28 Dec 2013

BMW 435i M Sport Coupe first drive review

Matt Hubbard reviews the BMW 435i M Sport Coupe

BMW 435i M Sport Coupe

I was at an industry test day where car companies brought a bunch of cars and a mass of journalists made a bee line for the cars they wanted to test.  It's a measure of the popularity of the 435i that I only managed to get hold of the keys some time after lunch.

The 4-series is the old 3-series coupe.  The 435i has a 3 litre engine.  BMW has lost the nomenclature plot.

The 435i gets a 3 litre, straight-6 powerplant which produces 302bhp and 295 lb ft of torque.  0-60mph takes 5.4 seconds and it weighs 1525kg.  Economy isn't bad at 35.8mpg and CO2 output is 185 g/km.

That's enough of the stats.  How does it look and feel?

From the outside it looks very good.  The colour, Estoril Blue, is pretty much my favourite at the moment.  The body it wraps isn't bad either.  The 4-series looks sleek, its lines are perfectly placed and its proportions are superbly defined.  I just wish BMW would adopt a more traditional kidney grille and front edge of bonnet.
BMW 435i M Sport Coupe

It's one of those coupés that's only called a coupé because it's got two doors, and has more of a sleek saloon silhouette.  The design is a success though.  It's the kind of car you'd peek at through your curtains every now and again just to see it lurking on the drive.

The 4-series is lower than the 3-series by 16mm.  It also has a longer wheelbase and wider track and is 50kg lighter.  Sporting intentions.  Perhaps it's not just a slick, two door saloon.

I'm familiar with BMW 3-series. I've either owned or been in all previous generations.  I currently own an E36.  Step inside the 435i and everything is familiar.  There are no surprises, aside from the tablet sticking out of the dash.

The seats are comfortable and supportive, the dash and cockpit in general is laid out in such a way as everything seems sensibly placed.  There's a touchscreen peeking out of the top of the dash.  The dials are clear.  The interior says BMW through and through.  A touch conservative, a touch serious, a touch sensible but functional and nice to look at.
BMW 435i M Sport Coupe interior

Apart from the elephant-hide plastic.  This car costs £41k.  A £41k Jaguar gets leather and Alcantara.  Not plastic with a leather-look grain.  There is lots of real leather to compensate for it though and to be fair the Mercedes C-Coupe and Audi A4 are no different.

The rear seats are pretty spacious.  Older BMW 3-Series suffered from a lack of rear legroom.  The longer wheelbase has obviously benefitted the rear seat occupants.

You sit in a sporty position.  Deep set pedals, steering wheel coming up, rather than down, from the dash, nice high gearstick perfectly placed for your digits.

It feels good.  Let's turn the key and go for a drive.

The engine makes a decent noise.  Straight 6s aren't rampant, they're smooth.  It doesn't scream - the redline is at 6,000rpm which seems low but it does have a turbo so doesn't necessarily need revs to create torque.

The gearbox isn't quite up there with Porsche standards.  It's smooth and silky rather than satisfyingly precise.  The ratios are more sensibly placed than in Porsche manuals though, more suited to road use than chasing lap times.
BMW 435i M Sport Coupe

The more modern cars I drive (50 odd in the past 12 months) the more I am pleasantly surprised at the balance achieved between ride and handling.  The BMW 435i is up there with the best.  It rides well, with no juddering or overt vibrations, yet steers like a dream.

One of the best saloon chassis is the Jaguar XF's.  The 435i's chassis is better, in that it allows you to feel where the front and rear of the car is going, and to work with it.  Rounding corners or roundabouts and the rear wheels want to push the back out just a tad.  You feel it and apply just enough throttle to lean on the rear.  From the outside this angle of oversteer would be invisible but it's satisfying and rewarding to work with.

Grip levels are high, the brakes are strong and progressive, it holds on to the road at the driven wheels well. It is absolutely a driver's car.  But a driver's car with a degree of softness over a Porsche Cayman.
BMW 435i M Sport Coupe

The engine feels strong, with a big punch of torque from low revs - thanks to that twin-scroll turbo.  You feel no turbo lag.  You'd be hard pressed to know it was turbocharged, other than the power available at low revs.  It doesn't sound as charismatic as a V6 but the engine is smoother as a result.

There were two features which surprised me.  One was the indicator which is infuriating.  It returns to centre and self cancels once you've made the turn.  You can end up indicating right, left, right.  The Lexus IS has a similar system, and it's no improvement over the standard click down for left and up for right.  The other surprise is the heads up display which is utterly brilliant.  Your precise speed is displayed on the windscreen.  Simple, safe, informative.  Great technology.

The base car costs £41,435 and the test car came with £6,725 worth of options to give a total price of £48,160.

BMW DNA is stamped throughout this car from how it looks to how it drives.  BMW pushes the boat out with its new models (X6, 5GT, i3, i8) but with its traditional model base the song tends to remain the same.

This is a good thing.  I liked the BMW 435i M Sport a lot.  It feels like a BMW should.  I would recommend it.

You might also like:

Porsche Cayman review
Jaguar XFR-S review
Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series review
Mercedes A45 AMG review

Article by Matt Hubbard