ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: After slinging this 2014 BMW 435i xDrive coupe around for a night, it is a little bit harder to say that the Audi S5 coupe is my favorite entry in the class. The big strike that many of us around the Autoweek office have called against BMW vehicles over the past few years is the less-than-great ride quality that is usually associated with runflat tires. No matter how brilliant the steering and suspension tuning was to make the cars involving and fun to drive, you were always left with harsh impacts from ruts and potholes and high levels of tire noise. Not to mention the terrible reliability track record we've had with them on our long-term 750Li and 550i xDrive with bubbles springing up on the sidewalls.
However, it seems like runflat tires have gotten better because my experiences with the latest 3-series sedans that we've had come through here and now this 435i xDrive have been nothing but pleasant from a ride comfort standpoint. I know, it's hard to believe but it's true. When rolling down the expressway, there isn't a bunch of road chatter getting transmitted into the cabin and it's no longer really uncomfortable rolling over road imperfections. It's even more impressive when you consider our test car is riding on 19-inch wheels with low-profile rubber.
With that major quibble out of the way, it allows the other lovely traits of the 435i to shine through. The well-sorted chassis was a ball to pilot through corners, exhibiting wonderful composure with lots of grip and little body roll. Steering feels direct, well-weighted and is communicative through the thick-rimmed M wheel. The turbocharged inline six-cylinder has strong midrange pull, while the M Sport brakes easily slowed things with a pedal that offered good modulation ability of stopping power.
It was also nice that our test car had a six-speed manual gearbox. The clutch pedal is light and springy with the clutch take-up in the middle of the pedal stroke. BMW's crunchy gear engagement and long shifter throws remain, but that's just a trait that I've become used to in Bimmers, and it probably won't change.
Unlike some other editors, I don't mind the gill behind the front wheels. It doesn't look out of place nor does it stick out too much from the nicely sculpted sheetmetal. Then again, the previous generation Ford Focus had a gill there for a couple of years…
The interior is all right, too. It's a simple design that isn't incredibly boring or overdone. The important thing is that the sport seats feature decent side support and there are enough adjustment ability to easily find a comfortable seating position behind the wheel.
I'll have to echo some of my colleagues below about taking my 435i without the xDrive all-wheel drive and saving $2,000. It adds 155 pounds and drops EPA highway fuel economy a couple of mpg from 30 in rear-wheel drive to 28 mpg with all-wheel drive. The only reason I could see myself opting for the xDrive model is if I lived in an area where there was a lot of snow during the winter months. Other than that, I'll slap on some winter tires for those snowy months and probably get around just fine.
So would I take this BMW or an Audi S5? In the past, it wasn't even a contest and I would pick the Audi in a heartbeat. Now with this much-improved 435i on the scene, it gets difficult. I haven't driven a rear-wheel drive 435i yet, but if I was in the market for an all-wheel drive sports coupe, I think I would still tip my hat towards the S5. The Audi's supercharged V6 is a wonderful engine and the manual that you can get with has a super slick shifter. But if I wanted rear-wheel drive, it would definitely be the 435i over the Infiniti Q60 and Mercedes-Benz C-class coupe without question.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: I'm warming up to this chassis. Our test car's six-speed manual made it fun to drive, even if it's not as slick as the automatic. However, as much as I appreciate BMW's commitment to its heritage -- at least as far as the way their interiors look -- I couldn't stop noticing the lack of anything that I'd consider well above average about the inside of the car. I drove the Infiniti Q60S right after this car and I was surprised about how well the Infiniti stacked up in terms of interior quality.
And while I found the general shape of the coupe pleasing, the gill behind the front wheel is awfully cheap-looking.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This 2014 BMW 435i xDrive is a good-looking, well-built and fine-handling little coupe. And it's overpriced. I've written before that I think BMW is out to lunch on pricing, and this car doesn't make me change my mind. Nearly $64K? I can get a well-equipped Porsche Cayman for that (or a stripper Cayman S) and have a lot more fun.
