; if you really need more space in the rear, wait for the 4-Series Gran Coupe, with its higher roof line and four doors.

 

In the old days, a BMW with “28” attached to its model number had a 2.8-liter straight-six engine. Now, however, everyone is downsizing to save fuel and cut CO2 emissions, so this 428i is armed with a four-cylinder motor of just two liters displacement.

But it also has two turbochargers, along with the very latest in electronic technology. (The “i” is a holdover from the days when fuel injection was new and sexy, but all car engines have been injected for 25 years or so.) The result is 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque—way up from the old 2.8 Six.

What’s even more impressive is that the power comes on when the engine is barely off idle. And with this manu-matic transmission in high (8th) gear, 90 miles per hour requires just 2,500 engine RPM. Ease your foot back to about 70 MPH, and the car will deliver an honest 30 miles per gallon, even with the added weight of all-wheel drive.

This is the computer screen when the 428i’s Driving Dynamics Control is in ECO PRO, which radically alters the behavior of the car. By limiting the speed to 75, enabling coast-down and restricting the climate control, the car is allegedly reaching 80 percent of its maximum efficiency.
This is the computer screen when the 428i’s Driving Dynamics Control is in ECO PRO, which radically alters the behavior of the car. By limiting the speed to 75, enabling coast-down and restricting the climate control, the car is allegedly reaching 80 percent of its maximum efficiency.

Want even more economy? Hit ECO PRO on the Driving Dynamics Control, and you might think you were driving a hybrid. The regenerative brakes go all wooden, the throttle develops that rubber-band feeling, and the engine stop-start feature stays on.

If you can drive a BMW this way for the sake of the environment, you’re a saint. I went back to Comfort mode on the highway and Sport when I wanted to enjoy the “ultimate driving machine.”

With each click of the switch, the engine, transmission and suspension respond more quickly and the car feels lighter. It is also beautifully balanced and stable—rotating into corners like a figure skater, holding a straight line like a downhill racer—but BMW calls it a luxury coupe, not a sports car.

A luxury car should have a more interesting and attractive interior than this one does, but then everything is focused on function. Everything is also highly electronic, which causes some puzzlements: Why doesn’t the radio turn off when the door opens and the ignition is shut off? Why doesn’t the iDrive screen return to its last setting? Why am I quibbling about this?

The most expensive option on this car was the $3,500 M Sport package: interior and exterior trim bits, sport seats, M Sport suspension and bigger wheels.

Get it. Another must-have is the $1,000 Dynamic Handling Package, with the adjustable suspension and upgraded steering. The Cold Weather package ($700) supplies front-seat and steering-wheel heaters and pop-up headlight washer nozzles. And the $950 Driver Assistance option adds a rear-view camera and parking distance sensors.

Tot this all up and it’s $50,225. Too much for just two doors, even with four years of free maintenance? BMW’s smaller 2-Series coupe can cost about 10 grand less.

Mind you, ours was an xDrive, which costs $2,000 more than the RWD 428i. The car had just won the title of Best Premium All-Weather Coupe in the New England Motor Press Association’s annual Winter Car shoot-out, and it wound up in my driveway just in time for yet another big snow dump. A car like this is a fine way to reduce the pain of a long winter.

—Silvio Calabi

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