The BMW 3 Series Coupe has always been the stylish but subtle choice. Slightly lower and slightly sportier than the Sedan, this two-door 3 Series has also been just slightly different.
But now, the sixth generation of this classy coupe is striking out on its own, with a new nameplate and a new direction. That may sound a bit ironic considering that the 3 Series began life strictly as a coupe.
Nevertheless, BMW says the new 4 Series nomenclature is important because it marks the start of a new era which emphasises the car's stand-alone design as well as its technical differentiation from the 3 Series. In other words, it gets sharper styling and handling.
Visually, the 4 Series Coupe is strikingly distinguished by the fat kidney grilles and "air curtains" in its wide front apron. It is longer (+26mm), wider (+43mm) and lower (-16mm) than the previous 3 Series Coupe, with a wider front and rear track, and a 2,810 mm wheelbase that is 50 mm more.
Its profile is equally distinctive with "air breather" front fender ducts, prominent character lines and flared wheel arches. Low and flat with a fastback-like tail, the 4 Series looks more purposeful because its widest point is not across the front wheel arches but the rear, which also highlights its classic front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout.
And with a new body that is up to 45 kg lighter and 60 per cent stiffer, the 4 Series can only be more interesting. With a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, the BMW 435i is confident and agile. The 4 Series' chassis is based on the 3 Series but its springs, dampers, axle kinematics and elastokinematics have been modified for a more dynamic drive. The rear five-link suspension is beefed up with extra-wide mounts and supports with ultra-stiff axle subframes, as well as thrust arms that connect the suspension directly to the body. Using BMW's familiar Driving Experience Control function, several driving modes can be chosen with the appropriate engine, steering and suspension settings.
Surprisingly, Comfort mode elicits the best steering feel from the new electric power steering system. The steering has greater precision and feedback, and the gearbox is wonderfully responsive, especially when shifted manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Like other BMWs, the 4 Series is perfectly balanced with 50:50 weight distribution. But another reason for its agility is its lower centre of gravity and the relatively low kerb weight of just over 1,500 kg. Riding on 19-inch wheels, the 435i changes direction enthusiastically and corners flat, so much so that you have to remember to keep to the speed limit. It may not have the most cushioned ride on the market but the 435i has an unrivalled combination of sportiness and comfort. Inside, the 435i looks much like a 3 Series saloon except that there is a lot more colour below the dash and on the doors and seats. Even the glovebox catch is colour-coded. The iDrive features a Touch Controller with a touch-sensitive surface for characters to be traced out on the touchpad, while the electric sports seats in front have adjustable side bolsters for the driver.
Other welcome equipment include the Head-Up Display and contactless boot lid opening. Ultimately though, it is the dynamic performance that makes this a very special coupe indeed.
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