First drive: You win some, you lose some with BMW’s new 4-Series, but it adds up
BMW’s new 4-Series coupe goes one better than the 3-Series, despite some niggling issues that might dampen the enthusiasm
Date Reviewed: July 29, 2013
At any point in the last two decades, this car would automatically have been called the new 3-Series Coupe. Now we have to get used to the 3-Series-based, two-door BMW having its own name, and this, the turbo-charged, six-cylinder 435i, is the fastest of them all.
It won’t be alone, though, because BMW is already starting the 4-Series with a 420d diesel and a four-cylinder 428i petrol as well, and will follow with all-wheel-drive xDrive versions of the petrol engines, plus a 430d and a 435d xDrive in November, in time for winter. The three initial models come with six-speed manuals, though most buyers will opt for the eight-speed automatic.
It might have a new name, but the 4-Series is clearly still based on the 3-Series saloon, with which it shares most of its chassis, the core of its suspension, its steering, its engines, its gearboxes and its electronics, along with its entire dashboard. Cleverly, though, the only actual carry-over body panel is the bonnet.
The cabin delivers more head, leg, shoulder and knee room in all four seats than its predecessor, and the driver sits lower than in the 3-Series saloon, even though the dash is the same height.
It might have BMW’s delightful, sweet-spinning 3.0-litre six up front, with its 306bhp of power and 400Nm of torque, but the 435i’s performance isn’t about sheer power. Any car that gets to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds isn’t slow or underpowered, but the core of the 435i is its handling and its road feel.
BMW created a body about the same weight as its 3-Series predecessor but with 60 per cent more resistance to twisting forces; its centre of gravity is around two centimetres lower, to help the car feel more planted in corners and, especially, direction changes.
The design emphasises the rear wheel arches– the widest part of the car – though you have to be careful not to grind the rear rims because each side now sticks out an inch further than the front ones.
It combines all this with a 1525kg kerb weight (for the eight-speed auto that everyone will buy). That’s 25kg less than the 335i Coupe but 15kg heavier than the six-speed manual 435i. The lightest 4-Series in the family will be the 428i, which is 55kg lighter than the 435i auto.
Even with the extra weight of its all-wheel drive, the 435i xDrive will be quicker getting to 100km/h than the rear-driver we tested, and, with a 0-100km/h sprint of 4.9 seconds, will be the only stock 4-Series to slip beneath five seconds to 100km/h. This automatic 435i rear-driver is 0.2 seconds slower, while the manual version is a 5.4-second proposition. That’s only 0.4 seconds quicker than the 428i automatic (5.8 seconds) and you wonder if that’s too close for comfort.
The biggest disappointment is that BMW could only find space for a 60-litre fuel tank. That will be fine for the 420d, but the 435i is a far thirstier proposition.