What is it?
The BMW 435i is the nearest you’ll get to an M4 for the best part of the next year.
It’s powered by the only six-cylinder TwinPower engine in the launch line-up (the 428i and 420d are both four-pot motors). The range-topping unit develops 302bhp between 5800 and 6000rpm, but more importantly, as we shall see, 295lb ft between 1200 and 5000rpm.
With the eight-speed automatic gearbox fitted to our test car, it will accelerate to 62mph in 5.1sec, which is 0.3sec faster than cars with a six-speed manual, but 0.2sec slower than the forthcoming 435i xDrive. Top speed is limited to 155mph.
The 4-series has a wheelbase lengthened by 50mm over the 3-series saloon. It is also 26mm longer and has a track widened by 45mm at the front and 81mm at the rear. The roofline is 16mm lower and the ride height is reduced by 10mm, meaning it has the lowest centre of gravity of any current BMW.
BMW has changed the settings of the springs, dampers and camber angles and strengthened the front section, meaning that the 4-series is 60 per cent stiffer than the old 3-series coupé.
BMW is keen to distance the 4-series from the 3-series coupé, despite the obvious similarities. The styling is, to these eyes, rather handsome. The wide rear wheelarches are a particular high point, and BMW says it’s the first time one of its mid-size coupés has made such a focal point of its hips.
The interior also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Three. Again, some effort has been made to set it apart, with a dashboard colour palette not available to saloon buyers, door cards featuring a stretched design, and a character line that runs from the dash into the rear compartment. The rear seats are sculpted to appear as two separate seats and have integrated headrests, like those fitted to the 6-series.
The front seats are arranged slightly lower than in the 3-series, to offer a more sporting driving position. Space in the front is ample, and an increase of 13mm of rear legroom gives a decent amount of space, even if headroom is slightly lacking.
What is it like?
Quite a lot like a 3-series, actually. It is imbued with the same level of balance, poise and delicacy that made the current 3 one of a handful of cars to score Autocar’s full five-star rating.
The 3.0-litre twin scroll turbocharged straight six offers thumping performance. With the automatic gearbox tested here, it is just 0.3sec slower to 62mph than an E92 M3 coupé with a manual gearbox. And turbo lag? Forget it. Power peaks at just 1200rpm and plateaus until 5000rpm. Its straight-line urge is strong and relentless.
Less impressive is the engine note. There’s rather too much of it at tickover – its actually rather like a diesel – and not quite enough when winding on the power. Still, the engine offers a smooth power delivery and impressive flexibility, which makes it a devastating point-and-squirt overtaking machine.
Its frenetic pace is matched only by the speed of the gearshifts from the eight-speed auto. It is a masterclass in automatic transmissions, this. It’s virtually impossible to wrong-foot it, and the quality of shifts in Sport mode is vastly improved.
Our test car was fitted with adaptive suspension and steering systems, which are fitted as standard to M Sport models, but were optional on the Sport trim tested. In either mode, the steering is consistent and precise, although we would prefer a little more weight when pressing on. At lower speeds, the lightness makes for an effortless steer.
Whether an increase in torsional rigidity actually translates into improved handling on the road is hard to say – a back-to-back test will be necessary for that – but the 435i certainly turns and grips as well as the best mid-sized coupés. There’s very little understeer, and the ESP kills oversteer almost imperceptibly.
The Sport+ setting provides an electronic limited-slip diff to allow a little more movement from the rear end.
Should I buy one?
Yes. The BMW 435i is an exceptionally able machine, offering huge performance coupled to thoroughly reasonable running costs. And a £40,795 price tag is all the more impressive given its performance credentials are only slightly short of the £54,980 E92 M3.
Perhaps BMW’s biggest failing isn’t so much with the 435i specifically, as it is an excellent car, but with the fragmentation of the 3-series range. It doesn’t feel different enough to warrant that all-new name.
Nevertheless, in the 435i is a hugely appealing and entertain sports coupé, and it offers a sheen which rivals will need to work hard to beat.
BMW 435i Sport
Price £40,795; 0-62mph 5.1sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 39.2mpg; CO2 169g/km; Kerb weight TBC; Engine 6 cyls, 2979cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 302bhp at 5800rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1200-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic