crankandpiston.com heads to Lisbon, Portugal, to try the new BMW 435i xDrive. How does the replacement to the 3 Series Coupe stand up?
|Inline 6cyl, TwinPower Turbo, 2979cc
|306hp @ 5800-6000rpm
|295lb ft @ 1200-5000rpm
I knew that being objective on this particular launch would be tough. The car in question is the new 4 Series Coupe, fourth generation of and replacement to the 3 Series Coupe, and a model that since its conceptual debut I’ve always thought a bit of a looker. Then there’s the 3-Series’ reputation, one I’ve always admired: indeed, the last car I owned back in the UK was an E90 gen 318i saloon, which despite lacking a bit of power I loved dearly. And then there was the venues for the international launch, namely Lisbon, Portugal: site of my first ever international launch for crankandpiston.com just over 15 months ago (which, appropriately, was also with the BMW Group). Clearly keeping the rose tinted spectacles at bay was going to be tough.
Even tougher given the looks of the new model, on which the marque has worked tirelessly to rubberstamp the 4 Series as a new mid-size coupe in its own right as opposed to ‘just’ a rebadged 3 Series. It is unmistakeably gorgeous – double takes from passers by during the launch drive attest to this – the sharp bodylines indicative of the F30 generation remain albeit more emphasised, giving a new sporty aggression to the front end (though the kidney shaped air intakes in the front bumper help in this regard) that run down the flanks. Interestingly a higher rear bumper, as well as giving the saloon a crouched look, is more reminiscent of the flagship 7 Series, given its relatively subtle design.
Get out the tape measure and you’ll also find the 4 Series to be 26mm longer, 16mm lower, 45mm wider at the front and 80mm wider at the back than the 3 Series, improving cabin room as a result. And while that wider rear wheel track may not seem like much, you’d be surprised how much attention you pay it after taking a wrong turn down a narrow Portuguese back alley.
Which brings us nicely to the drive, a key point since to me the BMW has always been a bit special: there’s a certain something about the sound from the exhausts, the stiff yet still comfortable ride and the beautifully styled cabin that has always endeared me to the 3, and I’m relieved to find the same still applies with the 4. Ergonomic seats (electronically adjustable, natch), reach and rake options for the steering column and plenty of head and legroom mean that a driving position is ridiculously easy to find. Acoustics are similarly impressive, with little in the way of road or wind noise breaking the run of Naughty Boy and La La La through the Harman/Kardon stereo system. It does leave the engine noise a little muted, but the woompf that emanates as the next gear is slotted home is still audible and automatically brings a smile to my face.
Ah yes, the engine. Our test model today is the full bore 435i xDrive, a TwinPower Turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit capable of chucking out 306hp, 295lb ft of torque, and delivering 0-100kph in 4.9 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. Hardly shabby. Acceleration is therefore pretty impressive, with no lag in the low rev range, solid pick-up mated with a quick hit of turbo at the 6000rpm range, all of which is transferred to the road via BMW’s quirkily titled xDrive all-wheel drive system and is usually accompanied by a fantastic burble from on the overrun. And while it’s tempting to grow misty eyed and wistful at this image (again, objective), a large part of our test run takes place on the twists and turns of the Serra da Arrábida hillsides, and I’m far too busy concentrating on the sheer rock faces and beautiful blue Mediterranean water I could plummet into if I get a corner wrong.
For this we need Sport mode, part of the four-way BMW Efficient Dynamics drive mode (of which Eco Pro provides the ‘efficient’ green motoring option). Selecting sport tightens the suspension and dampers, shortens gear ratios for swifter shifts and remaps the throttle for more alert response from the six-cylinder engine. But most importantly, heft at the steering is tangibly much greater, a relief since Comfort mode comes dangerously close to over assisted at times.