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
For all its beauty, aggression and exquisite proportioning, the 435i isn’t perfect. By far the biggest gripe is with the damper settings. The car has adjustable dampers (shock absorbers) managed by a rocker switch next to the gear lever. You y shuffle between EcoPro+, EcoPro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes.
The first three of the modes use the Comfort damper setting, while the top two use the Sport setting. In between them, though, there is a yawning gap that BMW desperately needs to fill with a Goldilocks setting.
In Sport, the car is extremely firm and jiggles the body over short, sharp bumps; in Comfort, it wafts and wallows too much, as if the suspension is half a second too slow to react to the road.
Sport might work well on a track, but, as one of the BMW chassis engineers told me, it’s a marketing setting, intentionally stiff to remind people that they’re in the Sport mode they paid for. The Comfort setting is also a marketing setting, but at the other extreme.
We ended up moving to Sport every time a corner loomed and rocking back to Comfort every time the road straightened up for more than 200m. But why did we have to?
Aside from that, it’s an easy car to be immediately comfortable in – especially sitting so low in the chassis that you feel almost like you’re below the oily bits.
The steering feels better sorted than the suspension, with the electronic helm finally delivering the intuitive tacking that BMW lost when it moved from hydraulics.
The chassis is a star, with its wider tracks biting hard into all corners wide and narrow.
It’s a tribute to the core of the chassis that it doesn’t take the ultra-firm Sport damping and spit the car off the road anywhere. It feels faithfully, progressively lovely.
Its gearbox is nearly invisible and only comes to anybody’s attention when it delivers big blips on downshifts in Sport or Sport+ mode.
And it all works, just like you knew it would. Coming from 3-Series architecture, everything in the cabin is familiar and comfortable and easy to use. Its shortage of interior cubby-holes is a touch frustrating, as is BMW’s inability to provide a firm holding spot for the remote key.
Still, it’s an easy car to like. It looks great, goes well, and it’s comfortable, with no single part dominating the whole. With more range in its damper settings, we could love it.
Three at launch in October: 420d with 181bhp turbo diesel; 428i with 2-litre 242bhp petrol; and 435i with 310bhp 3-litre petrol. In November additional engines added: 420i with 2-litre 181bhp petrol; 430d with 254bhp 3-litre diesel; and 435d with 309bhp 3-litre diesel
420d: €47,130 OTR
Some niggling issues – particularly with damper settings – but overall it delivers