Officials at German automaker BMW did a fine job differentiating their new-for-2014 smallish coupe from last year's 3-Series coupe.
The new, rear-wheel drive, two-door BMW is wider, longer and lower than its predecessor; it's attractively styled and has great handling dynamics and a new name: The 4-Series.
Better yet, a twin-scroll turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that's in the base 2014 428i Coupe earned a 28 percent higher federal government fuel economy rating in city driving than last year's 328i Coupe that had a six-cylinder powerplant. This translates into a 23-miles-per-gallon city driving mileage rating vs. last year's 18-mpg rating in city driving for a comparable 3-Series Coupe.
Yet, both this year's turbo four and last year's six cylinder generate a maximum 240 horsepower.
Highway fuel economy in the new 428i Coupe is rated even higher — 35 mpg compared with last year's 328i Coupe that rated only 28 mpg on highway cruises.
But BMW's 4-Series Coupe, which the company describes as mid-size but the federal government classifies as a subcompact, isn't low-priced.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $41,425 for a base, 428i Coupe with the 240-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder. Buyers can choose between an eight-speed automatic transmission and six-speed manual, with no price differential.
The 4-Series Coupe also is offered with BMW's xDrive, or all-wheel drive system. Retail prices for a 2014 428i with xDrive start at $43,425. A more powerful engine — a 300-horsepower, twin-turbo six cylinder — also is offered in the 4-Series Coupe. Starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a rear-wheel drive 435i Coupe is $46,925.
Likely vehicles to be cross-shopped against the new 4-Series are other European sport, luxury coupes.
For example, the 2014 Audi A5 Coupe has a starting retail price, including destination charge, of $39,895 with 220-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder and six-speed manual transmission. The base 2014 A5 Coupe with eight-speed, automatic transmission starts at $41,095.
Meantime, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $39,125 with 201-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder and seven-speed automatic transmission.
The BMW 3-Series line, by the way, continues with its sedan, wagon and Gran Turismo models.
The 4-Series Coupe that was the tester was a 428i model with base engine that surprised because of its well-managed, smoothly delivered power. Some passengers didn't notice the engine was a turbo, because there was nary any turbo lag and the power response was strong but not uncontrolled.
The 428i was as easy to drive sedately as it was to drive aggressively.
Engine sounds were sporty and mature, not cheap, boy-racer type. Torque peaks at 255 foot-pounds and is available at a low 1,250 rpm all the way to 4,800 rpm for pleasing responsiveness and power in a range of driving situations.
But, drivers will need to keep a close eye on the speedometer since driver can underestimate how fast the 4-Series is traveling.