If you’re sitting there thinking, “Man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a new BMW 3-series coupe!” there’s a reason. Because there is no longer such an animal. BMW has seen fit to bestow a dizzying number of new model lines on us, and one of them is the all-new 4-series. Really, it’s a coupe derived from the 3-series, but for some reason, it was important to BMW to give it its own number. Whatever.
One thing I set out to determine was how desirable the new 4-series is. I reviewed the new 3-series and quite liked it. It’s a fine automobile with plenty to offer but somehow the fact that it’s no longer the ultimate driving machine combined with the relative lack of exclusivity these days (you see them everywhere you look!) made it less desirable in my opinion. How does the 4-series coupe stack up?
The 4 justifies its new name by moving visually further away from the 3-series than ever before. Yes, it always squatted lower but it is now somewhat wider than a 3-Series too. Also, the greenhouse narrows as toward the back so those rear flanks look even more broad-shouldered. And finally, it strikes you right away when you walk up to the car – it’s long. This is not a compact vehicle.
In the front, you’ll find a wide snout where the headlight pods and kidney grille become one. The headlights sport some cool halo driving lights as per other new BMW models (but BMW wants you to call them corona rings). The side gets a new detail behind the front fenders that mimics a heat-vent, but really only passes air from the wheel well through it and has nothing to do with the engine bay whatsoever.
The rear end gets BMW’s corporate tail light design using LED lights and as is typical with BMW’s -35s, two slightly inset tail pipes finish things off.
Personally, I think it’s one of the best-looking BMW coupes in quite a while.
Under the Hood
Here sits the aging but still deadly 3-litre direct injection inline-6 with a twin-scroll turbocharger. It’s rated at 300 horsepower at 5800 RPM and a mighty 300 lb.ft of torque, which is available at an almost comically low 1300 RPM. There is some debate around this engine, with plenty of people speculating that BMW has actually underrated the engine’s output.
My review sample came with a 6 speed manual transmission, which has got to be an absolute rarity these days. I’d love to know what percentage of the 4-series will actually sell with a manual. The power hits the road through the xDrive all-wheel drive system.
Fuel efficiency isn’t the primary goal of the 4-series, particularly not in 35-guise. It’s rated at 10.5 L/100 km (22 mpg) in the city and 7.0 L/100 km (34 mpg) on the highway.
I averaged 13.8 L/100 km (17 mpg) while commuting every day and driving the car quite hard, including going out to play in the snow. Actually quite impressive in my opinion. The fuel tank holds 60 litres and it requires premium fuel. The 4-series is surprisingly portly, tipping the scales at a surprising 3735 pounds.
As expected, the inline-6 offers up a nice snarl when you fire it up. The driving experience in the 435i is very comfortable and completely engaging.
With nearly no lag to speak of, the engine is responsive and powerful, but remains easy to lug around town. Also, it sounds awesome when you step on it but maybe not awesome enough (it’s kind of muted). But let me be clear, it’s so SO much better sounding than 328i’s 4-cylinder which makes some of the most horrid noises I’ve heard from a BMW.
How powerful, you ask? Quite. When prodded, it will do the run from 0-100 km/h in 5 seconds flat. That’s fast. And while it feels fast, it’s actually even more fast than it feels. If that makes sense. Part of the issue (and it’s not a bad thing to be sure) is that the engine’s power is delivered in a completely linear fashion, with no palpable peaks or valleys in the torque curve. It just pulls from start to redline without drama.
The slick manual transmission is wonderfully buttery and the clutch’s take-up is exceptionally easy going and forgiving. So while you could easily teach someone how to drive a manual with this set-up, it feels less sporty than I would have liked. That said, it gains a character that makes it easy to live with, even during commuting – and that’s something you can’t say for every manual transmission.
The 4’s handling is sublime. Turn-in is sharp enough at every speed and the steering just simply becomes transparent in your hands. Everything just works and after the first couple of minutes, you actually just stop taking note of it. It’s perfectly balanced between competence and sportiness, yet it never gets too eager or twitchy. Above everything though, it’s instinctive and that’s what defines a great driving car to me.
The ride is cushier than you might expect, and shows that BMW’s harder edges are being knocked off in favour of pleasing the masses. I’m sure this will make more people happy than those it will piss off.
There are four drive modes – eco, comfort, sport and sport plus – and switching between them has an impact on throttle response, steering and traction control. I found the sport mode to be best fit for my typical driving, switching it to comfort on the highway. The 435 comes with auto start/stop technology – thankfully, it’s not really intrusive but it can be turned off if it does drive you crazy.
