The two-door 3-series has grown up
With the 2-series just around the corner, the 435i isn’t intended to be BMW’s entry-level coupe; and an entry-level coupe it most certainly is not.
I first saw the BMW 335i in 2007. The coupe of that generation (known by its chassis code E92) was one of the most breathtaking cars of its decade. It came barreling into the market with its two turbochargers, its optional retractable hardtop, and striking kidney grille. I wanted one badly, and to this day I regret not having purchased one. For 2014 though, BMW has decided to change the nomenclature on what was previously known as the two-door 3-series. They were generous enough to let me borrow one of the first 2014 BMW 435i M-Sport models on this side of the pond for a week, which was a bit of a teenage dream come true for me.
First things first, the name – BMW’s strategy is to number the sedans with odd numbers and the coupés with even numbers. This has created a stir among enthusiasts around the globe, but I personally don’t have an issue with it. The name doesn’t have the slightest bearing on whether or not I would like this car; its behaviour would. A 3.0L turbocharged 6-cylinder engine powers the 435i. Output is modest, with 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. A common misconception is that this inline-6 is boosted with two turbochargers. The motor in this car, known as the N55, is a twin-scroll system with a single turbocharger. Power delivery is exceptionally smooth right across the powerband in typical Bavarian fashion, and turbo lag is virtually unnoticeable.
The 435i’s main competitor, the Audi S5, is powered by a supercharged 6-cylinder that has a slightly higher output. I can’t help but feel that the BMW lags behind in the performance department. The car is able to achieve 100 km/h in five seconds flat, which is no small feat, but it just doesn’t feel like it has as much low-end grunt as it should. My test car was equipped with the 6-speed manual, which shifts exceptionally well. I found that at highway speeds, passing power was plentiful, rarely having to downshift to get around slower vehicles.
Handling is also BMW-levels of godly. The electric steering, while superb to handle through the bustling streets of downtown Toronto, does lack the connection to the road that the older hydraulic systems had. We used to have a previous-generation 323i in the family with the inline-6 engine. I thought that while slightly anemic in the power department, that car was a beautiful handler and an absolute joy to drive in the corners. This 435i feels one step ahead of my brain in predicting my next move, which would be an excellent asset if it didn’t feel slightly artificial and video game-like. The tester came equipped with xDrive, which is an awesome all-wheel-drive system and one of my favourites in the industry, but personally if shopping for a car in this class, I would save a bit of coin and opt for the rear-drive model.
The clutch and shifter are absolutely perfect. With the presence of brilliant dual-clutch transmissions in the market, I have been fearing the inevitable death of the manual transmissions lately. The traditional manual in this BMW 435i M-Sport saddens me that technology is eventually going to phase out this wonderful experience. This transmission really makes you feel at one with the car, and fuel economy seems to be the same no matter how it’s driven. Even with my purist driving style, the 435i managed a conservative 10.3L/100km. I was able to bring that number down to 8.0L/100km when cruising on the highway in “Eco Pro” mode.
My tester was the pretty heavily-loaded 435i xDrive M-Sport. The only option box not ticked off was the 8-speed automatic. At the time of this article, it’s the priciest 4-series one can purchase on Canadian soil. Toys like a sunroof, Harman-Kardon stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, Park Assist, sport seats, and dual-zone climate control are to be expected. My car also came with the Comfort Access, adaptive LED headlights, a heads-up display, and iDrive with navigation. BMW also gave me an Estoril Blue paint job, which adds an extra $800 to the sticker. The total as-tested price? $65,000. I considered this a bit over-the-top at first, but that’s before I started perceiving the 435i M-Sport as an executive sports coupe rather than a performance car.
It’s pretty impressive how far iDrive has come since its conception in the 2002 7-series. The center portion of the control mouse now doubles as a touchpad where one can physically write out the desired number/letter to be input. It’s virtually the same idea as in the newer Audi models, but with marginally better execution. The heads-up display is a soft orange colour, which I noticed to be particularly unobtrusive when driving at night. The sheer level of technology that BMW has managed to simplify for the average consumer is simply marvelous.
It wasn’t all fine and dandy though; there were a couple points that I wasn’t a huge fan of. For one, the “M” badges on the fenders. I understand that this is the M-Sport model, further proven by the “M” badges on the door sills, the steering wheel, and the shifter. I felt as though the fender badges take away from the design and make the car look like it’s trying too hard. My other issue was with the hood release. The lever under the dashboard needs to be pulled twice, and the hood can be swung open. There’s no safety latch under the hood itself. I personally don’t think it’s a huge safety issue as it’s virtually impossible to ‘accidentally’ release the hood, but it’s still an unnecessary departure from what’s been the automotive norm for the past few decades.
With the 2-series just around the corner, the 435i isn’t intended to be BMW’s entry-level coupe; and an entry-level coupe it most certainly is not. The price tag on my tester isn’t cheap, but the level of car you get for your dollar is sensational. On top of it all, it’s beautiful and unmistakably BMW. The lines on this M-Sport model are gorgeous, and passersby didn’t hesitate to comment on this fact. The Audi S5 may be a looker, but the 435i is a supermodel. For that reason alone, I can tell that it’s going to be an instant hit.
2014 BMW 435i M-Sport Gallery