Last month we went to Estoril, Portugal to test drive the new BMW 435i Coupe. The high-end 4 Series model has earned our respect on the backroads around Cascais, but can it win our heart on the race track?
The Estoril track is regarded as a technical track rather than a fast one, it has two hairpin turns, noticeable elevation changes and thirteen corners. Estoril was the home of many great Formula 1 races and drivers, and over the years F1 legends like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost or Michael Schumacher tracked famous venue.
Due to the less-speedy configuration of the track, the gearbox in all the car is heavily used, along with the front suspension that has to handle heavy breaking.
Compared to the F30 3 Series, the BMW 435i Coupe sits on a lower suspension which brings the car’s center of gravity down to below 20 inches (500 mm), giving it the lowest center of gravity of any car in the current BMW line-up. Now when comparing the 435i Coupe to its predecessor, the technical upgrades are even more impressive: 99 lbs lighter than the E92 335i Coupe and 60% more rigid in the front.
The engineers optimized the kinematics of the double-pivot suspension for agility and precision, while the extra-wide mounts and supports on the wheel carriers for track and camber enhance the dynamics of the car.
As one would expect these technical artifacts turn the 4 Series Coupe into a sportier car than its 3 Series counterpart.
Now combine the stiff and wide chassis (2.1 inches wider than current E92 M3), and suspensions with an award-winning engine, and the excitement grows to a new level. Under the hood, the BMW 435i Coupe sports a 3.0 liter inline-six TwinScroll turbocharged unit producing 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission (an optional six-speed manual is offered).
Ready To Rumble
After driving the 435i Coupe the previous day, (BMW 435i Coupe Test Drive) the level of comfort with the car has increased and we were excited to see how it handles on the track. The Sport+ driving mode on the 435i Coupe tightness the chassis and suspensions, loosens the stability control and raises the rev limited to 7200rpm mark where now all the power arrives. With that in mind, we jumped behind the wheel, set the driving mode to Sport+ and calmly followed the pace car for a couple of laps to learn the track.
Next it’s us and the track with no one between us. Exited the paddocks, quickly shifted to second via the amazing wheel paddles and entered Turn 2, a fast corner where slight braking is applied, slowly turn in and slamming the gas pedal for that power delivery that years ago would have labeled the 435i Coupe as a supercar. The next two turns are slower, so braking hard gives us a chance to see how the non-racing brakes handle themselves and…they didn’t disappoint. The grip was good also, the tail oversteered a bit and we pushed hard through the apex to the elevated Turn 4. A few laps later and the standard four-pot brakes showed no sign of fade.
So far the steering has been precise and engaging, a sign that the Electric Power Steering has been improved as well.
Turn 5 is a fast one and the 435i Coupe flies through it onto the long straight where the speeds get up to around 125-130mph. The braking point shows up right before the sharp Turn 6, then fast up the hill and another technical corner where the 435i Coupe showed very little bodyroll and the stiff chassis prepared the car for the next back-to-back turns and hairpin.
In the next couple of corners, sharper than the others, the 435i felt planted and quickly shifting through gears, up and down, once again proving how great the ZF transmission really is.
The long radius corner 13 prepares the car for the long-straightline which was closed for us in order to safely return to the paddocks after each lap.
A few hot laps later and we fell in love with the handling and capabilities of the 4 Series Coupe, built as a daily driver and less as a track machine, but nonetheless, the car is able to transform itself in the hands of the right driver. And keep in mind, this was the non-M Sport version or even more, the non-M Performance Parts machine sitting inside the paddock crying for some lap time.
The steering, powerful standard brakes, perfect weight distribution and sublime chassis make the BMW 435i Coupe an obvious choice for those looking in the $40,000 to $50,000 segment, and for those also enjoy driving more than flashing a badge.