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      07-19-2013, 09:21 AM   #1
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435i First Drive by Autocar

What Is It?
Of all the new BMW models in recent years, it is the 4-series coupé that has occupied design boss, Adrian van Hooydonk, the most. “Of all our models, it is the coupés that are most important for us. Our form language has traditionally been developed on our two door models first before filtering throughout the rest of the range,” he reveals. From the first glance, you’re aware it boasts greater visual differentiation to the 3-series saloon than any of its various predecessors have achieved.

This is one confident-looking car, with a very appealing swept-back silhouette and terrific wide track stance. All the classic BMW design elements are present: a heavily chromed kidney grille, prominent swage line along the flanks and Hofmeister kink within fixed rear windows. But for the first time on a 3-series-based model, the widest point of the body is not across the front wheel arches but across the rear wheel arches, placing greater emphasis on the standard rear-wheel-drive underpinnings.

The body of the 4-series coupé is unique save for the bonnet, which is brought over from the 3-series saloon. The predominantly steel structure is claimed to be 25kg lighter than before, and its torsional rigidity has risen by a massive 60 per cent. It is a larger car than last 3-series coupé, but not by as much as its sleek appearance suggests; length is up by 26mm, width increases by 43mm and height has dropped by 16mm. The new car retains traditional B-pillars, although its long doors are frameless affairs like those of the predecessor.

Despite clear efforts to provide the exterior of the 4-series coupé with a more individual appearance, there is much about its interior that reminds you about the 3-series saloon. The dashboard, infotainment monitor and switchgear are all brought over with only minor changes, but in a move that does help give the new two door a slightly richer feel than its four-door sibling, the door trims, rear quarters and seats are new. There is also added theatre in the way the seat-belts are motored forward on arms as you close the door.

In a bid to accentuate its overall sportiness, the front seats of the 4-series coupé are mounted 9mm lower than those in the 3-series sedan, although with a 10mm reduction in ride height you actually sit 19mm lower overall. Despite this, the dashboard is mounted at the same height, giving the impression that is in fact higher than it really is. The rear retains individual seats with a divider down the middle, providing sufficient accommodation for four adults.

At launch, which is set for October in the UK, the rear-wheel-drive 4-series will come with the choice of three engines. They include BMW’s familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel with 181bhp in the price-leading 420d coupé and a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol unit producing 242bhp in the 428i coupé. Our first drive, however, is of the range-topping 435i coupé, whose long-running turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine serves up the same 302bhp as in its direct predecessor, the 335i coupé.

Along with a base 420i model with a 184bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, a further two 3.0-litre six-cylinder common rail diesel models will arrive in early 2014: the 430d with a 258bhp and the 435d xDrive with a 313bhp unit – the latter of which will only be available in four-wheel-drive guise. Buyers will also be able to order the 420i and 420d with optional xDrive four-wheel drive in a move clearly aimed at challenging the four-wheel-drive dominance of rival Audi.

Underneath the skin lies a reworked version of the 3-series saloon’s aluminium-intensive chassis with adjustable dampers, whose rates vary according to the driving mode. It adopts special bracing elements up front in a move aimed at providing the subframe member that supports the front suspension with additional stiffness.

The two door retains the same 2810mm wheelbase as its four-door sibling but its tracks have been widened by 45mm and 80mm front and rear to a respective 1545mm and 1593mm, endowing it with a larger footprint. In keeping with the sporting brief, it is also set 10mm lower and receives wider wheels and tyres; the standard fit is 17-inch with 225/50 profile rubber — although our test car came on optional 19-inch items with a combination of 225/40 rubber up front and 255/35 at the rear.

The reduction in the height of the body has not only helped give the 4-series an alluring profile but, in combination with other structural changes that concentrate a greater percentage of weight closer to the ground, a lower centre of gravity than in the old 3-series coupé; in the model driven here it is down by 20mm at 498mm.

On first impression, the 435i coupé doesn’t feel too far removed from the old 335i coupé There is terrific refinement to the driveline that characterises its on-road feel around town and on the motorway. But this comes as no real surprise. The worldwide sales success BMW has enjoyed over the past two decades has been based very much around evolutionary progression of its traditional model lines, and this is clearly evident in the on-road nature of its latest two-door.

