ROAD TEST: BMW 435i Coupé
The biggest problem I had with the previous-generation 335i Coupé was its force-fed straight six.
It gave the naturally-breathing V8 in the range-topping M3 little to brag about in straight-line performance terms - especially at higher altitude.
The good news for the new M3, or the new M4 in this case, is that it can now also look forward to some boost; the boys in Munich have already confirmed an M-tuned bi-turbo straight-six that will deliver marginally more power (317kW from 309 before), but lots more torque (400Nm to 550) and should break 100km/h from standstill in about four seconds.
Unlike the new M4, BMW’s 435i on test here doesn’t get a new powerplant. It runs the same three-litre straight-six turbo from the outgoing 335i Coupé, and makes the same 225kW and 400Nm.
So, in my humble opinion, things are back to how they should be in Beemer’s game of thrones.
Where it does get a little interesting for the 435i is on the gearbox side.
The previous-generation 335i Coupé used a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box in the latter part of its lifecycle, this one has an eight-speed torque-converter.
I’ve always been a fan of DCT. It seems as surgical and efficient in cog-swapping terms as they come. But the eight-speeder in the 435i is as quick as most DCT experiences I’ve had (other than Porsche’s PDK set-up, which is dark magic), and I reckon it was the extra eighth gear - which meant better consumption and lower emissions - that motivated the change.
Either way, if your main concern with the swop is that ‘traditional’ autos can’t run launch control, you’re wrong.
Like BMW’s DCT, this ZF ‘box will happily facilitate transferring a couple of thousand standing revs to rubber.
This meant that our VBox returned a respectable 5.5 seconds for the 0-100km sprint (the carmaker claims 5.1), and a 13.8-second quarter-mile time.
EASY TO ACTIVATE
Having said that, we reckon BMW could do more here in terms of wheelspin - which is the point of launch control. You might as well just switch the traction control off and left-foot brake the 435i - the result would be similar.
In its favour, though, is that this traction control is very easy to activate (easier than in the M cars) and worked run after run.
If you’re wondering what’s up with the new 4 badge, BMW has decided that even numbers now mean coupé, and odd numbers sedan. But take that with more than a pinch of salt - especially once you factor in cars such as the 6 Series Gran Coupé and the imminent 4 Series Gran Coupé, each of which has four doors.
It’s more about swoopy coupé lines than number of doors, it would seem.
Park the 435i next to its 3 Series sibling and there’s enough of a visual difference for you to differentiate between them. The Four is an altogether sleeker and more athletic package, with a neat sloping roofline and a generally hunkered-down stance.
Compared to its predecessor it gets the full Monty - it’s longer and wider, has a lower roof, is lighter but more rigid - and it’s currently the BMW with the lowest centre of gravity in the carmaker’s entire line-up.
The frameless doors and stylish wheels get the nod too - while there’s an Air Curtain and Air Breather on the side fenders - which help with drag and brake cooling around the front wheels.
The 435i looks and glides around like a Louis Vuitton sales assistant.
But underneath that formal appeal is the ability to toss you around like a shoplifter. Performance, both in straight-line and carving terms is arresting, and it’s nice that there’s a viper mentality under the surface of the 435i.
It doesn’t hurt either that the Four gets Beemer’s mainstay 50/50 weight distribution set-up - or that the chassis gets harder springs and dampers, stiffer control arms, and even a new torsion brace when compared to the Three.
At just under seven hundred grand I’m not sure how many buyers will drive the 435i like they stole it, or be bothered with how close it gets to an M4, or explore the benefits of the electronic LSD. They’d probably be more interested with the family-sized 445-litre boot and the more-than-acceptable rear legroom. But for those that do like to play, this is a fully-functional driver’s tool with a nicely-weighted steering and proper handling.
The more you drive the Four, the more the new badge creates its own identity.
Besides the smarter look, the Four feels sportier and more in tune with its dynamic side than its four-door sibling. Where the 435i falls short is in its lack of any characteristic tailpipe holler, and the fact that the 180kW/350Nm 428i auto – at R136 000 less – is probably not all that far off the pace, and available as an (even cheaper) manual option. But if money’s not the issue the 435i gets the nod - or take it a step further and wait for the 435i Convertible, which lands in SA in May at just below the R800 000 mark. - Star Motoring
BMW 435i Coupé
Engine: Six-cylinder, 3-litre turbopetrol
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 225kW @ 5800-6000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1200-5000rpm
0-100km/h (Gauteng): 5.5 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 250km/h (electronically limited)
Consumption (claimed): 7.2 litres per 100km
Price: R691 527
Warranty: 2-year unlimited
Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km.
Audi A5 Coupé quattro (200kW/400Nm) - R628 000
Audi S5 Coupé quattro (240kW/440Nm) - R735 000
Infiniti Q60 Coupé 3.7S Premium (235kW/360Nm) - R674 569
Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupé AMG Sports (225kW/370Nm) - R637 114