Test Drive BMW F32 435i M Sport

BMW Car photographer Jason Dodd’s F32 435i hit the spot for his needs thanks to its ability to transform from an M4-chasing driver’s car one moment to a relaxed GT cruiser the next… 

Test Drive BMW F32 435i M SportThe F32 4 Series coupé replaced the E92 3 Series coupé as far back as 2013 when BMW  was in the midst of opting to change its naming conventions. Odd numbers went to saloons and hatchback models, even numbers to their coupé counterparts. By now, hopefully, you’ve got your head around that numerical switch but what you might have forgotten is that the car you see here – the 435i – was for a time the range-topping F32 4 Series prior to the arrival of the mighty M4. Lower, longer and wider than its 3 Series forebear, the F32 was a looker at launch and that remains the case today – it’s certainly ageing gracefully and that’s putting it on the radar of many potential BMW drivers in search of style and substance.

From the outset BMW was well aware that this model would prove popular with UK buyers, as such it conducted extensive pre-production testing during 2012 to tailor the F32’s package for the ever-crumbling UK road network and UK driver’s specific tastes.

The F32 was said to be some 60 percent stiffer than the 3 Series coupé it replaced, but increased structural rigidity to a body-in-white can often lead to a rough ride – especially when partnered with M Sport suspension, large wheels and runflat tyres. That’s a fateful combination that had frequently got BMW into hot water with UK critics and buyers alike in the past. This conscious effort to hone the 4 Series to UK market expectations was, then, likely something of a preemptive move, regardless it was a clever one that served to pay dividends in the end product. The 435i, and 4 Series in general for that matter, was, and remains, a sales success for BMW.

Coming in two trim flavours for UK buyers; Luxury or M Sport, the 435i is powered by a 2979cc twin-turbocharged straight-six engine producing 306hp and 295lb ft of torque, that’s coupled to either a six-speed manual or (as is the case with the car you see in our pictures) an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The manual option being the rarer of the two. Not only is the 435i pretty quick – 0-62mph is dispatched in 5.1-seconds (Sports auto), but it is surprisingly frugal too, 39.2mpg being the book figure for the automatic variant on the combined cycle.

BMW Car photographer, Jason Dodd, owned the car you see here from new in 2016 until recently, for him all this was very much part of the appeal of the model..
“Back in March 2016 I got out of a F22 235i and into a F32 4 Series – the 435i,” Jason explained. “For me it was an alternative to the M4 which was out of my reach budget wise, and I felt that the top of the range ‘non-M car’ had a certain elegance about it – certainly with the BMW Individual Tanazanite Metallic Blue paintwork paired with an Oyster leather interior – as you can see in my pictures.”

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While the M4 was a bit of budget buster, Jason is a keen driver which made performance and sporting ability as important as practicality when it came to his requirements:
“The engine is the six-cylinder Twin Power petrol developing 306hp at 5800rpm and, perhaps more tellingly, it produces 295lb ft of torque between 1200-5000rpm. The ZF eight speed paddle shift automatic transmission assists a 0-60mph sprint time of 5.1-seconds, the top speed was limited to 155mph. That level of performance really appealed to me.”

Though Jason didn’t plan on using the 4 Series daily it needed to offer a relatively focused driving experience while also delivering the creature comforts he felt essential for longer jaunts. That’s often a tough balance to strike but by all accounts it’s one BMW achieved beautifully in this instance.
The 4 Series Coupé’s ride height is 10mm lower than that of the equivalent 3 Series saloon, that gives the 435i a lower center of gravity and, with the M performance wheels, the car gets a meaner stance, too,” Jason explained. “My car also had the M brakes – a £570 option. In fact its showroom-specification meant it had every single box ticked on the options menu, apart from the rather bizarre folding electric mirrors – at the time a £250 option. Otherwise an electric sunroof, Harmon Kardon surround HiFi, top specification iDrive system, and fully electric seats, made this a budget Bentley GT to my mind. I mention the Bentley as in my office car park resides a 2005 Continental GT in the same color combination!”

