2014 BMW 435i xDrive
2014 BMW 435i xDrive
2014 BMW 435i xDrive
2014 BMW 435i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

Car buyers need to be a savvy bunch. With words like “all-new” and “best this” and “most that”  being tossed around to describe pretty much every vehicle on the market, it’s important to find out how realistic such claims are before taking the plunge and signing on the dotted line.

So it was with some skepticism (accompanied by a much healthier dose of enthusiasm) I accepted the opportunity to drive this new 435i from BMW for the round trip between Toronto’s Pearson airport and Niagara Falls, ON. For those familiar with BMW’s model range, you will note that indeed this is, as the company’s marketing machine is happy to point out, the first-ever 4 Series BMW.

But what does that mean? Until now, the popular 3 Series BMW has been offered in several variants, including sedans, coupes, convertibles and wagons. But for 2014, the 3 Series is offered only in sedan, wagon, and Gran Turismo layouts (and please don’t get me started on that GT model). And the two-door models shall henceforth be known as the 4 Series.

The question, though, is this: is this car really new enough to justify this changed identity, or are we looking at BMW’s version of, say, the Infiniti Q60? The Q60, some will note, was called the G37 Coupe last year, but some minds at Infiniti’s camp saw fit to rename the entire lineup, even if the products themselves haven’t changed.

But that’s not the case here. Along with its new name, BMW’s popular coupe has entirely new sheetmetal. While based on the current 3 Series sedan (code-named F30)  that was introduced last year, the new “F32” coupe shares its wheelbase with the four door but is lower, wider, and longer. The differences are subtle enough that many will mistake this car for a 3 Series for years to come. And who could blame them: the 3 coupe has been a fixture of the automotive landscape since the mid-‘70s.

This also marks the end of the two-door high-performance M3, to be replaced by the M4. Gosh, I hope those marketing people know what they’re doing.

But what we really want to know about the 4 Series is how well it continues the spirit of its predecessor regardless of its name.

Most notable when comparing its looks to those of the sedan (and previous two-doors) is the 4’s sleek roofline that ensures this won’t be confused with the four-door. BMW’s coupes, whether in 4 or 6 Series trim, have become much easier on the eyes in recent years. There’s an upscale look to this car, particularly in rear three-quarter view, that encourages a prolonged look just to take it all in.

2014 BMW 435i xDrive2014 BMW 435i xDrive
2014 BMW 435i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

In this day of increasingly rare manual gearboxes, one of the first things I do when approaching a seriously sporting machine like this is peek through the window and find out how many pedals the car has. Happily, I saw an honest-to-goodness six-speed stick poking out of the centre console. I would like to think that the majority of 4 Series cars will be ordered so equipped, but the reality is that most of these will come with the eight-speed automatic. That the slushbox is standard equipment while the manual is a no-cost option speaks volumes.

And that’s a shame, really, because the 4 Series has one sweetheart of a stick. Some journalists at last October’s AJAC TestFest lamented the gearbox’s long throws, but I found the unit to be classic BMW, and that’s a good thing. It’s a slick-shifting affair that glides effortlessly between gears through well defined gates. Sounds simple, but few manufacturers (Honda, BMW, and Porsche come to mind) manage it so consistently.

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