As for the 300-hp output: it just doesn't feel like that much to me. Maybe the all-wheel drive is soaking up some of the oomph. Whatever the case, the car doesn't feel that quick to me. And, yes, I tried the various modes and to the seat of the pants they feel the same. Naturally, the ride is firmer in sport or sport-plus than in comfort or eco, but the car doesn't feel faster. Maybe timing equipment would show a difference.
Like those above, I like the chassis. The car is flingable and grip is outstanding. Body roll is minimal and the ride is good. I think BMW has improved its cars' runflats. I used to beef about harshness. This car didn't feel that way to me. While I think the gearbox throws are a little long the clutch/gearbox relationship feels good to me.
BMW customers are BMW customers. They won't consider another brand. Maybe that's why the company thinks it can get away with this price. This 435i xDrive coupe is a good car, but I just don't think it's worth the money
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: The 4-series is to my eyes the best-looking new BMW; it's a sharp design inside and out, though as Rory mentioned, the interior doesn't have much that really grabs your attention. It seems you have to order a good amount of optional trim to spruce up the cockpit to any serious degree; the aluminum trim present here manages to somehow fall surprisingly flat, if it is supposed to convey some sense of premium trim.
Controls, however, are placed well, and everything I need is easy to access and operate. This specific test car, however, has a loose driver's door panel that rattles over bumps or if you hit itwith your hand. That's unusual in my experience with BMWs, especially new ones, though perhaps some work was done that required removal of the door panel and the technician failed to secure it tightly upon reinstall.
I'd dump the AWD and save some weight and drag on the engine, which is a strong I6 turbo in most on-road situations. This is a torquey powertrain, especially above 2,000 rpm, though there is a bit of lag right when you stomp the throttle, and the engine loses a little bit of pull once you cross over the 5K rpm mark.
I'm a big fan of the steering, the driving position and the sporty handling that doesn't fall off the cliff into uncomfortable. As Wes notes, this 435 rides much better than many recent BMWs, and it loves to corner with enthusiasm. This is probably my favorite in BMW's product lineup right now.
I did have one small problem, though. Neither this car nor the M235i driven recently will recognize my Apple iPhone, despite it being updated to the latest iOS. I have no idea why, but its refusal to work correctly had me cussing out the dashboard every time I got in the car. What's up with that?
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: The BMW 4-series is probably the new standard for luxury sports coupes taking the crown from the outgoing 3-series coupe. Looking at it next to the Audi S5 and Mercedes C-class coupe, the Bimmer embarrasses them with its sculpted sheetmetal and muscular shape.
Personally I'd leave out the xDrive all-wheel drive system, even though it's only a $2,000 premium. These coupes are way more fun in rear-wheel drive. The turbo I6 is a stellar engine making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of twist, but it might be getting just a little underpowered for this 3,700-pound vehicle. It just doesn't seem to have the pull it did a few years ago in the basic 3-series. On second thought, we've also driven the 135i since then, which may have ruined this engine for anything bigger than a mighty mite.
The clutch pedal action is a little too easy for me; I think pedal weight should go up as power does. The faster the car, the harder it should be to push the clutch. In the same vein, the shifter's throw is a tad long and has a rubbery feel. Gates are still easy to hit, but you'll feel the flex on hard shifts. A short throw shifter upgrade would probably be my first modification.
Like all BMWs, the chassis, suspension and tires keep it stuck to the pavement. This one gets help from the all-wheel drive system. Even in sport-plus mode with “limited traction control” activated, drivers can accelerate through turns without the slightest bit of slip. Taking off hard from a stoplight is just as easy, without worrying about an accidental burnout.
If I could spec out this car exactly like I wanted, I'd ditch the $3,000 tech package and the $2,200 premium package. I'd keep the M-Sport package and the dynamic handling package. That would put this car in the mid-$50K range, as opposed to the mid-$60K range, making the payment a lot easier to swallow.