Test Drive BMW F32 435i M Sport 1

Something of a Jekyll and Hyde in its character, then, the 435i fulfilled its objective to offer a fast yet refined driving experience under normal circumstances, however, with its Sport setting activated the car really does have the ability to come to life – shifting from GT cruiser to sports car. More responsive and sharper in its power delivery, its torquey mill with a rev-happy character were hits with Jason, just as they were with the wider BMW audience. So too that stiff chassis tuned for the UK via spring, damper and camber settings to provide just the right level of ride comfort, bite on turn-in and fun slip angle out back when required. Jason tested his car on track against an M4 of the same era (above) so he’s well placed to offer an opinion:
“On the two track days I took my car on its balance was superb – Good wood and the full Grand Prix circuit at Silverstone were the locations for me to try the car out on circuit and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The brakes in particular were spot-on. My friend’s M4 was only a second quicker per lap around Silverstone – it’s fair to say that I am the ‘last of the late brakers’ in comparison to him but over a race distance a second a lap would be a monumentally impressive gap. In a model that was down on power by around 130hp, and one that is not as focused as an out-and out M car, that’s pretty decent   performance.

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“And, away from the track on twisty country roads, the car’s damping was perfect – set in Sport Plus mode the gearbox has a more rapid response and the steering sharpens significantly, turn-in is sharper and you feel like you’re in a far more focused driver’s car.
After a spirited run you can switch the car back into comfort mode and simply waft along the motorway – this is a car that has two distinct sides to it. If you’ve ever driven an M4 then you’ll know that it always feels like a sharpened race car, it doesn’t have the benefit of turning itself into a comfy GT cruiser, it always wants to be pushed every time you’re in the driver’s seat. Happily that’s not the case with the 435i.”

This duality of purpose is a theme that comes up time-and-time again with 435i owners, and it’s easy to see the appeal of that balance in character in the real world. However, you can’t have your cake and eat it every single time, and one area where Jason felt his Luxury-specification 4 Series lacking was its soundtrack. It was no M4…

“When you fire up the 435i’s 3.0- liter turbocharged six-pot it is a bit of a disappointment, with this in mind I had an M Sport axle-back exhaust system fitted, this gave it a more grittier tone, and on down changes it made you feel you were in something far edgier, despite the car’s elegant exterior.”
Now with a more gravelly engine note, Jason’s F32 435i suited his needs pretty much to perfection. Surely there must be something he really didn’t like, though?
“Would I have any criticism of the F32 steering wheel, no – it’s a perfect daily driver that is relaxing to use, great to look at, and, with that Oyster leather, it’s a light and airy place to be. When you want to go for a more sporty drive you can, simply hit the Sport button, switch over to the paddles and hit the open road with a big smile on your face…”
Though Jason has now sold this car to make way for – wait for it, a Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT – his enthusiasm for the model, and the BMW brand, remains clearly evident.
“If you are on the lookout for a second hand F32 435i then a three-year-old car is now less than half the cost of its original on-the-road price – the car you see here with options came in at a staggering £52,000. Though it is fair to say that I got a hefty discount in 2016 due to it being the end of March and the dealer needing some new registrations to hit target!”
The 435i and its 3 Series equivalent might look strikingly similar from the front aspect, but the subtle differences between the F32 and its four-door sibling mark it out as the one to have for many enthusiasts. Involving to drive, pleasing to be inside and, still to this day, great to look at, the 4 Series – and in particular the 435i – offers the type of fast and luxurious package on which BMW built its reputation.

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Should you find an M4 slightly out of reach then, in the real world, the 435i can offer decent performance with the added benefit of stealthier looks and lower running costs. Early examples are now trading hands for £15,000 – that’s a lot of BMW for the money.

SPECIFIACTION BMW F32 435i M SPORT

ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, twin-turbo
CAPACITY: 2979cc
MAX POWER: 306hp @ 5800-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 1200-5000rpm
0-62MPH: 5.1-seconds (auto)
TOP SPEED: 155mph
MPG: 39.2mpg (auto) CO²: 185 g/km
WEIGHT: 1585kg
PRICE NEW: £41,435 (2014).
THIS CAR: £52,000

Watch this video of Test Drive BMW F32 435i M Sport

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