FAST AND LOOSE. A unique breed of automobile, the BMW 435i warrants its own class and stands out above the rest. Renaldi Hutasoit dives deep to explore the distinctions between the new make and the 3 Series.
The first question that came to my mind was: Why the change from calling it a 3 Series coupe to a stand-alone series within the BMW line-up and calling it a 4 Series? The 3 Series have been around almost forever, ever since the E21 320i came out in 1975. Quite curiously, the 3 Series started as two-door coupe. So in 1975, BMW introduced what would be its most successful model: The 3 Series as a coupe. Only to decide 38 years later that the 3 moniker is exclusively reserved for non-coupe variants.
The body shape of the 435i is drop-dead gorgeous. I received compliments whenever I’m in this car. BMW has successfully combined muscle and grace; I would call it understated aggression. The color is a handsome BMW metallic grey color, and if my color rods serve me correctly, BMW fanatics would call this the traditional “dolphin grey.” From the side, the silhouette of the 435i takes more of a fastback shape than the normal three-box coupe with the shallow angle drop of the rear windscreen. The 4 also has a lower roofline than the 3 Series, and the bonnet is longer. Add to that, hips that are about two inches wider than the four-door counterpart, you then have the perfect proportion for a two-door coupe. Because of the width, the 4 Series also has the lowest center of gravity of any BMW.
Inside, the interior is as handsome as any F30 3 Series because the same dashboard and center console are found inside. The current 3 Series generation genuinely has the best interior design of any of the 3 Series, and the dash is its crown jewel. However, in this 435i, the interior color scheme is red with black accents as opposed to the usual and mundane black, grey or beige interiors found in most cars. It is no surprise that colors affect the psyche in various ways, but just by having this interior in an uncommon red color, BMW has managed to make me, the driver, feel special. The ergonomic sport front seats are very comfortable to sit on. There are power adjustment fore-aft, up and down, recline, and also adjustments to the wings of the driver’s seatback. Set at its narrowest setting, the seat hugs tight; good for corner carving but not comfortable for long or casual drives. I much prefer the widest setting because since these are sport seats, at this setting, I was still fastened firmly in the seat. Passengers in the front also benefit from the automatic seatbelt extender that brings the seatbelt closer to reach.
What was pleasantly surprising, especially because of the fastback roofline, is the amount of rear seat space. With the front seat set at my driving position, I could sit very comfortably behind it with about 10cm between my knees and the driver’s seat in front of me. And there were absolutely no complaints on headroom for my 175cm stature. The angle of the seatback is also very comfortable that I would not have any reservations sitting there for more than a couple of hours. My daughter, who is my designated rear seat tester, concurred. There can be only two persons sitting in the back because the rear seat is separated by a compartment in the middle, but the seat is wide enough to offer perfect shoulder comfort for both. Ample space is not only for the occupants’ cabin, but also for the luggage compartment. If the trunk is not big enough, the rear seatback can be folded down to expand the luggage space.
So how about the driving? There is a caveat here: The BMW 435i is not a sports car. The fact that it has two less doors than its 3 Series sibling does not make it a sports car. The sports car of the 4 Series range comes with the inevitable M4 model. The 435i is a sporty car. What’s the difference?
As a baseline, let’s take a pair of loafers. These are something you can wear almost everywhere. However, when you start to take up sports, you would want something more suitable for the job, maybe something like a pair of tennis shoes. Not too serious, but good enough for the occasional jog around your residential area. Once you start participating in something like a 5K run, then you would want to get yourself a proper pair of running shoes. Cross-training shoes would probably do the job. These are designed to enhance your performance. When you start to actively compete, then you would want to buy a pair of lightweight, high-tech running shoes which are probably good only for running.
Same with cars. The loafers are your typical four-door sedan while the running shoes are your ultra-focused race car. A step sportier from the sedan is a c oupe, or in this case, the 435i. The sports car in the f amily will be the M4.
As a sportier sibling of the 3 Series, the 435i is endowed with a lot of muscle: 306 horsepower and 406nm to be exact. This is enough to propel the 435i to 100kph from rest in only 5.1 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. This level of performance is produced by the BMW 3-liter TwinPower turbocharged inline 6 engine and the 8-speed sport automatic transmission. You can choose how sporty your mood is by choosing one of the four available driving modes: Eco Pro, Comfort (the default) or the Sport and Sport+. Different driving modes will have different throttle response, shifting pattern and suspension damping of the adaptive M suspension. What I always like about BMW’s driving mode is that we can still tailor drivetrain and suspension sportiness separately. The 435i is also far from being a gas guzzler. Over three days of my normal commute in Jakarta, the car averaged 6km per liter using the RON 95 fuel.
What I want to highlight about this car is how refined it is compared to the 3 Series or even to the top spec 335i. Noise from outside the car intrudes very little. There is practically no wind noise up to 140kph. The suspension, while firm, is compliant enough that I would not hesitate to call the 435i a mini Grand Tourer: A two-door car that you could travel in at high speed for long distances in comfort. The rebound of the M suspension is spot-on. The car is agile without being nervous. The throttle response is precise, as well as the shift pattern of the automatic transmission. What you should note is that all these are in the default mode. Come to think of it, this is probably the first car with multiple driving modes that I prefer to drive in the default mode. I experimented with all the modes, including the Sport and Sport +, but they don’t suit the character of the car for everyday use. BMW has gotten it right the first time. Leave it in “Comfort”, shift the gear to “D” and enjoy the drive. It is clear the 435i is different enough from the 3 Series to warrant its own series. Drive it and I am sure you would agree. Anyone who says it is too soft and not sporty enough expects the 435i to perform like a sports car, which is something it is not.
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