The car formerly known as the 3 Series Coupe has, for better or worse, matured into a junior-sized grand tourer
4 To The Power of 6 PHOTO: TORQUE

Before you start preparing to part with (what we assume to be) a sizeable chunk of your bank balance for BMW's new 4 Series mid-sized coupe, it might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions first.

The first and most obvious one should be: "Will I be able to afford one?". The car once known as the 3 Series Coupe has been given a renaming aimed at creating greater distinction between BMW's sportier and
more utilitarian models.

The more cynical might also say it opens the door to allow BMW to charge more for its racier models. A "stand-alone" 4 Series range (even though it's based largely on 3 Series underpinnings) sounds far sexier than the rather derivative sounding 3 Series Coupe.

Even without the supposedly spicier name, the range-topping (at least until there's an M4 – see sidebar opposite) 435i we tested was
always going to command a premium over the 335i's base price of $313,800.

We're guessing the 435i's price will be somewhere in the range of $330,000, sans options. That means handing over at least $165,000 in cold, hard cash to Performance Motors up front, thereafter paying around $3,000 or so in monthly instalments for five years. That's not factoring in petrol, insurance, road tax and maintenance costs yet, so a budget offering the 4 Series is not.

Supposing, however, that's money that wouldn't cause your bank account to spontaneously combust, the next question should be: "How do I like my coupes?".

If the answer to that is, "like a junior 6 Series with great cruising refi nement and day-to-day usability", then might we advise you to start saving up. And do it quick, because the 4 Series is set to arrive by December this year.

Even with its adaptive dampers put in their most aggressive setting, the 4 Series is undeniably plush (much like its saloon counterpart), possessed of a beautiful float across even the worst tarmac Lisbon's back roads had to offer. We’re talking about severely worn, cracked bitumen, potholes
and cunningly concealed humps. The only thing spoiling the party was the quite-loud hollow thump produced by its run-fl at tyres
(with their stiffer sidewalls).

Out on the Portuguese highways, the 4 Series is possessed of an easy, loping gait that characterises the best GTs, primarily due to its ride quality, but helped in no small part by the stellar drivetrain. The familiar 3-litre inline-6/8-speed automatic drivetrain makes a reappearance and produces, as always, 306bhp of power and 400Nm of torque. Zero to 100km/h is done in a brisk 5.1 seconds (0.4 of a second quicker than the
335i), with positively creamy delivery all the way to the redline.

Which is what we’d expect of a GT, a sort of car whose primary mission is rapid, long-haul touring. It’s a role the 4 Series can play to the hilt, what with the amount of high-speed refinement and effortless pace it has to offer.

It’ll do all that with space for four average-sized adults and their attendant luggage, via a pair of surprisingly roomy rear seats and 445 litres of boot space (just 35 litres down from the 3 Series).

But when called upon to do so, the 4 Series will do as convincing a turn as a bona fide sports car. The seemingly marshmallow-soft ride can serve up a healthy amount of control, too, giving it a delightfully neutral, flat attitude during hard-charging efforts.

That’s down to how the 4 Series has an almost entirely reworked suspension setup over the 3 Series saloon (no slouch in itself), despite how both are mechanically identical. According to BMW, the 4 Series'
suspension kinematics has a sportier tune, its ride height lowered and its tracks widened. Against the 3 Series, it also has a roll centre that's 19mm lower, and it has the lowest centre of gravity in the entire BMW range.

So, despite how it seems like the new "3 Series Coupe" has gone all fat and soft on the surface (like the 6 Series), it seems our fears are entirely unfounded – a point mooted on the narrow ribbons of hilltop tarmac surrounding Lisbon and confirmed at the Estoril racetrack.

The precise steering made short work of the circuit and the 306bhp on offer gave it sufficient grunt to punch it out of corners without having so much power as to terrify the average weekend track warrior.

Along with the above, the masses of mechanical grip afforded by the
Bridgestone tyres, front-end positivity and sheer poise the 4 Series exhibited around Estoril (and indeed, out on public roads) make it a truly classy act.

Considering its breadth-and-depth of ability, the 4 Series raises the bar in
the mid-sized coupe segment, making the upcoming M4 a hugely tantalising prospect. Going by BMW’s run of form with its mid-sized models of late, it's hard to imagine the upcoming crown jewel of the 4 Series range (and the M3, too) as anything but devastatingly effective.

That said, for the purists, this might not appeal to them, despite how the 4 Series is lighter, more refi ned and more agile than before. A front end that’s 60 per cent stiffer than the E92-generation 3 Series Coupe it replaces is no small feat, either.

But for all the massive gains BMW have made in the 4 Series over its more plainly named predecessor, it isn’t all that much more fun to drive. In fact, the keener driver might almost describe it as being a little... well... too good. The 4 Series has lost a fair bit of the playful, engaging nature we so loved in the 3 Series Coupe, something we experienced while slinging the latter along some hilltop passes near Penang some years back.

In its place is clinical effi ciency, so possibly the most important question you need to ask yourself when considering buying the 4 Series is: "Does effectiveness trump charisma?".

If you've answered "yes" to that, and had a good chat with your banker so getting it won't send you straight to the poorhouse, you'll find mid-sized coupe nirvana in the 435i. Or at least, this is as heavenly as it gets until the M4 arrives...

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This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Torque.


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