As far as competitors go, the 435i RWD starts at about $46,000. The Infiniti Q60S starts at about $45,000 and the C-class coupe starts at $44,000. So they're all right in the same range, and we're pretty sure buyers won't be disappointed in any of them. Surprisingly, the Infiniti has the most horsepower, at 330, but track, strip or street, the BMW wins this battle hands down.
I still think the company's naming conventions and body style separations are ridiculous, though.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I don't want to say anything more about the upcoming 4-series Gran Coupe, but this two-door 435i makes about as much sense as anything BMW has introduced in recent memory. I like the two-door/even series-numbering scheme, and the resulting car isn't just a re-badge: The new coupe is more aesthetically compelling than the outgoing 3-series it replaces. Good proportions that border on dramatic from some angles, generally nice details all around. I even see touches of the i8's futuristic sculpting in some areas, like the headlights and grille.
The car delivers on the road, too. The 300-hp turbo I6 didn't have quite the same smooth, broad and accessible power output of the 330 hp supercharged V6 in the S5 I drove recently (the Audi was significantly less expensive, for what that's worth), but it was fun to push around once you learned to take the hint of lag into account. The six-speed manual added to the experience -- I can't pinpoint it exactly, but the gear selector had a very classic feel to it. Crisp, but not quite short-throw; as well-weighted as the clutch and steering. Jake notes that the clutch could be stiffer; maybe so, but I see this as more of a sporty grand tourer than a razor's-edge track monster.
Cost is a sore point. I suspect this nearly-$64,000 price tag is why Maserati feels confident in its very stylish, relatively reasonably priced Ghibli (not a direct competitor, but still). And the quattro-equipped S5 I mentioned earlier struck me as a better value than this AWD BMW -- and may still have come off as a better buy even if it costs as much as the 4-series.
True, you can whack that sticker down slightly by being more selective with options than whoever built this tester. Drop xDrive and you'll pocket $2,000; the car will be more fun to drive on dry roads, and if you're in a snowy climate, you should be OK with good winter tires. And as I think I've mentioned before, the $3,100 M Sport package doesn't do the BMW's interiors any favors with the aluminum accents somehow failing to add premium feel. Of course, you're in $1,400 minimum to get leather…
All in all, the 2014 BMW 435i xDrive is an enjoyable car that manages to combine a somewhat old-school driving feel with modern good looks and the luxury of satellite radio and keyless entry. There's a lot to like here, but I'd be more enthusiastic about the package if it didn't cost an arm and a leg. Perhaps if BMW stopped adding new models every 15 minutes, they could find a way to sell their more desirable offerings -- to me, at least, the ones most central to BMW's “ultimate driving machine” image -- for a more reasonable price.
2014 BMW 435i xDrive Coupe
Base Price: $48,925
As-Tested Price: $63,725
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged I6; AWD, six-speed manual
Output: 300 hp @ 5,800-6,000 rpm, 300 lb-ft @ 1,300-5,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,735 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 20/28/23 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 22.2 mpg
Options: Technology package including navigation system, head-up display, BMW online, advanced RTT, remote services, BMW apps, enhanced b/t and smartphone ($3,150); M Sport package including 19-inch alloy wheel M sport performance, sport seats, high-gloss black trim highlight, aluminum hexagon interior trim, M steering wheel, aerodynamic kit, shadowline exterior trim, anthracite headliner ($3,100); premium pack including comfort access keyless entry, lumbar support, satellite radio ($2,200); Lighting package including: adaptive full LED lights, automatic high beams ($1,900); dynamic handling package including adaptive M suspension, variable sport seating ($1,000); driver assistance package including rear view camera, park distance control ($950); cold weather package including heated steering wheel, heated seats, retractable headlight washers ($700) M Sport brakes ($650); concierge service ($250)
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