MW’s new 4-series is not merely a facelift, it’s a whole new car – save for the engine. That said, few cars have been as anticipated as 4-series and I’ve already had the luxury of driving it.
BMW says that the 4-series boasts the lowest center of gravity of any of their cars. Yes, lower than a 6-series or even the 1-series, which is now a 2.
If you’re attempting to do the arithmetic around this new number designation, don’t bother. Instead focus on the 4-series beautiful lines, stunning looks and aggressive stance.
What you’re looking at is the 435i, the faster and slightly brawnier of the two models you’ll see in showrooms this holiday.
Under the hood is the same engine as found in the 335i – the N55 platform – kicking out 300hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. With it comes the same Driver Select modes that range from Eco to Sport+. Eco, in this instance, improves fuel economy by managing the driver’s behavior through a less aggressive setup, and thus a more tempered driving styles that saves on gas. Sport or Sport+ tightens the steering and suspension, as well as sharpens the throttle response. Both modes, and everything in between have a noticeable impact on the car’s performance and behavior and provide it with it greater utility or agility.
Compared to the 335i, the 435i is a bit more supple across all the driving modes. Personally, I’m glutton for a sporty setup, if anything for the sake of feeding my racing aspirations. However, that kind of setup can begin to wear on the body, as well as brain, especially when there isn’t a driving mode that can negate the car’s innards (and passengers) from rattling around. So it’s perhaps best to call the 435i well balanced, if not well tempered.
Furthering the comparison, the 4-series offers both a wider track in both the back and front, is longer and sits 16mm lower than it’s predecessor. Ultimately, this equates to a sleeker, better looking car over the prior generation, but without any caveats.
Inside is the same plastic metal finish across the dash that I lamented about in the 335i with X Drive. Though, in this car it plays better thanks to Blue trim that extends the car’s exterior color to the interior. As a result of being an early production model, my 435i was devoid of a BMW Nav system and app, which is denoted by both a smaller screen and iDrive wheel. As a result the AUX input was my only option for music playback.
Joining the electric seats and side folding mirrors, is – wait for it – a 6-speed manual. A rarity in cars of today. And perhaps rightfully so as since I, an experienced manual driver, almost lunged the 435i into a parked Prius one dark night. Yes, it’s that easy to mistake Reverse for First gear since there is no user action to shift into this gear, aside from left and up. So take heed.
A long clutch leaves something to be desired, but nevertheless gear shifts were smooth, and the clutch easy on the leg muscles. I didn’t have enough time to smooth out the occasional lurches from poorly timed shifts, but if driven with care the 435i can be smooth, though nothing will be the buttery goodness of their auto transmission.
Notably the back end of the 435i moves in a discernible and satisfying manner. It’s difficult to put words to it – probably because my car acumen is still developing – but it’s most distinguishable in spirited driving.
The 435i’s driving modes are variable enough that they’re immediately noticeable in both steering an throttle response. Less can be said for the chassis settings, or in this case dampened springs, but drive through an alley littered with pot holes and it becomes more evident. Steering feedback is commensurate with the setting, and the brake can be modulated enough to come to smooth stop without lunging occupants forward. Body roll, thanks to the 4-series low center of gravity is almost undetectable, though unlike the R8 V10 Plus, it won’t corner as if it were on rails. But that’s hardly a fair comparison since one is front engine and the other mid.
Despite the lack of BMW apps and nav system, the stereo is surprisingly robust and fulfilling – often this isn’t the case in most cars unless you elect for the pricier option. I was surprised and elated to find this the case, but then again the 435i is no drop in the bucket when it comes to money.
Which brings me to my final point: is the 435i worth the added premium over the 335i coupe? Yes and no. For the enthusiast, as in the driving enthusiast – perhaps someone that “races their cars” – it’s not a massive leap forward, especially since it uses the same powertrain as the previous generation. However, for those that are anything less, which will be the vast majority, the outward appearance, mixed along with the existing BMW interior creature comforts, amazingly responsive ride, the new 4-series is worth every cent.