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BMW 435i coupe review proves pleasurable, refined, and high tech

This classic has grown up, in step with earlier 3 Series owners

Published: April 25, 2014 11:00 AM

If “BMW 4 Series” doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because that’s the new name for the coupe version of the BMW 3 Series. For years, BMW has earned a reputation as the benchmark for everything a sports sedan should be, no matter how many doors it has. This coupe is a little lower and wider than the sedan, and to most eyes at our track, it looks sleeker and sportier.

We recently rented a new 2014 435i from BMW to preview and to see if it feels one better than the previous 3 coupe.

Under the hood is a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. An eight-speed automatic is standard; a six-speed manual is a no-cost option. Ours had the manual, but given the evolved demeanor if this car, one could argue that the automatic is quite apt.

I quickly noticed that the potent six-cylinder is considerably punchier than the standard 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four cylinder in our last-tested 328i sedan.

The 435i is a pleasure to drive—quick, capable, refined, and high-tech—but it’s not quite the exhilarating sports car that the long-time 3 Series fans, me among them, had grown to love.

Our car, equipped with the M Sport and Dynamic Handling packages and the practically mandatory Premium package totaled $57,225. With all-wheel drive, cold-weather package and navigation it would easily crest over $60,000—a pretty steep price to pay for the cachet of a 3 Series—I mean 4 Series. A convertible version has just gone on sale.

On the road, the 435i moves with gracious athleticism. Every nudge of the throttle draws an immediate and creamy-smooth response regardless of the gear you’re in. Whenever you hit the gas, you’re greeted with a forward thrust as addictive as a morphine pump, and even sixth gear delivers plenty of punch. All the while, the engine hums with a subdued baritone. Nothing is in your face. This is definitely a car for grownups.

While easy to row, the six-speed shifter doesn’t feel as crisp as some of Honda’s and Mazda’s manuals. Clutch effort is well judged, though, and gear ratios seem perfect. Even in stop-and-go traffic, the 435i proved easy to manage, even for my wife in high heels.

Handling is capable and responsive, and the body stays well tied down. But if you’re looking for instant gratification and continuous tactile feedback, you’ll need to keep looking. Besides, the electric power steering feels rather artificial, possessing none of some older 3 Series’ awesome feedback. Body control is exemplary and the 435i gobbles up bumpy side roads completely unfazed, staying settled and securely planted.

Toggle the mode switch to “Sport” and responses tighten up a bit. One notch further, “Sport Plus,” forgoes the traction services, but neither mode brings any dramatic metamorphosis.

Consider the 4 a gentleman’s coupe. The ride is steady and very absorbent, and the cabin stays blessedly hushed. That unflappable atmosphere, combined with the aforementioned immediate throttle response, makes it all too easy to foray well into triple-digit speeds without really noticing.

As in the 3 Series, the dashboard and the interior present a high-quality, understated, and businesslike ambience. It is a sophisticated cabin befitting the car’s demeanor and price. One nice detail is the seat-belt presenter: It brings the belt closer to you as soon as you close the door. In back, you’ll find that rear-seat room is actually pretty decent for a coupe.

So, who is the 4 Series meant for? Younger members of our driving staff were rather unimpressed with it, as they missed the edginess of some previous BMWs. The more, shall we say, mature team members considered this car a perfect concoction—quick, capable, stylish, and refined—and just right for someone who’s been on the scene long enough to actually have $60,000 on hand, but would rather not drive a 5 Series sedan.

Anyone who aspired to, or actually owned, a 3 Series Coupe in the 1980s and 1990s has probably matured quite a bit, and will quickly find out that their BMW has evolved right along with them.

—Gabe Shenhar

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