Braking is powerful and very effective and visibility is reasonable for a coupe.
Is this the most fun I’ve had in a car? Definitely not. But it’s hard not to love the balance between comfort and performance the 4-series brings to the table.
Inside, the 4 is pretty much a regular 3-Series interior, but you find yourself sitting lower in the car and relative to the dash.
Materials are nice, with lots of soft-touch plastics. I found it a bit dark in this combination and I also thought the fit and finish was weird – there were some large and varying gaps between the soft-touch materials and metallic brightwork pieces in the centre of the dash.
Open the door and you’ll notice that the M Sport package adds slick aluminum door sills, emblazoned with the M logo. As you drop into the very comfortable, very supportive leather seats (that are power adjustable and heated), you’ll meet a cool little servo butler that reaches forward to hand you your seatbelt and then retracts back into the rear of the door frame again.
The heated M Sport steering wheel is fantastic. Behind it are two gauges – the bottom of the gauges is actually a high-resolution screen which makes the lower part of the instrument bin a beautiful driver information screen. The centre of the dash has BMW’s typical screen, breaching the dash plane and floating there – it’s wide, sharp, beautiful and controlled by the still-mostly-unintuitive iDrive interface. The harman/kardon system sounds fine, but is nothing great and there’s a dual-zone automatic climate control.
Germans still take their nicotine seriously – proof lies in the ashtray and lighter at the front of console. This 435i came pretty loaded up with driver assistance tech: active LED headlights with High-Beam Assistant, Lane Departure and Collision warning, surround view cameras with parking distance sensors front and back, and one of the better heads-up displays in the industry.
The ignition is push-start of course.
Getting into the back is no fun for adults or kids, to be honest. Once you’re in, you’ll find two seats with headrests and seat belts. The seats are quite comfortable, and there is actually an acceptable amount of leg room, even for adults (I’m 5’10” and could sit behind myself). Knee room comes to an abrupt halt if you’re taller and the backs of the front seats are hard plastic, making for an uncomfortable experience for taller passengers. Foot space under the front seats is a bit crowded too and that swoopy roofline comes at a cost – headroom is tight and my hair was touching the headliner.
There’s a rubberized storage bin between the seats, some adjustable air vents and a 12V plug. An armrest folds down out of the middle with a finnicky dual cupholder that you’ll hate.
You get two sets of ISOFIX connectors for child seats – they are easily accessed and better than the oft-hidden LATCH anchors, though if your kids need your help to get into the back, you’ll be cursing this car. Once they were in, two of our kids were happy back there.
I loved the rubberized drop-in bin on the console – it’s perfect for smartphones and you can quickly remove it to expose two large cupholders underneath. Pretty slick.
There’s also a very small bin under the armrest where you’ll find the USB and auxiliary plugs. The trunk (which has a handy power opener) is a good size for a coupe at 445 litres. The rear seats fold down (BMW says they split 40/20/40, but I could only see a 60/40 split) to get you more space if you need it.
Rear passengers get little rocker switches on top of the front seats – they slide the front seats forward and backwards, allowing them to make things comfortable and make it easier to get in and out. A thoughtful addition.
It wasn’t hard to like the 435i. As a matter of fact, the softer parts grew on me after a while. Sure, I love a sporty coupe with some hard edges, but let’s be honest. 99% of the time, I’m not driving it hard and those edges would wear on me.
So I could sit here and complain about how the BMW coupe isn’t the sports car it used to be, and that would be the truth. But I’d have to be honest and say the car it’s become is really the car for the masses. More comfort, size, luxury – yet it retains outstanding performance.
I give the BMW 435i an 8 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was medium high. She really did like the sexiness of the coupe form factor, but of course the fact that it was a two-door didn’t resonate so much with her when it came to putting the kids into the car. I think it was a car she liked living with for a week, but wouldn’t ever buy for herself.
And that brings me to my conclusion – the exact same one. It was easy to love the 435. It’s sexy, it’s quick, it performs well, it’s luxurious and has cachet. It’s downright desirable. And you probably won’t see one driving by you every few minutes like you would if you bought the 3-series. So, it could well be the perfect car for someone looking for an intelligent 2-door sport coupe. I wish that was me, but until these kids of mine get lives of their own, I can only dream.
Pricing: 2014 BMW 435i xDrive
Base price (of specific trim): $55,600
Options: $4,900 Premium Package; $2,500 Executive Package; $850 Connected Drive Package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $66,045
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by BMW Canada.
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