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Racing Teatray

435i

Test-drove a 435i yesterday. Mildly irritatingly, the only automatic one the dealership could pony up for a drive was this custard-yellow convertible example.

http://usedcars.berrychiswickbmw....874-3497290.aspx?srcmdc=se_ce_re_

Then again, I suppose there is something to be said for sampling what is dynamically reputed to be the worst of the breed. This particular car was also pretty well optioned with niceties such as adaptive suspension and a head-up display.

I'll ignore the convertible aspects of the car as they are largely irrelevant and I didn't lower the roof given it wasn't the nicest of days and Brentford not the most charming of locations. I'll confine myself to saying that the rear seats looked reasonably spacious but the boot did not, even with the roof up. I imagine you'd struggle to slot your briefcase in there once the enormous metal folding roof was lowered.

Externally, this is one good-looking car, even when painted such a ridiculous colour. It's long, low and has lots of road presence. The convertible in particular looks very good from the back with the roof up, as it has a flatter rear deck than the coupes which suits the styling. The GC is possibly the least good-looking of the three variants, but it is still a handsome car whose minor shortfalls in the beauty contest are easily outweighed by the benefits of two additional doors and hatchback practicality. In a dark colour with the right wheels, this is a pretty slinky-looking car in the metal, even if they've missed a trick in my book by not aping more the fabulously low-slung look of the 6GC.

Inside, clearly the cabin architecture is pretty familiar coming from another BMW but that isn't a bad thing and the latest M-Sport steering wheel is streets ahead of the one in my car in terms of attractiveness. You get the usual clarity of instrumentation and everything is pretty easy to use. It is also just that little bit more spacious, and therefore more comfortable, than the 1-series. I have relatively long legs for my height and, on longer journeys, can find the footwell a bit restrictive – in particular I tend to find my left leg can end up resting uncomfortably on the centre console/transmission tunnel (the A3/S3 has the same problem). The 4-series, being wider, doesn't share this problem and felt all the comfier for it. There's also a slightly updated nav system which presumably works even better than the version in my car, which is already very good. And, thankfully, BMW sees fit to trim the GC's boot with the proper carpet you get in Tourings, rather than the revolting felt board you get in my M135i and, I note, a £50k 435i convertible…

First thing to note as you move off is that the ride felt noticeably stiffer (this example had 19" alloys with RFTs). I didn't have time to suss out via the iDrive what suspension setting the (configurable) Comfort setting had been set to, but let's assume it was in Comfort. It wasn't bad, just less compliant than my car on 18" non-RFTs, which is as you would probably expect. The second thing you realise pretty swiftly is that the 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox is indeed a thing of wonder. Immeasurably nicer than the ones in the S3 and A45. Smooth yet snappy with none of the stretching elastic sensation that the Audi's DSG had and without the oddly soft initial throttle response of the Merc. Nicer feeling paddles than the ones in the Merc too that have a well-weighted action to them. There's something inherently well-engineered to the feel it has that really adds to the sense of being in an expensive car. Thirdly, it sounds nice. More cultured and refined than the M135i as you'd expect but still very much audibly a straight six, which again adds to the sense of upmarketness.

And then there's the performance. The convertible obviously suffers from an inferior power to weight ratio, weighing as it does nearly 200kg more than the equivalent coupe, and all the rather lukewarm reviews I read of the 435i convertible suggested that this porkiness translated into less than sparkling performance. Well, I don't know whether this particular yellow peril had consumed a larger than normal portion of Weetabix that morning, but there didn't seem much wrong with the way it went as far I could tell. Yes, you get that sense of heft on the road (this is no roadster), but in Sport, it needs little encouragement to pick up its skirts and go. Indeed, when I gave it a proper booting on the slip road onto the M4 in Sports+ mode, there was the briefest of pauses, like somebody taking a breath before singing, and then it dropped the requisite number of gears and shot up the gradient with easily as much ferocity as my car can manage, all accompanied by a surprisingly loud and tuneful snarl and a slight wiggle of the bottom. So, if the hard-top versions in fact improve on that, then I can safely say that a 435i has all the performance I am looking for.

So, overall, I think this is a really strong contender for our next car. It's really very nice to drive – more languid and relaxing than the M135i but still capable of a strop if the need arises. It's also much better-looking than my current car, pretty well-equipped (you get xenons, prof nav, electric seats and whatnot as standard) and usefully bigger without being too big. If there's a fly in the ointment, it's that it's not per se a "special" car in the way that an M, AMG or RS car is, but on the other hand, so what. If it gets all the rest right, then I can cope with the loss of a bit of petrolhead bragging rights. BMW are clearly keen to shift them ahead of the range refresh in the autumn when the 435i will morph into the 440i, and the proffered discount of around 16-17% really quite tempting (but apparently only available for financed cars – they are smaller on cash purchases). The salesman said he had sampled the 40i engine last week and whilst yes it was better, he wasn’t sure it was so much better that it merited foregoing the run-out discounts on the 35i engine, which may be a fair point. However, even with the discounts on offer, it will probably come out as costing more or less the same £500 a month that the M135i currently costs, whereas if I keep the M135i, I can re-finance it for under £200 a month, which is an appealingly substantial saving. So, it's very tempting to wait a year and then get into a 440i GC once they have started running discounts on those.

