New round number is a fine all-rounder
We’re getting used to BMW’s new model numbering policy now; odd numbers for 4-door vehicles, and even numbers for the 2-door derivatives. As such, what was a 2-door 335i is now a 435i, and what a fine-looking machine it is; aggressive and elegant. Not too flash. And as a respectful nod to the past they’ve made them available in Estoril Blue, which will please M3 and M5 historians.
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that the 435i is a bigger car than the old E28 5-series. It is also longer, lower, and wider than the 3-series, not that it creates any issues.
Climb inside and whatever you touch has a feel of quality and solidity about it. The steering wheel, seats, gear lever, switchgear… absolutely everything feels as though it’s been built to last decades of robust use, and the range of adjustment in the seats and steering wheel is vast. If you can’t get completely comfortable in this car then it’s probably because you are a giraffe, in which case you have no place driving cars anyway.
In terms of equipment the 435i M-Sport wants for very little. The Harman Kardon sound system is one of the very best I’ve heard in a production car recently (it really is that good), and the whole i-Drive control system is finally foolproof; it’s so intuitive you’ll have it sussed within minutes and without the assistance of a mocking 12 year old.
Most of the things you’ll want to play with on the move (radio, iPod etc) can be controlled easily from the steering wheel and shown on the heads-up display which, once you’re used to it, adds to the overall sense of comfort; it’s a car that asks little of you if all you want to do is cover a long distances comfortably. It really is an extremely pleasant place to be.
The snarl of a creamy-smooth straight-six motor has for years been BMW’s signature feature in many of its cars, although fans of the sound they traditionally produce may be a tad disappointed with the 435i’s six-potter. The trademark smoothness is still there and there’s a good spread of performance across most of the rev range as you’d expect, but thanks largely to the turbos the traditional full-bodied, rotund howl of yore is now a more distant and muted tune by comparison; it still makes a pleasing sound, but with none of the fizz you might hope for as the revs climb ever higher.
Low-down in the rev range there is a distinct, if momentary, lack of urgency which is compensated for with an impressive wave of torque once the exhaust-driven compressors get up to speed. Still, 302bhp and 0-60 in a shade over five seconds isn’t to be sniffed at (it is in fact almost Porsche Cayman territory) and the 435i does have an impressive party piece…
On a 250-mile motorway journey this powerful, smooth, comfortable, and utterly capable 3.0-litre turbocharged car managed a genuine 39.7mpg. Had the final 20 miles of the journey not been of the stop-start variety that number would easily have been north of 40. Okay, I admit I was trying hard to get that figure as high as possible and it was pretty tiresome – in fact, I never want to do it again – but aside from the enforced 50mph speed limit through Birmingham I was travelling at 70-plus mph for most of the way.
I wasn’t on fuel-miser duty the whole time with the 435i though, oh no. There was plenty of opportunity to show the car some of the more entertaining roads around the Sussex countryside to see how it responded to some more enthusiastic input. The M-Sport package brings with it varying degrees of stiffness and ride quality, although whether in Sport or Comfort mode it steers very well and handles surface imperfections with considerable grace. It is though in Sport mode that you’ll get the most out of the steering, suspension, and throttle response.
Find a familiar stretch of A or B-road, engage ‘Sport+’ mode and get your elbows out and the car responds; body control is tightened up to the point where roll is minimal, and the sharpened-up steering gives just the right amount of resistance. The use of a gear lever to select the ratios is good to see, too. It’s lovely, but it’s not quite an M4 deputy, not that it was necessarily meant to be one.
Despite the fantastic performance, the car lacks the shouty and extreme nature of the full-fat, range-topping M-badged BMWs, and that’s a good thing. The 435i M-Sport as a result manages to skip along tighter roads in an engaging and satisfying manner, and also whisk you down a motorway effortlessly and with a seemingly voracious appetite for miles whilst all the time offering plenty of performance (or fuel economy… if you’re in the mood). Sometimes, you need a bit of that in your life.
Top speed: 155mph
Power/weight: 190bhp per tonne
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Wheels: 17in alloys front and rear
Tyres: 250/50 R17 front, 225/50 R17 rear
Power: 302bhp at 5800rpm
Torque: 295lb ft at 1200rpm
Price: From £40,795
On sale date: Now