BMW reinvents the 3-series coupe by giving it a new skin, new shoes and a new name
Four-ward thinking BMW replaces its 3-series coupe with the 4-series coupe, a good-looker with an exceptional drive. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The 3-series coupe has long been my favourite BMW because of its unusual blend of driveability and practicality.

The Z4 may offer a better seat-of-your-pants driving sensation, but it has limited seating and stowage capacity. It can also be a little too Jack Russell-like for moments when all you want is relaxed cruising.

The M3 is more spacious, but can be a little overwhelming in the way it moves, sounds and feels. Not to mention, a little pricey for most mortals.

The 1-series has that "chuckable" quality that most drivers will appreciate; and it seats more than two. But its styling is a little squat - coming across at times like a 3-series caught in a sugar-cane juicer.

The 3-series sedan used to be lovely, but it has grown too big, hefty and complex for its own good. It is still one of the best driving sedans around, but it has lost some of its crisp light-footedness.

The other BMW models - competent as they are in their respective segments - do not even come into the picture when you think of "ultimate driving machines".

Thank goodness, then, for the 4-series. The car replaces the 3-series coupe, but is a bit more than just that. Firstly, it looks fantastic. Its fluid lines and balanced proportions give rise to a shape that dilates pupils like a centrefold.

Although based on the 3-series sedan, it looks nothing like one. Wider tracks, a lower slung body, a snub nose, a wind-chiselled roof-line that intercepts its pert rump, sporty side vents and sportier wheels all add up to a car that deserves an all-new numerical series.

Inside, the differences are noticeable too. You sink into grippy seats that are closer to the ground, helming a cockpit that is snug yet airy and comfy.

The car is fitted with heads-up display and a new iDrive system with handwriting recognition. A little excessive, if you ask me.

The biggest attraction, however, lies in the way the car drives. The test unit is a 435i powered by what has become the most popular six-cylinder engine in the BMW line-up: a 3-litre turbo putting out 306bhp and 400Nm of torque.

Paired with an eight-speed autobox - another winner of a transmission - the power plant makes magic.

In the 4er coupe, it is astounding. You get instant power availability, linear acceleration, superb traction and a level of connectedness with the road that has become quite rare these days.

Above all, satiny smoothness. Flick the gear lever to Sport and you get more urgency and a hint of exhaust rumble when you lift off at around 5,500rpm.

Besides joy from the throttle, you get intimacy and immediacy from the adaptive steering, which minimises steering effort at low speeds and maximises confidence at high speeds.

It is a wonderful contraption, but in the 4er, it is perfect. With a centre of gravity that is said to be the lowest among all BMWs, the 4-series reacts to steering inputs exactly the way you expect a car to.

Although bigger than its predecessor, it is lighter (in fact, it weighs as much as an equivalent Z4). Together with its lower-wider stance and a rigidity afforded by two fewer doors, it makes for a dynamic alliance that few can match.

The car is at ease and alert at the same time. Ride quality is impressive too.

Being longer and wider than its predecessor and with an appreciably longer wheelbase, the new 4er offers lots of space for four too. The only thing it does not offer as much of is headroom, on account of its height - less 16mm compared to before.

Getting to and from the second row is easy enough and buckling up is also a cinch for front-seat passengers, thanks to automatic belt extenders.

The only unlikeable aspects of the car are minor fit-and-finish flaws and its rather gigantic price tag. But considering the (thin) competition, it is justifiable for a rare beauty with an even rarer performance.

 

CAR INFORMATION

BMW 3 Series Coupe 335i (A)

Price

:$310,800

Engine Type

:

6-cylinders in-line 24-valves Twin-turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

2,979 cc

Horsepower

:

302 bhp / 5,800 rpm

Torque

:

400 Nm / 5,000 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) Steptronic

Acceleration

:

5.5 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

250 km/h

 
BMW 4 Series Coupe 435i (A)

Price

:$318,800

Engine Type

:

6-cylinders in-line TwinPower Turbocharged, Valvetronic

Engine Cap

:

2,979 cc

Horsepower

:

306 bhp

Torque

:

400 Nm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Steptronic

Acceleration

:

5.1 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

250 km/h