Plus my wife, whilst in agreement that the 4GC is nice and that there's a whole heap else out there that fits the bill, has suggested that it would be nice to have something other than a BMW just by way of a change. She is keen on the Jaguar XE – she likes the styling and she likes the idea of having a Jaguar. And she made the valid point that if we wait a year, the discounts on the pricey S version may come to pass making it more affordable. My only gripe (cost aside) with the XE is that it is a saloon, not a liftback, but that's not a critical issue, so I think next stop is the Jaguar dealer to try the XE at some point.
Twelfth Monkey

I'm always wary when sales staff tell you that the new one is not going to be noticeably better.

Not connected, but I am reminded of collecting my A3 and pointing out that the front grille Quattro badge was missing.  'Oh, they don't have them any more' I was told.  Until I spotted one on a newer car than mine a few months later.  They were made to rectify that.
Racing Teatray

Well to be fair on him he did say it was better. Just possibly not £8k better.
Martin

Sounds promising.  I'll be really interested to hear how the XE compares.

The 4GC make a lot more sense compared to a 3 than it did 6 months ago, thanks to the level of discount getting closer.  

If I was in your position (happy with current car, can make an immediate saving etc) and decided on either a 4GC or XE S, I'd be hanging on another 6-9 months or so and getting a better deal.
BeN

If you get the chance to drive the 4GC go for it. It feels much more rewarding than the cabrio.

Would love to see how an XE fares too.
Alf McQueef

That's kind of how I expected. A very good car, possibly not one to get overly excited about going for a drive in, for the fun of it, as much as the M135i.

The size thing is a double edged sword. Around town a smaller car is better, for sure, and they can feel a bit more fun - and lairy when they have a big engine in them. On long trips however, just a little more space around you has huge appeal. Personally I find current BMW interiors work very well but all seem to look a little steady and samey. I was surprised how little they had come on when I borrowed new-shape 3 series when I had the E91 - which largely dated back 10 years now.

The discounts are interesting. It really does sound like the "40i" badging is mostly just that - a badge - but of course the big unknown is how much they will be discounting 440i's in a year or so.
JohnC

Is the 440i going to have a new engine or is it just a power upgrade on the current engine to bring it up to the same as the 135i or the 4 series with the performance pack?
Racing Teatray

I think it's a new engine rather than a power upgrade. It's coded B58 (as opposed to N55) and supposedly it is part of a new modular engine family.

So I am keen to read a review because I liked the current engine very much.
Twelfth Monkey

Racing Teatray wrote:
Well to be fair on him he did say it was better. Just possibly not £8k better.


That's true, £8k would have to be a rather large amount of 'better'.
Alf McQueef

It's a new engine:

http://blogs.youwheel.com/2015/06...is-new-bmw-b58-6-cylinder-engine/

Looks like it has a lot of upgradeability built into it. How relevant that is for the lower power versions is open to question, but you have to think that any entirely new engine these days is likely to be a bit more economical at least.

Although aftermarket tuners were always happy to boost the hell out of them - and indeed I have a friend with one running 400bhp with no issues, driven hard - I was always surprised just how careful BMW were with official upgrades for both the original twin-turbo and the later N55 single turbo 135/335i engine. They had relatively small power increases and a lot of hardware like intercoolers as part of the package, suggesting BMW were worried about something. In normal use the N55 engine - the current 335i - is reported to be one of BMW's most reliable.
JohnC

The official concern is perhaps that someone will be gunning it around in the deserts of Arizona or Texas in 100 degrees of heat and they don't want the PR disaster they might get from engine failures.

I reckon that cars running in the UK, with our climate are probably much less stressed than they could be. However, except for the roads of Africa, I bet the suspension on UK cars takes a bigger beating than most other countries.
PG

Re bragging rights, a 435iGC in M spec is the top of the range 4GC I think? Any spotters care to confirm / correct?

An M4GC would be a good addition to the range, seeing as how the M6GC is desirable.
JohnC

PG wrote:
Re bragging rights, a 435iGC in M spec is the top of the range 4GC I think? Any spotters care to confirm / correct?



It is for petrol but you can get the 435DGC with 4WD which has a few more HP, gets to 60 quicker and costs a few more £.
Martin

JohnC wrote:
PG wrote:
Re bragging rights, a 435iGC in M spec is the top of the range 4GC I think? Any spotters care to confirm / correct?



It is for petrol but you can get the 435DGC with 4WD which has a few more HP, gets to 60 quicker and costs a few more £.


Yes, the 435d is the 'top of the range' 4 series GC.  

It's the same with the 535d Touring now the 550i has been dropped (you can still get it in the saloon).  The 535i has slightly less power which means the power to weight are the same, but the 535d has nearly 60% more torque, so it's a bit quicker to 60mph.
Racing Teatray

Apart from the fact it costs more and I do about 8000 miles per year, well under the mileage where they say it makes sense to have a diesel, we live in London where there are increasing grumblings about banning or additionally taxing diesels, so I have no interest in getting a 435d, nice though I am sure it is.
Martin

I wouldn't either in your situation, not that it's been suggested by anyone.

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