On the one hand, this is a welcome development; up until it ceased production earlier this year this car’s predecessor still scored highly for overall engagement. On the other, it could be interpreted as complacency in the face of what is fairly formidable two door competition; a new model surely ought to bring a freshness of flavour beyond just a new name.

Despite the familiarity, there’s no doubting the ability of the BMW 4-series to entertain. In pure driving terms, it is every bit as engaging as the Audi A5 coupé and Mercedes-Benz E-class, if not more so. The electro-mechanical steering is accurate, responsive and quite well weighted with eager self-centering traits up to moderate speeds. However, a reduction of assistance makes it artificially light, rather devoid of feel and lacking any true feedback at higher speeds.

The 435i coupe’s chassis rates are noticeably higher than those in the 435i sedan, leading to tauter body control and greater levels of agility on testing sections of blacktop in sport mode. There is genuinely impressive poise on turn in and those optional 19-inch tyres deliver loads of front-end bite – all of which raises confidence levels from the very first corner.

When you raise the pace and dial up Sport Plus mode to reduce the threshold of the switchable DSC+ (Dynamic Stability Control Plus) system that also acts as an electronic differential, you discover an added dimension to the handling, and a keen ability to kick the tail out when tempted. But, as before, a firm ride can sometimes take the shine off the handling, robbing the chassis of mid-corner compliance when the surface is not absolutely smooth.

The engine of the 435i coupé delights in much the same way it did in the old 335i coupé with enthusiastic qualities that makes it every bit as appealing when tooling around town as it is when opened up on lonely back roads. An intrinsic smoothness to its operation tends to mask the ultimate efforts of the blown in-line six-cylinder, although there is no doubting its true potential in Sport mode, where there is a perceptible improvement in response compared to Comfort mode.

With 295lb ft served up at 1200rpm, it pulls tall gears with a good deal of authority and proves delightfully flexible on part-throttle loads. But at the other end of the spectrum, it also happily runs up to the 7000rpm redline without any obvious sign of strain prior to the onset of the limiter when the road opens up and the right foot goes down. It is just a pity that BMW hasn’t seen fit to provide the standard car with a more alluring exhaust note. There’s some sense of sportiness, but the new BMW lacks for aural conviction.

Drive continues to be sent to the rear wheels through a standard six-speed manual gearbox complete with the very latest in stop-start and brake-energy recuperation functions, although all examples of the 435i coupé at the media launch in Portugal last week were fitted with the optional eight-speed automatic with remote paddle shifters.

So configured, the new BMW delivers a 0.4sec reduction in the claimed 0-62mph time at 5.1sec – a time that is just 0.3sec shy of that quoted for the outgoing M3 coupé, a top speed that continues to be limited to 155mph and combined cycle consumption that betters that of the old 335i coupé by 5.6mpg at a rather respectable 39.2mpg. But better even than the bald figures is the overall slickness of the automatic gearbox, which has received new software mapping to bring about a clear improvement in the speed and quality of shifts in Sport mode.

BMW has not sold us short in promising something special with the new 4-series coupé. It has created a great-looking car with an ability to carry four in comfort and deliver the sort of engaging dynamism and soothing mechanical refinement we have come to expect from a car wearing the blue and white roundel. We do have some reservations about its ride, especially the ability of Comfort mode to provide the sort of loping qualities it should at typical cruising speeds, but they will be addressed when we get to drive the new car on UK roads.

It may feel uncannily familiar from behind the wheel, but it is clearly a more appealing car than the old 3-series coupé – and ultimately better handling and more rounded, too. It is a car that will appeal equally to enthusiasts and those simply in the market for something touting a fair portion of exclusivity and, dare I say, bragging rights.

BMW 435i coupé

Price TBC; 0-62mph 5.1sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 39.2mpg; CO2 TBC; Kerb weight TBC; Engine 3.0-litre six-cylinder direct-injection petrol; Power 302bhp; Torque 295lb ft at 1200rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual
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      07-19-2013, 11:22 AM   #2
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Audi and BMW seems to be 1-up each other on giving their customers more bragging rights with each successive models...

We just want lighter more powerful cars, that handles so well as to give us a smug each time...

A smug from bragging rights is the wrong way to go....

The 4 series is a beautiful car nonetheless...
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