When Audi launched their two door coupe based on the A4 sedan’s underpinnings, they named it the A5 and charged more money for it. Mind you the A5 did look (and still looks) stunning and was significant different enough than the A4 to warrant its price premium.
And so BMW has taken a page out of its rival’s book and re-launched its new 3-series coupe as the 4-series (internally code named the F32).
In BMW-speak, usually the higher the model number, the higher the amount the customers are willing to pay and the greater the bragging rights. After 5 generations spanning across 38 years, the 3-series coupe is no more.
What this also does is bring the naming scheme in-line with the rest of BMW’s models. Even numbers for the coupes (2, 4, 6, 8-series), and odd numbers for the sedans (3, 5, 7-series).
My tester was a Black Sapphire Metallic 435i xDrive coupe. In Canada, all 435s come with the M Sport Line package as standard equipment. This includes 19” M sport alloy wheels, the M Aero package with unique front and rear bumpers, high-gloss shadowline trim (replacing all the chrome with gloss black trim), and M badging on the front fenders.
The end result is a real stunner of a car. Wanting to cast a unique shadow and differentiate the coupe from the sedan in the line-up, BMW lengthened the wheelbase, widened the hips and chopped the top to give the 4-series coupe its own sense of identity.
The 4-series not only sits lower than the 3-series sedan but is also 81mm wider. In case you’re wondering, with its stretched and lowered silhouette, yes it is visibly larger in width and wheelbase than the outgoing 3-series coupe.
This, together with the BMW-typical short overhangs, long hood and set-back passenger compartment, gives the 4-series a good visual balance. Muscular wheel arches and the wide track give an aggressive stance, with its prominent horizontal lines accentuating the side profile of the body.
The car’s striking front end with its characteristic BMW design features, such as the double-kidney grille, four round headlights and a large air intake in the lower front bumper, still reminds us about its family ties with the 3-series. This is certainly good company to associate with.
My 435i tester came with BMW’s Active LED headlamps as part of the $4,900 Premium package. This is a feature that is currently unavailable on the 3-series. They worked as well as advertised although I found that the Acura RLX’s multi-projector LED headlamps casted a wider beam than BMW’s reflector-based system.
As with all new BMWs, the new fender mounted “Air Breathers” are present on the 4-series. BMW claims that they are positioned just slightly rearwards of the front wheel arches to reduce drag.
Anyone familiar with BMW’s latest 3-series will be right at home in the 4-series. Aside for the seatbelt presenters, a brilliant idea borrowed from Mercedes-Benz coupes, the 4-series’ interior is a copy and paste job from its sedan sibling.
This means that buyers will find an interior that is well laid out and relatively logical. It’s high quality, understated, and business-like, especially when trimmed in black plastic/leather/vinyl. It’s certainly an interior that befits the 4-series’ demeanor as a gentleman’s coupe.
BMW fans will be extra enamored with the M sport package as it also includes a different steering wheel design (aptly named the “Heritage” wheel) which recalls the old steering wheel designs from 3-series coupes of yesteryear.
This being my 4th BMW press car now, I found the iDrive system easy-to-use and logical once you get hang of the various icons. Fortunately, BMW includes tool tip bubbles that pop-up to remind you what the various icons represent.
My car was equipped with the optional 600 watt harmon kardon Logic 7 surround sound system; something that I’ve been longing to test with my own ears.
In short, get it if you’re an audiophile. It’s worth it. Switching between a hk-equipped vehicle versus one without is like switching between high-def TV and normal definition TV. Once you have it you won’t want to go back.
To my delight, my car also was equipped with BMW’s 6-speed manual gearbox. With its sumptuous soft top grain leather, the gearshift knob not only felt expensive but the shaft was also positioned at just the right height.
Slip into the front seats and you’ll find that they’re 9mm lower than in the 3-series. And in fact, the 4-series gets the crown for having the lowest centre of gravity in the current BMW vehicle lineup.
I found the 8-way adjustable sports seats with lumbar support more comfortable than the regular seats in the 320i and 328d that I had previously driven.
Fold down the backseats and you’ll find that the 4-series has surprisingly good cargo capacity. The opening in the bulkhead separating the cabin from the trunk is even large enough to accommodate a flatscreen TV’s box.
SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
I’ll be honest. If you’re looking for a BMW coupe that has the edginess of previous BMWs, you might be a bit disappointed. Look to BMW’s upcoming M4 or the M235i perhaps if you’re looking for something more raw.
Earlier, I used the words “gentleman’s coupe” to describe the 435i and I meant that as a compliment. Despite the ultra efficient electric power steering sapping away much of the road feel, handling is precise, capable, and responsive without being jarring.
Despite being on run-flat winter tires and 18” wheels, the 435i impressed me with how it gobbled up the undulating pavement on Highway 1 while still staying settled and secure.
The 3.0L 300hp twin turbo inline-6 cylinder engine is creamy smooth regardless of what gear you’re in. Thanks to a combination of clever throttle pedal logic and engine management, there is virtually no turbo lag and every nudge of the throttle greets you with forward thrust that is sure to add a smile to your face.
BMW Canada rates the 435i xDrive’s fuel consumption as 10.5L/100 kms in the city, and 7L/100 kms on the highway. Using a mix of EcoPro, Normal, and Sport mode and mostly city driving, I averaged 11.4L/100 kms. Much better than expected.
Despite not having the M performance exhaust, if you listen really carefully (with the windows down), you can hear the exhaust pop and crackle upon throttle lift in 1st and 2nd gear. I can only imagine how much more intoxicating the exhaust note would sound with the aforementioned dealer-installed system.
As for the 6-speed manual, it is easy to row and the gear ratios seem perfect. Throws are short and the clutch engagement point was shockingly easy to judge. I was expecting a heavy German clutch pedal but what I received was a manual transmission that was easier to get used to than that in a 2014 Toyota Corolla S!
Amusingly, BMW has also found a way to transform the 4-series’ start-stop system as a driver aid. If you happen to stall the car, the start-stop system will immediately restart the engine again (provided the clutch pedal is depressed). The system works so imperceptibly that I had to purposely stall the car to confirm that it actually performed I suspected!
BMW promised something special when it came time to replace their popular 3-series coupe and they didn’t disappoint. The 435i xDrive M Sport was an exceedingly easy car for me to like.
With the safety and security of BMW’s latest xDrive all-wheel-drive system and well-calibrated stability and traction control systems, gone are the days where owners had to store their BMW coupes in their garages till the groundhog said so.
This is truly a coupe that you can drive all year round in Canada without difficulty and surely one that will appeal equally to driving enthusiasts, BMW fans, or those simply in the market for a sport luxury coupe.
Whether you choose the 6 speed manual (as tested) or the excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox, the 435i is a car that shines beyond its nomenclature and bragging rights.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what the M4 brings to the table as it certainly has big shoes to fill. In the meantime, the 435i will do. It will do just fine!